The UK’s most lucrative credit card perk: A review of the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card
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British Airways’ Executive Club is the largest and most well-known airline loyalty programme in the United Kingdom. One of the easiest and quickest ways to collect Avios, the currency of Executive Club, is with a British Airways cobranded American Express credit card.
There are two of these cards available: the British Airways American Express Card and the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card. The latter card earns Avios at a better rate but is more expensive. But overall, the Premium Plus Card offers an excellent all-around value proposition, especially for its very lucrative Companion Voucher offer, which will soon (as of 1 September) become even better.
Who is this card for?
The British Airways Premium Plus Amex Card is marketed toward anyone who is serious about collecting a great amount of Avios, the currency of British Airways’ Executive Club (as well as Iberia Plus and Aer Lingus AerClub). It’s also targeted toward those flyers who may already travel with British Airways or its Oneworld partners but want to boost their Avios balance through everyday spending.
It’s especially valuable to any cardholders who can earn the Companion Voucher each year, which we will discuss below.
There is no minimum income requirement to be approved for this card. However, if you already hold an American Express card in the U.K., be sure to note the American Express restrictions on welcome bonuses.
Welcome bonus and annual fee
This card has a fairly high annual fee of £195, but it also provides a big welcome bonus of 25,000 Avios after spending £3,000 in the first three months of card membership. Based on TPG U.K.’s most recent valuation of Avios, that welcome bonus is worth around £275, which offsets the annual fee.
The annual fee for this card is increasing from £195 to £250 as of 1 September 2021. If you are approved before then, you will pay the lower £195 fee for year one, and then the higher £250 fee for year two, onwards.
The Premium Plus Card will earn you a generous 1.5 Avios per £1 spent on everyday purchases. This earning rate increases to a fantastic 3 Avios per £1 spent when it’s made directly with British Airways or BA Holidays.
This is the highest Avios earning rate per £1 of any U.K. credit card.
While you will still receive 1.5 Avios per £1 (equivalent) spent in foreign currencies, you will also be hit with a 2.99% foreign transaction fee. Based on TPG’s valuation of Avios, the cost of the foreign transaction fee is slightly higher than the value of the Avios you’ll earn for making the transaction, but not hugely so.
Reward Flight Savers (RFS) are perhaps the best use of Avios. BA caps taxes and fees on these at £35 return for economy flights and £50 for Club Europe flights. RFS are historically only available for flights of less than 2,000 miles, so largely only to European destinations. However, BA has expanded RFS to some long-haul destinations like New York, however, you won’t get the same value out of your Avios in that case.
The reason why we love RFS is that they can help save some serious money. Shorter one-way flights across Europe are either 4,000 or 4,500 Avios each, depending on peak or off-peak, and £17.50.
Partner redemptions with Avios are especially lucrative on international routes where flights are usually expensive. A good example is trans-Tasman flights between Australia and New Zealand. Sydney to Wellington with Qantas often costs £300+, whilst with Avios, it can be had for 20,000 Avios and £101 in taxes. Whilst that might only just meet the Avios value of 1.2p, paying £300 for an economy flight just feels expensive, so we’d be happy to buy that flight with Avios.
The same applies to other partners across the Oneworld alliance and beyond. Domestic American Airlines flights booked with Avios can also be a very good money saver. Because of that, it’s generally worth looking at Avios redemptions whenever you’re looking at a flight and thinking it’s a bit pricey.
As aspirational as British Airways first class or Club World might be, there are some great first class and business-class products out there that trump the BA offering any day. And a fair few of them are available for booking via Avios. Cathay Pacific first class is a great product, and it’s available to book via ba.com. You will likely need to plan in advance, and redemptions don’t come cheap — 240,000 Avios and £368 in taxes return — but that’s one of the best ways of travelling long-haul.
- The complete Avios pricing guide
- The best uses of Avios
- On which airlines can I use Avios?
- Can you upgrade partner flights with Avios?
- The difference between British Airways’ Avios + Money and Avios Part-Payment
The biggest perk of this card by far — aside from the welcome bonus — is the Companion Voucher. The Companion Voucher is now the most valuable credit card benefit of any U.K. credit card.
In short, once you’ve got one of the Companion Vouchers, you can take a companion with you on the same flight and in the same cabin when you redeem Avios for a BA reward flight. Taxes, fees and other carrier charges still apply to the companion but you’ll only need to pay the Avios for yourself. You’ll earn the prized Companion Voucher after spending £10,000 each calendar year with this card.
Why is this Voucher so valuable?
- You can redeem your Companion Voucher for any cabin of service British Airways flies from economy through to first class, provided there are two seats available to book with Avios;
- British Airways has recently double the guaranteed minimum number of seats bookable with Avios and Companion Vouchers, making it easier than ever to find the seats to the destination you want;
- From 1 September, British Airways will release additional Club World availability specifically for Companion Vouchers earned from this card;
- From 1 September you can start your journey anywhere, not just in the U.K., which is great if you just want to book a one-way redemption or want to avoid the costly U.K. APD tax; and
- You can use this Companion Voucher to book mixed-class redemptions and open jaws if you wish; and
- When earned with this card, the Voucher is valid is for a generous two years. You must book and travel (at least outbound) before the Companion Voucher’s expiry date. That’s plenty of time to plan and book your dream redemption.
The benefits above mean you can easily obtain hundreds — if not thousands — of pounds in value from the Companion Voucher each and every year, especially after 1 September. If you have struggled to find availability in Club World or Club Suite in the past, this should be significantly easier from 1 September.
This is why we believe it is the most valuable U.K. credit card perk.
In addition to the Companion Voucher, the Premium Plus Card also comes with several protections, aimed at saving you money. Mainly, you’ll get the card’s travel inconvenience insurance, which covers you for flight cancellations, delays and delayed luggage so long as you pay for your travel with the card. The benefit covers £200 for flight delays, overbookings or missed connections. It covers £750 for baggage that’s delayed by the airline for six hours and an additional £1,000 for extended baggage delays by the airline.
With the Premium Plus‘ refund protection, eligible items that were purchased with the card in the U.K. are covered for 90 days. The insurance covers up to £300 to refund or replace the item so long as the retailer won’t do the same.
For the purchase protection benefit, eligible items stolen or damaged within 90 days of purchasing with the card will be covered. The protection to repair or replace the purchase is covered to £2,500 per item.
The card’s travel accident insurance covers up to £75,000 for the accidental death or accident resulting in the complete loss or permanent loss of use of limb, sight, speech or hearing while travelling in a public vehicle. In order to be eligible, the ticket must have been purchased with the British Airways Amex Card.
You can find the full terms of what’s covered with the insurances on the Amex website (PDF). Keep in mind that some of these benefits, such as the insurances, are subject to enrollment.
Finally, you can opt to get free supplementary cards for any close family and friends in order to maximise your return on the card. But remember that you, as the primary cardholder, will still be responsible for paying the balance each month.
Which cards compete with this card?
The basic version of this card, the British Airways American Express Credit Card is cheaper — it has no annual fee. But, it has a much lower welcome bonus of only 5,000 Avios and a lower earn rate, with no bonuses for spending with British Airways directly.
But the most important differences are that:
- To earn the lucrative Companion Voucher on the basic card requires a much higher £20,000 minimum spend annually (reducing to £12,000 from 1 September), versus £10,000 on this Premium Plus Card;
- The Voucher on the basic card expires in a year, whereas the Voucher earned on this Premium Plus Card has a 24-month expiry; and
- The Voucher on the basic card can only be used for redemptions in economy class from 1 September versus the Premium Plus Card Companion Voucher, which can be used in any cabin.
The Premium Plus Card, therefore, is a more valuable overall credit card offer if you can earn that Companion Voucher.
This is a fantastic credit card on which to earn bonus Avios, especially if you fly British Airways or its partners regularly.
While the annual fee does seem high at first glance, it’s more than offset by the welcome bonus. And with a very generous earn rate — especially for spending directly with British Airways — and provided you can hit the £10,000 to trigger the very valuable Companion Voucher, this could be an excellent option for your wallet.
Featured photo by John Gribben / The Points Guy.
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