Credit card provider American Express (Amex) is making big changes to its British Airways-branded reward cards from 1 September, including a shake-up of its companion voucher offer and a £55 fee hike.
British Airways currently offers two credit cards powered by Amex that allow you to earn Avios points on everyday spending – the British Airways American Express Credit Card and the British Airways American Express Premium Plus deals.
The ‘2-4-1’ companion voucher threshold is being reduced to £12,000, but limited to economy flights for the British Airways Amex, while Premium Plus cardholders will see the annual card fee raised from £195 to £250.
Here, Which? explains how the changes will impact you and whether you could find a better deal elsewhere.
What changes is Amex making to its British Airways cards?
We outline the key changes to the two British Airways Amex cards currently on offer below.
British Airways American Express
From 1 September, the spending threshold to qualify for a companion ticket will be lowered from £20,000 annually to £12,000, making it easier for cardmembers to earn a companion voucher. However, the voucher will be limited to economy class tickets, whereas before you could get a companion ticket on any type of flight from economy to first class.
To get a companion voucher, you must have reached the £12,000 spend target within a 12-month period ending each year on the anniversary of your card account start date.
For example, if you open a card account on 1 September 2021 you must have reached your spend target by 31 August 2022, so you can begin earning towards your next voucher on 1 September 2022.
British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card
The annual fee for British Airways Premium Plus cardholders will increase from £195 to £250. Existing cardholders will only be charged the fee to their account from 1 September 2021 onwards, and it will remain an annual charge.
Unlike the basic British Airways Amex, you’ll still be able to book companion vouchers for any type of flight with a Premium Plus card, from economy to first class.
It’s also adding tens of thousands of extra reward seats in Club World (Business Class cabins). This is in addition to British Airways’ recent announcement that the number of guaranteed reward seats available on any British Airways flight has doubled.
For all vouchers earned from 1 September 2021, there will be no restriction for a cardmember’s companion voucher booking to originate from the UK.
A new card design
For the first time since the cards were launched more than 20 years ago, Amex will launch a brand new card design from 1 September 2021 for both of its cards.
Amex says that apart from a ‘new fresh, sleek look and feel’, the card number will now be on the back of the card.
Existing customers will receive their new card from 1 September 2021 onwards on their next renewal date.
Amex says that it notified customers of the changes to all of its cards in the first three weeks of June.
- Find out more: British Airways credit card review
Why has Amex made changes to its British Airways offering?
Amex told Which? that the overhaul of its British Airways cards comes in response to the pandemic.
It told us: ‘We recognise that the onset of the pandemic meant that our cardmembers could not immediately utilise some of the travel benefits on their cards.
‘We therefore introduced several additional offers so that they could continue to enjoy value from their cards. These included the opportunity to earn bonus Avios on spending.
‘We also extended the validity of the companion vouchers up to three times, by six months each time, to ensure that our cardmembers can redeem this benefit. In addition, Premium Plus cardmembers were invited to bespoke at home travel experiences.’
How does the British Airways Amex compare?
British Airways achieved an impressive customer score of 74% in our latest credit card satisfaction survey and is a new Which? Recommended Provider (WRP) for 2021.
The cards allow you to earn Avios points on spending that can help you earn a free flight or a hotel stay.
For example, the British Airways American Express Credit Card will reward you with one Avios for every £1 you spend and 5,000 bonus Avios when you spend £1,000 in your first three months with the card.
Representative example: assuming you borrow £1,200 for one year, at a purchase rate of 22.2% (variable) the card offers a representative 22.2% APR (variable). Credit available subject to status and terms apply.
However, there are other airline reward credit cards to choose from if you’re unhappy with the upcoming changes.
The Virgin Atlantic Reward Credit Card, which is a Mastercard, offers 0.75 Virgin Points for every £1 you spend on everyday card purchases. Plus, you can get 1.5 points for every £1 you spend with Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Holidays. If you spend £20,000 in a year, you’ll unlock exclusive benefits such as companion flights or upgrades.
Representative example: Assuming you borrow £1,200 for one year, at a purchase rate of 22.9% (variable), representative 22.9% APR (variable). Credit available subject to status. Terms apply.
The Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Credit Card is cheaper than what the British Airways Premium Plus will cost from September, at £160 per year. You can earn 1.5 Virgin Points for every £1 you spend on everyday card purchases and three points for every £1 you spend with Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Holidays. You’ll need to spend £10,000 to unlock benefits such as companion flights and upgrades.
Representative example: Assuming you borrow £1,200 for one year, at a purchase rate of 22.9% (variable), with a £160 annual fee, representative 63.9% APR (variable). Credit available subject to status. Terms apply.
I want to switch: how can I decide which provider is best for me?
If you’re unhappy and want to switch providers, you should do your research first.
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