I have used points earned on credit cards to make several trips across the Atlantic over the last few years. There is a real satisfying feeling being sat on the plane before takeoff, knowing that the seat didn't cost anything other than the taxes paid to the UK Goverment. Redeeming rewards points has made it possible for myself and my family to make several trips to the United States on holiday. As theme park lovers there is no better place than Orlando. I recently changed credit card provider from my Virgin Atlantic Amex card and thought I would blog about the reasons why. So here it is my British Airways American Express Credit Card Review - enjoy!
How does a FREE First Class flight to your dream destination sound?
I have put together what I believe is one of the most comprehensive guides on using the British Airways loyalty scheme, to bag yourself a free First Class flight to your dream destination.
Loyalty points are useless aren't they?
That's what I used to always think, until I properly understood how to make loyalty points work for me. The key to getting the most out of any loyalty rewards programme is to stick with one system. If you are going to earn a few points here and there from lots of different providers, then you will never earn enough to do anything remotely useful.
Tip - Stick with one provider to maximise the gains.
I finally cracked the system back in 2010 when returning on a flight from Florida. I got talking to someone and they shared quite openly how they had managed to get all four family members out to Orlando, for just the price of the taxes.
I quizzed them for ages, it was a seven and a half hour flight so they had nowhere to go! They talked me through their system and so when I got back I put it into action. It took me just over 12 months to earn enough points to also get me, my wife and two children on a free flight to LA!
The biggest tip that they gave me was to use one loyalty programme to maximise the benefits which is what I did.
AMEX Cards - why they are brilliant
American Express are not as large as VISA and Mastercard who are the other two major providers of credit card services in the UK. As the underdog this means that they have to attract new customers with incentives. This is great news for us as consumers.
AMEX has to offer incentives to attract new customers! Great news for us as consumers.
If you are a VISA and Mastercard credit card customer, then they don't offer much in terms of rewards, therefore it's time to go shopping for a new credit card. One that is willing to fight for your custom and reward your loyalty.
The other thing AMEX do really well is partner with large companies to leverage their brand. What do I mean by that, well British Airways is a large international company that flies all over the world. If AMEX and BA partner up then they can offer something together, that is far more attractive for us as consumers. BA gets to fill their planes with bargain hunters (more on why they do this later) and you pick AMEX over VISA and Mastercard. It's a win win for both parties.
WARNING - Don't let your spending get out of control!
It's easy to get carried away with spending to earn points. Please remember this is a credit card and is one of the most expensive ways to borrow money. I would hate to think that any tips I offer on this site would result in someone getting into debt.
I am not a finanical adviser. These cards are brilliant for earning points but please don't borrow money. If you end up paying interest on your credit card then any benefits you have gained are wasted. Getting the most out of the system requires planning and self discipline. If you posses neither of these then it's probably not the best idea.
Getting the most out of the system requires planning and self discipline. If you posses neither of these then it's probably not the best idea.
Which BA AMEX to chose?
British Airways offers a free version of their card and a paid version. The differences are as follows
- £150 Annual Fee
- 26,000 Points Sign Up Bonus
- 1.5 Points for every £1 spent
- Companion Voucher on a £10,000 spend
- 19.9% Interest Rate
- No Annual Fee
- 10,000 Points Sign Up Bonus
- 1 Point for every £1 spent
- Companion Voucher on a £20,000 spend
- 15.9% Interest Rate
Why I went for the paid card
My first reaction was to chose the free version of the card, but in the end I went for the paid version and here is why:
- Bonus 26,000 points after three months. A return flight to New York is 26,000 points
- Easier to earn a Campanion Voucher with everyday spending
- More points for the £1 means you get to your target quicker
- Earn the £150 back by shopping in Tesco
Power up your points
The issue with AMEX is that it is not accepted in every store. However, all is not lost because Tesco will allow you to exchange Clubcard points for Birtish Airways Airmiles. This means that if you have a Tesco Credit Card then you are still able to earn Airmiles by collecting Clubcard points and converting them. I use this as a backup to my AMEX card.
Tesco also run regular promotions when they do bonus Airmiles conversions. These are normally done twice a year, usually around Easter and then sometime in the Autumn.
A Tesco Credit card also acts as a Clubcard. When you purchase something in Tesco you insert your Tesco Credit Card. Then midway through the transaction you will be asked either by the self checkout or the cashier if you want to pay with the card. Simply say no and handover your BA Amex Card. You are now technically earning double airmiles! This is because Clubcard points can be converted to Airmiles.
Shop in Tesco, convert your Clubcard points to Airmiles and you get a massive boost!
A Tesco Credit Card also earns one Clubcard point per mile spent on fuel. Whereas a normal Clubcard only earns half a point. Again repeat the in store procedure I recommended before, insert your Tesco Credit Card to collect the points, then complete the transaction and you will earn more Airmiles on your fuel.
A Companion Voucher allows you get a second flight for the cost of the Airmiles on one flight. The great thing about a Companion Voucher is that the second flight is at the exact same class as the first flight. Here is what I mean:
- Return flight from New York Economy 26,000 points, with companion voucher 26,000 points. Without companion voucher 52,000 points.
- Return flight from New York Premium Economy 52,000 points, with companion voucher 52,000 points. Without companion voucher 104,000 points.
- Return flight from New York Business/Club 100,000 points, with companion voucher 100,000 points. Without companion voucher 200,000 points.
- Return flight from New York First Class 68,000 points, with companion voucher 68,000 points. Without companion voucher 136,000 points.
As you can see the Companion Voucher is an amazing way to not only make flights cheaper but also to make luxury travel affordable.
You can only earn one Companion Voucher a calender year but they expire after two years. That means you can use X2 Companion Vouchers and 136,000 miles, to fly a family of four to New York Business Class, every two years!
How to spend £10,000 in a year for a bonus flight
So spening £10,000 on a credit card may seem quite scary, £20,000 is ridiculous! I agree with the second part of that statment but not the first, here is why:
If a family of four spends approximately £100 a week on grocery shopping that is £5200 a year without doing anything else.
My fuel spend is around £200 per month so that is another £2400 per year. If you have never worked it out then do it you will be suprised what you spend on diesel and petrol!
Car Insurance on two cars is around £800 per annum.
Household buildings and contents insurance is approx. £250 per year.
£5200 + £2400 + £800 + £250 per year = £8650. That leaves us £1350 short!
Putting household bills on a credit card is a slippery slope. Setup a Direct Debit to pay the card off in full each month!
Most energy suppliers only offer a nominal £5 per year dicount for paying by Direct Debit, TV Licensing offers no discount for Direct Debit payments and my local water supplier only offers a £5 per annum discount.
By not taking their measly discounts you can easily put £1350 on the BA AMEX card to take you past the £10,000 spend.
I will repeat the warning from before. Putting your household bills on credit cards is a slippery slope. When you order you BA AMEX Card, the first thing you should do is setup a Direct Debit to pay the card off in full!
Remember that on the fee paying card you will earn 15,000 miles on a £10,000 spend. Add this to the bonus 26,000 for signing up and you have 41,000 Airmiles. Throw in your Clubcard points from all the food and fuel you bought from Tesco's, and that easily gives you the additional 11,000 Airmiles that you need for the return flight to New York.
Earning your £150 fee back
I am not sure it's possible to earn a Companion Flight on the free card very easily. There may be some creative minds out there that may offer suggestions to this.
However it is possible to earn all if not a large chunk of the £150 back if you opt for the paid card. Here is how I managed to do it:
Tesco (again!!!) currently offers 2p a litre off a £50 spend. For every £50 you spend in store, in addition to the Clubcard points, you will get 2p off a litre of fuel. The 2p off gets stacked up to a maximum of 20p a litre.
Take advantage of Tesco Fuel Save to earn the cost of the Amex Card back!
A 60 litre tank will save £12 on a full tank, remember to fill up both cars at the same time if you have more than one car in the family. That's £24 off for doing nothing other than shopping at Tesco. If you own one car then just by doing this, you will save £144 in fuel. This virtually pays for the Amex Card. A two car family will save £288.
Further boost your miles
Tesco offers 150 bonus Clubcard points when you purchase £20 worth of gift cards. They currently offer gift cards for the following:
- Pizza Express, Harvester, Toby Carvery, Bella Italia, ASK Italian, Cafe Rouge, Pizza Hut, Prezzo, Nando's, Bella Italia, Cafe Rouge and Zizzi.
- Cineworld, iTunes, Google Play, Facebook, WHSmith, Spotify, Ticketmaster, Waterstones and Treatme days out.
- Halfords, ToysRUs, Mothercare, BabiesRUs, Debenhams, H&M, Monsoon, Accessorize, Oasis, Claires, Fatface, Warehouse, GAP, HSamuel, TopShop, Dorothy Perkins, Burton, Miss Selfridge, House of Fraser, Argos, Homebase
If you shop at any of those stores simply buy a gift card and pay for it using your BA Amex card. You will earn the Airmiles on buying the gift cards, the bonus Clubcard points which can be converted into Airmiles and £20 towards the 2p off a litre of fuel.
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As you can see, if you combine a BA Amex Card, shopping a Tesco and buying gift cards to use in other stores you could quite easily find yourself