Ever wondered which airline credit card is the best card to use if your sole aim is to fly business class using AVIOS? Ever started looking into this, only to scratch your head with frustration, trying to do a like for like comparison? Do you opt for an AVIOS upgrade voucher or an AVIOS companion voucher? If you’re not sure what a companion voucher is, check out my post about over on Travel the Globe for Less.
Wonder no more. I’ve done the research, so let the battle of the AMEX cards commence.
AVIOS Upgrade Voucher v AVIOS Companion Voucher
Which is the best option if you want to bag yourself two long haul business class flights? British Airways American Express cards or Lloyds Bank AVIOS cards?
Assuming you want to book two off peak business class flights to New York in March 2016, let’s consider the different options, and which card proves the ultimate winner.
This card offers no sign up bonus, and pays 1.25 points per £1 of AMEX spend. To soften the blow of the nil sign up bonus, it offers double AVIOS on all spend for the first six months.
It rewards you with an AVIOS upgrade voucher for two (one way only) after spending £7,000. For a return journey therefore (and let’s face it, who wants to fly one way business, only to come back in cattle?!) you would have to secure two upgrade vouchers. To do this a husband and wife (or you and a friend) would each need to own a card, and each satisfy the minimum spend of £7,000.
This clearly requires total spend of £14,000, however it is only possible to upgrade one class, so you would need to book two premium economy tickets, and then upgrade to Club World using the AVIOS upgrade voucher. This would cost 52,000 AVIOS each, or a total of 104,000 taxes.
The bookings must be made through the AVIOS site, be booked as two separate bookings, (one in each cardholder’s name, using an upgrade voucher each) and be paid for wholly in AVIOS.
There is no option to upgrade to First Class using this voucher.
This card likewise offers no sign up bonus, but pays 1.5 points per £1 of AMEX spend. It too offers double AVIOS on all spend for the first six months, but beware it has a much higher annual card fee of £140.
Unlike the standard version of the card, the AVIOS upgrade voucher for two is earned after just £5,000 of spend.
Otherwise, it operates exactly the same as the cheaper card. Two business class flights would cost 104,000 AVIOS taxes, and you would have to redeem two reward vouchers. This means you again need two cards, and thus have to pay £280 in card fees (rather than £48 for the two standard cards).
You might believe that the additional companion voucher you receive upon achieving the £12,000 spend criteria compensates for the additional card fee, however it is only possible to redeem this voucher in economy.
A quick search on Skyscanner for the same dates, reveals the availability of economy tickets with other airlines for around £317. The taxes and fees of an economy reward flight paid for with AVIOS were £316. In short you would be giving your AVIOS away!
This card pays 1.5 points per £1 of spend rising to 3 points per £1 on British Airways flights and holidays. It currently has a very attractive sign up bonus of 25,000 points after satisfying the £3,000 minimum spend. Beware though, the sign up bonus varies, and last month it was only 18,000.
Crucially, this card rewards you with a British Airways Companion Voucher (consider it a BOGOF deal) each year that you spend £10,000.
You can use the Companion Voucher to redeem against flights in any class, meaning you can book flights for two in business class, using only the AVIOS needed for one business class flight. You then pay taxes and fees for two people. Currently an off peak business class fare to New York for one would cost 100,000 AVIOS.
The card does have an annual fee of £150, but this is still less than paying two fees of £140 for the Lloyds Premier AVIOS Rewards Card, and of course, you are using less AVIOS to make the booking.
Furthermore, if you feel like really pushing the boat out, you can use your companion voucher to fly First Class.
This card offers a companion voucher which operates in exactly the same way as the Premium Plus card. The difference is that you need to spend £20,000 rather than £10,000 to secure the voucher, and it is only valid for 12 months. The voucher on the Premium Plus card lasts 24 months.
Combined with the lower earnings rate of just 1 AVIOS per £1, and a much lower sign up bonus of 9,000 (recently it was as low as 3,000), this card doesn’t represent great value.
All this information is conveniently summarised in the table below.
|British Airways American Express Credit Card||British Airways American Premium Plus Card||Lloyds AVIOS Rewards card,||Lloyds Premier Avios Rewards Card|
|Sign up Bonus||9,000||25,000||0||0|
|Spend required to achieve voucher||£20,000||£10,000||£14,000 (£7,000 on each individual’s card to secure two vouchers)||£10,000 (£5,000 on each individual’s card to secure two vouchers)|
|Earnings Rate||1 per £1||1.5 per £1||1.25 per £||1.5 per £1|
|Points earned from spend||20,000||15,000||17,500||15,000|
|Total Points Earned (Including sign up or double AVIOS for first 6 months)||29,000||40,000||35,000||30,000|
|Double AVIOS for first six months||N/A||N/A||Yes||Yes|
|AVIOS points required||100,000 (1 x 100,000 using companion voucher)||100,000 (1 x 100,000 using companion voucher)||104,000 (2 x 52,000 for Premium Economy, 2 x upgrade vouchers)||104,000 (2 x 52,000 for Premium Economy, 2 x upgrade vouchers)|
|Taxes and Fees Per Person||£493.86||£493.86||£493.86||£493.86|
|Taxes and Fees Per Couple||£987.72||£987.72||£987.72||£987.72|
Correct as at 1/9/15 assuming all spend is on AMEX
The Winner is…
The British Airways Premium Credit Card offers hands down the best option. Not only does it have a generous sign up bonus, but the companion voucher can be redeemed for any class of travel using the applicable AVIOS points for only one person.
The Lloyds cards require you to pay for two premium economy flights in order to secure an upgrade to Club, and this involves the use of a higher number of points. Although the Premier card also offers a companion voucher, personally I think this is a waste of time given the high cost of taxes and fees for economy fares. The only exception is the Reward Saver flights in Europe, which can be attractive as they apply a flat rate tax. More about that in my next post later this month.
Whilst some people may feel the annual fee is off-putting, two flights in business class would cost thousands of pounds, so you will more than recoup the outlay. Even if you would never use your own money to pay for business cIass tickets (that’s me), I often find that two business class flights using this method, can work out less expensive than two seats in economy class.
So now you know, in the battle of the AMEX, British Airways wins!
Read More : Beginner’s Guide to Collecting AVIOS