Everyone dreams of laying on a flat bed on a plane and being waited on hand and foot. But getting a business class flight might not be as out of reach as you think. With one trick, you could be in the life of luxury sooner (and cheaper) than you think.
The way you’ll be able to fly business class for less is through collecting air miles, which are also known as ‘frequent flyer miles’. But rather ironically, you don’t need to be a frequent flyer to amass these air miles - in fact, you don’t even have to step foot off the ground.
There are a number of ways you can build up air miles, but the main and easiest way is by taking out an airline credit card, which gives you a large sign-up bonus of frequent flyer miles for joining.
Today, we’re focusing on the British Airways American Express credit card, and show you how one sign-up offer could get you flying in style, with points that could be worth up to £700!
What is the British Airways AMEX credit card?
British Airways have two different American Express credit cards, both of which offer you its frequent flyer currency of ‘Avios’ for signing up. One of them is free, however it only gives you a 5,000 Avios sign-up bonus. This would be a good option for a lot of people, but it won’t get you very far in terms of flights.
The other card they offer is the British Airways Premium Plus credit card, which has a high annual fee of £250, but the perks of the card are much better. For the purpose of this post, we’ll be focusing on this premium card to show you what you can do with its generous sign-up bonus.
What are the fees on the British Airways Premium Plus credit card?
The interest rate on this card is rather high at 106.0% APR variable, so it is only worth getting this card if you are sure you’ll be able to pay off your bill in full every month, otherwise you risk paying a lot in interest. Purchase rate is 27.2% APR and you’ll have an assumed credit limit of £1,200 (which is adjusted depending on your credit score).
As mentioned above, it’s £250 a year to have the card, which is refunded pro-rata if you cancel early. To apply for the card you’ll need to be 18 or over, have permanent residence in the United Kingdom and have a UK bank or building society. You must also have no history of bad debt.
American Express British Airways credit card comparison
|Card||Fee||APR||Qualifying Spend||Bonus Avios Points|
|British Airways American Express Credit Card||£0.00||27.2%||£1,000 in 3 months||5,000|
|British Airways American Express Premium Plus Credit Card||£250.00||106.0%||£3,000 in 3 months||25,000|
Now that’s out the way, let’s get onto the good bit.
How many Avios points do you get with the card?
The sign-up bonus on the British Airways Premium Plus credit card is 25,000 Avios points, which is added directly to your British Airways account. You’ll need to spend £3,000 on the card in the first 3 months to get the bonus - which may be tricky for some. If you don’t think you’ll spend that much, either shift all of your everyday spending and bills over to the card, or wait until you know you have a big purchase coming up (like a holiday or a birthday).
Also, for every £1 you spend on the British Airways Premium Plus card, you get 1.5 Avios points too - so spending £3,000 in your first 3 months, will get you an extra 4,500 Avios points on top.
So, just in the first few months and without even flying, you’re now up to nearly 30,000 miles, and your out of pocket cost is £250. So what can you get with those kind of miles? It won’t get you to Australia and back, but that business class experience could be yours.
What does 30,000 Avios points get you?
You can use your Avios points in a variety of ways. Some get you better value upgrades than others, but in any case it’ll be an upgrade from the cramped seats of economy. Of course, you can save up and carry on collecting for a larger reward, but if you just wanted to use the sign-up offer to get your hands on a business class upgrade, here are the ways you do it:
Tip: You can top up your Avios points but it will cost you £495 for 30,000 points by buying from British Airways.
Business class return in Europe
Business class on local flights within Europe doesn’t have the same luxury as long haul, but it still has some cool perks. 30,000 Avios points will get you a return flight in ‘Club Europe’ (business class) within 1,500 miles of London. This can take you to destinations such as Paris, Venice and as far as Dubrovnik.
Flights in Club Europe cost a flat fee of £70 return (which pays for the taxes and fees) and costs between 15,500-25,500 Avios during off-peak times and 18,000-30,000 during peak times - which will all be covered under the sign-up bonus.
Perks of Club Europe short-haul business flights include:
- Free access to British Airways business class lounges
- Priority boarding
- Complimentary food and beverages on board
- Dedicated check in desks and a larger baggage allowance.
So while a short-haul business flight may not give you a flat bed, you’ll be able to travel around the continent in a bit more comfort.
No matter which destination you fly to, your out of pocket cost is £320 to get return Club Europe flights (£70 flat tax fee and £250 for the card). This may sound okay, but please do your research before booking a flight in Europe. After a bit of research, I spotted return Club Europe flights to Venice for £152 return - which is cheaper than the cost of getting the miles. If you’re travelling at peak time in summer holidays for example, prices go up to over £400 which means you would be getting better use of your air miles.
Tip: Earn bonus Avios points by shopping online with your favourite retailers through British Airways' Avios e-store. Many retailers available including H&M, John Lewis, Nike & T.K. Maxx. Use your British Airways American Express card to pay and you'll earn even more.
Business class one-way long haul
If you wanted to venture outside of Europe and have a bed, you’ll only be able to travel to a few different places, and only one-way (so you’ll have to purchase the other flight separately).
For 31,250 miles off-peak (which requires an extra £1,166.66 spent on the credit card card in order to obtain enough Avios points), you’ll be able to get one-way business class flights to selected destinations in the Middle East and North Africa. These are Abuja, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Jeddah, Kuwait and Tel Aviv.
The 31,250 doesn’t pay for the flight outright, you will have to pay taxes and fees on top. Taking an example of London to Tel Aviv, taxes and fees would mean a £267 spend to secure the one-way flight.
TIP: You can often save money on the taxes by booking your reward flights on returning legs.
Booking the return leg, Tel Aviv to London in business class drops the tax down to £184. Add this to the cost of the card (£250) and you’ll be flying one way in business for £434. The cost of purchasing the same flight is £719, so is a saving of £250. This is a much better option as long haul flights tend to have high business class prices, which means the value of your points increases.
Upgrades to business class with Avios
This is your best use of miles by far - but you’ll have to already be travelling somewhere to make it worthwhile. Purchasing a ticket on the British Airways website can be upgraded by using your Avios points. You can upgrade from either economy to premium, premium economy to business, or business to first. Unfortunately, you can’t jump from economy straight to business class, you can only upgrade to the next class of flight.
This means, in order to upgrade to business class with this method, you’ll need to book a premium economy class ticket, and then upgrade either online or over the phone. If you wanted to do this, it’s usually the case again that flights coming back to the UK/London cost less - some premium economy tickets only being £100-£150 more than economy tickets.
To use your miles on an upgrade, you’ll need to spend the difference in Avios points between the one you have booked and the class you want to upgrade to. Taking one example from a New York to London flight - a normal premium economy ticket costs you 26,000 Avios, while business is 50,000. That means you’ll need 24,000 Avios to upgrade your ticket.
I looked at how much things would cost on a New York to London flight. Economy seats were £68 one way, premium economy at £165 and business class was a whopping £1,146 per seat.
In order to use your Avios points to upgrade to business, you’ll first need to book a premium economy ticket; so if you normally book economy, it’s only an extra £97 more than you’d normally spend. But what’s handy with this, is when you use your Avios points to upgrade, you don’t have to pay any extra fees - so the only thing you’d pay is the extra money to get into premium economy.
Bearing in mind that buying a business class seat on this particular flight costs £1,146 normally, you’ve got a good deal only paying £415 (£165 for premium economy, and the £250 fee for the card). That’s a saving of over £700, and if you were going to travel anyway, you’ve only spent £150 more than you usually would for the upgrade to business.
So as you can see, sign-up offers like the one available through the American Express British Airways Premium credit card can take you further than you might have thought, however it all depends on where you’re travelling to. Your Avios points might only be worth a few hundred pounds if using them in Europe, but pinpoint the right upgrade on long haul flights and your points could be worth close to £1,000. The sweet taste of business class aeroplane food will be just that little bit better knowing you’ve paid a fraction of the price.