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Why Avoiding the Amex Blue Card UK is a Great Idea!
I was recently speaking with a friend and the conversation quickly turned to credit cards. As is the case with most credit card newbies he’d recently signed up to what he described as the American Express Blue card.
Regular readers will know this as the British Airways issued American Express which we’ve reviewed in full here. They will also know of my significant dislike for the ‘Amex Blue Card’. Read on to find out why I believe you’d be far better off with an alternative credit card and why, following the recent American Express sign-up bonus rule changes, you may be better off paying for the premium version of the American Express Blue Credit Card UK.
Before I begin recommending alternative cards let’s take a look at the various benefits offered by the Amex Blue Card UK. But first, the boring but important bits…
The British Airways American Express credit card (also referred to as the American Express Blue Card UK) is issued directly by American Express. There is no annual fee and the interest rate for the Amex Blue card is 22.9% APR variable. The general rules with American Express credit cards is that you can hold two charge cards (such as the Green and Platinum cards) and two credit cards (SPG, Gold, BA, etc.).
American Express Blue Card UK – Sign-Up Bonus
The American Express Blue UK credit card offers a sign-up bonus of 5,000 British Airways Avios points when you spend £1,000 in the first 3 months. This can be increased to 6,000 Avios points using this link however before you do, plllleeeeaasseeee read on to find out why you’d be making a massive mistake if you sign up to the American Express Blue card!
The alternative to the Blue American Express credit card (issued by British Airways) would be the American Express Gold card – reviewed here. In comparison, the sign-up bonus with this alternative credit card is 10,000 Membership Rewards points. These can be transferred to Avios at a rate of 1:1 or alternatively used across 11 other airlines, various hotel companies and numerous other redemption opportunities. Similar to the Blue Amex card, it’s possible to benefit from an enhanced sign-up bonus of 12,000 if you use this link.
Other Benefits of the American Express Blue UK
Whilst I’m not a betting man, I would guess that most of the Amex Blue cardholders originally signed up to the credit card to earn Avios points on their everyday spending. Whilst this isn’t a terrible idea, with an earnings rate of 1 Avios for every £1 spent on the American Express Blue card, you’d need to spend a staggering £16,000 just to equal the difference in sign-up bonuses between this card and the Gold card.
As regular readers will know, there is generally a correlation between redemption flexibility and the value of a loyalty scheme point. With the American Express Blue UK credit card linked to Avios points these wouldn’t be anywhere near as flexible as the Membership Rewards points earned with the Gold card which if required can easily be transferred to Avios (BA air miles).
A further benefit of the American Express Blue Card UK is the Avios companion voucher (also known as the 2-4-1 voucher) which you receive when you spend £20,000 on the card in a membership year. The voucher essentially allows the holder to redeem two Avios flights for the price of one. I recently used it for 2 First Class flights to Sao Paulo saving me 140,000 Avios – read my review here which provides a step-by-step guide to earning enough Avios points to book two First Class flights…
There are two versions of the 2-4-1 voucher. The version which comes with the free card expires after just 12 months. This can cause issues for those who are seeking to book a reward flight on a popular route where you’d need to book 355 days in advance.
The alternative option to earn the 2-4-1 voucher would be with the British Airways Premium Plus credit card. Whilst the card comes with an annual fee of £195 per year, this is likely be offset by the increased sign-up bonus of 25,000 Avios points (which can be boosted to 26,000 points using this link) as well as the 2-4-1 voucher which is granted at £10,000 of annual spending and lasts for 24 months.
Following the recent changes with American Express sign-up bonuses (discussed in full here and well worth reading!), you won’t be able to benefit from the sign-up bonus with the free Amex Blue card if you’ve held another personal American Express card within the last 24 months. However the twist is that you will earn the sign-up bonus with the premium version of the credit card.
A similar rule applies to the Gold card, preventing anyone who has held a personal card in the last 24 months from benefiting from the sign-up bonus. As such if you’re planning on combining the Gold and Premium Plus cards then we would strongly suggest signing up to the Gold initially (using this link to benefit from 22,000 points) followed by the Premium Plus (using this link to benefit from 26,000 points) to maximise the total number of points earned.
What are the Amex Blue Card Benefits Worth?
If you use the Avios points earned on the Amex Blue card for BA redemptions then you’ll likely be able to achieve a value somewhere in the region of 1p per point. This would make the sign-up bonus worth somewhere in the region of £50-£60.
The 2-4-1 voucher – once you spend £20,000 on the card – can be very valuable, especially if you already have a large pot of Avios points. Redeeming on a European flight would save the cardholder somewhere in the region of 10,000 Avios points (worth £100). However redeeming for a return transatlantic flight could save as much as 200,000 Avios points or approximately £2,000!
American Express Blue Card Benefits Vs Other Credit Cards
As we’ve highlighted within this article, there are various other credit cards on the market which provide superior benefits to the Amex Blue card.
Free Alternatives to the American Express Blue Card
The best free alternative would be the American Express Gold card which offers a sign-up bonus of 10,000 points (12,000 if you use this link) which can be converted to either Avios points or a number of other frequent-flyer airline miles. The card offers a similar ongoing earnings rate to the Blue American Express of 1 point for every £1 spent. It also offers 2 free airport lounge passes. After the first free year those crafty people at American Express begin charging for the card and it’s not cheap at £140 pa. We would recommend cancelling the card at the end of the first free year.
An alternative option for earning airline frequent-flyer miles would be the Virgin Atlantic Reward MasterCard credit card (reviewed here). The card offers 5,000 Virgin Flying Club miles when you spend £1,000 on the card in the first year and an earnings rate of 0.75 points for every £1 spent. Virgin Flying Club miles are currently slightly more difficult to use than Avios points, as Virgin Atlantic only operates long-haul flights. This is however expected to change with the ongoing acquisition of Flybe.
Premium Alternatives to the Amex Blue Card
The first and most popular credit card is the British Airways Premium Plus credit card which we’ve already discussed during this article. The annual fee of £195 is likely to be offset by the 26,000 Avios points sign-up bonus when you spend £3,000 in the first 3 months. You’ll also benefit from a 2-4-1 rewards voucher with a 24-month expiry when you spend £10,000 (compared to £20,000) on the card in a membership year.
One further alternative to the Blue Amex credit card would be the American Express Platinum card which comes with a whopping annual fee of £575 pa. This card offers a sign-up bonus of 30,000 points (increased to 35,000 using this link) and an extensive list of additional perks (think unlimited airport lounge access, free travel insurance, elite status with numerous hotels, etc.). Read our full review here which sets out why for a small handful of people the value of the many benefits will more than offset the card’s annual fee…
FAQs – Amex Blue UK
What are the costs of using the American Express Card Blue abroad?
It’s very expensive to use the Amex Blue card and, in fact, any American Express credit card abroad. You’ll be charged 2.99% on all FX transactions which is far more than the points benefit you’d receive. As such we’d recommend using something like the Revolut Card when travelling abroad.
Does the Amex Blue Card UK offer travel insurance?
No. The only UK American Express credit card which offers international travel insurance is the American Express Platinum card.
What is the limit on the Blue American Express?
On the website, American Express suggest an assumed credit limit of £1,200 for the American Express Blue UK credit card however this can be significantly more depending on an individual’s circumstances.
Summary – American Express Blue Card UK
Whilst the American Express Blue credit card is one of the most popular cards for newbies, it is actually one of the worst. For those looking for an entry-level credit card to earn either air miles, hotel loyalty points or cashback in the form of vouchers then we’d recommend shunning the Amex Blue card and opting for the Gold version. Don’t forget you’ll receive enhanced sign-up bonuses for both cards using the following referral links:
- American Express Blue Credit Card – Increase sign-up bonus from 5,000 to 6,000 using this link.
- American Express Gold Card (reviewed in full here) – increase sign-up bonus from 10,000 to 12,000 points using this link.