The “Avios Redemption University” series is a good starting point for beginners, although I hope everyone will learn something from them. Click here to see the other articles.
It is not an understatement to say that, used properly, the British Airways American Express 2-4-1 Avios companion voucher is the biggest perk of any loyalty credit card in the UK.
If you want mathematical proof of that, take a look at this article. The companion voucher from the Premium Plus card should get you at least £750 of value if used ‘properly’, which is 7.5% of the £10,000 you spent on the card to earn it.
If you do not already have a British Airways American Express card (see the ‘Credit Cards‘ page for the latest offer), here are the key details. There are two different cards available:
The BA American Express card has no fee, earns 1 mile per £1 spent and generates a 2-4-1 voucher each year when you spend £20,000. The voucher lasts for 1 year.
The BA Premium Plus American Express has a £150 annual fee, earns 1.5 miles per £1 spent (3x on BA flights) and generates a 2-4-1 voucher each year when you spend £10,000. The voucher lasts for 2 years.
In my mind, it is pointless having the basic, free BA Amex if you plan to earn a 2-4-1 voucher.
Why? Well, for a start, triggering the voucher means spending £20,000 on the free BA Amex. And if you are spending £20,000 on the card, you’d earn 10,000 extra Avios by spending the same £20,000 on the Premium Plus card, because of the higher earnings rate! That alone is almost enough reason to pay the £150 fee.
However, I wouldn’t do that. Instead, what I would do is get the Premium Plus card and just spend the necessary £10,000 on it. I would then use my additional annual spending to open more credit cards and meet the spending target required to trigger their bonuses.
Or, if I had a partner, I would get them their own BA Premium Plus Amex and get myself a supplementary card on that account. I could then spend £10,000 on each card (my own card, then the supplementary card on my partners account) and earn TWO 2-4-1 vouchers each year.
In my house, we go with the latter option. My wife has her own BA Amex and I am a supplementary cardholder on that account. Between the supplementary card and my own BA Amex I can get through £20,000 per year to trigger 2 x 2-4-1 vouchers.
It is also worth remembering that the one-year expiry on the companion voucher on the free card is very inconvenient, especially as you often need to book well ahead to get the seats you want. If you triggered your 2-4-1 voucher today (August), the one year validity means that it would not be possible to book seats for Christmas 2016 and it would probably be too late now to book something good for Christmas 2015.
How do the vouchers work?
It is a simple and transparent process. Every month, your card statements shows your spend to date (well, your spend total up to 6 days before the statement was printed).
Once you have hit the £10,000 or £20,000 target, you will receive an email from BA and the voucher will show prominently in your ba.com account when you log-in.
What small print should I know about?
The year-to-year dates for the spending target are based on the date you applied for your card. It does NOT run on calendar years.
Certain sorts of expenditure, eg cash withdrawals, do not count towards the £10,000 / £20,000. These are the same items which do not earn Avios for the transaction. The £150 card fee on the Premium Plus card also does not count towards the £10,000.
The voucher can be used for a one-way redemption, as long as it is from the UK.
You must pay taxes and charges on BOTH seats, even though you only pay the Avios needed for one seat.
If one person cannot travel, you cannot remove that person from the booking and get your voucher back. You would need to cancel the whole booking and rebook for yourself, which may not be possible if Avios seats are no longer available.
Standard BA cancellation terms apply (all Avios and taxes refunded if you cancel up to 24 hours before the flight, £35 per person fee) and you get the voucher back in your account to re-use. The expiry date does not change
How do I redeem?
For standard return flight starting in the UK, or for one way (ex UK only) flights on BA, you can use the voucher online at ba.com.
It IS possible to make mixed class bookings on ba.com.
Remember that you CANNOT redeem for codeshare flights or partner flights with your 2-4-1 voucher, even with a BA flight number.
(This is often an issue if trying to get to Cape Town via Johannesburg, as the Johannesburg to Cape Town connection is on Comair, a BA franchise. The planes look like BA planes and have BA flight numbers, but they cannot be used with the voucher.)
For open-jaw flights (flying to one airport and returning from another) you need to call BA. A valid open-jaw flight is one where the distance between your arriving and departing airport is shorter than either of the flights to or from London. London-Boston, New York-London, for example, is clearly OK because Boston-New York is shorter than either of the transatlantic flights.
You must use an Amex card to pay the taxes and charges on your 2-4-1 redemption booking. However, this can be ANY American Express card – it does not need to be your BA Amex. Ignore anything you read or are told to the contrary!
If you are booking for a very busy destination, the BA call centre is now happy to add a return flight to an existing one-way flight booking using your voucher. This means that you book your outbound flight as soon as it opens up at 355 days prior to travel. At least four World Traveller and two Club World seats should appear immediately. Further seats in those and other travel classes are likely to appear over time.
When the return flight opens up, you can ring BA and add the return leg to your existing booking. You will pay the £35 per ticket change fee but it saves you the worry of whether the outbound seats you want will have gone by the time the return is available.
Who can I redeem for?
The main BA Amex cardholder must be one of the booked passengers.
There is one formal exception – where the member has two active vouchers. (A Premium Plus cardholder could have this, as they earn one voucher per year and they are valid for two years.) In this case, both vouchers can be used together to make a booking for a group of four.
If the person who earned the voucher is in a BA Household Account, then both travellers must be members of the Household Account or be on the ‘Friends and Family’ list attached to it.
Does cancelling my BA Amex cancel my companion voucher?
There is NO risk of losing your flights if you cancel your BA Amex after booking a flight with your voucher. However, if you later cancel the flight you may not get the voucher back.
You MIGHT lose your voucher if you cancel your BA Amex before you have used your 2-4-1 voucher. If you don’t want to pay another £150 for the Premium Plus card, then ask Amex to downgrade you to the free basic BA Amex instead. Your voucher will retain its 2 year validity.
Is the British Airways American Express Avios 2-4-1 companion voucher for everyone?
It is easy to give the impression that the 2-4-1 is the greatest deal in the world. However, you still need to be able to generate a lot of Avios each year to take full advantage of it.
If you want to fly to the New York once a year in Club World on your 2-4-1, you still need to be able to generate 100,000 Avios per year (off-peak) on top of being able to spend the £10,000 on the card.
Of course, the 2-4-1 vouchers are also valid on short-haul flights. However, you are obviously saving fewer Avios with your voucher that way – and the £150 fee on the Premium Plus card may seem poorer value. I have in the past used vouchers to save 18,000 Avios on Club Europe flights and did not feel too bad about it!
The 2-4-1 voucher also implies that you have someone to travel with. If you are a solo traveller, it will not be any use at all. You should look at the Lloyds Avios Rewards credit cards instead, which offer upgrade vouchers for Avios redemptions.
You should also remember that Amex cards are not accepted everywhere, so spending £10,000 is not always as easy as it seems – although I run regular articles on Head for Points on ways of generating Amex spend more quickly.
Need more information?
The official terms and conditions for using the voucher can be found via this page at ba.com. It is interesting to note that the T&C’s still refer to the ‘Premium’ version of the card which was scrapped around 10 years ago, and which was a mix of the free and the Premium Plus card.