Avios Redemption University – Lesson 6 – Using your BA Amex 2-4-1 companion voucher

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.

BA Premium Plus - NEW

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 £195 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 £195 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 £195 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.  Recent reports suggest that BA is not charging the £35 ticket amendment fee if you do this.

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 £195 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?

NO.

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.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your points and click here to see our list of current Avios promotions.)

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Comments

  1. I booked a 241 to St Lucia in F next February. I found out by accident (no communication from BA) that my F seats had suddenly become J seats on the outbound because the flight no longer had a first class.
    They charged me to rebook a different outward flight in F and wouldn’t budge.

    • Interesting, I had exactly the same situation recently except flights booked for January. Excellent lady at You First changed our booking with no charge.

  2. I strongly believe this voucher’s value is overstated – at least for some. With this voucher, you can get a flight for two in Business from say LHR to LAX, for 150k avios return in a peak period and £533 taxes per person. At 7.5p an avios – I agree with your valuation Rob – these flights are costing £2191. Even off peak, it is £2004.

    In the past year there have been a large number of Business class sales where it has been pretty easy to get return business class flights with BA ex DUB to LAX or HNL or SFO for £900-£1100 return (My partner has booked these twice). AND you earn at least 16k avios(28k if you are Gold) and basically enough tier points to get Silver status if you route your flight via New York or Miami.

    So if this voucher only brings the tax+avios cost down to about the same as a sale price that will earn you both status and avios, then I have to wonder really how great is this voucher? On top of this, the business class sale prices are usually much easier to secure than long haul premium avios bookings.

    I appreciate this voucher makes sense for people who can’t or won’t fly ex EU or maybe who must fly during a period when the sale prices would not be offered – although getting avios availability for such periods is presumably tough. Also I appreciate there will be lots of other times when the voucher is much better value(last minute bookings, bookings which you need to be refundable, bookings to places where BA does not offer these sale prices etc.).

    In short I’m not saying this voucher is useless, or anything like that, I just think the value may be getting overstated, at least for people like me who is happy to book holidays around sale dates and don’t have a problem flying ex DUB. I personally would would probably put a value on it of about £200 to £250. Just my opinion, I probably won’t find many who agree..

    • Also this voucher makes a lot of sense for people who are specifically looking for First Class flights. I am usually happy to fly Business.

    • I think I agree! I’ve debated the value of this card for myself on more than one occasion. IMHO I think it would feel a bit of a “waste” to use the 241 on business rather than First. Not that I’ve ever flown First – I’m quite happy in J. Thing is I just don’t earn that many Avios to get the value out of it. The need to be able to do this is something Rob has always pointed out in his reviews of the card. My o/h and I would probably be able to get enough Avios between us to redeem a long haul 241 in J once every couple of years (well New York!). But as you say – with various sales and ex-Dub (first one booked for December) I can’t see the attraction. My credit card spend is going on the IHG card.

      • Yeah my explanation was a bit longwinded but ultimately for me it is hard to get excited about a voucher that lets you book business class flights for £500 taxes and ~75k avios per person when you can basically just book the same flights for £1000 cash.

        Ultimately YQ on BA makes longhaul redemptions with or without the voucher very unattractive when the cash price of these flights is often so low(relatively).

    • It’s of value to people who cannot afford to pay for J or F flights. It’s also worth remembering, although I agree with the 7.5p worth in reality no-one is paying 7.5p for 1 avios point so it’s unrealistic to compare a cash price against a redemption price.

  3. Re- getting the voucher and downgrading. My wife’s been instructed to apply for a new blue to ‘downgrade’. Twice. Seems a bit dodgy to me – any comments?

  4. Slightly confused …..
    If I have earned a 241 voucher ….i want to go to travel LHR to YVR return – is the 241 voucher only eligible for the outward bound journey? And the return leg need to be paid with avios points?

    • No the BA Amex 241 voucher is valid for a return trip leaving from the UK. The discussion above is about what to do when only your outbound dates are available – the suggestion is to book them and then later call back when return availability is available to get it added on.

      You will pay the Avios for the return trip, the voucher will cover the Avios for the 2nd passenger, however you need to pay taxes and fees for both passengers.

  5. Russell L says:

    Hi there, I wonder if someone could shed some light on a BA Companion Voucher situation I have… I tried to make sense of the small print but keep going round in circles.
    I want to send my wife and mother in law to NYC next May, I’ve checked and there are reward seats available. I have a BA Exec/Amex account and currently have 2 Companion Vouchers to use but only 50,000 avios. My father in law has 250,000+ avios gained over many years through a household account.
    My question is; is there any way of my opening/transferring my current BA Exec account to some sort of household or family and friends account that will enable my wife and mother in law to use my companion voucher without me being on the booking? Second dilemma, any way of my father in law being able to transfer to me/my wife the 160,000 avios pts needed?
    Any advise much appreciated, Thanks in advance,

    • Hi Russell

      The snag is that YOU must travel on your companion voucher. It is possible to use 2 vouchers together, but even then you must travel with 3 other people.

      If you decided to go with them, you could join your FIL’s household account and add your wife and MIL to his ‘Friends and Family’ list. You could then redeem for the 4 of your (you, FIL, MIL and your wife) to all travel together using your 2 vouchers.

      You may want to do this – why use 200,000 Avios to send your wife and MIL when for the same 200,000 Avios all 4 of your could go via your vouchers?

  6. I got the BA AMEX card in April and have spent almost 10K on it. Can I upgrade to a BA premium AMEX, get the avoids bonus, and not lose that spend? Thanks for the help.

  7. I think there used to be a way to book an outbound regional leg before a voucher expiry date with a view to taking the international leg after the expiry date. Does anyone know if that’s still possible?

  8. “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.”

    Hmmm… I booked an outbound flight using the 2-4-1 at 355 days out last month and have since downgraded from the BAPP to the Amex BA blue card. I’m now thinking of using AA flights for that journey instead (on CX) as AA are bound to devalue soon but didn’t give any thought to the possibility of losing my 2-4-1. Does anyone have any experience of what would happen if I did cancel the BA flight? Would I get my 2-4-1 back and if so with the same validity?

    • If you downgraded you are perfectly OK – the voucher will come back. Cannot say for certain if it would be 1 or 2 years – you would have a good case to argue for 2 years on the off-chance they gave you one year. My gut feeling is you’d get 2 years.

      There are few data points for this, unfortunately, and ringing Amex is pointless as the agents just work off a script which is rarely based on how things work in reality.

  9. How many avios points do you think you need to be getting a year to make this worthwhile? I was planning on getting the card, spending the 10,000 which I should be able to do within 6 months through travel, then downgrading. However this would only give me about 50,000 avios points so would the 241 not be that great in this case? Should I go for an Amex gold instead?

    • There’s some scope to take advantage on a RFS within Europe. Business class to Marrakech is 34k Avios + £50. So with a 241 it’s 34K + £100, which isn’t bad for something that would cost ~£600.

  10. If I have a flight booked using the voucher but want to change destination and one of the names but I already cancelled my Amex, is this possible? Do I need to apply again for the free Amex?

  11. Anyone know if you can change route and/or class of a booked 241 without having to start again? We booked for Christmas pre devaluation but are now considering changing our dates, which, due to lack of availability would mean upgrading to first from cw, and possibly using a different airport for one leg. Anyone tried making changes to a pre April reward? Don’t really want to have to pay increased points for post devaluation reward prices as well as the extra to upgrade

    • The deal, if I remember, was that only date changes were allowed. I assume you would also be allowed to change airport within the same city, eg JFK to Newark.

  12. People often ask about the method and results of downgrading from BAPP to BA card. I asked Amex and here is the full story they gave@

    Yes, you are correct. To convert from your British Airways Premium Plus Card to the British Airways American Express Classic Card, you can call our Customer Services Team and you will only need to quote your old Card number.

    You may apply for the conversion of your Card to the British Airways American Express Classic Card via the direct link:

    https://www.americanexpress.com/uk/content/ba-credit-card/

    Rest assured, although the link above is for a new application, it will automatically convert your existing Card ending in 21009. You may enter your existing 15 digit Card number in the application form if asked for at any time to ensure the application goes through as a conversion.

    Alternatively, you may wish to place a conversion request by calling our Customer Services Team directly on the Free phone 0800 917 8020, available 24/7. As soon as you call one of my colleagues will gladly take a verbal consent and place the conversion request within no time.

    For your reference, the benefits of the British Airways American Express Classic Card are:

    -Fee: None
    -Earns 1 Avios per £1 spent
    -Companion voucher valid for 12 months once £20,000 has been spent on the Card within a Membership year

    Please be assured that the Avios and any Companion Voucher earned on your current Card will be carried over to the new Card. If you have earned any Voucher on your current card, it will remain valid for 24 months.

    Please note as you will be switching your British Airways Premium Plus Credit Card to the British Airways American Express Classic Card, you will not be eligible for any welcome bonus as the introductory offers are for the new Card members only. As per the terms and conditions, introductory offers will not available if you currently hold or have held any other British Airways American Express Cards in the past 6 months.

    I trust this information is helpful. For any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.

    Have a nice day!

    Sincerely,

    Poonam Dolo
    Email Servicing Team
    American Express Customer Care