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

Over the next few weeks, I am running updated versions of our 17-part ‘Avios Redemption University’ series. These article now reflect the recent Avios devaluation as well as other changes over the 18 months since the pieces were originally published.

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 £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?

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.

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Comments

  1. As a newbie to collecting Avios, these articles are great so thank you! I was actually pointed to this website by Amex themselves when I called their centre in Brighton.

    I took out the premium plus card to take advantage of the sign up bonus and the 2-4-1 companion voucher.

    Could someone please clarify if this will only cover for a one way journey or if I book a return Business flight (LGW-PLS) using Avios points whether it will let me use the 2-4-1 for my husband (he is already registered on BA Exec Club).

    I also have a question about Avios seats. You have mentioned that there are 2 business seats per flight available, does that also include those that are paid part avios/part cash? I was looking to use part payment for my 9 year old son on the same flight.

    • Kaz, 7:24 am,

      The 2 seat rule is a minimum! You may find more than 2 available or that all the seats you want on a particular flight have been allocated.

    • Part avios/part cash seats are the same as avios seats, you are just buying extra avios because you don’t have enough. But this is different from using avios to get a discount on cash seats, where you are selling your avios back to BA, at a poorer rate.

    • And a 241 is for two people, not for 1 person to take 2 flights. It can be a return flight, but must start in the UK

  2. It’s about time that BA updated their IT so that you can book the return flight of a 241 booking online. Surely their systems could pick up that the return leg has not been used and should open up an option for you to use the companion voucher as it does for the outgoing flight ?

  3. I always thought you needed to book a return flight for the next day and then change it – I didn’t realise you only needed to book a one way flight and then add the return date later. Do they then adjust the 2-4-1 avios on the return leg and also do the taxes get adjusted from a more expensive one way flight to a reduced level when the return flight is added?

    I asked the same questions at avios.com recently and was told you could not add a return flight to a one way ticket already booked and that you could not change the date of a return flight to a date further on from the original booking.. But then I get a different answer every time I call them up so I am not sure what the rules are. Does anyone else know from experience if you can do this.

  4. Is there any way on the ba.com site to put in a search for an open jaw multi class route in order to calculate the taxes. Or do you have to do them as individual one way fares to give you a rough idea of taxes costs. I am trying to work out how much I would save if I waited to get the return leg booked at the same time as the outward booking or should I pay extra for 2 one way flights to secure the flights (with avios.com).

  5. Quick question re supplementary cards:
    If I take out the Amex card and a supplementary then if each card hits £10k then that triggers 2 x 241 correct?
    So if each card where to only spend £5k then this would not trigger a 241 voucher?
    The question being is the amount spent on each card separately or together?

    • cheekychappie says:

      Fairly sure the spend is totalised – that’s one of the reasons why people take out cards (ie 2 x main cardholder status) for themselves & spouse

      • On the credit card page when you click on ‘View Avios Earned’ it shows you down the right hand column what you current spend to date is so it is both cards spend that qualifies towards the voucher.

    • Its together and you don’t get 2 x 2 4 1

    • Not quite. Any spend on a supplementary card counts towards the balance of the main card, so if you take out the premium card you just need £10k cumulatively on main & supp card to hit the 241.

      To get the second 241, you’d need to set up another account, say in a partners name with you as a supp cardholder, and again hit £10k across both.

      You only ever earn one 241 per card per (account) year.

  6. Is there much realistic chance of being able to use two vouchers together for 4 x CW? Would BA allow the second voucher to be used on a later flight the same day to the same destination, if only 2 CW seats are available per fight? Ie. Would they consider this as “traveling together” for the main cardholder being required to travel?

    • That depends on where you want to go to and when (stating the obvious).
      And how soon you book.

    • Andrew, travelling together means absolutely on the same flight, am afraid. Very inflexible on that one. It would end up being two separate bookings , the holder on the flight etc. lots of work!

      JB, agree, very very hard to get school hols flight, but it’s a matter of checking every day , almost one year out, sadly. That’s why these BA and QR sales area brilliant for families, if you can stretch to them. And even worth going ex EU with kids too.

  7. I have the Silver BA AMEX. They don’t issue this card anymore. I need to spend £15,000 per year to get the 2-4-1 voucher. I get 1.25 points for every £1 spend. The annual fee is £75. Many times in the past (I have one on my account now) I have had this 2-4-1 voucher but availability during school term time is poor. I tried to book LON-LAX, LON-LAS and LON-SAN for Easter but guess what? No availability. Looks like these vouchers are only for people who can travel off peak.

    • Chelseafi says:

      I booked 4 first class returns London to Atlanta Easter 2014 using 2 241 I’ve now booked 4 first class returns London New York for July 2016 so you can get flights, they also had club available not too sure on west coast of US think availability harder then East US. I went to Orlando this summer got 4 economy returns using part cash part Avios which was good value for me, as cash price for flights were £1,000 pp, I paid £,2,250 plus total 60,000 Avios for total four flights. You can get school hols but just have to keep checking.

  8. I agree on paper this seems like a great deal but I’ve found in reality it’s not that great. As someone who works in education, so can only ever travel in school holidays, I’m finding it virtually impossible to find 4 seats anywhere I want to go (unless I want to go India or Dubai). My holidays are usually to the USA or Caribbean. On top of that if you compare to virgin it takes 150,000 v’s 100,000 for my routes (or 150,000 v’s 200,000 for 2 when I use the voucher). Coupled with the better Virgin earning rate on the black card, the fact I can earn with visa, frequent Tesco bonuses and the fact I have little trouble finding 4 seats on the the routes I want to fly means that until Virgin follow BA down the devaluation route I’ll be sticking with them. (Or maybe at least til the kids leave home and I only need 2seats!)

    • Thanks for this info Pol. I think I will look into getting one of those Black Virgin cards. Maybe availability is better with Virgin as they are partially owned now by Delta.

    • Wally1976 says:

      I’ve been looking at Virgin availability to Orlando for summer holidays next year and the only availabiity’s in premium economy which seems a waste of points to me!

  9. As a new member to this site, the information is excellent, nor just from Rob. but also everyone contributing thanks. Today’s article on the complexities of the 2-4-1 Avios companion voucher is superb.
    Thank you

  10. Was looking for this article just last night. My voucher expires in June and we had planned to use it moving to Oz in March but now I am going over ahead of my wife so that won’t work. Any suggestions of good routes to use it on before March next year? Preferably for premium class travel but I guess availability and the avios needed post devaluation will probably scupper that plan

  11. SpeedbirdABZ says:

    Damn, they lied to me last week when I called asking to use two vouchers at the same time for a group of four of us in our household account! They said I had to travel twice! Ggggrrrr.

  12. Although not linked to using a 2-4-1, I had an interesting experience with the BAEC last week. I had an existing booking on QR from Yangon to Doha and wanted to add a connecting flight to Abu Dhabi.
    Agent 1: There is no way we can add a sector to an existing booking.
    Agent 2: There is no reward seat availability for the flight you want (even though there clearly was)
    Agent 3 (at this point I was asking them to cancel the original booking and book a new itinerary with the connecting flight): Oh, we could easily just add the sector to the existing booking and re-issue the ticket!

    Go figure! But something to keep in mind when asking BAEC agents to add a second sector on an existing booking!

    • Similar to ours a few weeks ago. Tried to get them to change my OH ticket J from Doha to BAH instead of returning to CPH. Meant £700 fees etc.. A half hour flight, remember! And lose part of the 560 TP for his silver… Cheaper to come bk home and buy a new return ticket back to BAH departing next day again. Unreal, plus of course more TP earned. Again, we got 2 different costings. Not a clue on either the QR (again like speaking to 12 year old) or BAEC phone.

  13. gatr4lounge says:

    Another excellent update, Rob. I’m half way through an Amex 241 voucher trip and booked the outbound immediately it became available, adding the return later. I wasn’t charged a change fee and posts on FT seem to confirm that this circumstance is treated as a specific one where change fees are not charged.

  14. Is it possible to upgrade a 241 J ticket to F if reward availability comes up?

  15. I’ve mentioned this before but how great it would be to have an AMEX 2-4-1 Oneward points voucher card available?

    I’ve often wondered how valuable a 2-4-1 voucher could be worth to everyone if Amex launched this?

    With Qatar taking 10% of IAG, how likely would the possibility be of Amex lunching such a card?

    Ronster

    • A oneworld voucher would be great, problem is that i can’t see it happening as its so good! At a push we might see an IAG credit card and a corresponding 241 voucher. I only use BA cos of the voucher, I’d love to use it with QR, CX or MH for travelling to far east.

    • BA doesn’t want you redeeming on oneworld, because they have to pay the other carrier. The voucher is actually quite clever in that regard. The fact that all partner redemptions are now ‘peak’ is another way of forcing you to fly BA, as is the ‘charging by segment’ rule which makes most partner redemptions disproportionately pricey.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

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