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 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.

  2. 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?

  3. “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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

  6. 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.

  7. 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