Everything you need to know about the BA Amex 2-4-1 voucher

I get quite a few emails each week about various aspects of the British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher, both about how to earn it and how to use it.  I wanted to clear up some of the more popular questions today.

(EDIT:  updated at 11am with feedback from the comments below)

The two BA Amex credit cards are on special offer for just two more weeks until 8th February:

The sign-up bonus on the free card is increased from 3,000 to 9,000 Avios points.  Representative APR 22.9% variable.

The sign-up bonus on the £195 Premium Plus card is increased from 18,000 to 25,000 Avios points.  Representative APR 76.0% variable including £195 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

The key thing to know is that, whilst both cards offer a 2-4-1 voucher, it makes no sense to earn the voucher on the free British Airways card.  You should focus on the Premium Plus card instead.  I will explain why later.

What does the 2-4-1 ‘companion voucher’ do for me?

It allows you to book two Avios redemption seats for the points of one.  You can instantly see the savings available here – up to a maximum of 400,000 Avios in the unlikely event you were able to find two First Class return seats to Australia!  Even on the worst possible redemption – an off-peak economy return to Paris – you would save 8,000 Avios points.

In reality, most people use them for long haul redemptions in Club World, typically something like New York.  That would save you 100,000 Avios on off-peak dates and 120,000 Avios on peak dates.

Assuming you value an Avios point at 1p, the 2-4-1 voucher would be worth £1,000 to £1,200 for such a trip.  This makes it easily the most valuable perk of ANY UK credit card.  The £195 annual fee for the British Airways Premium Plus card is a small price to pay for this.

British Airways Premium Plus

How do I earn a companion voucher?

You need to spend either £20,000 (on the British Airways American Express card) or £10,000 (on the British Airways Premium Plus American Express card) on qualifying purchases within a card year.  Note this is ‘card year’ and not calendar year.  Your card year runs from the date you are approved.

The voucher will be added to your British Airways Executive Club account within a few days of the spending market being reached.

The voucher on the free credit card is valid for one year.  The voucher on the Premium Plus card is valid for two years.  This is a very important difference as I will explain later, and the key reason why the Premium Plus card is better.

You can only earn one voucher per card year irrespective of how much you spend on the card.

What small print do I need to know?

This is where some people come unstuck, because they don’t understand the limitations of the voucher.

It can only be used on British Airways services.  You can’t use it on Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific etc even though you can book such flights on Avios.

It can’t be used on franchise or codeshare services.  This means, for example, you can’t use it on the Comair-operated but BA-branded flights between Johannesburg and Cape Town.

It CAN be used on ‘open jaw’ flights, where you return from a different airport, even though these can’t be booked online and require a call to BA.  The only rule is that the distance between your arrival and departure airport must be shorter than either of the two flights.  London – Johannesburg, Cape Town – London is fine.  London – Moscow and Madrid – London is not.

You need to book AND fly the outbound leg before the expiry date of the voucher.  You can fly back at any point.  There are no tricks you can use to extend the validity of the voucher.

If you need to cancel a flight booked using a 2-4-1 voucher, you get the voucher back.  The original expiry date remains the same.

It CAN be used on one-way flights, but only for flights which depart the UK.  You cannot book a one-way flight TO the UK with the voucher.

You can fly a different class on the outbound to the return.  However, both passengers must travel together in the same class.  You cannot fly in First and book your companion in Club World if there is only 1 First reward seat available.

The BA Amex cardholder MUST be one of the two travellers.  There is no way to avoid this.  If you are in a Household Account, the second passenger must be in the household account or on your ‘Friends and Family’ list.

You cannot use ‘part pay with Avios’ in conjunction with a 2-4-1 voucher.  Your booking must be ‘100% Avios’.

‘Gold Upgrade For Two’ vouchers (issued when you earn 2,500 tier points) can be used in conjunction with a 2-4-1 voucher.

If you have two vouchers to use, they can be used together for the BA Amex cardholder and three other people.  This is what we do for our family of four.  This situation would occur if you triggered your voucher for the next card year before you had used the voucher from the previous year.

You cannot change the name of the second traveller after booking.  You would need to cancel the whole booking with no guarantee that the seats would be re-offered for Avios redemption.

You cannot turn an existing Avios redemption into a 2-4-1 redemption with half of the Avios returned to you.

There are no circumstances under which you can ask BA to extend a 241 voucher.  Don’t waste your time.

Both passengers must travel together at all times.

Despite what Amex tells you, you do not need to use the card to pay the taxes when you come to redeem your 2-4-1 voucher.  You must use an American Express card but it does not have to be a BA one.

You will not earn Avios or tier points on your redemption flight in line with standard Avios redemptions.

Your flights will not be cancelled if you cancel your BA Amex card after making your 2-4-1 booking.

What is the best way to secure the flights I want?

British Airways makes 2 Club World and 4 World Traveller / Economy seats available on every flight.  These become available at midnight 355 days before departure.  More reward seats are usually made available closer to the date of travel – a lot more, on some routes – but if you absolutely must travel on a certain day you need to book 355 days out.

This is the first reason why the voucher on the Premium Plus voucher is FAR more valuable than the voucher on the free card.  Because of the two year expiry date, it is easy to use it for a trip 355 days out.  You can’t do this with the voucher on the free card – it only has a one year expiry and the seats you want will already be past the 355 day mark.

For a booking 355 days out, you should look to book your outbound flights on the day they become available.  Do NOT wait until the return flights come up.  You then call British Airways on the day that the return flights becomes available and add it to the booking.  You should not be charged a change fee for this.

Historically people have called overseas BA offices at midnight to secure seats, as they do not appear online for an hour or so after being loaded.  Recent reports suggest that BA is trying to stop this happening and you may need to hope your return seats are still there at 6am when the UK call centre opens.

BA Premium Plus Amex

Are there any easy ways of reducing the taxes payable?

Not easily, because you must start a 2-4-1 journey in the UK and thus incur Air Passenger Duty.  There are two options though:

Start your trip in Jersey, because Jersey is outside the UK for APD purposes but inside the UK for 2-4-1 purposes.  If you fly Jersey – Gatwick – Heathrow – XXXXX your taxes charge will be a lot lower.  You cannot stopover in London for more than 24 hours or full APD is charged regardless.

Start your trip in Inverness.  There is no APD out of Inverness.

There is also no APD out of Newquay but as BA does not fly there this does not help you.  On a standard (non-241) Avios redemption, flying Newquay – Gatwick (Flybe) – XXXXX (BA) would avoid APD.

Can I travel with an infant or book without my baby being born yet?

Yes.  For infant (under 2) bookings you pay 10% of the Avios and 10% of the taxes of an adult passenger.

If your child is not yet born, book for the two adults and then call to add the baby when it has arrived and has a name!  These rules apply to standard Avios redemptions as well.

If I cancel my BA Amex card after earning the voucher, is it lost?

No.  It is not clear if you would lose the voucher if you booked a redemption and then cancelled it – would the voucher be reissued if you no longer had a BA Amex?

If I downgrade from the Premium Plus to the free card after earning my voucher, do I retain the 2-year expiry period?

Yes.

Can I change my class of travel if seats open up in a higher class after I’ve booked?

Yes.  Standard Avios change fees apply of £35 per person, plus of course the additional Avios.  You may need to call BA to do this – I’m not sure if ba.com can handle this in conjunction with a 2-4-1.

Why do you recommend the Premium Plus card over the free BA credit card if I want to use a 2-4-1 voucher?

There is no logical reason to earn the voucher on the free card.  This is why:

As I explained above, the two year validity of the Premium Plus voucher is hugely beneficial compared to the one year validity of the voucher on the free card

You earn an extra 0.5 Avios per £1 for your spending on the Premium Plus card (1.5 per £1 vs 1 per £1 on the free card).  This offsets much of the fee.

If you are capable of spending £20,000 on the free card to earn a 2-4-1 voucher, a far better strategy would be for you and your partner to get two Premium Plus cards and spend £10,000 each on those.  You end up with two vouchers per year, each valid for 24 months, instead of one voucher per year valid for 12 months.

Alternatively, instead of spending £20,000 on the free card, you could spend £10,000 on the Premium Plus card and use your next £10,000 of spend to hit sign-up bonuses on other credit cards.

Oh oh.  I have been working towards a 2-4-1 voucher on the free card and now realise my mistake.  Can I upgrade to the Premium Plus card?

Yes, simply call American Express.  Your card year remains the same.  If you have already spent over £10,000 in this card year, your 2-4-1 voucher will be triggered immediately.  You will NOT get a sign-up bonus for upgrading as bonuses are only given if you have not had either BA Amex card in the previous 6 months.

Conclusion

There are still two weeks left to apply for the British Airways American Express cards before the sign-up bonuses drop.  If the idea of earning a companion voucher appeals, this is as good a time as any to apply.

The bonus on the free card is increased from 3,000 Avios to 9,000 Avios points.  £1,000 of spending within three months is required.  The application form is here.

The bonus on the Premium Plus is increased from 18,000 Avios to 25,000 Avios points.  £3,000 of spending within three months is required.  The application form is here.

If you have any further questions about the voucher, please ask them in the comments.

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

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Comments

  1. I know this has been asked before but I can’t remember the answer. Can you use the Lloyds upgrade voucher to return from SIN booking online at midnight or does it have to be used from the UK?

    • The Original Nick says:

      I’ve just asked that on online chat. You only have to fly on BA metal. HKG-LHR is fine to book but only via phone I think.

      • Was hoping you could use it online at midnight if availability keeps disappearing by 6 am for the return 241 when I come to try booking later in the year.

  2. I recieved my gold card inDecember and hit the spend bonus target a couple of weeks ago. I recieved the Tesco Club cc as a non-Amex alternative this month. Do you think I’m ok to apply for BA now, or does so many applications count against you for such a short space of time?

    • Jonathan says:

      Depending on when in December you applied, changes are the searches won’t all have registered yet with the credit agencies. Amex probably won’t do a search you a second time as an existing customer.

  3. Question regarding the 9000 avios bonus points if you spend £1000 within the first 3 months of sign up.

    I realise that the offer ends early February, however as I opened my free amex account last week, am I still entitled to 3 months? Or do I need to spend £1000 before the offer ends?

    Any help much appreciated!

  4. Mark T
    Surely with one of your long haul QR sale trips, you would have gained 560 TPS, which would have got,you very close to BA Silver status. Plus your two return Y trips on BA. Very useful.

  5. Love the voucher, we used it for two first class returns to New York last year and this year have first class returns to San Francisco booked.

  6. LaserBeams says:

    One question that I don’t think has been covered … if I am the head of my BA Household account, and my wife has her own BAPP card, will the 2-for-1 voucher awarded go into her BAEC account which will allow her to travel on it with a companion (eg one of the children), or will it go into my account as the head of the HHA in which case I would have to be on the journey when using the voucher?

    • rams1981 says:

      goes to BA AMEX card holder’s account

    • In her account, you don’t need to travel.

    • yep was covered in comments yesterday – the ONLY relevance of being head of HHA is power of determining HHA membership, it has no other bearing. it’s the BAPP cardholder that has to travel, HHA doesn’t matter 🙂

      • LaserBeams says:

        Thanks all for the quick replies!
        I think Amex made a mistake then and applied the voucher to my account instead of the Mrs. However the card has since been cancelled so should I not risk rocking the boat by asking them to move it and risk them cancelling the voucher?

        • Agreed, I definitely wouldn’t try and get the voucher moved, just run with it 😀

  7. Can you have the ba Amex and Amex gold and still get bonus points etc?

    Thanks.
    Will

  8. When flights are released 355 prior I’m assuming you book 1 way flights online before phoning for the return?
    I assume the operators will have details about the voucher used?
    Thanks.

  9. I currently hold the free card and spent £1003 to trigger the 3,000 point bonus. The card is now sat in a drawer as I only got it to achieve the Avios bonus and have not used it since September. I now wish to get the 25,000 bonus and 2-4-1 voucher by applying for the other card rather than upgrading my current free card. Will I still receive the 25,000 bonus points due to still being a holder of the free card?

    • No. You need to have not held an avios earning Amex for the last 6 months to get another bonus. So your options:

      1) Upgrade to the BAPP now and not get a bonus and spend £10k to hit a 241 (good if you need the 241 sooner)
      2) Cancel the BA blue card. Wait 6 months. Apply for the BAPP then and receive whatever bonus is available at the time and spend £10k to hit a 241 (better IMO if you don’t need a 241 so soon).

  10. Caroline says:

    I’m thinking of applying for the BA Premium Plus card to get the 2-4-1 as I have some big spends coming up. Do Amex still issue pro-rata refunds if you don’t keep the card for the full year? I know they scrapped pro-rata refunds in the US but can’t find any updates for the UK!

  11. Having managed to get an outbound 241 booking for EZE, need to try and get return flights which open tonight midnight. Was going to try the phone abroad option, but fallback of call UK first thing tomorrow, however website contact us details say UKcall centre opens 7.30 not 6.00 as mentioned here. Anyone got any definitive info?

    • If you have enough avios book the single inbound online then call up in the morning to sort it out; ie cancel then add to 241 outbound. Not tried it but others reported success. I’ll be doing it in a few weeks’ time

  12. Boon Koh says:

    Does anyone know if you can use the BA Amex 2-4-1 voucher AND the Lloyds amex upgrade voucher together on the same avios booking?