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Avios Redemption University – Lesson 6 – How to earn and redeem your BA Amex 2-4-1 companion voucher

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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.

This article explains how to make best use of the 2-4-1 companion voucher that comes with the British Airways American Express credit card.

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 HFP 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

Remember that the two BA Amex credit cards come with a sign-up bonus:

The sign-up bonus on the free card is 5,000 Avios points.  Representative APR 22.9% variable.

The sign-up bonus on the £195 Premium Plus card is 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 generous 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 your spending target 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 circumstances under which you can ask BA to extend a 241 voucher.  Don’t waste your time.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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, although the American Express call centre has a habit of telling people otherwise.

Evidence also shows that, if you cancel a 2-4-1 redemption ticket after cancelling your British Airways American Express card, you still get the voucher back.

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.

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 saving fewer Avios with your voucher that way and the £195 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, to be honest.

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.  I wrote this article on using miles and points as a solo traveller.

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.

Further reading

You might find these Head for Points articles useful:

My full review of the free British Airways American Express card

My full review of the British Airways Premium Plus American Express card

“Why NO-ONE should spend £20,000 on the free British Airways American Express card”

“Miles and points for the solo traveller – should you have a different collection strategy?”

(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.)

Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history.  By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker.  Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.

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Comments

  1. Grant Stevenson says:

    Perhaps a really dumb question but I am relatively new to this and am planning out how I will collect enough avios for LHR to JFK in Business or 1st if possible. Do I need to collect two 2-4-1 vouchers to make the outward and then return journey for half the avios or will one suffice? Thanks

  2. James Carp says:

    If i have to call to organise a 2-4-1 outbound flight in business 355 days in advance, what happens if i cannot manage to get a return flight in 2/3 weeks after the outbound. Would i have to purchase a return fare if all the available avios seats had been redeemed?

    • Genghis says:

      You can book the outbound online, but for really popular redemptions, it might be worth calling as the agent can hold the flight before release online at midnight GMT at t-355. If you cannot get the return segment, then you have to decide what to do – buy a cash fare if singles reasonable (e.g. Norwegian) / chancing it and hoping further avios become available / cancelling the whole thing and trying for some different dates.

      • When you state to call the agent do you mean a UK BA agent before they close for the night?
        Or would it be a call to another office which remains open?
        Thank you for your advice though.

    • You can’t really buy one way long haul tickets. Your options would be:

      a) wait – and see what opens up over the next 4-6 months
      b) book any seat you can in economy on the route to give yourself comfort you will be getting home, and then wait
      c) cancel the outbound and pay cash instead

      However, cash tickets are cheapest 90 days or so before departure so you have 9 months for more Avios seats to appear.

  3. Trying to use a 2-4-1 voucher and I need a few more Avios for the booking. My travel companion, who is also in our household account, has enough extra Avios. Is there a way to combine our Avios to redeem the voucher?
    I go through the standard redemption process on BA.com and it just tells me I need more Avios, not giving me the option to use the ones in the household account.

  4. Hi Rob.
    My companion voucher is due to expire in May, I have enough Avios to get a one way flight to Syd but not planning on flying till next year. If I book a companion reward flight prior to expiry, will it be possible to phone up, pay the fees and change the flight time to next year?

  5. Gregoriusr says:

    Been reading through the threads and understand the T355 opening-up of 2 Club and 4 World Traveller redemption seats, however it’s a dream of mine to fly in First (just the one time!) and wondered how this is possible using a 2-4-1 voucher.
    1) Are First redemption seats routinely released at T355? (I suspect not)
    2) Do they become available at some future point on an ad-hoc basis? (and I know I’d need 2 of them to be available when using a 2-4-1)
    3) If so, is there any way to track when they do become available if I’ve secured Club seats on that flight?
    Thanks all

    • The availability of redemption seats in F varies between destinations; some aircraft have no F cabin and even if they have seats may not be available with points. http://www.baredemptionfinder will help you find them and you can ask to be told when seats become available. We like to go to North America and I would say that F seats to Toronto, Vancouver, Seattle, Boston are quite easily available. It depends whether you want to go there. .

  6. I have a 2-4-1 voucher running out in March, I don’t really care where I go long haul as my husband and I are not working at the moment. Is there any way of searching just for general availability as oppose to by destination?

  7. TravelBirdieUK says:

    First post to this site – it’s been a great find!

    Question – does anyone know when BA are likely to offer “bonus” Avios when you purchase for yourself or someone else? I wouldn’t mind the opportunity to buy an enhanced number of Avios at the moment as planning a trip to Vancouver!

  8. Hi guys, been following HFP ever since I moved from Oz last year! Fantastic resources for us FF devotees!
    Apologies for the rookie question, but if I get the BAPP card, and cross the £10K spend threshold in say 6 months, and then downgrade to the vanilla BA card, would Amex issue a prorated refund on the £195 fee?

  9. Andrew Harrison says:

    Hi… don’t know if anyone can help.. hoping to use 2-4-1 voucher next year to Vietnam. Read above that must only be on BA flights… I notice that there are no direct flights from UK with BA to Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi… Change at Doha or Bangkok…. BA uses Qatar, Malaysia on 2nd leg. Would 2-4-1 voucher only be good for 1st leg.. to DOH or BKK??

    Many thanks…

  10. Hi does anyone have the overseas phone number so I can book my return flight using my avios and companion as the London office will be closed

  11. Hi I have a question on using the 2 – 4 – 1 voucher for 2 adults + 1 baby (3 yrs old). How does that work? can I book my flight using the voucher for the 2 adults and then buy the additional ticket for the baby, or can I add the baby when I use the voucher (maybe using avios)?

    Thanks all!

    Marco

    • Lottietiger says:

      I’ve just done this. You have to buy a ticket for yourself and your child onyour 241 as you can’t buy a child seat alone, and then a separate ticket for your partner.

  12. Quick question.
    If I want to fly from London to LAX with my wife in 1st class in December 2018.
    I have found seats available for 200k avios return.

    With the companion voucher, does this mean I need 200k + 1 seat free or 400k avios?

    Thanks,
    Y

  13. Stephen says:

    Thanks for the tips on the BA Amex. My partner and I both got them + the Amex gold cards to rack up a ton of avois on our spending.

    We’re looking to book a flight from Glasgow to Tokyo in 2019 with the vouchers and I was wondering if I start at Inverness instead to avoid some taxes, would I need to pay extra avois?

    For instance I assumed a reward flight had to be direct. So I’d pay cash to Heathrow then avois companion to Tokyo.

    If I start at Inverness is it still 200k avois all the way through to tokyo for both of us? And able to redeem even the short haul flight down to london with the companion voucher and avois?

    Thanks in advance for any help!

  14. We booked a 241, outbound in Business return in Economy because there were no more Business seats. We are departing in 9 days’ time and the Premium Economy Avios seats I was hoping would show up still hasn’t (on am alert with BARedemptionFinder!). If seats show up after we depart on the outbound leg, can I still make changes to the return leg?

    • You definitely cannot cancel the return of a 241. You can change date. But change of class? My guess is yes ….

    • Thank you Rob! Will continue to keep my eye on it and call to upgrade the seats to Premium Economy – fingers crossed that they will open up.

  15. Is there a good contact centre to call to add your return flight? Looks to me like the American ones would be open but has anyone had any experience of doing that. Thanks

  16. james carp says:

    I know that to use a 241 to get from LHR to SYD is virtually non existent, but would it be a useful spend of this companion voucher to fly return first class from LHR to Singapore (SIN) and then just cash purchase the leg from SIN-SYD as a first slot has opened up.

  17. Is it possible to call just before midnight to the BA Gold exec phone line so they can grab those seats released at midnight and add to your outbound 2 for 1 amex booking?

  18. I haven’t got enough miles for return can i book now for a 1 way and at a later stage add a second leg to the 2-4-1 voucher?
    Thanks in advace

    • Yes, as long as you book the outbound – you cannot book the inbound (to add an outbound) as a 241 must start in the UK.

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