Literally everything you ever wanted to know about the BA Amex 2-4-1 voucher, in one article!

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I get quite a few emails each month 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 in this article.  We first ran a version of this a couple of years ago but I’ve expanded and updated it to reflect where we are in 2018.

The two British Airways American Express credit cards come with a decent sign-up bonus:

The sign-up bonus on the free card is 5,000 Avios and earns 1 Avios per £1.  Representative APR 22.9% variable.

The sign-up bonus on the £195 Premium Plus card is 25,000 Avios.  The card earns 1.5 Avios per £1. 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 (I ran the maths here).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.

If you must travel on a specific date, you need to call an open BA call centre (usually the US or Japanese ones, you can Google the numbers) on the stroke of UK midnight (or 1am during British Summer Time) 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.  Absolutely not.  Reader experience also shows that you will still get your voucher back if you cancel a 2-4-1 redemption but no longer hold your BA Amex at the time of cancellation.

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.

One quick warning …. due to an Amex IT bug, if you downgrade to the free BA Amex after earning your voucher on the Premium Plus card, your online statement will say that you can earn a 2nd voucher (in the same card year) for hitting £20,000 of spending.  This is an IT bug and is not true.   It is not possible to earn a 2nd voucher in the same card year irrespective of whether you upgrade, downgrade or don’t touch your card.

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.)

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. Why would you downgrade to the free card at all, if cancelling the Premium Plus doesn’t cancel the voucher you’ve just earned ?
    Better to switch to a Gold and earn more flexibly MR points (and start the 6 months cool off to get the BAPP bonus again)

  2. Re cancelling card after earning voucher but before using it … Amex stated I had to have a BA card open other wise the voucher would be invalid. Don’t plan to use the voucher for a year. Have downgraded to the free card and left this open for now. Can you clarify please?

    • Thats what they tell you, The T&Cs do say ‘Cardmembers must remain eligible for this promotion at the time of travel.’ but experience (not mine yet) seems to be otherwise. We will see, I have cancelled the card used to earn the voucher but the booking has already been made and paid. I plan to have another BAPP by the time we travel anyway.

  3. What are easy strategies for hitting the 10k spend as quickly as possible?

    • oonagh cacioppo says:

      Use it for everything!!!!!!!

    • Um……. Get married? I paid my reception with mine and have a BA holiday booked next year which should do it once I pay the remaining balance but I’m in no hurry.

    • Nick Burch says:

      Rob has previously written on how to pay many (but sadly not all) utility and council tax bills with an amex, have a quick search to find that. Pretty much all supermarkets / petrol stations / travel providers / hotels take Amex, so put all of that on. Most restaurants too, so if you go out with friends, get everyone to give you cash and you pay on your Amex

    • Link it to PayPal. Some online merchants won’t take Amex but will take PayPal.

      I have to take external study courses for a professional qualification and the course provider accepted Amex, so that was several thousands put through the card.

  4. Rob – typo – it’s 1am BST not 1pm

  5. oonagh cacioppo says:

    Great read many thanks!
    I was however kindly given a six month extension to my 2 4 1 six years ago as I was diagnosed with cancer six weeks before flight to Maldives. BA extended by six months so we got flights after my op. !!! May not apply today though just thought I’d give the credit to BA!!

  6. Booked LHR-HND-LHR with 2-4-1, CW outbound and F return. We have one BAPP card with 2 cardholders and put all of our household spend on it and seem to get a voucher each year. While i get frustrated with BA, it still gives me the best oneworld availability/connectivity, and the 2-4-1 gives me opprtunities to fly in F which is an indulgence to enjoy

  7. If you have a gold AMEX card and have spent over £10k in the card year, can you upgrade to the premium plus card and have a 241 voucher triggered immediatley?

  8. Never had a 2-4-1 voucher yet, but hoping that changing my free BA card to the premium will trigger this as spent over £10k. When I book using it will I pay one or two lots of taxes? Sorry for numpty question.

    • You have to pay the taxes for both passengers – this is one of the reasons it’s advisable to get the best value redemption possible, PE, J, and F all command similar “fees” but obviously you’re going to get a much better experience in J or F than in PE!

    • 2 lots of tax – one lot of avios

    • The taxes and charges are levied per passenger, if that’s what you’re referring to.

  9. Ammended CW redemption bookings on the phone last night to a flight a day earlier – the changes are showing under the booking ref in MMB….. but i havent been charged the £35 etc yet on my Amex card. And it is saying i cant select seats until check-in. Anyone know how long this takes. I feel like it isnt “official” yet.

    • Has the new booking been ticketed? Don’t think you can reserve seats until this Helens.

      • AAh I think not. No email through yet with ticketing info yet. hopefully will come through soon. Normally it is instant.

        • Needs to be ticketed before you can reserve seats – can take up to a week or two as I think it is a manual process. If you look at one of the flights in the booking in the BA app there’s a ticket number field – if not ticketed, it will be blank. If it has there will be a number starting 125- in there. The £35 will be collected when they ticket it .

        • Thanks hugely again Stu…. Will wait for it to be done manually.

  10. Anyone had any experience of booking a companion who is NOT in the HHA? Old rules, and the text above, says it has to be within HHA or F&F but current Amex T&Cs say not – see para 20: https://www.britishairways.com/en-gb/executive-club/modalContent/executive-club/avios/collecting-avios/credit-cards/uk/credit-card-companion-voucher-terms-conditions.html

    • I don’t have a HHA, just add the companion’s details when you book, or to save time, add the companion’s details under “My Travel Companions” in your Exec account to speed things up during the booking process.

      • Yes but that’s not what it says above. It says, if the cardmember is in a HHA, the companion also has to be in the HHA or F&F. Which is contradicted in the Amex T&Cs.

        • Those are standard BA HHA rules though – anyone else you book for must be in the HHA or the F&F list.

  11. If the return flights I need are not available (because no Avios seats rather than the date being +355 days away) can I still book the outbound with a 2-4-1 and have the return added if the desired seats are subsequently released?

    • Yes, but in that case you would have to pay the £35 p/p amendment fee (which is waived if you could not book the return when you booked the outbound because the return was 355+ days away).

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