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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. Challenger604 says:

    Apologies in advance for the off topic question but can someone with the Premium Plus card please confirm it has contactless payment ability? I don’t see the contactless logo in any of the photos of the front of the card. Before I sign up for the card I want to be sure I can use it daily even on small purchases. Thank you

    • Genghis says:

      Yes it has contactless.

      • All UK Amex seem to be contactless – the logo is next to 4 digit security code – I guess they haven’t updated the stock pictures in a while.

  2. PRO Question:
    My voucher is expiring in 6 months, but I’m not able to find 2-4-1 availability for a nice vacation spot.
    In my household, there is a BA Gold member. Can I somehow use extra BA gold availability to book my 2-4-1 voucher? Or Can he do the booking and add my voucher?

    • I think even if he could, he would need to be one of the passengers? How nice are you talking? There are a few CW seats available for Bermuda, the Bahamas and Miami next April/May!

  3. I have an Amex Platinum and a BAPP card. I’m almost at £10k on my BAPP.

    Am I right in thinking that once I reach £10k on the BAPP card I can get the voucher, cancel my BAPP, get a pro-rata refund, book and pay on my Platinum?

    Once I’ve not held my BAPP for 6 months, I can reapply for the BAPP and bag the spend bonus and referral?

  4. I may, sadly, be in the position of having to change my travel companion on a 241 and while i understand a name change cant be made, if i call to cancel will they be able to rebook me straight away….i.e.see the seats are reallocated for Avios availability at the time and therefore, effectively, achieve the name change at the time of call?

    Has anyone gone through that process?

    • Bonglim says:

      There is absolutely no guarantee that the seats will be released in to reward availability. So it may not be that simple.

      For example if 6 reward tickets were made available, they were all booked including your two tickets. 6 reward tickets were available because hardly anyone had booked on to that flight.
      Then (after the reward flights had been booked) a group of business travellers booked ALL the cash tickets in the cabin. (assuming Club World)
      Then you cancelled your two reward tickets…..

      I expect that your two seats would only be made available as cash tickets only, not reward tickets.

      Anyway the system is probably more complicated than that; but ultimately there is no guarantee that your tickets will be made available for a reward flight.

      • Shoestring says:

        There’s obviously no guarantee but there’s a long history here of people who have had success, ie cancel reward seats and they immediately go back in the system as available reward seats.

      • I appreciate there’s no guarantee and the circumstances etc, but my question was more on whether if, when cancelled, the system allowed the agent to see straight away to that they were still available as Avios and rebook, and if anyone had managed to do that successfully.

    • Linda Dunbar says:

      I called and made an amendment to dates of travel which BA did for a cost, maybe £50 pp but they did say if I did not hold the credit card with the last 4 digits I booked the 2 for 1 with they would not do that.

      • Which is nonsense because if your card has expired or was lost / stolen it would have been reissued with a new number.

      • I think change of dates is fine……its a name change which requires the booking to be cancelled, which then makes the availability of them still being Avios flights an unknown entity until you’ve cancelled. I was wanting to know if anyone had done that using the 241 voucher and found that they could re-book straight away with a change of companion name if they were still available as Avios seats. the fear being they’d say they were available but the voucher takes x number of days to show again in your profile etc etc.

  5. Another question,
    Can I book Jersey – Hong kong outbound, and Hong kong – London as oen way and call BA to merge them for 2-4-1 voucher? Or do I need to go back to Jersey?
    Thanks.

  6. Stephen Lee says:

    Rob asks if BA will retro upgrade a class if using a 2-4-1 voucher. The answer is that they will for £35 per person + any extra Avios. I just did it after I booked Business Class on a 2-4-1 voucher then upgraded to First Class when the extra Avios I needed turned up. I had to phone BA to do it though,

  7. Is there a table on points needed for different locations?

    • It won’t let me post the link, even though its for HFP!

      If you go to ‘Favourites’ on the menu bar, then scroll down, there’s a link to “Full list of British Airways Avios redemption pricing by route”

  8. When booking a outbound flight 355 in advance with the 1-2-1, do you book it as a single leg for the time being?

    Then calling up BA to add the return leg, they will see that we used the 1-2-1 and will still be charged a single flight cost/avois?

  9. Do you think that if I were to secure the two released business class reward tickets for an LHR-SYD flight making good use of my voucher, circa 355 days in advance, it would be highly likely for me to straight after be able to secure a third one by cash? If so, should it be simple to ensure the three are all near to each other? (This would be for a couple with a toddler.)

    • That would be a mistake. 355 days out you don’t see cheap tickets available on long haul. This isn’t easyJet short haul pricing at work.

    • How old is the toddler, do you actually need a seat for them? If not it seems a bit of a waste of your companion voucher it’s not like there are going to be making the most of the dining and beverage opportunities! With 2 middle seats in CW there would be plenty of room for 2 adults and a small child.

    • Might want to also consider buying a ‘BA holiday’ (flight + hotel) for the third traveller as there are some terrific bargains to be had (compared to separate flight and hotel bookings).
      Rob ran an article not that long ago (??)
      (Assume ok for three in this situation …)

  10. Thanks for steering me away from disaster! Can you see any way to make the above work, ie using the voucher but having three business seats close by to each other?

    • Peter K says:

      For long haul I think the cheapest price for tickets is about 6 months out.

      • Thanks Peter. If you were in my shoes, ie not wanting to end up with the family sitting apart, but wanting to use the voucher, would you book two with the voucher at 355 days, then confidently wait until the six month mark expecting to be able to buy a reasonably priced third seat for cash, and further expecting to be able to link the three seats together? (I’ve never used one of these vouchers before.)

    • You won’t have an issue with seats unless you are booking a few days out. More pertinent, assuming you have no status, is whether you want to pay what could be approaching £1000 for seat selection, assuming you need 12 seats across the four flights.

  11. When redeeming the 241 can you use the entire household balance for the redemption or only your own avios?

  12. McDufus says:

    I called Amex last weekend to cancel my Premium Plus card and was told I would forfeit my 2-4-1 voucher. To keep the voucher I was told I would either need to keep the card until I’d made a flight booking or move to the free BA Amex card.

  13. Stephen Wan says:

    Hi Rob, with regards to booking 355 days in advance for a 2-4-1 flight you mentioned calling a US or a Japanese call centre at the stroke of midnight. I remember previously you had said people were being told that if you were a U.K. resident/cardholder that you weren’t allowed to book your 2-4-1 ticket through a non-U.K BA call centre and you had to call a U.K. BA call centre. Has that now changed?

  14. Yorkieflyer says:

    I am wondering if I book online at midnight at the 355 days and nab the 2 CW seats with my 241 and then the following day when travelling ring Japan at midnight can I secure the same seats the following day, cancel the 241 with the agent and then apply it to a new booking for the next day at 355?

  15. Luca Russignan says:

    Hi Rob,

    Can I start and finish the journey outside of the UK assuming I fly only BA flights?

    For example could I fly Paris to Hong Kong via London return with the voucher and pay only half the miles?

    Thanks!

  16. On your last paragraph you mention “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.”

    I downgraded my black card after the first voucher. When i received the blue card, i continued to spend via amex so that i hit the revised target of 20000£. I need c.£ 300 to hit this. The progress bar for this 2-4-1 appears on both the app and the website. Could you please confirm the source of this last paragraph? Do you know under what conditions they will deny my legit request for the voucher as i had a spend 10000+ on the blue card? IT bug wouldn’t be a suffient argument for false marketing the last few months.

    • Genghis says:

      If you read the terms, the BAPP and the BA Blue are all but one card. Then “Only one Companion Voucher can be earned in any 12 month period. If the Cardmember reaches their spend target within 12 months of their Card Account start date then further spend will not accumulate towards another Companion Voucher. Cardmembers can begin earning towards their next Companion Voucher after their 12 month Card anniversary date.”
      I confirmed the situation with Amex when I noticed this happening a few years ago.

  17. Dawn Pearson says:

    I did get an extension to my 2-4-1 voucher. The reason was a hotel put through a cost on my account by mistake to tip me over the £20K and trigger my voucher. I rang the hotel and they refunded the money, but the voucher was triggered online automatically already.
    I spent quite a bit of time sorting this out with BA customer services plus AMEX – both of whom said the other one would sort it. After eventually getting through to a Manager they extended the voucher for an extra 6 months 🙂
    It did take a while and a lot of persistence, but I got there in the end.

    • Dawn Pearson says:

      Sorry I meant to say the £10K as I have the premium card. Slip of the finger!!

      • Globetrotter says:

        Thx Dawn. Could not find yr original post.
        1) Could I check what happened with the extension? Did you end up with 2.5 years?
        2) Also did BA or Amex revoke the voucher once the hotel refunded the erroneous charge bringing yr spend under £10k again? Thanks.

  18. We are a family of 3 (2 adults and a 3 year old). I’ll soon be triggering my first 2-4-1 voucher and I am not sure of the best way to book for my son. Assuming I book myself and my wife using the 2-4-1 voucher, do I have to pay cash for my son or can I use Avios?

  19. Not being particularly clever about earning, points and vouchers, I opted for a AMEX Platinum card for the additional benifits (so I don’t really have to think…)

    However, recently I read that the Platinum card is also eligible for 2-4-1 vouchers, but I cannot recall the source, and I canot find a reference on the Amex card comparison utility.

    Does the 2-4-1 exist for Platinum cardholders?

    If it doesn’t, then there is no point in trying to top up the spend for the year.. 😮

    Thanks

    Steve

    • Genghis says:

      The Platinum Amex is different from the BAPP (British Airways Premium Plus) Amex which offers the 2-4-1 voucher. Have a look at the Head for Points articles on these cards.

      • Thank you,

        I have, as mentioned, used the AMEX Card comparison utility,and yes, that utility says that both the BA AMEX Free, and the BAPP card have 2-4-1 and does not mention the same for the Platinum card. however I know that not all benefits are listed in comparison utilities, so was asking if there was a ‘hidden’ 2-4-1 benefit.

        When I took out the Platinum card (having checked this site) I hadn’t seen a 2-4-1 benefit,

        However, it’s not impossible that I miss out on a benefit, because of not asking the simple question of more sophisticated travellers

        ‘Does the 2-4-1 exist for Platinum cardholders?’

  20. Can I add a paid for flight to a redemption flight using the 2-4-1 voucher? I can find redemption flights for the outward leg but not for the inward one. To buy an inward one way flight is very expensive but as a return leg, it is much cheaper. Can I ask BA to book us on the the inward flight at the return price?

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