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?


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 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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  1. I’m an additional card holder on the premium card, could I get my own premium card in my name or do I need to cancel this card and wait six months to get the sign on bonus?

    • Yes you could get your own card and get the sign up bonus.

      • tumbleweed says:

        I am in this position too.

        When the new card is issued to the present additional cardholder – would they then be able to refer me as an additional cardholder on their card ? I guess I might have to cancel my own card after receiving the 9,000 referral bonus for referring them ? and then wait 6 months before they referred me as an additional on their card and they got the 3,000 additional cardholder bonus ?

        • Yes, you can be supplementary card holders on each other’s accounts at the same time.

    • No, being a supplementary does not count as having an existing card. Even better, get the primary cardholder to refer you for your card – they get 9k for referring you, and you get 26k avios vice 25k as an random applicant.

  2. I think there is a typo Rob, it would be 1AM not 1PM during British Summer Time

  3. So how can this product be utilised by a person who generally travels alone compared to the £24 Lloyds card where the flight class upgrade voucher does not require a travelling companion??

    So far as I can see the only method that works with the BA card is to advertise on Gumtree or elsewhere for a travelling companion to go with you on the route you want to travel on at half of the best normally commercially available Club fare on that route on those dates?

    But even then if you could find such a person strictly speaking you would be in violation of the BAPP’s terms and conditions. Also you are stuffed if your temporary travelling companion does not show up for the outbound or return flight so you need to get money from them up front but why should they trust you not to leave them in the lurch if they pay you up front?

    It has to be said I did travel on somebody else’s 2 for 1 voucher on one of the final Concorde flights back from JFK (travelling out from LHR with said person in 1st on a 747) in 2003 and that they advertised this flight on Ebay (they were married but they had a young child and this person’s wife was fearful of flying on Concorde due to its safety record). Said person also did not want payment until we had completed the return trip and he felt comfortable with taking this risk due to information he had found out about who I was. After the trip I went to an electrical store with this person and bought them an expensive widescreen tv they wanted with cash

    But still it would be far better if BA could also have an Amex card option for people travelling on their own. And now that Lloyds is pulling its £24 flight upgrade voucher Amex card the need for such a product focused on the primarily single traveller is surely now more pressing than ever.???

    • Bonglim says:

      Or go the way of Virgin and allow the voucher to be used as a 241 OR an upgrade voucher
      Or change the voucher to 50% off the avios for one or two tickets travelling together.
      Or if they think 50% off is more generous than 242 just make it 40% off the avoid.

      There are lots of ways they can make it a more friendly voucher.

    • 1nfrequent says:

      This is going to sound more sarcastic than I mean it to but don’t you have any friends or family you can use the voucher with? I generally travel alone and I’m really going to miss the Lloyds voucher but I use my Amex voucher to treat my friends and family. Took my mum on a first class trip to KL earlier this year, I’m taking my sister to Singapore next year and I used a voucher that was about to expire to take myself and a friend to Berlin next year too.

      Sure, it would be great if the voucher offered more flexibility but it doesn’t and so if that doesn’t suit then don’t use the product.


      • Your comment sounds incredibly nasty and critical of my lifestyle or circumstances,, especially as my mother, who I might have used the voucher to travel with to a destination occasionally, died in October last year.

        Asking a friend to go on a trip with you just to make best use of the annoying 241 voucher irules is an incredibly annoying and burdensome thing to have to do for a single person, especially when to get best value from the voucher it needs to be a long haul destination so this definitely won’t be a minor weekend leisure trip to Europe of 2 or 3 days.

  4. Worth mentioning as it may not be obvious to all, you must have your return flight before the voucher expires, otherwise you can’t use it.

  5. Reeferman says:

    When booking the return leg of a 2-4-1 online (for full avios) and then phoning at a civilised time to make a manual correctIon to use the 2-4-1 voucher, does anyone know for sure whether the fees/taxes are adjusted to a r.t. basis (as they are when doing this on the phone at midnight/1 a.m.) or whether fees/taxes for 2 one-way fares apply? Obviously makes a huge difference for some destinations. Thanks

    • Taxes and fees are not amended. Great if you heading for Hong Kong (for the next few weeks anyway) but not so good if you are heading to the USA.

      • Reeferman says:

        Thanks Louie – looks like a late-night phone call in that case!

        • Genghis says:

          They are amended if you ask them to (ie to your benefit). I’ve done this.

        • That’s interesting Genghis – BA agent specifically told me that was not possible, and that the bookings had to stay as 2 separate bookings.

        • Genghis says:

          I’ve had it both ways when I’ve asked. Ie. Two bookings into one for South Africa earlier this year, two separate bookings for this current holiday (flying back from HKG).

        • Reeferman says:

          Thanks – thought I had read that on here some while ago, but wasn’t 100% sure. Will give it a go for my next 2-4-1 in that case – it’ll for the Caribs, so not a great risk as the fees/taxes difference is “only” ±£60

    • Bonglim says:

      Tend to be a collect and burn user of avoid, and not transfer in to avoid until needed, so often cannot but 2 return tickets and then call to change to a 241 as do not have the required avoid in my account.

      I tend to find phoning Japan to be the most useful. I was caught out recently as 355 days before was a Saturday night/ Sunday morning and Japan is not open on weekends. Best I could do was iran at 0430 or something, but they were very helpful and a London number. All worked out fine.

  6. Thanks very much for this post Rob. I can now refer my friends to this detailed article instead of boring them to tears in the pub telling them the benefits of this card and why they must get it (and let me refer them)

  7. if we have 3 people travelling on a combination of a 2for1 and an avios upgrade voucher can I book as one booking via the avios call centre? I do I need to do two separate bookings 1 via ba and 1 via avios. thank you.

    • You can only use the 2 4 1 via BAEC, you would have to make the upgrade booking separately. This requires good availability – I’ve had a third redemption seat get swiped while I was waiting for to answer the phone so had to cancel my 2 4 1 and start again!

      • aargg not good there are only 3 seats left on the return! Thanks for the info though.

  8. Excellent article Rob, especially so as I am a “virgin” 241 user!

  9. For good availability also consider some of the “niche” routes that don’t always appear on the Reward Flight finder – eg New Orleans or San Jose (Oakland was good but they are stopping that service) and be flexible. Also as Rob said availability does often open up – we booked Hong Kong with a just few months notice doing First/Club combo last year and so far have never had to do the -355 1am call!

  10. Linda Dunbar says:

    Any advice here, I need to book a 2 for 1 in 6 days time from Aberdeen to Montreal but will be in the Caribbean on a cruise. Because Aberdeen can’t be done online this causes a problem for calling the BA centre and the flights could be gone as I can’t phone till back 8 days later. I would have internet access so should I grab 2 Club World seats then add on Aberdeen on my return?

    • If you have internet access then you can phone via Skype etc.

    • Why do you say it can’t be done online? I just tried Aberdeen-Monteal online using a voucher and it all seemed fine.

      • Linda Dunbar says:

        Thanks for that! Didn’t want to click redeem in case my trial lost me the voucher. Done so now so will book in 6 days.

        • Yes, it’s the Lloyds upgrade voucher which requires a phone call to book a regional connection – I did this via Skype call in August, it was very easy!

  11. Are there any decent long haul routes which regularly open up more than the two club world seats closer to departure date?

    Booking 365 days in advance is sadly not an option for me.

    • Unless you can get to the £10000 qualifying spend for the companion voucher within a month or so with the ba premium plus card I do not see the benefit of paying the £195 fee from the start of your membership year unless you are a new account holder and picking up the bonus avios. For the past few years I have had the free card and when I know I will be getting near to the £10000 qualifying spend I upgrade to the fee paying card, qualify for the companion voucher, and then downgrade to the free card. My “fees” tend to be about £25. You get 10000 avios with the free card when spending £10000 with the free card and 15000 avios with premium card for £195 if keeping the card for a year. 5000 extra avios is not worth the £195 annual. Why keep the card for a whole year when you can earn bonus avios/rewards with other Amex cards such as the Platinum/Gold/SPG card. ? Earn,qualify,cancel and repeat.

      • Genghis says:

        It takes me about 3 months or so to hit £10k. I’m happy to pay £50 for 26k avios, the referral avios – usually now 18k MRs – and the 241 with churning.

        • Kipto if everyone did what you did then Amex’s business would die. I’m thankful that not everyone follows your advice!

    • Almost all of them. Play around with to see what is available on any particular route.

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