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Advertising Standards Authority finds against Amex and British Airways over 2-4-1 vouchers

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The Advertising Standards Authority has decided that British Airways and American Express have been misleading in their promotion of the British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher.

I can see the point.  If you read Head for Points then you implicitly understand that the 2-4-1 voucher only covers the Avios required for the 2nd ‘free’ flight.  Taxes and charges are due on both tickets.  This is not necessarily clear to the general public.

British Airways and American Express offered to amend the small print to say “Taxes, fees and charges apply per person”.  This was welcomed by the ASA but was not seen as enough to overcome the strong ‘2-4-1’ message.

British Airways Premium Plus American Express

I knew this judgement was coming and we amended our credit cards directory last week to remove reference to ‘2-4-1’.  We will continue to use that phrase in our editorial but other references will change to ‘companion voucher’.

You can read the full judgement on the ASA website here.

You can learn more about how the British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher works in this ‘Avios Redemption University’ article.

PS.  Whilst you’re on the ASA website, have a look at this judgement against Holiday Inn Express from 2014.  It asks a deep philosophical question.  Is breakfast at Holiday Inn Express actually ‘free’?  Can something be ‘free’ if no-one pays for it?  The ASA decided that it isn’t and wasn’t.  Holiday Inn Express has not been able to advertise ‘free breakfast’ in the UK for the past six years.

Want to earn more points from credit cards? – April 2023 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit card, here are our top recommendations based on the current sign-up bonuses.

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the best of the other deals currently available.

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and unbeatable travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review

Earning miles and points from small business cards

If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these offers:

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points bonus and a £200 Amex Travel credit every year Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review

For a non-American Express option, we also recommend the Barclaycard Select Cashback card for sole traders and small businesses. It is FREE and you receive 1% cashback on your spending.

Barclaycard Select Cashback credit card

1% cashback and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (49)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Save East Coast Rewards says:

    We just need Tesco to remove the limit on Apple Pay and Google Pay.

    Personally I wish I could have cards without contactless and just rely on mobile contactless payments (which as they have fingerprint or other biometric authentication don’t have the £30/45 limit if the card readers are configured correctly).

    Some say that Tesco keeps the limit because they want you to use Tesco Pay +, if that’s true I hope they change their minds as being able to pay any amount with my phone using contactless is a great way to avoid having to interact with a PIN pad

    • Nick says:

      Why don’t you just use Tesco Pay+, given that you’re using your phone anyway? No PIN pad required, same thumbprint authentication.

      • The Jetset Boyz says:

        And no having to scan your Tesco Clubcard as it’s already incled in the Tesco Pay+ QR code.

      • Andrew says:

        I’d rather not have 20 separate payment apps on my phone for all of the stores I visit when there’s already a single dedicated app which works in all of them

        • Bob says:

          But you’re still going have to scan your Clubcard if you don’t use Tesco+

          • Andrew says:

            Google Pay at least can show your clubcard. Yes you need to scan a barcode and then touch for payment but in my mind that’s less onerous than having a payment app for each and every store cluttering up my phone not to mention the potential security risks.

      • Doug M says:

        The inability of so many Tesco scanners to quickly read Tesco Pay+ barcode is very frustrating. I use it, but it’s frustrating at times.

        • Save East Coast Rewards says:

          That’s another drawback of using Tesco Pay+, they could include an NFC clubcard in Apple Wallet (I’m pretty sure Google supports this too) after all the physical Clubcard is now contactless.

      • Save East Coast Rewards says:

        I do use Pay+ but I’d rather not have to. As Tesco is where I do most of my shopping I tolerate this, but if every retailer had the same approach or I only used Tesco occasionally this would be a massive frustration as who wants to keep track of apps for every store.

        Paying by mobile contactless is the most secure method to pay in most shops. Nobody can see your PIN and the retailer doesn’t get your usual card number making fraud very difficult. I can get by most of the time now without the need to have a plastic card in my pocket.

    • NFH says:

      I totally agree with you. Although all retailers correctly impose a £30 (or now £45) transaction limit on physical contactless cards, which have only 1-factor authentication (1FA), most retailers (including other supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s) do not impose any transaction on 2FA payments such as chip & PIN or Apple Pay, because the PIN or fingerprint prevents fraud. In fact, it is arguable that a fingerprint is more secure than a PIN, making Apple Pay more secure than chip & PIN.

      During COVID-19 when the World Health Organization has recommended contactless payment methods instead of chip & PIN, it is disgraceful that Tesco continues, unlike other retailers, to block 2FA tokenised contactless payments above £30/£45 and instead requires a physical card to be inserted and a PIN to be entered on germ-ridden PIN pads. There is no security or anti-fraud reason to impose a transaction limit on Apple Pay that is not also imposed on chip & PIN. Therefore why does Tesco not consider the health of its customers by immediately removing this unnecessary £30/£45 transaction limit for 2FA tokenised contactless payments such as Apple Pay?

      I have also complained to Co-op Food and the Post Office about the same issue. I urge everyone to complain vociferously to any merchant that imposes a transaction limit on tokenised contactless, citing the irresponsible health risks that such unnecessary limits create.

      • Ian M says:

        Lets be real, the chances of catching Covid-19 from a chip and pin machine are tiny. You don’t even have to touch any of the buttons with your hand! I’ve always used the corner of the card to tap the pin pad buttons. What about the cashier who’s scanning every item you buy, and giving their nose a good rub in between? Why are people so concerned about using chip and pin when there’s 100s of other ways the virus is far more likely to spread?

        • NFH says:

          There is a very real risk from catching COVID-19 from chip & PIN, not just from entering your PIN into a grubby PIN pad used by thousands of other customers without being cleaned, but also inserting the physical card into a slot, into which everyone else’s cards have been inserted. There is no excuse for imposing a transaction limit on 2-factor authenticated payment methods such as Apple Pay. If it made sense, then the same limit would be impose on chip & PIN.

          • Andrew says:

            My Tescos at least is wiping down self service touch screens and chip and pin terminals between every customer. Even if they weren’t though I wouldn’t be concerned. The chances of the person in front of you having covid-19, having recently coughed/sneezed into their hands, transferring enough virus onto the terminal, you picking up enough virus, you then touching your eyes or mouth before washing your hands and transferring enough into your body to cause the infection is vanishingly small

          • AJA says:

            What about the risk of transferring any bugs from the contactless pad that you touch with your phone / credit card? It isn’t truely contactless, I agree that touching pin pads with your fingers is not nice but I don’t really have a problem as I have a small bottle of hand sanitiser that I use on my hands after I’ve touched the pin pad. I also wear disposable latex gloves when shopping. I bought a box of 100 at the end of January when the Covid-19 started to be more prevalent elsewhere.

          • NFH says:

            AJA, with Apple Pay there’s no need for your iPhone or Apple Watch to make contact with the card reader. Being battery-powered, the devices’ NFC is stronger than a physical contactless card and works an inch or two from the card terminal.

          • Richard Relief says:

            @Andrew – you are the voice of reason.

            Therefore everybody hates you (not me, I love you for your reason, just the others.)

          • Mark says:

            The risk is not going to be much different from any hard surface that people regularly touch where the virus has been shown to survive for 72 hours (or longer in some cases, but generally thought to be low beyond that)… that general risk is exactly why the number one piece of advice is for people to regularly and thoroughly wash their hands.

            So, it’s not just the person in front you should be concerned about but anyone who has recently touched the device. And whilst the risk may not be high each time you use a terminal, if you do so regularly it is cumulative.

    • Harry T says:

      I agree it’s silly that retailers impose a limit on Apple Pay, which is inherently more secure. The first time I used Apple Pay with my PRGC amex was at a restaurant in Dubai, and it was great to not have a limit (especially as the card had arrived whilst I was on holiday and I didn’t have the physical card). It’s also great if you ever forget your actual card.

      • NFH says:

        I do like the way that Amex’s Apple Pay is independent of the physical card, each with separate expiry dates. Because I was used to this with Amex, I assumed that it was the same with all card issuers, but I was wrong. Many other card issuers apply the same expiry date to your physical and Apple Pay cards, which means that if you add your card to Apple Pay shortly before it expires, you then have to add it again when you get the new card.

        • Harry T says:

          That’s very Interesting and impressive.

          If anyone is interested, I just paid a £250 bill at Costco using an amex through Apple Pay – there’s no limits at Costco.

        • Lumma says:

          AMEX cards automatically update in Google pay when you get a new one, even if it’s a replacement for a lost or damaged one.

          I think they also auto update on the tfl accounts for journey history too

    • Nate1309 says:

      When I got an Apple watch for christmas, I didn’t think I would use the apple pay on it. I was very wrong, I use it daily for lunch and don’t even need a phone or wallet anymore.

    • Dave says:

      Asda – don’t permit Amex contactless

      • Lumma says:

        My local Asda wouldn’t take my amex card at all yesterday. Tried using Google pay and was prompted to insert the card, which then said card not accepted.

        As it was just a couple of quid I decided to just use curve and not bother enquiring further

  • Chris says:

    Podcast >> /Secret/ door to Concorde room is not closed. At least when the lounge is operating. Used it last March 17th

    • Rhys says:

      Good to know! There were ruminations a while back it was going to be closed.

      • Matt says:

        I think it did close for a while after the first wing opened, but then they re-opened it shortly afterwards

        • Stu N says:

          Correct – if you do airside Flight Connections which takes you via south security, it’s the quickest way into Concorde Room.

  • Lucas Young says:

    Unsure if anyone has mentioned it previously, but the BA Personalised Backpack is currently half price on the My 1st Years website. Ar £12.50, it’s an absolute steal for my 2 week old boy.

    • Rob says:

      Thanks, will drop that in.

    • Harry T says:

      Might be quite useful for travellers on Ryanair – @Rob could use it instead of his son’s Shooby Doo bag!

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Thanks ordered a few for family. Nice little gift.

  • Captain Cushelle says:

    £45? Will wonders never cease. In the coming weeks, you’ll be able to just about buy a 9 pack of toilet roll using contactless. By July, it will be more than £45 so back to chip and pin.

  • JohnG says:

    Always thought the HIE breakfast decision was a little harsh. Plenty of hotels advertise free breakfasts, which are offered on all bookings, but breakfast is still most commonly a paid for addition. It seems reasonable to call something free even if you always give it away free if it isn’t commonly free when buying the core service.

    The BA vouchers on the other hand are nothing like most people would understand 241 to mean so it makes absolute sense to challenge that use.

    • Lady London says:

      Now if only the ASA could turn their attention to why does British Airways keep calling things “taxes” which are regularly 80% not taxes, but just fees charged by British Airways a d entirely kept by British Airways…. now THAT would be a good use of the ASA’s time.

      • Nick says:

        But they did – or rather the American version of the ASA did. BA exclusively call it ‘taxes, fees and charges’ for precisely this reason. It’s only lazy bloggers who don’t.

  • Adrian says:

    In the USA the 2-4-1 vouchers are called companion vouchers, so we may end up with a similar name over here.

  • Sundar says:

    241-Fees-Taxes-Charges ? or condensed 241-FTC 🙂

    the hyphen is a “minus”

    • mr_jetlag says:

      (2 for 1.8 including taxes, BA fees and charges…)

  • Chrisasaurus says:

    Free WiFi?

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