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How do BA American Express 2-4-1 vouchers work?

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How do British Airways American Express 2-4-1 companion vouchers work?

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.

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.

British Airways BA A380 flying

IMPORTANT: Substantial changes are coming on 1st September 2021

American Express has announced substantial changes to the 2-4-1 companion voucher from 1st September 2021.

Here are the five articles you should read:

The content below will be correct until 1st September 2021 but do also read the articles above to see what will change.

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.

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 ranked the most valuable credit card perks here).The £195 annual fee for the British Airways Premium Plus card is a small price to pay for this.

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 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.

Due to the current coronavirus situation, all existing companion vouchers have been extended by up to 18 months.  All new BA American Express companion vouchers issued by 31st December 2021 will also come with an additional six months validity on top of the usual 12 or 24 months.

You can only earn one voucher per card year irrespective of how much you spend on the card.

British Airways BA American Express Amex credit cards

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 British Airways.  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.  This article looks at how to book open jaw flights using Avios.

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.

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.

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.

How are short-haul flights priced?

Over the last year, British Airways has been experimenting with ‘no taxes’ redemptions on short-haul flights.  Some long-haul flights are also now trialling ‘use more Avios taxes, pay less tax’ on Avios bookings.

Here is an example.

Historically, a return economy flight to Amsterdam was 8,000 Avios + £35 in taxes and charges, using ‘Reward Flight Saver’ on off-peak dates.

Under the new trial, there is a band of prices.  The lowest cash option is now 17,000 Avios + £1 return.  See:

British Airways how do 241 Amex vouchers work?

However, when using a 2-4-1 companion voucher, you will pay the ORIGINAL price.  There is no flexibility.

In our Amsterdam example, you will told that the price is 8,000 Avios + £70 taxes and charges for two people.  You cannot adjust the ratio of Avios to taxes.  See:

How do British airways American Express 241 companion vouchers work?

This is not a problem, to be honest, because the new £1 taxes pricing options are generally a bad deal and should be avoided.  In our Amsterdam example, you are being asked to use an extra 9,000 Avios to save just £34 in taxes and charges.  This is a terrible deal as you are getting just 0.38p per Avios.

What is the best way to secure the flights I want?

British Airways makes two Club World and four World Traveller / Economy seats available on every flight.  These become available at midnight 355 days before departure.

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).  A call centre agent can always grab seats ahead of someone waiting online, because until you submit your credit card details online, a call centre agent can ‘steal’ your seats from your basket

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.

There is a new ‘Plan B’ option for booking your return flights …..

There is an alternative way of securing your return flights, assuming you booked the outbound at 355 prior to departure to guarantee you got what you wanted.  If you don’t want to ring the call centre at midnight to book the return you can, if you have enough Avios, book your return seats online using 100% Avios (ie paying for both tickets in full) and then call BA at your convenience to get half of the Avios for the return leg refunded.

There are three problems with this approach.  Firstly, you obviously need to have enough additional Avios to pay for the return flights at full points cost.  Secondly, on high demand routes, you still need to call because the call centre gets priority over website users. Thirdly, and most importantly, BA does not equalise your taxes. The taxes you pay via this method are 2 x one-way flights instead of 1 x return flight. 

For North America this makes a substantial difference.  For most of the rest of the world, the difference is modest or nil.  For eg, if a UK-US return in Business has taxes of £600, you’ll find a one-way UK-US and a one-way US-UK have combined taxes of nearer £1000!

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.

Whilst there is also no Air Passenger Duty on flights to London from Newquay, the rules are different and it does not remove the APD on a long-haul connection.

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 British Airways American Express credit card.  Here are four reasons 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 24 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.

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

Our reviews of the two British Airways cards are here:

British Airways American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and a companion voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

BA Premium Plus American Express card BAPP

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review

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.

Comments (110)

  • Tfinch says:

    Is the “Issue” date of the voucher different to when you actually hit the 10k spend? I hit the 10k spend yesterday but not actually sure when the voucher is issued? The same day, or when I actually receive it through my BAEC account, as I think the expiry date is based on when the voucher reaches your account? Cheers.

    • Rob says:

      The difference is literally 3-4 days so not worth worrying about too much. It is on your BA account long before Amex bothers to email you saying you’ve qualified – probably 24-48 hours after the trigger charge hits Amex.

  • LEWIS says:

    If you book from Inverness for a longhaul do you get seats in club Europe to london? Last time I booked a redemption there was no club europe on uk flights

  • SimonA says:

    On redeeming 2 vouchers for 4 people – how common is it to be able to redeem 4 Avios seats in First on popular routes? More specifically London -> Tokyo? How about CW?

    • Anna says:

      F award seats are never guaranteed and aren’t necessarily released at T-355. You need to keep checking on set up an alert on Reward Flight Finder or Seat Spy. From what I gather Tokyo is in high demand in F and J, there are other readers who might be able to tell you when the best time to look is. Best chance of 4 F seats if you just want the experience in to the US, especially the east coast.

      • Simon says:

        Thanks Anna,

        My wife and I already flew to Tokyo F 2 years ago using a 2-4-1, but we’re desperate to go back and bring my son and dad. Are the tickets ever released *before* T-355, or should I start trying to book from that day onwards?


        • Rob says:

          Can’t be done before 355 days due to how airline IT systems work.

  • Spk says:

    Can we book INV-LHR-YYZ, returning YVR-LHR?

  • AJA says:

    Please can you clarify something. I have never booked a reward flight 355 days out. In the article you state:
    “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.”

    And then say

    “ If you don’t want to ring the call centre at midnight to book the return you can, if you have enough Avios, book your return seats online using 100% Avios (ie paying for both tickets in full) and then call BA at your convenience to get half of the Avios for the return leg refunded.”

    That last statement seems incompatible with your earlier statement “You cannot turn an existing Avios redemption into a 2-4-1 redemption with half of the Avios returned to you.”

    1)Do you have to tell BA when you initially phone up that you are using a companion voucher to just book the outbound and want to add the return later?

    2) Can you also book the outbound online at 355 days out and then phone BA up to say its only the outbound you’ve booked and want to add the return as soon as they become available?

    3) Also, as I found out earlier this month a disadvantage to booking 355 days out is that I ran into the problem of BA tickets 1 year validity when trying to reschedule a cancelled flight. Someone posted that this is a BA issue and that under EC261 you can actually get BA to rebook a flight beyond the 1 year validity. Is this correct?

    • Rob says:

      Apologies, I should tidy that up.

      1. Not necessarily, BA doesn’t care either way
      2. Yes
      3. You cannot physically rebook an airline ticket beyond 355 days, the systems do not allow it. It would requires cancellation and rebooking. This is only a back-end issue though and clearly does not impact any legal rights.

      • AJA says:

        Thanks Rob
        In respect of point 3 what I meant was my ticket was booked on 19 November 2019 for travel on 1 July 2020 and so under the 1 year validity issue it meant that my ticket was only valid until 18 November 2020. This meant that I was told by YouFirst I could not move my booking to flights in May 2021. I could only rebook up to 18 November. Are you saying that BA could indeed have rebooked me on the flights in May 2021 by re-issuing the ticket?.

        • Rob says:

          It would have required a full cancellation and rebook which is outside the scope of the move offer.

          • AJA says:

            Ah that make sense! Thanks. I must say the refund was done instantly and the cash paid was back on my Amex very quickly. I wasn’t really keen on going in May. I’ve learnt more today which is why I like this website. Keep up the good work.

  • Steve in Croydon says:

    My last two 2-4-1 vouchers were wasted. One expired due lack of travelling companion and the other I used as a last resort for a CE return to Berlin – hardly a great return for the effort made to collect the vouchers.
    As a 6’5″ singleton, former Gold Card for 15 years, with millions of miles under my belt, lots of Avios to use – what I want is a variation whereby I can have a return flight (probably to Oz) in a big seat for the price of a one-way flight. Far too creative and adventurous for the back-room luvvies in BA!
    That’s why I dropped the BAPP card when they increased the fee to £195. Also given the general attitude of BA, I’m looking at redeeming my Avios for long-haul on other airlines, without the inflated “surcharges” and usually a better product, especially bed length. I’m also getting an AX MR card to give me a choice of where I use the points for redemption.
    Strange isn’t it that Avios will let you transfer in from almost every other points scheme on earth, but you can’t transfer out. Also, given the inflationary bonus sales of Avios over the past few years, Avios as a currency is potentially akin to the latest Venezuelan Bolivar or old Zimbabwean Dollar!!!

  • KMZ says:


    I have a technical query please. If I downgrade from BA Platinum Plus card to BA Amex card after earning the voucher and post that if I get some refunds on the card that take me back below the £10k spend, what happens to my voucher?
    Does it remain or is cancelled? And what if one already has a 2-4-1 flight booked before this happened?


    • Rhys says:

      It stays 🙂

      • KMZ says:

        Wow! That’s amazing! Thanks for the reply. 🙂

        • antonio says:

          Yes, loads of people book expensive hotels or flights they cancel. Give Amex the min fee while taking the maximum

  • Simon Jones says:

    If you have made a booking in business class using companion voucher and your flight has been cancelled will BA offer your to rebook on a partner airline in the same cabin

    • Anna says:

      They won’t offer, but you are entitled to re-routing as per EU261/2004, in the original cabin class, on another carrier if there is no other BA flight which fits your plans. There was a long discussion yesterday about this (it crops up quite a lot!).

      • Simon Jones says:

        Hello ok great , when I used points on Thai airways in business class through royal orchid plus , they would only rebook you in economy on another carry when using points

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