This is our guide to how to use your British Airways American Express 2-4-1 companion voucher to book a British Airways Avios reward flight.
Whilst we have a long-established ‘expert guide’ to using your British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher (click here) the number of emails we receive about using them made us feel that a ‘starter guide’ would also be useful.
The 2 for 1 companion voucher on the British Airways American Express cards is one of the most valuable credit card benefits in the UK. Let’s be honest – for those who know how to maximise its value, nothing else comes close.
The companion voucher allow you to effectively ‘buy one, get one free’ on the Avios element when you redeem Avios for a British Airways flight redemption. This could save you as much as – for example – 300,000 Avios on a return business class flight to Sydney. If you believe that an Avios is worth 1p, this puts a substantial value on your voucher.
Unfortunately, you do still have to pay the full taxes and charges on your ‘free’ ticket – more on that below.
How can I earn a British Airways companion voucher?
As a reminder, you can earn the Amex companion voucher by:
- spending £12,000 in a single card year on the free British Airways American Express card
- spending £10,000 in a single card year on the British Airways Premium Plus American Express card
Following changes in September 2021, the benefits of the companion voucher vary depending on which card it is earned on:
- the companion voucher from the free BA Amex card can only be used on economy flights and is only valid for one year
- the companion voucher from the BA Premium Plus card can be used in economy, premium economy, business or first class and is valid for two years. If you choose to redeem in business class, British Airways makes additional seats available for redemption which are not available to other members.
If you’re a solo traveller, you can also use a companion voucher to get a 50% Avios discount for one return ticket. This is a new change introduced in June 2022.
We have written two in-depth reviews to help you work out which card is best for you:
We generally recommend the Premium Plus card. Whilst it comes with a high annual fee of £250 (refundable pro-rata if you cancel), this is offset by:
- a 25,000 Avios sign-up bonus
- the ability to use your companion voucher in any cabin
- access to additional business class availability when using the voucher
- the two year expiry period on the voucher, versus one year on the free card and
- a higher Avios earning rate (1.5 Avios per £1 vs 1 Avios per £1 on the free card)
It’s certainly not the best choice for everyone, but if you’re the sort of person who reads frequent flyer websites …..
Receiving your BA Amex companion voucher
A tracker on the American Express website, and a monthly summary on your statement, will let you know how close you are to triggering your companion voucher for your current membership year.
Once you reach the required spend threshold, Amex will drop your companion voucher into your British Airways Executive Club account within 2-3 days. You will receive an email confirmation but not for another few days.
To see how many vouchers you have on your account, log into ba.com and click on ‘My Executive Club’. Underneath your Avios balance you should see a section called ‘My eVouchers’:
By logging into your Executive Club you can check the type of companion voucher you have, as well as the date issued and the expiry date.
Before we get started, there are a few basic rules about the Amex 2-4-1 companion vouchers you should know:
- they can only be used on British Airways services. You can’t use your companion voucher to book a flight on Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific or even Iberia. Codeshare flights are also not permitted.
- you need to book AND fly the outbound leg of your redemption flight before the expiry date of the voucher. You can return at any time.
- you cannot transfer your companion voucher to someone else: you must always be one of the named travellers unless you use two companion vouchers to book a flight for four people, in which case you must be one of the four people
- you can’t change the name of your companion after booking
- flights can be cancelled for the usual £35 per person fee, with your companion voucher, Avios and taxes returned to you
How to redeem your companion voucher online for a British Airways flight
The process of redeeming a British Airways American Express companion voucher is surprisingly simple, as long as you aren’t trying to book at the limit of the 355 day booking window.
The easiest way of doing so is via an online booking. In normal circumstances, the ONLY reason to call the BA contact centre would be if you want an open jaw ticket, eg flying into San Francisco and then returning home from Los Angeles. These cannot be booked online.
You can choose to use a companion voucher when you select ‘Book a flight with Avios’ on the BA website:
You can use a maximum of two vouchers per booking.
Remember that ticking the ‘use a voucher’ box for a Premium Plus voucher issued after 1st September 2021 opens up additional business class seats. Even if you are just ‘testing’ ba.com to see what seats are there, make sure you go through the extra step of ticking the ‘use a voucher’ box so you see the full range of seats open to you.
How to redeem your companion voucher over the phone
You can also redeem your companion voucher over the phone. The British Airways phone lines in the UK are:
- 0800 123 111 for Executive Club Gold members
- 0800 408 0 009 for Executive Club Silver members
- 0800 597 7580 for Executive Club Bronze members
- 0800 597 7580 for all other Executive Club members
How to book Avios redemptions 355 days in advance
British Airways only guarantees a limited number of seats for Avios redemption per flight:
- 4 Club World seats (business class)
- 2 World Traveller Plus seats (premium economy)
- 8 World Traveller seats (economy)
…. which become available for booking at the same time as cash sales begin, 355 days before departure. That said, more seats are likely to open up as the months pass.
On peak holiday routes you will often find that availability is snapped up 355 days in advance, especially in business class. Cape Town, the Maldives and Sydney are routes where booking 355 days in advance in peak season is likely to be required, although over school holidays this can apply to any destination.
If you want to avoid disappointment, there is one way to improve your chances of success booking your BA Avios redemption: by booking at midnight, 355 days in advance. Don’t worry if you can’t do this – more seats will usually open up later – but if you absolutely must travel on a certain day or at a super-peak period then booking 355 days in advance is the only guaranteed route.
By booking 355 days out, you will have your choice of all 14 seats available for Avios redemption.
Seats become available at midnight GMT, so 1am BST during the Summer.
Whilst you can access this inventory online at midnight GMT, it is worth calling instead. This is because the call centre is able to hold seats whilst the agent completes a booking, whilst online bookings are only confirmed once you click the final payment confirmation.
Having the flights in your basket at ba.com counts for nothing until you click ’pay’. Multiple people can have the same seats in their basket at once. In many cases they will all be disappointed as someone else may have them ‘on hold’ via the call centre as they talk through all of their personal details.
There is only one problem with calling. The British Airways UK call centres are not open at midnight GMT. To get around this, you must call one of BA’s international call centres.
The best option is generally the US or Japanese call centres, as their time zones line up correctly. You can find BA’s international call centre numbers and opening times on their website here. Skype is the most effective way to call.
You will want to call around five minutes before tickets go on sale so that you can complete the necessary security checks and reach the correct department. You need to ask to be put through to the Avios / Executive Club team when you first call.
I have successfully redeemed my companion vouchers on popular routes several times now by following this method. This includes getting all four Club World tickets to Sydney for a family trip next Spring on my first choice of dates.
How do I book my return flights 355 days in advance?
The only problem with booking your outbound flights when tickets go on sale 355 days in advance is that you cannot book your return flights at the same time, as they are not on sale.
You have to wait until 355 days before your return date before you can book these.
There are two ways to do this. You can either:
- book your return flights by calling the call centre at midnight GMT, which will be able to add them directly to your outbound booking
- book your return flights online as a fresh booking, without your companion voucher. This will obviously cost the full Avios price. You can later call British Airways at a time convenient to you to merge the two itineraries, apply your companion voucher to the return flights and get half of your Avios refunded.
Unless you are Avios-rich, you will need to use the frst option. This is because you would need the full amount of Avios, for all passengers, in your account to book online via the second method.
For example, let’s assume you have booked two outbound tickets in Club World to Sydney with your companion voucher. You would have been charged 150,000 Avios for both passengers since you used a companion voucher.
To add the return flight ONLINE, you would need 300,000 Avios – 150,000 Avios per person – to book. The call centre would then reimburse you 150,000 Avios when you call up to link the bookings.
This table lists the Avios required per person by route. If you do not have enough Avios to cover both passengers then your only option is the first method – to pick up the phone to BA’s call centre who will be able to modify your original outbound booking to add the return flights.
There is also a ‘taxes and charges’ consideration
If you call British Airways to add the return leg to an existing outbound flight, the taxes and charges due are the standard amount for a return flight. This sounds like an obvious statement, I admit.
However, if you use our alternative plan above and book your return flight online for full Avios and then call BA later to get half of the Avios returned, your flights are NOT merged. You retain two one-way bookings with two separate booking references. The taxes you have paid are the taxes and charges for 2 x one-way flights and not the taxes for a return flight.
For reasons too complex to explain, for cities in the US you will pay substantially more in taxes and charges with 2 x one-way flights than for a return. If you are redeeming to the US then you must call BA at midnight GMT to add the return to your existing booking if you don’t want a nasty taxes surprise.
For most other destinations, the difference should be more modest. Here is an example:
United States (best booked as a return flight redemption)
- Return business class Avios flight to New York = £853 of taxes and charges
- Cost when booked as separate outbound and return flights: £553 + £743 = £1,296 of taxes and charges
United Arab Emirates (little difference between the two methods)
- Return business class Avios flight to Dubai = £716 of taxes and charges
- Cost when booked as separate outbound and return flights: £468 + £285 = £753 of taxes and charges
If you have a companion voucher issued after 1st September 2021, it is possible to book your reward flight starting outside the UK. This would reduce the taxes and charges bill sharply, especially if starting from Dublin, as long as your stopover in London is shorter than 24 hours. You would need to travel to Dublin to start your trip, however – you cannot hop on the flight at Heathrow. Your ticket would be cancelled as soon as check-in closed in Dublin.
We hope this is a helpful beginners guide to using a British Airways American Express 2-4-1 companion voucher.
We recommend you also read our more advanced version here which looks at some of the other quirks of using a BA companion voucher, plus information on making cancellations, changes etc. Today I have been looking specifically at the original booking process.
If you have any questions or comments please post in the comments and we will update this article to reflect areas of confusion.
Key card information
British Airways American Express credit card
Representative 26.0% APR variable
British Airways American Express Premium Plus credit card
Representative 103.7% APR variable based on an assumed £1,200 credit limit and £250 annual fee. Interest rate on purchases 26.0% APR variable.
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (September 2022)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous 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:
There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.
EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.
Run your own business?
We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,000 Avios.
You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.
There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.