Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Stuffed #2: Holders of ‘old style’ BA Amex 2-4-1 vouchers now need 45%-60% more Avios

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

We’ve now had a bit of time to digest the changes to long haul Avios pricing launched last Wednesday.

As more examples come to light, it is clear that this is a major devaluation.

It has been disguised by giving a (roughly) 15% discount to UK members who use a ‘new style’ Amex 2-4-1 voucher and who can afford to use the maximum number of Avios. Strip these people out and there are some serious underlying issues.

On Friday, we looked at how Avios members outside the UK and US now need 45% to 60%, and up to 92% in some cases, more points – with no saving in taxes. It is one of the biggest overnight, no warning, devaluations ever seen.

HfP is, of course, a UK site with an 80% UK readership and a 90% UK and US readership. Whilst this no-notice devaluation for non-UK and non-US members is shocking, it doesn’t apply to the majority of our readers.

Today’s problem is different.

Holders of old style 2-4-1 American Express companion vouchers are in trouble – and don’t even know it

To recap what has changed:

British Airways has introduced new ‘more Avios, less cash’ options for long-haul redemptions.

For:

  • holders of ‘new style’ American Express 2-4-1 vouchers (those issued after 1st September 2021) or
  • those based in the UK or US and not using an Amex voucher

…. it isn’t a problem. This is because you can still access the old price in most cases if you wish.

(Note I say ‘in most cases’. On some routes, such as Barbados, pricing has shot up and you will pay more, irrespective of whether you use a 2-4-1 voucher and irrespective of what combination of cash and Avios is used.)

Here is an example:

Avios devaluation

New York

The ‘headline’ price for a return off-peak Club World flight to New York is now 160,000 Avios plus exactly £350 if you live in the UK.

(If you live outside the UK or US, the headline price is now 160,000 Avios + £853 as this article explains. Bad luck.)

In reality, you can choose – if you have no Amex voucher or a ‘new style’ Amex voucher – between using:

  • 160,000 Avios + £350
  • 130,000 Avios + £640
  • 100,000 Avios + £850
  • 88,000 Avios + £1,240
  • 64,000 Avios + £1,480
  • 50,000 Avios + £1,790

Last week, before the changes, you had the following options:

  • 100,000 Avios + £853
  • 90,000 Avios + £1,093
  • 75,000 Avios + £1,363
  • 65,000 Avios + £1,593
  • 57,500 Avios + £1,693
  • 50,000 Avios + £1,793

As you can see, today – if you want – you can choose to pay 100,000 Avios + £850 if you don’t want to pay the new headline price of 160,000 Avios + £350.

This is virtually the same as the old price of 100,000 Avios + £853, so you are not any worse off.

If you are using a 2-4-1 voucher for two people, you need to double the cash element shown above to work out the total cash required. You will be better off than you were before but ONLY if you can afford to use the maximum number of Avios allowed.

However, what happens if you have an old style 2-4-1 American Express voucher?

Due to an odd quirk of the rules, only holders of ‘new style’ (issued since 1st September 2021) Amex vouchers have the ability to choose the level of Avios and charges.

Holders of ‘old style’ vouchers get no choice.

These are your options for New York if you have an old style 2-4-1 voucher. The pricing is for two people in Club World, off-peak:

  • 160,000 Avios + £700
  • 130,000 Avios + £1,280 – not allowed with an old style 2-4-1
  • 100,000 Avios + £1,700 – not allowed with an old style 2-4-1
  • 88,000 Avios + £2,480 – not allowed with an old style 2-4-1
  • 64,000 Avios + £2,800 – not allowed with an old style 2-4-1
  • 50,000 Avios + £1,790 – not allowed with an old style 2-4-1

Last week, you had the following options when using an old style 2-4-1 voucher for an off-peak Club World ticket to New York for two people:

  • 100,000 Avios + £1,706
  • 90,000 Avios + £2,186 – not allowed with an old style 2-4-1
  • 75,000 Avios + £2,726 – not allowed with an old style 2-4-1
  • 65,000 Avios + £3,186 – not allowed with an old style 2-4-1
  • 57,500 Avios + £3,384 – not allowed with an old style 2-4-1
  • 50,000 Avios + £3,586 – not allowed with an old style 2-4-1

If you have an old style voucher, your ONLY Club World option to New York is now (off peak) 160,000 Avios + £700 for two people.

Last week, you paid 100,000 Avios + £1,706.

Avios devaluation

Surely this is a good deal for old style 2-4-1 voucher holders?

Now, it is clear that 160,000 Avios + £700 is a better deal than 100,000 Avios + £1,706. I’m not arguing with that.

However, if you don’t have 160,000 Avios, it is a moot point.

The fundamental problem with these Avios changes is that British Airways believes that all Executive Club members are rolling in Avios. If they’re not, they can simply take out another US credit card and pick up a 100,000 points sign-up bonus overnight.

This is far, far from the case. Outside the United States – which means for the vast majority of Avios collectors – Avios are hard to pick up at scale.

A large number of HfP readers took up our recent offer of 3,000 Avios for getting the new British Airways Prepaid Mastercard, even though it is a very fiddly product. They did this because they saw it as a way of getting 3,000 Avios towards their next redemption that they couldn’t pick up elsewhere. I doubt a US BAEC member would get out of bed for less than 10,000 Avios.

How the majority of non-US Avios collectors work is that they pick up a few here, a few there. If they are lucky (and with a bit of credit card bonus churning) they can get to 100,000 Avios per year for a premium cabin 2-4-1 redemption using their American Express companion voucher.

Imagine how these people are going to feel when they realise that, overnight, the number of Avios required for the New York flight has gone up by 60%.

They don’t even know that the Avios requirement has gone up.

These changes would have been more acceptable if the HfP reader sitting on 100,000 Avios and an old style 2-4-1 voucher had been given a few weeks notice to redeem at the old rate.

Instead, they have been told nothing. Well, not quite nothing, but nothing that makes it clear that they have been hung out to dry.

Avios devaluation

Surely this problem will go away soon?

The defence here is that ‘this is a problem that will go away soon’ as old style vouchers expire.

This simply isn’t true.

The last 2-4-1 voucher issued under the old rules was on 31st August 2021. This voucher won’t expire until 31st August 2023.

However, during the pandemic:

  • vouchers were being issued with an additional six months expiry, so British Airways Premium Plus card vouchers came with a 30 month expiry date
  • existing vouchers received multiple covid-related date extensions

There are many old style companion vouchers out there with expiry dates in 2024 due to the two factors above. Given that there are apparently 750,000 BA Amex cards in issue, there could easily be 100,000 old style 2-4-1 vouchers out there which are still to be used.

This is also a circular argument ….

If you DO believe that ‘this problem will go away soon because these old style vouchers expire soon’, you have to accept the other part of the equation.

Plenty of members will now find themselves desperately needing (as in our New York example) 60,000 extra Avios for the redemption they were planning, and no quick way to earn them.

Whilst this will be a surprise to BA, we don’t all live in America with a virtually unlimited number of different miles and points earning credit cards and few restrictions on who can get them. It isn’t unusual for a keen ‘miles and points’ collector in the US to have over 30 credit cards. Executive Club is now being run for the benefit of these people, not you.

(This is not hyperbole. I saw the head of Flying Blue, the Air France KLM programme, speak at a conference recently. He was explaining how the programme is heavily driven by what has to done to attract points transfers from US credit card holders. The money the programme can make from transfer partners such as Amex and Chase is huge.)

In the next article, we’ll look at how BA has used this devaluation to close down loopholes to reduce your taxes and charges bill – and, where the law stopped it, it simply increased the number of Avios needed instead.


HFP-Barclaycard-Avios-Card

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (February 2023)

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:

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

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 21st February 2023, the sign-up bonus on the British Airways Premium Plus American Express card is increased to 35,000 Avios from 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

35,000 Avios (ONLY to 21st February) and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.

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

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 10,500 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

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

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.

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

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.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up 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

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

Comments (194)

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

  • Mark says:

    You might want to try looking at Iberia for all or part of the trip, e.g. assuming travel from Heathrow it looks like you can get it as low as 155250 Avios + £ 1,301.68 on off-peak dates, travelling with IB via Madrid in one direction.

    If you’re willing to travel via Madrid in both directions you can do better still at 117750 Avios + £ 902.02 for two with the voucher.

    Hopefully that looks a bit better if your happy to connect, and that way you’re benefitting from the recent changes.

    In theory you could probably bring the cost down further by starting your 2for1 journey in Madrid and getting there on a separate booking as that will save you UK long haul APD. The outbound connection would be at your risk though if you did that, and you wouldn’t be able to book it online.

    • Dave Hughes says:

      just booked open jaw madrid – Bogata , Sao Paulo – Madrid , 170K avios + £405.80 total taxes all in for 2 people (no voucher required) , then booked economy iberia cash fare to madrid on iberia for £45! day before (gold so free bag , emergency exit seats and lounges!) , felt that was a bargain!

      • Mark says:

        Would have been more of a bargain if you’d have saved 85K avios on that with a 2for1 voucher! Not sure if you are returning to the UK, but you should have been able to add that on to the same booking if you are. When we flew with IB we booked the outbound and return legs separately online so as to start in Madrid and end in London (plus, like yours, it was an open jaw). Did you book via the call centre?

    • Matthew says:

      Mark this is awesome, thank you. Now, Im a bit of a noob to all this, so are you able to be a bit more basic with your suggestions please!? Would I book on the BA site? I can see that the return flight in and out of Madrid is lower points and taxes. Going London to Madrid to Rio would be good, but coming back direct to London would be preferred. Where and what should i be looking for? Sorry to be so inexperienced with this! How would i redeem the voucher if not on the BA site? THANK YOU!

  • Mark says:

    Intended to be in response to Matthew re his planned trip to Rio…..

  • FEMW says:

    Just redeemed the old 2-4-1 for a return J GLA-LHR in Jan to go see my brother and his family. Not the best use of a 2-4-1 but the only way to use it before it expires in Mar 23. We’ve redeemed the new 2-4-1 for a J Glasgow-Mauritius flight in Sept and have just got a new 2-4-1 exp Dec 24. We are sitting on 50k avios just now. These new devaluations are now making us think – is it worth it anymore? We are local authority workers so all personally funded. We didn’t do much as we only started in 2015 to save the points to get to Australia in J in 2019 – also did our first First then and then a return J to SFO this year. London and Mauritius next year. Maybe that will be it. All good things come to an end.

  • AncientSquash says:

    Are the rules regarding the use of ‘old’ Amex 2-4-1 companion vouchers in conjunction with Reward Flight Saver actually published anywhere? I just spent an hour on the phone with a ‘supervisor’ at BA after I requested my call be escalated. The gentleman I spoke to said he’s a an Exec Club team leader and flat out refused to provide me with RFS pricing even though my household Avios account is UK based / we are UK residents. In Economy, from LHR-SIN, he quoted a price of 45K avios and £284 of fees per adult, instead of 45K and £125 per adult RFS booking that is available on a standard Avios booking or by using a ‘new’ post 1 Sep 21 Amex companion voucher. I tried to argue as per this article that even ‘old’ vouchers benefit from RFS (but with no option other than to use the maximum amount of Avios) but to no avail so wondering whether there is any fine print I can direct him to. I unfortunately do not have another ‘old’ voucher to generate a dummy booking and I’m not sure whether it makes any difference that my ‘old’ companion voucher was wrapped up in a FTV that expired 21 Sep 23 (as I took an FTV for a 2-4-1 companion voucher flight I didn’t end up taking back in November 21).

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

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.