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

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

American Express and British Airways unveiled more improvements to the British Airways American Express 2-4-1 companion voucher before Christmas, adding the ability to redeem on Aer Lingus and Iberia. Reward Flight Saver pricing options were also added to long haul premium cabins.

We needed to update this reference article in light of the changes, so I though it was worthwhile sharing it more widely at the same time. The current crazy bonus of 70,000 Avios for taking out the British Airways Premium Plus American Express card makes it even more timely.

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

The key thing to know is that, whilst both British Airways American Express cards offer a 2-4-1 voucher, the typical Head for Points reader is unlikely to want the voucher from the free British Airways American Express credit card. This is because it can only be redeemed in Economy.

Whilst an Economy 2-4-1 voucher will, I am sure, be useful to some people, people who know where the real value is – which is hopefully you, if you’re reading this – will know that premium cabin redemptions are the way to go.

What does the 2-4-1 companion voucher do for me?

If two people wish to travel:

It allows you to book two Avios redemption seats for the points of one.  You can instantly sense the savings available – over 500,000 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 18,500 Avios.

(When I quote Avios pricing in this article, I am using the ‘most Avios, least cash’ pricing option that ba.com offers. Other Avios and cash permutations are available to choose from, some of which are better value.)

In reality, most people use them for long haul redemptions in Club World for a flat bed business class seat, typically somewhere like New York or Dubai.  That would save you 160,000 Avios on off-peak dates and 180,000 Avios on peak dates.

Assuming you value an Avios point at 1p, the 2-4-1 voucher would be worth £1,600 to £1,800 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 although the article does not reflect recent BA changes). The £250 annual fee for the British Airways Premium Plus card is a fair price to pay to get access to this.

Vouchers earned on the free British Airways American Express card are limited to Economy class redemptions. This substantially reduces their value. In many cases you would be better off buying Economy flights for cash and ‘selling’ your Avios to Nectar for 0.67p per point, although with flight prices currently so high for cash you may find value in 2023.

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

If one person wishes to travel:

From June 2022, companion vouchers have also been usable by people without a travel companion.

You can book an Avios redemption for one person using your voucher and you will receive a 50% discount on the Avios required. Full taxes and charges are still due.

Note that you need a ‘new style’ voucher issued from 1st September 2021 in order to do this.

Remember that vouchers earned on the free British Airways American Express card are now limited to Economy class redemptions. Vouchers earned on the Premium Plus card are valid in all cabins.

How do I earn a companion voucher?

You need to spend either:

Note that spending must be done in your ‘card year’ and not a 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. You will see it under ‘My eVouchers’.

How many companion vouchers can I earn per year?

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

You can, of course, get your partner to apply for their own card – instead of having a supplementary on your card – and so earn their own voucher.

Whether this makes sense depends on how many Avios you earn per year (there is no point earning two 2-4-1 vouchers each year if you don’t earn enough Avios to make use of them) and how much American Express spending you can manage.

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

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, Aer Lingus and Iberia 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.  You can’t use them on the BA-branded SUN-AIR flights to Scandinavia for example.

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 – Oslo 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.

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.  Vouchers issued after 1st September 2021 can be used to book one-way flights in either direction. Older vouchers can only be used for one-way flights departing from the UK.

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 one Avios seat available in First.

‘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 British Airways to extend a 2-4-1 voucher.

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 British Airways one. It doesn’t even need to be an American Express card in your name, as Amex does not do name verification as part of its security procedures.

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 British Airways American Express card after making your 2-4-1 booking.

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

Can you transfer the voucher to someone else?

No.

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.

(This is a different policy to one on the upgrade vouchers issued on the Barclaycard Avios Mastercard. You CAN book for anyone with this voucher, albeit the voucher holder must make the booking from their account.)

Can I combine multiple vouchers in one booking?

For four people:

If you have two vouchers to use, issued to the same person, 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.

IMPORTANT: For technical reasons, it is impossible to combine vouchers issued before 1st September 2021 with vouchers issued afterwards. If you are in this position you will not be able to use two vouchers together to redeem for a group of four people.

For three people:

No.

Frustratingly, even though you can now use a 2-4-1 voucher for a solo traveller, paying half the standard number of Avios, you cannot use two vouchers issued to the same person to book for a family of three.

This is an IT oversight by British Airways and I would expect that it will get changed at some point, since it makes no sense.

A family of three would need to require both parents to each earn their own separate 2-4-1 voucher. One voucher could be used for the first parent and the child on a 2-4-1 basis, whilst the second voucher could be used by the second parent for a 50% discount on their own ticket. You can only do this if each parents generates their own 2-4-1 voucher from their own credit card.

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

Where can I find the Avios pricing chart on ba.com?

You can’t. It was removed a few years ago.

The good news is that Head for Points recreated the Avios pricing chart. You can see how many Avios you need for a specific route in this article. The Avios number quoted here is the MIDDLE of the five pricing options you will be shown when booking, so it is possible to pay more or less than our table states.

We are looking at a way of reworking this table to make it more accurate whilst still being easy to follow.

How many seats are released per flight for Avios?

British Airways makes four Club World / Club Europe, two World Traveller Plus and eight World Traveller / Economy seats available on every flight.  

‘New style companion vouchers come with extra Avios availability in Business Class. Without getting too technical about how it works, if cash prices are below a certain threshold, additional Business Class seats are made available when redeeming a ‘new style’ voucher. These seats will show automatically when you search, as long as you select ‘use a voucher’ before searching.

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. Even then, you need to be realistic about your chances of getting seats over Christmas, February half term, Easter and October half-term.

Iberia guarantees to release Avios seats for all flights but does not commit to a specific number in each class. Aer Lingus does not guarantee any minimum number of seats per flight (I believe).

The least known secret for unlocking Avios seats in Business Class when you can’t see any is ….

As mentioned above, companion vouchers have access to additional Avios availability in Business Class.

There is SUBSTANTIALLY – by ludicrous margins – more extra availability opened up via this route if you start your trip outside London.

Here’s a random example. Looking for Business Class from London to Tokyo on 25th April I get this message:

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

Looking at Manchester to Tokyo, via London, on 25th April I get this:

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

If you book via this route you MUST take the first flight from Manchester. You can’t just hop on in London – your ticket will already have been cancelled as a ‘no show’. On your return, you could hop out at Heathrow if you only had hand baggage.

What is the best way to secure seats on peak flights?

Seats become available at midnight GMT 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

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 can 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 two 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.

Are there any easy ways of reducing the taxes payable?

Not if you are flying with British Airways, ever since BA moved to ‘Reward Flight Saver’ pricing on long haul in 2022.

The ‘taxes and charges’ payment you make no longer reflects the actual taxes and charges due, which means that there is no difference if you start your trip in a city which is exempt from Air Passenger Duty.

You can make substantial savings if you redeem your 2-4-1 voucher on Iberia or Aer Lingus. You will make even bigger savings in premium cabins if you book your 2-4-1 flights directly from Dublin or Madrid to avoid paying UK Air Passenger Duty. You would buy a standalone flight in Economy for cash to get to Dublin or Madrid to start your trip.

This HfP article looks at where you can fly on Aer Lingus with your voucher.

This HfP article looks at where you can fly on Iberia with your voucher.

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.

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

If I cancel my BA Amex card after earning the voucher, is it lost?

No.  Absolutely not.  Do not believe anyone who tells you otherwise.

You will also 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.

You will, however, still need access to an American Express card of some sort to pay the taxes and charges when you do use your companion voucher.

If I downgrade from the Premium Plus to the free card after earning my voucher, do I retain the 2-year expiry period?

Yes.

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 and any extra taxes and charges.  You will need to call BA to do this.

Is there any value in the free British Airways American Express card, if the voucher can only be used in Economy?

Not really, if you plan to use your companion voucher.

No-one should apply directly for the free British Airways American Express. Even if you want this card, it makes more sense to:

  • apply for Premium Plus
  • spend the necessary amount to trigger the higher sign-up bonus
  • call American Express to downgrade to the free card, receiving a pro-rata refund of your £250

If you have any further questions about the voucher, please ask them in the comments. We have a ‘beginners’ guide to using British Airways American Express 2-4-1 vouchers, which is less advanced than this article, which is here.

Our reviews of the two British Airways cards and the two Barclaycard Avios Mastercards are 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

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

Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibly to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points. The site discusses products offered by lenders but is not a lender itself. Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as an independent credit broker.


HFP-Barclaycard-Avios-Card

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (January 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.

SPECIAL OFFER: Capital On Tap has increased its sign-up bonus to points worth 30,000 Avios if you apply by 4th February. This is exclusive to Head for Points readers. Click here to apply.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

Get a 30,000 points bonus, worth 30,000 Avios, until 4th February 2023 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 (139)

  • Lou says:

    The indirect flight availability is annoying. When I was trying to book flights for Tokyo, there was no availability from London, but from Inverness? fill your boots…

  • Mike Hunt says:

    The indirect flight availability is a real bonus for the vast majority of us that live outside London. A real BA contribution to Levelling Up.

  • Claire says:

    I was hoping to use my second new style voucher with my first to book for 3 of us in August so thanks for this update. Have BA said anything about trying to fix this this? It does seem ridiculous that it can be done for 4 travelling but not 3. I do have a barcleys voucher which my husband could use but I’m not sure I can book outward leg and then add return flight by phoning up (does this work with barclays?) Also with the recent changes I’m not sure I will have enough avios will need to do sums again to see if this would work. I wouldn’t mind if it could be done over the phone if IT issues can’t be addressed.

    • JDB says:

      What is there to fix? We often travel in a party of three. The extra I class availability is limited to the voucher holder as a solo passenger or with one companion; if that extra availability were handed out to everyone, it would rather ruin the point. You can book a third person if the I availability isn’t required, or with a second voucher and here is always the option of booking the third passenger separately, so plenty of choice.

      • Claire says:

        However when you read the terms and conditions it does still say a maximum of 2 vouchers can be used per booking provided they are of the same type so it does look like they intended to stop people who wanted to book 4 tickets using 2 vouchers.

        • NorthernLass says:

          Do you mean you want to use the vouchers as a 241 plus a 50% off on the same booking? I think that’s always going to be beyond BA’s IT! But like JDB, we’ve travelled as a family of 3 for years and never had any issues when one of us has been on a separate booking.
          It’s possible to use 2 vouchers for 4 people on the same booking as long as both vouchers are in the same account, and now they have to be the same type of voucher as well.

          • brian says:

            Based on my understanding, this is what’s putting me off the BAPP. Using two vouchers earned by a single card holder over multiple years for a family of 3 doesn’t seem possible.

            Separate bookings would mean the vouchers would need to be in two different names.

  • memesweeper says:

    “In reality, most people use them for long haul redemptions in Club World for a flat bed business class seat, typically somewhere like New York or Dubai”

    Source? BA? Amex? For that to be true, most vouchers would have to be the premium type, or perhaps more of the “economy only” ones going unused that premium ones.

    • Lou says:

      I’ve had 2 vouchers on total, one was short haul… One is for a future long haul

    • No longer Entitled says:

      Most of my previous 241’s went unused due to an inability to go where I wanted when I wanted as a family of four restricted to school holidays.

      The new style will change this, most likely on IB to South America, but with the need for four tickets I’ll still most likely turn right upon boarding. Ce la vie.

      I do wonder however if unused is actually the category most vouchers fall into, albeit perhaps not for the HfP crowd, but are we ‘typical’ users?

    • Rob says:

      Most of our readers.

  • Dan says:

    If I book the outward on release date will the return date need to be before the voucher expiry? Other t&C seem to have said this.

  • Mark C says:

    I have a new style voucher that I’d like to use to get from London to Sydney next year. Having read all the (very helpful) guidance, I know I initially have to book the one-way outward trip as soon as it becomes available, then add the return later. However, I’d like to break my outward journey in Singapore for a few days and – from what I can see – that is not possible when booking a one-way trip, only a return. Is there any way around this?

  • Erico1875 says:

    With the mental prices to fly SH to the Costas from Scotland in the summer. I’m using mine for short haul Club Europe.
    Vueling are wanting a grand to fly 2 pas Edi to BCN early July.

    • NorthernLass says:

      Agreed but it’s not just Scotland – I just used a Barclaycard upgrade voucher to get me to AGP at October half term – CE return was £655 pp!

  • Andrew says:

    It CAN be used on one-way flights. Vouchers issued after 1st September 2021 can be used to book one-way flights in either direction.

    Does final destination has to be U.K. on the new style vouchers?
    Can I book like 1st leg: Singapore- Maldives
    Then return
    Maldives-Tokyo?

    • Rob says:

      Good question …..

    • NorthernLass says:

      You can sort of do this but the result you may get is that it sends you (e.g) SIN-LHR-MLE as it will only select routes served by the airlines on which the voucher can be used. If you’re planning 2 separate trips this works. You may also get no result as I think the system factors in the rules for open jaw or something similar. It needs a lot of playing around with the new voucher to see what’s possible!

    • Andrew says:

      Singapore- Mauritius
      Mauritius- Tokyo on new style vouchers? Is this possible. Please help!!!!

      • Stu_N says:

        Can you get a cash fare on BA metal? If so it should be possible as the routing exists in the system.

        The bigger question is, why on earth would you want to do this, unless you are planning several trips and need time in London? No TPs on redemptions and you’d pay the Avios on each individual leg and flythousands of miles and hours and hours more than necessary.

        • Rob says:

          2 redemptions from 1 voucher.

          • Stu_N says:

            Ah, I see.

            Long stopovers in London and nest it inside an open jaw LON-SIN/ TYO-LON, so you get three trips for two vouchers… Nice (if it works).

          • NorthernLass says:

            It does work, but not on all destinations. The system doesn’t seem to like a journey which comes back on itself, so to speak. So you can book NYC-LHR-DXB but not NYC-LHR-GCM. I’ve started a file of different possible permutations as it’ll be a while before I’m in a position to book something like this – you need about 9 months’ worth of availability to be showing and know that you can travel at those times!

        • JRich says:

          I booked USA to London (2 month stop) to Brazil (3 week holiday) to London (3 month stop) to MEX. The hardest part was finding CW availability on the Brazil legs….

      • NorthernLass says:

        You’ve got to finish near enough to where you started for it to comply with open jaw rules. And would need to be booked online if starting and finishing in different cities, or book return online and request 50% avios back, both of which I’m a bit nervous would cause raised eyebrows from BA!

        • NorthernLass says:

          That was to Andrew!

          • Erico1875 says:

            Rremember when you could book EDI- LON- GLA for 4500 Avios + £17.50 RFS as a single when short haul connections were free. Nice cheap London weekend👍

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