The launch of the Barclaycard upgrade vouchers, available via Barclays Premier with Barclays Avios Rewards and the two Barclaycard Avios Mastercard credit cards, was a substantial boost for the solo traveller looking to fly with Avios.
(As a reminder, there is currently a 50,000 Avios sign-up bonus on the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard and a 10,000 Avios sign-up bonus on the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard. This article explains the deal.)
Just as important, the launch of the Barclaycard credit cards spurred American Express into making its own British Airways credit cards more attractive to solo travellers.
Miles and points for the solo traveller
How should your miles and points collecting change if you are a solo traveller?
Whilst Head for Points has always treated the 2-4-1 voucher from the British Airways American Express card as the greatest thing since sliced bread it would have been pretty useless to me in my youth.
I did a lot of solo travelling before I settled down, and a 2-4-1 voucher wasn’t much use there.
The 2022 changes to the British Airways American Express vouchers made a big difference to solo travellers. You can now use a 2-4-1 to get a 50% Avios discount on a flight for one person.
Miles and points benefits for the solo traveller
Ignoring the Barclaycard and British Airways American Express vouchers for a minute, in general the solo traveller has an easier time with the ‘miles and points’ game than a couple, and a far easier time than a family.
Here are a few things in your favour as a solo traveller:
- The fewer award seats you want, the easier it is to get them. One is easier than two is easier than four.
- Unless you work in education, a solo traveller is unlikely to be tied down to school holidays when seats are harder to find and both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are operating ‘peak’ reward pricing.
- Some airlines restrict the award seats they release. British Airways only opens up four Club World seats 355 days from departure, although they will generally open up more as the months pass. Virgin Atlantic only guarantees to open two seats in Upper Class.
- It is easier for a solo traveller to get an award seat using ‘easy’ miles, generally from credit cards. Take, for example, the new Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard. This card currently comes with a sign-up bonus of 50,000 Avios. This gets a solo traveller quite a way towards a Premium Economy ticket or Economy ticket to most places. A couple would still have been substantially short. Adding on a free (for the first year) Amex Gold with another 20,000 points, the Barclays Premier sign-up bonus of 25,000 Avios or a British Airways American Express bonus and you’d have enough for a one-way Business Class redemption on some routes.
- A solo traveller will find it easier to arrange their schedule to maximise their points earning and burning and even minimise their airport taxes. Ever tried telling your partner that you need to change your hotel three times during a week because you want to maximise your bonus points? Or that they are flying to New York via Madrid to save tax? If you’ve got family, don’t even think about it, at least whilst your kids are small.
- A solo traveller may also be willing to compromise slightly on airline or hotel quality to maximise points earning or minimise points spending. Whenever I go with my family we stay at better hotels, ignoring whatever promotions are on offer elsewhere, than if I am travelling alone.
Things that count against the solo traveller:
- You don’t have a partner who can also obtain credit card sign-up bonuses
- You don’t have a partner who can help boost your ‘household income’ to improve your chances of being accepted for credit cards (American Express likes to look at household income)
- You don’t get any favours from the hotel reward schemes – a room for one person costs the same number of points as a room for two. That said, you get an easier time than a family, as suite redemptions using points are rarely available. You can request two connecting rooms but in my experience it is 50/50 whether you actually get them when you check in.
What do credit card annual spend vouchers have to offer the solo traveller?
How does the Barclays upgrade voucher work?
There are three ways of earning a Barclays upgrade voucher:
- open a Barclays Premier current account with Barclays Avios Rewards – you automatically receive an upgrade voucher every 12 months
- open a Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard and spend £10,000 within 12 months, repeatable annually
- open a free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard and spend £20,000 within 12 months, repeatable annually
The vouchers are valid for two years. They cannot be used to travel in First Class, only Business Class and Premium Economy / World Traveller Plus.
The Barclays upgrade voucher allows you to upgrade an Avios seat for free. (Actually, technically, that’s not how it works. It lets you book a Club World Avios seat and pay the mileage of World Traveller Plus, or book a World Traveller Plus Avios seat and pay the mileage of World Traveller. You need Avios availability in the cabin in which you will sit.)
This HfP article explains in detail how the Barclays upgrade voucher works.
How does the British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher work?
There are two ways of earning a British Airways American Express companion voucher:
- open a British Airways Premium Plus American Express card and spend £10,000 within 12 months, repeatable annually – the voucher is valid for two years and in all classes
- open a British Airways American Express card and spend £12,000 within 12 months, repeatable annually – the voucher is valid for one year and only for Economy flights
Following the 2022 changes, a solo traveller can use the voucher to book an Avios reward flight. They will get a 50% discount on the Avios required, although full taxes and charges are still due.
The voucher can be used for either a single or return flight, and the flight does not need to start in the UK.
Don’t forget Virgin Atlantic
Whilst this article is Avios-focussed, it is worth mentioning that the Virgin Atlantic Reward credit cards also offer an upgrade voucher each year. This makes them equally attractive for solo travellers.
There is no easy answer as to whether solo travellers come out best overall in the miles and points game.
However, by carrying the right credit cards and exploiting the right opportunities, you can tilt the odds in your favour.
The current 50,000 Avios bonus on the Barclaycard Avios Mastercard is a good way to get a head start on your next trip.
Interest rate data for Barclaycard Avios Plus:
The representative APR is 80.1% APR variable, including the annual fee. The representative APR on purchases is 29.9% variable.
Interest rate data for Barclaycard Avios:
The representative APR is 29.9% variable.
Interest rate data for British Airways Premium Plus American Express:
The representative APR is 113.1% variable, including the annual fee. The representative APR on purchases is 31.0% variable.
Interest rate data for British Airways American Express:
The representative APR is 31.0% variable.
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. 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.
Want to earn more points from credit cards? – February 2024 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:
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.
Virgin Money is offering double points on spending until 14th April (£5,000 cap) to new customers when you apply for the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard. Click here to learn more.
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
40,000 bonus points and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review
Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard
15,000 bonus points 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:
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
American Express Business Platinum
40,000 points bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review
American Express Business Gold
20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year 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.