Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

How a solo traveller can benefit from Barclaycard upgrade vouchers and BA Amex 241 vouchers

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

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.

Barclaycard Avios rewards for solo traveller

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.
  • 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:

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.

British Airways American Express for solo travellers

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:

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.

This HfP article explains in detail how British American Express 2-4-1 companion vouchers work.

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.

Our master article on the two Virgin Atlantic credit cards and their benefits is here.


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 78.9% APR variable, including the annual fee.  The representative APR on purchases is 28.9% variable.

Interest rate data for Barclaycard Avios:

The representative APR is 28.9% variable.

Interest rate data for British Airways Premium Plus American Express:

The representative APR is 112.5% variable, including the annual fee.  The representative APR on purchases is 30.7% variable.

Interest rate data for British Airways American Express:

The representative APR is 30.7% 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? – September 2023 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:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Get 25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £20,000 Read our full review

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.

SPECIAL OFFER: The sign-up bonus on the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard is doubled to 30,000 Virgin Points if you apply by 2nd October. You receive 15,000 Virgin Points with your first purchase and a further 15,000 points if you spend £3,000 within 90 days. Apply here.

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

30,000 points and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

30,000 bonus points (SPECIAL OFFER TO 2ND OCTOBER) 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:

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.

Barclaycard Select Cashback credit card

1% cashback and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (22)

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

  • lumma says:

    For myself as a solo traveller, the sweet spot these days is using the AMEX 241 for 50% off Iberia business to Latin America.

    On Thursday I’m flying Madrid to Mexico City for 42,500 avios + £260 return. Just the points earned from the card spend to get the voucher is over a third of the way to this redemption.

    • Cat says:

      Same here – I came back from an Easter trip to Ecuador last week. 105,000 and £240 (but no voucher used), an absolute bargain.

      I hope that redemptions heading East open up a bit more soon, though!

      • polly says:

        Hi Cat,

        Great to see you got back in one piece this time, with your luggage, l hope… am sure you had a great adventure as usual….

        • Cat says:

          Yay to returning home with luggage!

          It was absolutely incredible! I will need to do an Ecuador and Galapagos islands post on the forums, just for reference for others. I’m going to try to get to that this week, maybe on a strike day!

          Suffice to say it absolutely was an incredible adventure!

          How are you Polly? Where have your travels been taking you?


      • G says:

        We’re going to Mexico next year. Using an Amex 241 it’s 125,000 plus £532.80 (£1783 estimated) for return from MAD-MEX in Iberia J vs. 180,000 plus £450 (£2250 estimated) compared to BA.

        Even if you factor in positioning flights, you can easily get to Madrid in J on a cash ticket (and earn avios/TPs) for under £500…

        • lumma says:

          And Madrid is a decent place to spend a night before to ensure you don’t miss the connection (although one of the Mexico City flights is very late in the day and is the one to go for if there’s seats as it’s a true overnighter)

          For USA, especially East Coast I’m not sure I’d go via Madrid however

          • Michael C says:

            Just looked at MAD-MIA for Oct., and it was about 2p compared to BA!
            Plus most of my clients are in MAD so can write that part of the trip off – double yay!

  • flyforfun says:

    Thanks for the reminder that the 241 can be used for 50% off for single travellers. Weighing up whether to drop the Amex or Barclaycard for a couple of years and then get the sign up bonuses again.

  • Tony says:

    I’ve a 2 for 1premium voucher expiring in sept that I have been unable to use due to no availability to a decent long haul destination…as usual! I needed to get to CPT last month on my own. There was a single seat available. I asked BA if I could my voucher on my own. A flat NO….thanks BA. Are they trained properly?

    • lumma says:

      Is your voucher an old style 241? Then you can’t use it for 1 person

  • Manuel says:

    I’ve recently downgraded by BA Amex card having spent more than 10k but less than 12k. I’ve triggered the 241 voucher on the black card. Now that I’ve gone down to blue it appears I can get a blue 241 voucher too. Seems like a loophole, anyone else have this experience and do you lose the more valuable black 241 voucher at any stage?

    • polly says:


      If you are still within your card year in which you have just earned this voucher, you won’t actually get a 2nd voucher. That’s been a BA glitch for years, sadly. Mind you, with the state their IT is currently in, you just might be given one.

      • Manuel says:

        Thanks Polly, just don’t want to lose the “good” voucher at any point! I’ll maybe book something with it before I hit 12k, that way I know it’s used.

    • Olivia says:


  • Safety Card says:

    I’ve never had a problem applying for cards, AMEX happily give me them, I’ve a big income and small outgoings, no loans, no CCJs etc, a good credit score and only 3 other cards which aren’t maxing out my credit (two AMEX and a virgin) and are paid in full each month. Never missed a payment either.

    When this card first launched they denied my application. Now whenever I fill in the ‘check if I’ll be approved’ part of the website I get a no.

    Anyone had any experience of this or any ideas of what I can do?

  • G says:

    Can someone who has used one explain how they work for when using as a couple? OT I know!

    Scenario: My partner and I are planning to burn Avios next year on European City Breaks/Long weekeends using RFS – We’ll be using our Amex 241 on long haul.

    How do we book? As far as I am aware:
    We book a return flight in Euro Traveller to e.g Porto using the normal process.

    After booking, provided there’s Club Europe availability on one of the two legs, we can use the barclaycard upgrade (pay avios for lower class of travel voucher) to upgrade both of us to CE for one leg?

    My questions are:
    1. Do we need the Upgrade Voucher prior to booking (like the Amex 241), or can one be added after making the booking? (My partner got Barclays Avios Rewards a few months ago and his anniversary will be February 2024).
    Can we apply the voucher at a later date, if there’s availability in CE?

    2. Does using a barclaycard voucher, like gold priority rewards, force you to use the Avios Rich + £1 option when booking? (We don’t mind, as we have a lot of Avios to use – but I’d rather maximise overall value for £).

    3. When booking, do we search for Club Europe Availability instead, but merely use the Voucher to effectively discount the Avios we pay down to Euro Traveller levels?

    • James C says:

      Worth having a read of this

      Short answers:
      1- Can’t upgrade existing booking. Would need to cancel (subject to usual Avios refund/ cancellation rules) and rebook using voucher.
      2- Yes. Reward Saver pricing only.
      3- Yes. You only need availability in the higher cabin so just search for CE seats.

      More broadly I would question whether you’re getting value from the Barclays Voucher with this approach if you’re Avios rich. If you will have two by next Feb I’d be looking to use them for two CW redemptions at 85k Avios and £350. You need to have flown the outbound by the expiry date, inbound can be later.

      I’d then book CE using the X Avios plus £25 one way /plus £50 return. I’ve also got a few Europe trips booked where the outbound in CE on Avios was a no brainer vs cash fares but where I’ve done a separate HBO return for £40ish in Y (or vice versa). If you have Silver or above CE doesn’t get you much and if you don’t then fast track and lounges on the continent can be patchy at best. That said you have two separate PNRs and I know people prefer the comfort one PNR brings incase of IRROPS.

  • Josh says:

    Can the vouchers be used by someone else, without the voucher holder on the booking? I have heard different opinions recently?

  • BlueThroughCrimp says:

    The 1-4-½ is a game changer for the solo traveller.
    With my parents, who I normally used the voucher with, getting a bit older and reluctant to go long haul, it keeps me in the Avios game.
    Think it was 67500 for a pre-CW RFS trip for me to Canada in J then F return.

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.