Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

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

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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.

  • jannis says:

    The only downside of Barclays voucher is the limitation of flights from UK, which means cumbersome tax from Heathrow airport

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

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