Let me start by saying that I consider the British Airways 2-4-1 voucher to be the single most valuable benefit for ongoing credit card spend available in the UK market today. Period. However, for some reason, there seems to be a certain amount of negativity surrounding this voucher in some quarters.
American Express issues two British Airways credit cards in the UK – both of which I have reviewed at length – the British Airways Credit Card (full review here) and the British Airways Premium Plus Card (full review here).
Although I don’t intend to review these cards again, here is a quick summary of the relevant details of each card.
British Airways Credit Card (BA free card)
- 5,000 Avios for signing up
- Earns 1 Avios per £1 spent
- 2-4-1 voucher earned after spending £20,000 in card membership year
- The voucher is valid for a year
British Airways Premium Plus Card (BAPP)
- £195 Annual Fee
- 25,000 Avios for signing up
- Earns 1.5 Avios per £1 spent and 3 Avios per £1 spent with BA directly
- 2-4-1 voucher earned after spending £10,000 in card membership year
- The voucher is valid for two years
What is the 2-4-1 voucher?
Ok, so lots of mentions so far about this mystical 2-4-1 voucher, but what exactly is it?
The 2-4-1 voucher is essentially an e-certificate that sits in your BA Executive Club account. It allows you to book 2 Avios redemptions while only requiring the Avios for one. On any route. In any class.
Let me illustrate with an example;
Cost for 2 adults to fly in Club World to New York over the Christmas period WITHOUT a 2-4-1 voucher: 220,000 Avios plus roughly £1,000 in taxes and charges.
Cost for 2 adults to fly in Club World to New York over the Christmas period WITH a 2-4-1 voucher: 110,000 Avios plus roughly £1,000 in taxes and charges
Key points to be aware of
While the voucher itself is a simple enough concept, there are a fair few technical points and rules surrounding it. I will do my best to cover as many of them as I can without making this article 10 pages long!
- The voucher can only be used on BA flights
- When using it, your journey must start in the UK
- It can be used for a one-way journey
- You must fly the outbound leg of your trip before the voucher expiry date, although you can return after that date.
- You must pay taxes and charges for both seats
- There must be 2 Avios seats available in the cabin you wish to book
- The cardmember who earned the voucher MUST be one of the travellers
- The voucher will appear in your BA account shortly after you pass the £10,000/£20,000 threshold. In my experience, this has been as quick as a couple of days.
- You can earn a maximum of one voucher per year, regardless of how much you spend on the card.
- You cannot retrospectively apply the voucher to a booking to get a refund of half the Avios.
As the vouchers earned from the BAPP are valid for two years, it is, of course, possible to have two vouchers sitting in your BAEC account at any one time. You CAN use multiple vouchers on one booking. So a family of 4 could use two vouchers to reduce the cost of their flights by half.
Can you use the voucher for an open-jaw booking?
Yes, you can also use it for an ‘open-jaw’ booking as I did last winter, detailed below. An ‘open-jaw’ booking is one where you book a roundtrip ticket that arrives/departs to/from different places.
E.g. An open jaw would be to book London-Beijing and then the way home would be Singapore-London.
Or another version would be to fly London-Singapore and then Singapore-Manchester for the way home.
This is especially useful when your destination involves a popular route where it hard to find Avios availability.
Which card/voucher is best for me?
In my mind, if you are looking to use a 2-4-1 voucher, it makes no sense to hold the free BA Credit Card.
The extra £10,000 you have to spend to earn the voucher on this card could be better channeled towards perhaps triggering several sign-up bonuses on other cards.
Alternatively, you and your partner could both take out the Premium Plus Card and that same £20,000 of spend would earn you a total of two vouchers.
What if I want a 2-year voucher but don’t want to pay the £195 fee?
So we’ve established that the voucher that comes with the BAPP is the more useful one. But then there’s the fee. For those of you who don’t wish to pay the £195 fee on the BAPP while working your way through the £10,000 spend, there is actually a couple of useful tricks.
- Take out the BA free card and spend on it until you are just short of the £10,000 threshold. You can then upgrade to the BAPP and all progress you have made thus far to the 2-4-1 is retained. When your spend passes £10,000 you will receive a voucher with a 2-year expiry date – exactly the same as if you had held the BAPP all along.
- Take out the BAPP and trigger the voucher after spending your £10,000. You can then downgrade to the free card without it affecting your voucher, which by now is sitting safely in your BA account.
How easy is it to use?
So this is the question that I find it really difficult to get my head around. I often hear from family/friends; “Oh those vouchers are such a waste of time, I had two that I had to let expire because I couldn’t use them”.
Well here is the thing: It is just as easy/difficult to use these vouchers as it is to book regular Avios redemptions. You are using the same award space. Think of the 2-4-1 voucher as a discount code applied at the payment stage.
As long as you are trying to use your voucher on a route with a reasonable chance of securing award seats, you will have no trouble using your 2-4-1.
I certainly had no trouble using mine over Christmas/New Year last winter. I booked us in First Class to Washington and back in Club World from New York. The total cost for that redemption for the 3 of us would have been 280,000 Avios, which is quite substantial for what is only a 6/7 hour flight.
However, using my 2-4-1 allowed me to save 140,000 Avios and made the cost far more palatable!
How do I use it?
For most trips, you can book online, as you normally would, using a 2-4-1.
Log in to your BA Executive Club account on ba.com, scroll down and you will see a section that says ‘My e-Vouchers’
Click on ‘Redeem’ and you will be taken to the regular ‘Book with Avios’ page where you will see an option to use one/more of your vouchers:
Some bookings though, can’t be made online. Booking an open-jaw as I mentioned above, must be done by calling the BA call centre.
What if I want to use my 2-4-1 for dates that haven’t yet been released?
If you wish to book Avios seats as they are released at T-355 you CAN still use your 2-4-1.
You should book the outbound journey online as one-way flights, using the voucher, when they are released.
Then at T-355 from your inbound journey, you should ring an open BA call centre and have them add the return leg to your existing 2-4-1 booking. It seems fairly common that BA agents will waive the £35 per person change fees in these circumstances.
Can I cancel my 2-4-1 booking?
Unlike the upgrade voucher that comes with the Lloyds Avios credit cards, you can cancel BA 2-4-1 bookings and will receive your voucher back in your BAEC account with the original expiry date – provided of course you are cancelling within the permitted cancellation period and rules.
For me, this voucher is a terrific benefit and offers me a guaranteed large saving every time – most recently 140k Avios! It also blows the competition out of the water. Virgin together with MBNA also offer a companion ticket with their Black card. However, you must book a regular cash ticket for the first traveller rather than a miles one – lessening the appeal greatly.
On balance, the voucher that accompanies the Premium Plus card is the way to go.
Even if you cannot justify the fee for the BAPP with the higher 1.5 Avios per £1 earnings rate etc, by using one of the tricks I’ve outlined above, you should be able to earn yourself a 2-year voucher while at the same time minimising any annual fee charges.
The application page for the BA free card can be found here
The application page for the BA Premium Plus card can be found here
I’ve tried to include as much detail in this feature as possible. If you have any questions, pop them in the comments section below and I’ll get to them!