Let me preface this guide by saying that I consider the British Airways (BA) 2-4-1 companion voucher to be the single most valuable benefit for ongoing card spend in the UK credit card market today.
American Express issues two British Airways credit cards in the UK – the British Airways Credit Card (full review here) and the British Airways Premium Plus Card (which I reviewed in detail in this other article today).
Both of these cards offer a 2-4-1 companion voucher after hitting certain spending targets.
Here’s a quick summary of the key details for each card:
British Airways American Express Credit Card
- 5,000 Avios welcome bonus
- Earns 1 Avios per £1 spent
- 2-4-1 companion voucher earned after spending £20,000 in card membership year
- The voucher is valid for a year
British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card
- 25,000 Avios welcome bonus
- Earns 1.5 Avios per £1 spent and 3 Avios per £1 spent with BA directly
- 2-4-1 companion voucher earned after spending £10,000 in card membership year
- The voucher is valid for two years
- £195 annual fee
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 two Avios redemptions for the price of 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 Christmas 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 Christmas WITH a 2-4-1 voucher = 110,000 Avios plus roughly £1,000 in taxes and charges.
How much can this voucher save me?
That depends entirely on the route and class of travel you use it on. At the very top of the scale, it can save you an eye-watering 400,000 Avios which is the price of a peak First Class return ticket to Sydney. If you used it for an Economy trip to Amsterdam however, you’d only be looking at saving 8,000 Avios (off-peak).
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 friends say: “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’s the thing: it’s 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 on the payment page.
As long as you’re 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 last year. I booked us in First Class to Washington and back in Club World from New York. The total cost for that redemption for the three of us would have been 280,000 Avios, which is quite substantial for what are only 6/7 hour flights.
Using my 2-4-1 allowed me to save 140,000 Avios and made the cost far more palatable!
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’ll do my best to cover as many of them as I can without making this article ridiculously long!
- The voucher can only be used on BA flights
- Your journey must start in the UK when using a 2-4-1
- 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 two Avios reward seats available in the cabin you wish to book
- You can book mixed cabin redemptions i.e. fly out in First Class and back in Club World.
- The cardmember who earned the voucher MUST be one of the travellers
- You are not permitted to change the name of the companion after booking. If you wish to do so, you’ll have to cancel and rebook.
- If you are part of a BA Household account, your companion must also be in the Household account or named on your ‘Friends and Family’ list.
- 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 your card.
- You cannot retrospectively apply the voucher to an existing Avios booking to get a refund of half the Avios (one possible exception noted below).
As the vouchers earned from the Premium Plus card are valid for two years, it is 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 four could use two vouchers to reduce the cost of their flights by half.
Can you use the voucher for an open-jaw booking?
Yes. 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 Singapore-London on the way home.
Another version would be to fly London-Singapore and then Singapore-Manchester on the way home.
This is especially useful when your destination is a popular route where it’s hard enough to find Avios availability for one date never mind two!
Does earning this voucher makes sense for me?
Not necessarily. While for many the 2-4-1 is an extremely valuable perk, it may not work for you for a number of reasons. For starters, it’s not much use to solo travellers. If you mainly travel on your own, you’d be better off looking at the voucher that is available via the Lloyds Rewards credit card.
Secondly, you also have to bear in mind that the best uses of a 2-4-1 are reliant on you being able to generate enough Avios for the primary traveller. It’s all very well thinking that the 2-4-1 can save you 150,000 Avios on a Club World redemption to Los Angeles. But if you’d struggle to earn the first lot of 150,000 Avios, then you may need to have a rethink whether it’s really worth putting £10,000/£20,000 of spending a year towards a 2-4-1 voucher.
Which BA Amex card/voucher is best for me?
In my mind, if you are looking to earn 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 the free card could be better channelled towards 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 spending would earn you a total of two vouchers.
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 Premium Plus card is the more useful one. But then there’s the fee.
If you like the idea of having two years to use the voucher but don’t want to pay the £195 fee, here’s a couple of useful tricks:
- Take out the BA free card and spend on it until you are just shy of the £10,000 threshold. You can then upgrade to the Premium Plus version 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 Premium Plus card all along.
- Take out the Premium Plus card and trigger the voucher upon spending your £10,000. You can then downgrade to the free card without it affecting the expiry date of your voucher, which by now is sitting safely in your BA account.
How to book a trip using a 2-4-1 voucher
For most trips using a 2-4-1, you can book online as you normally would.
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 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 voucher for flights that haven’t been released yet?
If you wish to book Avios seats as they are released at midnight GMT 355 days before your trip, you CAN still use your 2-4-1.
You should book the outbound journey as a one-way flight using the voucher when the seats are released. You can do this online if you wish.
Then at midnight GMT on T-355 from your inbound journey, ring an open BA call centre (such as the US or Japan) who will add the return leg to your existing 2-4-1 booking. It seems fairly common practice that BA agents will waive the normal £35 per person change fees in these circumstances.
Note: Recent reports on Flyertalk suggest it’s now possible to simply book a full price one-way Avios redemption online when the seats are released at midnight for your return leg. You can then call the UK call centre when it opens in the morning to apply the 2-4-1 and receive half the Avios back.
I haven’t personally tried it so can’t verify whether this is definitely the case but it’s worth being aware of.
Can I cancel my 2-4-1 booking and still get my voucher back?
Yes. Unlike the upgrade voucher that comes with the Lloyds Avios Rewards credit card, you can cancel BA 2-4-1 bookings and 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.
What happens to my voucher if I cancel my BA Amex?
Despite the best efforts of the Amex call centre to tell you otherwise, you will NOT lose your 2-4-1 voucher if you cancel either of the BA Amex cards. The voucher sits in your BA account and isn’t affected by your card product changes/cancellations.
Though they will warn you that you need your BA card to pay the taxes when redeeming your voucher, in practice, any Amex will suffice.
For me, this voucher is a terrific benefit and offers me a guaranteed large saving every time – most recently 140,000 Avios! It also blows the competition out of the water. Although now closed to new applicants, Virgin together with MBNA also offers 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.
If you can’t justify the fee for the Premium Plus card, using one of the tricks I’ve outlined above will allow you to earn yourself a 2-year voucher while 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
Let us know the best ways you’ve used a 2-4-1 voucher in the comments section below.