How to get a British Airways 2-for-1 ticket with minimum spend

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The UK British Airways American Express cards come with one fairly massive benefit: when you spend a certain amount on them within a calendar year, you will get a “2-for-1” flight redemption voucher (or “companion voucher”).

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Put simply, the companion voucher enables you to redeem your Avios stash in any class, and then get an identical second reward ticket without spending a single additional Avios. You simply need to pay the tax and fees on both tickets.

When used wisely, this can save you a massive amount of Avios and secure a pair of top value redemption flights with British Airways.

For example, I plan to use my current BA American Express companion voucher on a pair of return first class tickets from the UK to Japan. Given that the number of Avios required for this is 180,000 per ticket, that’s (obviously) a saving of 180,000 Avios. While the taxes for both tickets will be around the £1000 mark, it’s still an enormous saving.

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How do I get the “2-for-1”?

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Clearly, the £10,000 spend is preferable to the £20,000 spend, but the obvious downside is the £195 fee. Here’s how to get the best of both worlds…

How do I get this 2-for-1 voucher as cheaply as possible?

American Express are extremely flexible in letting you transfer between BA cards. As such, you can upgrade from the free card to the £195 card, and likewise downgrade from the £195 card to the free card, in a matter of hours. Crucially, you will get the companion voucher for a £10,000 spend, provided that you are holding the £195 card when that threshold is hit, or when you are over that spend threshold.

The other important element to this is Amex’s fantastic policy of refunding card fees pro-rata, when you cancel a paid-for card. As a result, you can:

  1. Hold the free card
  2. Spend £10k
  3. Switch to the £195 card
  4. Get the companion voucher
  5. Switch back to the free card
  6. Get a refund of the £195 fee

Taking me as an example, I held the free card for 8 months or so, and I racked up a spend of over £10,000. As such, I switched to the paid card and bagged the companion instantly. I then immediately switched back to the free card for a refund of the £195 fee.

The companion voucher is valid for 2 years from issue.

Any other advantages to the free BA card?

In addition to the BA American Express companion voucher, you will get 10,000 bonus Avios when you spend £1000 on the card in the first three months, if you get a referral. If you do not get a referral, you will get 9,000 Avios.

To get a referral, simply sign up via this link.

Is there any downside to this particular British Airways credit card offer?

Yes, but only in the sense that you might be better off simply applying for the £150 card and sticking with it.

In our suggestion above, you are starting out with the free card, which, as noted above, means you get a bonus of 10,000 Avios on a spend of £1000 in the first three months. Conversely, again if you are referred, the Premium card will give you a bonus of 26,000 Avios if you spend £3,000 on the card in the first three months (it’s 19,000 if you are not referred).

You will also earn less Avios on the spend. The Premium card gives you 1.5 Avios for every £1 you spend and 3 Avios for every £1 you spend direct with British Airways or BA Holidays, while the free card gives you 1 Avios for every £1 spent on it.

Is this unethical?

I have wrestled slightly with this point and I really do not think it is. Personally, I have at all times been very open with Amex about what I am doing (I called them to discuss both when I upgraded and then downgraded, and they had no issue with my behaviour). Crucially, of course, it is entirely within their terms and conditions and they can of course refuse you for a different card should they deem your application inappropriate.

Comments

  1. Anne says

    This is a great idea! I had not realised I could take out the free card and still bag the companion voucher including the spend I had made on the cheaper card! Also can you tell me how they refund the pro-rata charge as I’m not convinced I got this when I last cancelled my Premium Plus card? Thanks

    • Tom Sumner says

      You can of course get the companion voucher on the free card, but you have to spend £20k rather than £10k, which is unlikely to make any economic sense (not least based on the extra Avios you get for the Premium Plus card).

      Having had more pro-rata refunds than I can remember, I can assure you it is very easy – when you phone to cancel, they will ensure the refund is arranged. By all means remind them, but they have always been proactive about it with me. I tend to then get the refund to the cancelled card transferred to another Amex card, which they can do very easily.

  2. Ian says

    I’ve done this the other way round. Took out the paid card last year, spent the £10,000, got the voucher, booked the flights and have changed to the free card. Got the pro-rata fee refund automatically. Interestingly my account now shows I now need to spend just under another £10,000 before the anniversary to get a companion voucher. When it was the paid card, I couldn’t earn another one before the anniversary. I guess this will be the 12 months validity companion voucher, so probably not worth me chasing it, but food for thought.

    • Anne says

      I did that too and then got rid of the free card, took the Gold AMEX and earned the 20,000 points from them, got rid of that and have now reverted back to the Premium Plus on a mission to earn the 26,000 sign up bonus all over again!

  3. Matthew says

    Sorry Tom for my very late reply to your email. Following your instruction and taking out the free card, spending £10k and the switching to the paid card, if I was able to spend £3k very quickly on the paid card, do you think it would be worth it for the additional 16,000 Avios points?

    • Tom Sumner says

      Hi Matthew

      I am possibly missing something here, but if you took out the free card and have spent £10k on it, that will obviously have hit the £1,000 spend for the 10K bonus Avios. As such, switching to the paid card will certainly now get you the Companion Voucher, but I’m not sure it would get you the 26K Avios bonus (rather than the 10K bonus), even if you manage the £3k spend in the first 3 months (which I understand you are still within).

      It may, and it may be worth a call to Amex to try and get the additional points if it doesn’t, but ultimately you “applied” for the free card so your introductory bonus would, I believe, relate only to that. It’s simply not a position I’ve come across before, nor (understandably) is it covered in the ts and cs.

      In any event that’s pretty impressive spending in your first three months! Hindsight is of course wonderful, but given these incredibly high and fast spending thresholds, it would have made more sense for you to apply for the paid card from the off (for the guaranteed bigger bonus) and then downgrade – you would have received a pro-rata refund of the £195 fee.

      Happy to help further if I’ve misunderstood.

  4. Craig M says

    Hi

    I’ve had the Premium Plus card for years and currently have two companion tickets to use. However, I spoke with Amex and said that I might change to the card without the fee and asked if I could still use the companion tickets after downgrading the card. The agent said that I could only use the companion tickets if I kept the Premium Plus AND used that card to pay for the flights (I’m assuming he meant the taxes). However, this doesn’t seem fair given that I have spent so much and accrued the companion tickets and will be staying with Amex (who said life was fair). Does anyone know if this is correct, or is the agent just trying to avoid me counting against his targets to retain customers on the Premium Plus?

    Thanks

    Craig

    • Tom Sumner says

      Hi Craig

      If you downgrade from the paid card to the free card, not only do you keep the Companion Voucher, it also retains its 2 year validity (as opposed to the 1 year validity of the free card-generated Companion Voucher).

      I trust that helps.

      Tom

      • Craig M says

        Thank you Tom, I appreciate the response. I called Amex back and a different agent confirmed what you said and downgraded me. They’re raising a complaint to have my previous call listened to. Thanks again!

  5. James says

    Hi Craig, thanks for this informative article.
    Do you need to call AMEX each time you want to upgrade and downgrade or is there a way to do it online? I hit my 10K spend on the premium card in December and have used my 2-4-1 voucher- would now like to downgrade until i’m close to hitting my 10K spend later in the year.

  6. Nicholas says

    Hi Tom,

    Can you get a companion ticket on the supplemental Premium Card? My partner has a premium card (she spends the most) and I have a linked/supplemental card to the account. We have spent a lot this year on our wedding, hitting the £10,000 in the first few months of membership. Can we get another ticket if another £10,000 is spent on my supplemental card of the account. I haven’t seen AMEX advertise this, is it something we need to call them about?

    We are spending last years companion ticket on the honeymoon flights F to HKG.

    Thanks for your advice.

    • Tom Sumner says

      Hi Nicholas

      The supplementary card won’t get you a Companion Voucher by itself, but it counts towards the spend threshold on the card it supplements.

      So, if your partner refers you for a second “full” BA premium plus card and then gets herself a supplementary card for that, you can use this method to get 2 x Companion vouchers in a year.

      Apologies for the edited reply – I’d done this before a couple of times myself, but my recollection of how I’d done it was wrong.

      Cheers

      Tom

  7. Paul says

    Hi, i just clicked on the first link in this post and I applied for the free card (not realising then that it was a referral link; now I understand more about that). At the end of the process it said it was not able to approve and they would write to me. Is this normal? I’m a bit worried your referral allowance may be used up and this will delay me getting a card. Thanks.

    • Joe Deeney says

      Hi Paul,

      I think that’s Tom’s link, but even if he has hit the limit for the number of Points you can receive for referring others, I don’t think that will impact you getting the higher signup bonus for being referred, and it certainly won’t delay your application.

      I almost always get the same message as you when I apply for an Amex and always receive my card within a week, so hope that provides some reassurance!

  8. Louise says

    Hi Tom, great posts here I have learnt a lot! I currently have the free Amex and my anniversary ends in August, I’m confident I would have hit the £10k mark by then to them upgrade to the premier plus and get my companion voucher. When is the best for me to switch and upgrade to the premier plus, if I do it now and say cancel it in September, will I still get a refund of £195? Or am I better of waiting to upgrade maybe a few days before I hit my £10k mark and the. Downgrade straight after? Also, do you automatically get notified that you have hit the £10k and do they send your voucher my email / post? Or do you have to apply for it?

    Thank you
    Louise

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