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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”).
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.
How do I get the “2-for-1”?
- If you get the free BA American Express card, in theory you need to spend £20,000 on it in a calendar year, to get the companion voucher.
- If you get the £195-a-year BA American Express Premium Plus card, you need to spend £10,000 on it in a calendar year, to get the companion voucher.
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:
- Hold the free card
- Spend £10k
- Switch to the £195 card
- Get the companion voucher
- Switch back to the free card
- 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.