Why I love the BA Amex Companion Voucher – and how to get one

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Craig’s been threatening for some time to write a post panning the BA Amex Companion Voucher (aka the BA Amex “241”), so I thought I’d better get in there first with why I think it’s great.

ba amex companion voucher

Indeed, second perhaps to the Hilton free night, I would confidently say it’s one of the best “easy wins” in the travel and points world. It certainly makes it onto our frequently-referenced Top 10 Insider Travel Tips.

Yes Avios availability is often terrible, taxes/fees are extortionate and the BA premium product is probably inferior to the Etihads, Qatars etc. However, if you can find a good use for the Companion Voucher (and you really should be able to, with a bit of effort and patience) it effectively enables you to double your Avios stash in one (fairly) simple booking.

If you’ve worked hard, like many of us have, to create something of an Avios mountain, the Companion Voucher can therefore lead to a huge saving –  two long haul Business Class returns for £1000 or so in taxes/fees and only needing to spend the Avios required for one of them is entirely realistic. 

Even if you only use it for a more modest intra-Europe redemption, with taxes capped at £50 return in Business Class via the Reward Flight Saver, it can be a nice little redemption.

And let’s not forget, it’s regularly criticised, but the Avios frequent flyer option really isn’t that bad

What is the BA Amex Companion Voucher, exactly?

The BA Amex Companion Voucher entitles you to one “free” redemption flight when you pay for one with Avios – you will however need to pay the taxes and fees in cash on both flights.

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.

As noted above, when used wisely, this can save you a massive amount of Avios and secure a pair of top value redemption flights with British Airways. I set out a couple of working examples of this, below.

How do you get the BA Amex Companion Voucher?

First of all, you’ll need the BA American Express credit card, or the BA Premium Plus credit card. Spend £10,000 on the Premium Plus card (£20,000 on the standard card) in a year, and you’ll get the reward flight Companion voucher.

Here is a little tip on getting the companion voucher most cost-effectively.

Note that the Companion Voucher on the standard BA Amex card is valid for one year, while the voucher on the Premium Plus card is valid for two years. Use our tip above, and you’ll get the two year voucher, but without paying the full Premium Plus fees.

Availability is often bad – but it can be found

Remember that the availability when booking using your Companion Voucher is no better or worse than the availability when making any standard Avios redemption on BA flights from the UK.

However, you are limited to spending the Companion Voucher on BA flights from the UK. That already creates issues for many people who love the flexibility (and value) of spending their Avios on non-BA flights (e.g. Iberia or Air Berlin), often from non-UK airports.

I suppose that touches on one of the key distinctions, for me, between the lovers/haters of the Companion Voucher.

The lovers will generally be those after an easy life, happy to fly good old BA from London and often not quite sure of the alternatives (e.g. spending Avios via Iberia Plus on a premium cabin flight leaving from Madrid just isn’t something that occurs or appeals to them). The haters tend to be (in my experience, at least), the more seasoned travel hackers – willing to make more complex Avios bookings via exotic airports, or even hooked on ultra-cheap cash flights from continental Europe.

However, to say that availability for Avios/Companion Voucher bookings is “non-existent”, as many critics do, is ridiculous. You just need to be fast or flexible. As a rule, British Airways provides two long haul Business Class flights on every flight, which are available to book at midnight 355 days before departure. Even outside of midnight bookings 355 days in advance, you will find availability if you use the booking tools available to you.

I personally use the Avios.com Explorer Map to find availability, before then booking the flight back on the BA Executive Club website. 

A working example

My wife and I want to go to Thailand in August. As you can see, availability in Business Class (searched for on the Avios.com Explorer Map) is pretty damn good:

ba amex companion voucher

Indeed, we can book 2 x Business Class returns to Bangkok with Avios, for suitable dates in August (and there were quite a few dates available, as you can see from the picture above):

ba amex companion voucher

The price is £1118 in taxes (so £559 each), plus 180,000 Avios. Not 360,000 Avios, as one of the tickets requires no Avios, courtesy of the Companion Voucher.

Here’s that flight actually confirmed on the BA Executive Club site, using the Companion Voucher:

ba amex companion voucher

To be clear, that’s two people in Business Class, return, to the popular destination of Thailand at peak holiday season using Avios! Yes, it may require some patience and flexibility (and you’re almost certainly best-advised to book ASAP bearing in mind the 355 day window mentioned above, not the month before), but this goes to show that premium availability can be found. You really should not be stuck with a voucher you cannot use. 

This is not a lone, rogue example, either. You could fly from London to Tokyo in FIRST CLASS on similar dates for 240k Avios plus £539 a head:

ba amex companion voucher

Finally, returning to my “intra-Europe” example above, using the Reward Flight Saver, two people could fly from London to Moscow return at peak times for 40,000 Avios plus £100:

ba amex companion voucher

But how do I get all those Avios?!

Well that’s another matter altogether. Read InsideFlyer regularly!

Perhaps start with our Top 10 Insider Travel Tips. Certainly, bagging the American Express Gold Card and BA Amex bonuses could see you with a balance in excess of 50K Avios in reasonable time.

The fact that you will also – by necessity – hold a BA Amex card, earning you Avios on every day spend, will also help you immensely in building that Avios stockpile.

So, I think that settles it – I am clearly right and Craig is wrong. Let’s wait for his response… 🙂

Comments

  1. John Peden says

    In the past 18 months, I’ve used a 241 voucher twice flying MAN-LHR-MEX return in F with my wife and then a few months later flying MAN-LHR-DXB out and DOH-LHR-MAN back in F. The first trip was approx 165,000 Avios and £1100 in taxes for us both. The second trip was 140,000 Avios and around £750 in taxes for us both.

    There’s no escaping it; BA and ex-UK flights are always going to be expensive but this is a fantastic offer nonetheless. While I’d never pay for a first class (and probably not even a business class) cash ticket, the total value of the Avios in both instances was very high in spite of the fees and the 241 vouchers saved us an absolute boatload of miles.

    Availability wasn’t too hard to make work and we got to see the Al-Safwa lounge on the way back through Doha. I’ve been looking at alternative options for an upcoming trip to Shanghai for my brother’s wedding but as there will be two of us flying, I’m still convinced that using a 241 voucher and flying F with BA (think of it as really good J) is a better option than say trying to build up enough AS miles to fly CX in J. Yes, the fees will be lower but building up those miles is considerably harder and more expensive than racking up a boatload of Avios. We’d then also need a repositioning flight to e.g. AMS which bumps the price up and means that it’s actually only marginally cheaper than flying in a better class with more convenient routing.

  2. Craig Sowerby says

    LOL. Saved me the effort of explaining how to get the vouchers and why people assume that they are great value!

    Of course, instead of just doing some unbiased analysis I feel challenged to really confirm my prejudice! 🙂

  3. Adam says

    So just to confirm as I must of been under different thinking, if you book a RTN for 2 x people you get a one person RTN for free and not just say for instance outbound / inbound for one person free?
    I agree in F is the best value of redemptions (if you can find them).

      • Ian Perry says

        It was somewhat tongue in cheek, but anyway “almost” doesn’t have a mathematical definition 😉

      • Craig Sowerby says

        The next time an InsideFlyer UK reader or contributor actually spends £25K in cash for three F tickets, proving that their choice was an Avios reward or buying the ticket, then I’ll believe 7.9p per Avios…

        I personally value my rewards in terms of the amount/value of champagne I imbibe during (and before) my F reward flight as that is closer to a real cash savings! 🙂

  4. Sarah says

    Can anyone tell me the easiest way to find out the array of flights on offer to redeem Avios flights + Companion voucher when you are open to destinations? In other words, we have a companion voucher, a date in mind and are open minded about where we go. It seems you need to know where you want to go before you can find out the flights that may be available instead of suggestions. Does that make sense?

  5. Jay says

    Hi Miles,
    I have a Free BA Amex card (my wife is an additional user on this) and have about £200 to spend before October 2017 to get my 241 voucher. I was looking online at how best to spend the voucher and came across your awesome page. But I have the following questions –
    1) Would you recommend that I upgrade to the Premium BA Amex card before October 2017? Do I lose out in anyway?
    2) You mention that one of the tickets (under the 241 offer) has to be spent using your Avios. I just asked an Amex rep who confirmed I could pay for the first ticket using my card. I am confused because if it’s only avios then it changes everything as I don’t have enough avios to make a decent purchase.
    3) Would you recommend that I get a gold card in conjunction with the BA Premium Amex?

    Await your suggestions.

    Best,
    Jay

    • Miles Hunt says

      Hi Jay

      Thanks for the positive feedback – always appreciated.

      In answer to your questions:

      1) I assume from your query that you’ve spent £19,800 on the free card. What you should have done is change to the premium card way back when you hit £10k spend, got the 241, then switched back to the free card. That way your voucher is valid for 2 years (rather than 1) and you’d only have needed to spend £10k on it before receiving the 241. See this article.

      If you are ok with the 1 year validity of the 241 through the free card, I’d just stick with that now and spend the additional £200 to get it. However, for future years, I really do recommend using the “trick” outlined above (free card, plus upgrade/downgrade once you’ve hit £10k).

      2) The 241 solely relates to Avios-bought flights, not cash flights. The Amex rep is wrong (or you misinterpreted what they were saying – they could have been referring to the taxes/fees, which you still need to pay and can pay on your Amex). If you have a low Avios haul, I am afraid the 241 voucher is likely to be significantly less valuable to you. Do you have other mileage currencies (e.g. SPG points, Amex Membership Rewards points or even something like Heathrow Rewards points) that you can convert into Avios? When you’re gearing up to use a 241, you do generally need to try and convert everything into Avios to ensure you can secure a long-haul Biz or First Class redemption.

      3) Yes. I think the Amex Gold card is one of the very best credit cards out there.

      Cheers

      • Craig Sowerby says

        You’re killing me with the “convert everything into Avios” advice Miles… 🙂

        You do need more Avios to get more “value” from the 2-for-1, but it turns into a really expensive holiday when you convert all your hotel points to Avios, no matter how poor the conversion ratio, to get a notionally “great value” airplane ticket, then spend a fortune on hotels at your destination (or stay in a dump) because you have no hotel points left…

        To Jay… you might want to consider spending your 2-for-1 voucher on a trip to Europe this time around (or however far your Avios get you). Next year, you can go for the premium version trick – or even just pay the annual fee so that you earn a higher rate of Avios year-round. And, yes, get the Amex Gold card for the sign-up bonus while you’re at it.

  6. adam says

    Does the companion flights have to be exactly the same? My partner and I want to go to the states next year, but he doesn’t want to stay quite as long as me. Can he come back on a different date?

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