Cracking the Companion Voucher – European Flights

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The American Express BA Premium Plus credit card (BAPP) is often considered to be one of the best credit cards available in the United Kingdom. This belief is mostly due to the companion voucher that cardholders receive when spending £10,000 in a year. But I am skeptical, and am seeking to prove or disprove this belief. You can reach the introduction to my study by clicking here. If you would like further background to the companion voucher, you should re-read Miles’ post by clicking here.

Using the Companion Voucher for Reward Flights to Europe

Many people have the best of intentions when keeping the BAPP card, but often end up using the companion voucher on a trip to Continental Europe. The cost of reward flights to Europe starts at 9,000 Avios (return) in Euro Traveller (Economy) from London to somewhere relatively close, such as Paris or Amsterdam. The most expensive European flights are going to cost 40,000 Avios (return) for a Club Europe (Business) from London to the farther reaches of Europe, such as Greece, the Canary Islands and Finland.

So, how much would two reward flights to Europe cost, thanks to the BAPP card and companion voucher? Let’s assume that you spend £10,000 in a year on the credit card.

Reward Flights to Barcelona or Rome in Euro Traveller on a Peak Date

You will require 15,000 Avios for the “paid-for” reward. Luckily, you earned those from spending £10K on your BAPP card. You must also pay the taxes and surcharges for BOTH rewards – these are capped at £35 per person.

As a result, you will pay £195 (BAPP annual fee) + £70 (2x taxes and surcharges) = £265 for two reward flights to Barcelona / Rome.

Reward Flights to Greece in Club Europe on a Peak Date

You will require 40,000 Avios for the “paid-for” reward. Unfortunately, since you only earned 15,000 Avios from the BAPP, you need to purchase a further 25,000 Avios – in the introduction I mentioned that we will assume that these cost 1p each (real or opportunity). The taxes and surcharges are also more expensive for Club Europe rewards – you will pay £50 per person.

As a result, you will pay £195 (BAPP annual fee) + £100 (taxes and surcharges) + £250 (buying 25K Avios) = £545 for two reward flights to Greece in Club Europe.

Travel Hacking Option A – Get a Cashback Credit Card and Buy Avios

Instead of the BAPP, you spend £10K on your cashback credit card. At the end of the year, you’ll receive £100, less the £25 annual fee, for a net income of £75.

Reward Flights to Barcelona or Rome in Euro Traveller on a Peak Date

Since you don’t have a companion voucher, you will require 30,000 Avios for two return tickets in Economy. We have assumed that these will cost you £300 to buy. You will also pay the same two sets of capped taxes and surcharges of £35 per person.

As a result, you will pay £300 (to buy 30K Avios) + £70 (taxes and surcharges) but receive £75 from American Express = £295 for two reward flights to Barcelona / Rome.

Reward Flights to Greece in Club Europe on a Peak Date

Since you wouldn’t have a companion voucher, you probably wouldn’t fly in Club Europe. Nonetheless, you would require 80,000 Avios for two return tickets in Business Class. We have assumed that these will cost £800. You will also pay the same two sets of £50 per person in taxes/surcharges.

As a result, you will pay £800 (to buy 80K Avios) + £100 (taxes and surcharges) but receive £75 from American Express = £825 for two reward flights in Club Europe to Greece.

Travel Hacking Option B – Just Buy Your Flights the Old-Fashioned Way!

Are you really going to bother with a paying an annual fee and tracking your spend to ensure a £10K annual spend… only to save £30 or so versus just buying Avios outright? Of course not… and you could even just buy your flights to Europe. We all know that British Airways is virtually indistinguishable from a low-cost carrier these days, so feel free to compare prices and choose whatever option works best for you.


Of course nobody really believes that you receive outstanding value from using your companion voucher on a flight to Europe… right? Yet many people find themselves in that position, when a cashback credit card and simply buying Avios could come close to the same thing.

But, at the same time, there is no alternative frequent flyer programme that will get you from the UK to Continental Europe for fewer miles. Avios is clearly the way forward, especially with the cap on taxes and surcharges. So, if you need additional luggage allowance, the treat of lounge access and a meal… spending your companion voucher on a Club Europe reward isn’t such a bad option.


  1. Norman Anderson says

    That and BA are having a trend of downgrading 241 voucher holders seats. As mention in HFP.

    I am surprising my wife to sfo in First August next year.
    Her first time in first so I am hoping my 10th Anniversary flights don’t get downgraded and we get split apart.
    Me of coarse taking the downgrade.
    But we shall see.
    Great article…

    • Craig Sowerby says

      Thanks. I’m definitely planning to repeat it with North America, Asia, Middle East and maybe Africa. We’ll see what I have time for and how people receive the series…

      The downgrading issue is a great example of BA’s short-sighted attitude to “loyalty”. In the short run, indeed they will probably get away with paying less compensation and selling an extra F or J revenue seat. In the long run, does pushing somebody to cut up their BA credit card, say “adios to avios” and move their business elsewhere really make sense?

  2. Gerry says

    Also assuming you are flying from London and not from the ‘regions’ on ‘British’ Airways, where you have to add on another sectors worth of miles.

    • Craig Sowerby says

      Indeed. I’ve sort of taken it as given that those based in the “regions” just take a direct flight to the Continent on an LCC, rather than mess around with London connections just to use a 2-for-1. But on the long hauls I’ll try to cater for non-Londoners as well. (if only because the extra Avios needed help me make my point! 🙂 )

  3. Ben says

    Should also mention how frustrating it is to be unable to churn the BA Amex card.

    Earned my companion voucher sometime last year, promptly downgraded the premium card to the basic one. However, yet to find anything that I want to redeem the companion voucher on, which has stopped me churning the basic or premium one every 6 months (I understand that if I cancel my BA card, they will cancel the voucher).

    Honestly prefer the Lloyds upgrade voucher.

    • Ian Perry says

      The voucher is not cancelled if you cancel your BA Amex. It is applied to your BA Executive Club account, and is not dependant on the Amex card still being active. You do need to pay the taxes/fess associated with the 2-4-1 redemption with an Amex card, but any Amex will work. You can churn the card, so long as you haven’t held an Amex with the same rewards currency for 6 months, so keeping the free BA Amex prevents that.

  4. GnarlyOldGoatDude says

    This works well for destinations with multiple flights a day.
    If, however, you choose somewhere like Malta with one flight a day and always rammed full, you will typically find the best use of Avios is discounting the ticket, as you will never find Avios availability.

    • Craig Sowerby says

      Quite possibly my favorite Avios reward is indeed the “Part Pay with Avios” when BA are running a promo that values Avios at 1p or higher. Revenue ticket + value for Avios…

  5. David S says

    You have to be very flexible to get the best out of the BA voucher and since we have no kids and plan our holidays well in advance outside of school holidays, the companion voucher does become useful. And a reward booking includes the shuttle from outside of London to Heathrow before your longhaul as well for no extra avios. I have used my Lloyds voucher for Europe which is a slightly better use but it only has one year validity and if you cancel or change the booking, you lose the voucher unlike the BA one which has a validity for 2 years. Still the lack of availability on exact days and the chance of being downgraded does make you think about the usefulness sometimes.

    • Leo says

      I agree with all of that. If you have no restrictions on dates – like us – then you can usually get something long-haulish. Even if this does mean New York again….

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