Is the AMEX 2-4-1 voucher really worth chasing? Aim for the Gold Upgrades instead?

BA First class cabinBA First class cabin

Hilton APAC

Right before we get started, let me caveat this heavily.

  • These are my views.
  • I will try and make a balanced case in both ways (and likely fail!)
  • This will only focus on British Airways Premium American Express Card (BAPP).
  • I am British Airways Gold Guest List/Concorde Room Cardholder, but I will try and note where possible, differences for lower levels.
  • Gold upgrade for 2 vouchers requires the relevant fare bucket in the class above, “I” for Business and “A” for First.
  • BA Gold Upgrade for 2 vouchers are earned after 2500 Tier points
  • No, I don’t have a BAPP and never will.
  • No, I don’t chase Avios (ask Michele – I hate using portals like Top Cashback etc.!)

And to save those that can’t be bothered to read on – I’d use the 2-4-1 on long Club Europe redemptions.

So let’s start!

 

The American Express Companion Voucher

how to use ba amex 2-4-1 two for 1 voucher

What is it?

The British Airways American Express Companion Voucher entitles you to receive a second seat for a companion on the same flight as you and in the same cabin. This only applies when you make a Reward booking on a British Airways flight with a BA flight number. All you’ll have to pay is the taxes, fees and charges for you and your companion’s tickets.

You can earn one Companion Voucher each year.

How do I qualify for a Companion Voucher?

To qualify, you must reach the required spend threshold for your Card, as shown below, within a 12-month period ending on the anniversary of the date of issue of your BA AMEX Card (excluding Cash Withdrawals, Interest, Balance Transfers or Fees).

  • Credit Credit: £20,000
  • Premium Plus Card: £10,000

Required spend collected in one 12-month period cannot be carried over into the next 12-month period. If it sounds like a lot, don’t forget you could get a companion card which then only mean £5000 spend each!

When will I receive my British Airways American Express Companion Voucher?

Your voucher will be posted to your British Airways Executive Club account automatically once American Express has advised us that you have reached the required spend. Your Voucher will normally reach your account within 10-15 working days.

How can I get the most out of my Companion Voucher?

Be flexible with your dates and destinations. Have a list of preferences and book as far in advance as possible. Have a read of this article for more suggestions on how to find the flights that you want.

When is the best time to redeem my Companion Voucher?

As soon as you can. Start to make a rough plan of your preferred destinations and dates of travel before your Companion Voucher is issued. Your ideal destination, dates and times may not always be available so being flexible reduces disappointment. Outbound travel must be taken before the expiry date of the voucher, which is 12 months from issue for Classic and Premium Cardmembers and 24 months from date of issue for Premium Plus Cardmembers.

When is the best time to travel?

Although seats are available for redemption throughout the year, you may benefit from planning your trip during quieter times, such as midweek and during school terms.

When should I try to avoid?

The busiest times are during the school holidays and at weekends, so avoiding these periods will give you more flexibility and choice.

If I can’t redeem my Voucher for the destination I want, can I get the voucher extended?

Unfortunately, this is not possible, but with over 125 different destinations you are sure to find one that’s right for you.

Do I have to return during the lifetime of the Voucher?

Although your outbound journey must be completed before the voucher expires, you are free to return any time afterwards. However, you must book your return flight at the same time as making your outbound reservation.

I’ve just realised that my Voucher has expired. Can I get it extended?

Unfortunately, this is not possible. Vouchers must be exchanged for an outbound ticket departing before the expiry date on your voucher, which is 12 months from date of issue for Classic cardmembers and 24 months from date of issue for Premium Plus cardmembers.

Can I redeem a Companion Voucher when I pay with Avios and Money?

No, the Companion Voucher is only valid when you pay fully with Avios. However, you can purchase up to 24,000 Avios per annum, per account, if you don’t have enough Avios for your chosen reward flight.

Can I make a booking through my Travel Agent?

No, the booking must be made directly with British Airways.

Can I make my booking online?

Yes, you can redeem and manage your Companion Voucher online. Simply log in to ba.com using your membership number and pin.

Does it matter that the Voucher number that appears on ba.com is different to the paper voucher I received?

No, as part of the process of migrating the paper Vouchers on to ba.com a new system generated number has been allocated. It will not affect your ability to book your flight on ba.com.

I have a joint Card with someone else, but the Voucher has been issued in his or her name instead of mine, even though I do most of the spending on the Card.

The Voucher will be issued in the name of the Basic Cardmember, regardless of who spends the most on the Card.

Is it possible to allow someone else to use my Voucher?

The person whose name is on the Voucher must make the booking. The Reward Flight made using Avios must also be in the same name, although the additional ticket can be for your chosen companion.

So basically find two seats in the cabin you want to fly in and pay for one seat (+taxes), and away you go…

Quickly before we do this…. let’s value Avios quickly.

A return to Madrid in Business Class will average around £450.

A return to Amsterdam in Economy?  About £100.

The Avios rates are 25,500 for Madrid and 8,000 Avios for Amsterdam.  Both are the max amounts with normal Reward Flight Saver fees. (£35/£50)

That works out at 1.7p per Avios for Madrid and 1.25p for Amsterdam.

So my TLFL Avios value is 1.48p

 

Economy Redemptions

Virgin Upper Class sale

New York

I would never recommend this.  I am purely making examples!

New York is always a good example.

The cost for two?

So using a companion voucher, I am paying 26,000 Avios and £709.38.

Is this good value? NO!

Here is the price of two cash tickets (I didn’t look very hard for the cheapest ever!) –

If two golds are travelling together, they will net back over 18,000 Avios, and a few tier points too.

Economy Long Haul redemptions.  Don’t do it.

 

What about Premium Economy?

Let’s check the going rate to New York (JFK) for two again –

So with a 2-4-1, the cost would be 52,000 Avios and £901.

So whats my cash ticket going to cost me?

The cash fare will also net two golds over 27,000 Avios.

So the voucher is saving me £650, but costing me 52,000 Avios if you count the Avios lost by not buying the ticket for cash.

Some quick maths using my 1.48p valuation means those 52,000 Avios cost me £770.

And let’s not forget even the cheapest Premium fares net full tier points – so 180TP for a return to New York.

Worth it?  Not for me.

Now let’s go into the real premium cabins.

 

Business Class Redemptions

New BA Club Suite due to be on the New York route on selected flights from October 2019

This is where the real big Avios numbers start to show!

So a 2-4-1 voucher user is paying 110,000 Avios and almost £1400 in taxes to get to New York in Club World.

What’s my cash fare?

Almost £3,000 for 2 to New York.  But you would earn 280TP and over 35,000 Avios for two golds.

That 110,000 Avios is worth about £1630, taking the redemption to… Yes, you guessed it. £3,000.

This is all relatively simple stuff so far.  But, I would never take a business class ticket from London!

East Coast business class tickets are regularly around £1,200 each from places like Inverness – top tip, wait for the sales!

But hold on, I mentioned Gold Upgrades above?

Well, if you are prepared to start somewhere in Europe, how about a Premium Economy ticket for around £550?  Use a Gold Upgrade for 2 and pay the extra tax, and you have two people in Business for around £1,600 while earning tier points and Avios.  The savings are more significant to Asia due to increased fees to the USA.

 

But I want to fly FIRST!

BA A380 First seat

How many Avios do you have?!

I will use a few different places to show this one…

Let’s start with New York –

That’s a lot of Avios!  Even halved!

So my two First class tickets to New York will cost me 136,000 Avios and £1340.

What will my cash tickets cost?

Costing the Avios at 1.48p gives me a total spend of just over £2000. So £3,340 vs £4,683.  The voucher is saving me over £1,300 in this scenario.  But I am earning NOTHING back.

On the cash fare, I am earning 420 tier points, and two golds would net around 50,000 Avios. £740’s worth.  So the difference is then under £600.  For 420TP.  That’s a good ratio for any TP runner 😉

BUT.

What about a Gold Upgrade Voucher (GUF2)?

Take my £1,550 fare above for two in Business?  Apply a GUF2, and voila you are both in First.  For free.  No additional taxes.

So let’s do the maths.

136,000 Avios and earn nothing back. Or spend £200 more and earn Avios and tier points?

NO BRAINER TO ME!

It gets even more apparent the further from London you go…

Los Angeles?  On a peak day? (P.S. Good luck getting 2 Avios First seats to LAX!)

200,000 Avios and about £1400 in taxes for two people with a 2-4-1.

Take one of the lovely Amsterdam or Inverness fares we published earlier this year, and you are earning TP’s and Avios….oh and saving 200,000 Avios!

I would value that 200,000 Avios at almost £3,000.

What about Asia?

Taxes are slightly less to Hong Kong at £582 each.

But I hope you have been having a massive spending spree through the BA e-store, as it will set you back an eye-watering 240,000 Avios on peak days.

Fares are currently running at around £3,500pp from London, but a quick hop into Europe brings that down nicely!

£1,650 tickets are relatively standard from Italy or Amsterdam as an example.

So 240,000 Avios + £1200 or £3,300 – I know which one I would pick.

 

What about the kitchen sink?!

Image result for throwing the kitchen sink

Some of us have a little saying.

“I’m going to redeem the lot” –

  • 2 American Express Vouchers
  • 2 GUF 2 Upgrade Vouchers
  • and a Gold Guest List space release (known as a joker)

All for four seats in First!  And usually to Miami (#disney).  Yes, I am looking at you, Mr Taylor.

So how much does this cost? (Peak Pricing)

300,000 Avios and about £2,600 of taxes.  

Using my 1.48p valuation gets me £4,400 worth of Avios spent so a total “cash” outlay of £7,000 for four First tickets.

Expect to pay £12,000 on a good day and north of £20,000 in summer holidays for London – Miami for four in First.  So yes.  The sink is offering me great value!

But what if I use just the GUFs?

Cash fares in Business class from London for four will vary from £7,000 to £12,000 depending on dates.  Of course, further savings can be made from starting in Europe.

So I guess – date and convoluted route depending – they can offer very good value 🙂

 

A little secret…

Want to maximise your GUFs?  Why not stack two trips on one ticket and GUF the entire thing? 😉

Michele and I paid £3,200 each earlier this year for…

MXP-LHR-SIN-HKG-CGK-HKG-SIN-LHR-MXP//AMS-LHR-SIN-BKK-SIN-LHR-AMS.

All 4 Singapore flights were upgraded to First.  With ONE GUF2.

And yes – We earnt A LOT of Avios back.

 

A few final words

Listen, I am not saying the 2-4-1 isn’t a good thing.  It is.  I would personally only use it on Band 4 Club Europe flights with Reward flight saver space and taxes.  These can easily sometimes cost over £1,000 cash each.  So using Avios and a 2-4-1 I could go for 40,000 points and £2.  Yes being GGL and having a joker (GGL Space Release) makes this much more accessible.

5p per Avios!

Others have told me –

  • Saves the faff of positioning to ex EU points etc.
  • You are not chasing status.
  • Use it because it’s there.
  • Only have the card for good Avios earnings.

BUT.  GUFs used correctly can be much more lucrative, while still earning those well needed TPs.

So fed up of seeing this?  Have a look for a tasty cash fare 🙂

Oh.  If I were Alex Cruz – only Gold and above would be able to redeem into the First Cabin like Air France.  Controversial?  Probably!

52 Comments on "Is the AMEX 2-4-1 voucher really worth chasing? Aim for the Gold Upgrades instead?"

  1. Gordon Simpson | 26 August 2019 at 7:15 am | Reply

    Very interesting article, thanks

    And there I was thinking I was being very clever getting 4xF LHR-LAX / LAS-LHR for 2 x 241 AMEX, 340,000 Avios and £2670 taxes 😉

    Always something new to learn 👍🏻

  2. So what do you spend your Avios on?

  3. Lol! For normal muggles that do not fly much or at all then amex 241 is good for experiencing F imho.

    While I like TLF I’m realising you guys spend a lot of time in the air to try and “spend a whole lot more time in the air”. Life’s too short!! Not everybody flys as much as you guys.

    And I suppose it’s all opinions.

    • Hi Les. Paul’s article today is one way to look at 2-4-1s. I am more in your camp in that I will use my 2-4-1s in first usually as to me it is still good value. Paul has a lot more options due to his higher BA status as GGL. Michele

  4. This is all well and good but what do you actually use your “earnt” Avios for. These sums just say it’s better value to buy your ticket if you value your Avios at a certain price. But they aren’t worth anything till you spend them?

    Surely this is a way of doubling their value

  5. Ian McDowall | 26 August 2019 at 8:00 am | Reply

    The additional cost is actually achieving gold in the first place which you should try to add in to your calculations.
    Yes you could do a sequence of flights like you and Michelle did, but that isn’t that practical for most people. I could do it, but it’s a lot of faffing around, jetlag and money.

  6. Your analysis is undoubtedly true for a couple who are both already Gold/GGL (a small group compared to your readership). As someone only just getting into TLFL, but doing well having booked an ex-EU DUS-LHR-ICN/SIN-LHR-DUS by following your advice here, the 2-4-1 BA/AE voucher looks attractive. It would be even more helpful if you can provide examples covering Bronze and Silver EC membership too. And to add to others’ queries – what do you spend your Avios on?

  7. I guess it all depends on individual circumstances. Prefer to chase hotel points via credit cards and book cash flight tickets during the many sales. The restriction of the 2 for 1 as BA metal, UK departures and high taxes doesn’t make it very desirable. Any Amex points are always converted to hotel points, never Avios.

    Still don’t understand why you wouldn’t have a BAPP credit card – doesn’t your spend on cash flights with BA justify the additional Avios awarded through the Amex (Bonus, extra avios for spend with BA and a 2 for 1 even if you don’t use it)?

    Great article – I love these “technical” explanations on bookings, tier points and “maximising” the opportunities. More please.

    • Thanks for the kind words! Glad some people got it 🙂

      I don’t use BAPP as I don’t feel the need to pay an annual fee when I earn more than enough avios by flying fortunately!

  8. What’s happens if you activate the 2 4 1 voucher but then have to refund a large purchase which means you’ll be under the 10k requirement. Does your 2 4 1 voucher still work?

  9. Thighsofsteel | 26 August 2019 at 9:17 am | Reply

    For most people with the BAPP, earning Avios is simple and just part of buying your shopping, either at Tesco’s or through shopping portals. Making Gold in the first place is both time consuming and not cheap in both time and money.

  10. Hi can you explain how you did this itinerary with a 2-4-1 as you break the journey half way

    MXP-LHR-SIN-HKG-CGK-HKG-SIN-LHR-MXP//AMS-LHR-SIN-BKK-SIN-LHR-AMS.

  11. Charlie Whiskey | 26 August 2019 at 9:52 am | Reply

    Cannot think for the life of me why on earth you write an article that is only of any use to somebody who is GGL. A much more useful one would have used figures based on, say, a blue or bronze cardholder.
    I have not bought even one BA ticket in the past 10 years nor do I have any tier points at all, yet we get at least one 241 First flight and one business class redemption each year from 2 x BAEC PP and 2 x Gold AMEX via a bank of Avios saved before retirement and topped up via credit cards, Estore etc.
    Much more difficult now with the 24 month bonus restriction, but there is real value out there if you have a stash of Avios.

  12. This only really works when you use your calculation for avios value. Done at 1p per avios it makes the calculations a fair bit more attractive for long haul savings.

    Plus… Club Europe is kinda, well, pointless. Same seats as in economy (especially now with the planes missing the tray, but you get a meal and some drink. Yay?

    • 1p is a poor valuation in my eyes. And yes the CE proposition isn’t fantastic. But extra space and refreshments and food on a long sector? Yes please.

      • You get more space in an exit row, and if you’re gold the chances are that they’ll keep the seat next to you free anyway (happens to me about two thirds of the time).

        I’m really not a big believer in Club Europe aside for if I’m doing a TPR. I think it’s a terrible product.

  13. So many flaws in this analysis. 1) you did not factor in the cost of becoming Gold in first place (as many others pointed out, and 2) you did not factor in things like “if you pay the taxes on your card you do in fact get avios back so you’re not getting nothing” .. I see the point you’re trying to make but I think it is not realistic for most people to approach as you do.

    • What has being gold got to do with it?
      The costs are the same at all status levels.

      Yes the article is about GUFs which you get as a high Gold… Hence the title.. “aim” 🙂

  14. You say that it’s impossible to extend an AMEX 241 which is what I believe but a number of people on the BA Gold FB claim it can be done. I have one which expires soon so I am going to try and extend otherwise it’s of no use to me.

  15. I used 2-4-1 voucher several times. I agree – when we can buy tickets on sale with relatively good price ( West Coast £1500 or NYC £1200 in Club ) there is no point to use Avios and voucher as airport tax etc will cost as much as 1 ticket. However there are some destinations which are very rarely cheap – even on super sales – like Tokyo, Osaka, Santiago de Chile etc. Not everyone likes and wants to fly from another country as sometimes its tricky, needs overnight stay and requires more annual leave :-). Also last moment flights can be extremely expensive.
    Bottom line is – in my opinion – the voucher is not as good as it looks – but sometimes can be useful. Worth to have it.

  16. Avios value is far too high. Valuing Avios on the average of two days vs cash on BA flights where reward seats happen to be available is just stupid. Avios only buy a few restricted flights – how do you compare vs two different days with no reward availability (if you only look at those days Avios are worth exactly 0p – you can’t spend them – shows the fallacy of only looking at a couple of specific flights to create a value). Cash is good for anything everywhere with anyone anytime. That flexibility has huge value and failing to factor that in shows a lack of understanding of value analysis. Given the rest of the article all rests on the hugely erroneous Avios value, the rest of the article is fatally flawed.

    • You can’t value something on a null prospect.

      You have to have something to base it on.
      I don’t and haven’t disputed cash allows more flexibility hence why I’m largely recommending it with vouchers over using avios!

  17. BusinessTraveller | 26 August 2019 at 11:34 am | Reply

    Agree with a lot of your verdict about not redeeming in Economy or Premium to maximise your Avios, but the blog feels a bit exclusive and makes turning left for less seem very unachievable! We really value the 2-4-1 BA voucher and thanks to this, we managed to experience BA First and only way we spend our Avios. Hard to get Gold, let alone GUF upgrade vouchers!

  18. I have historic avios (sainsburies) and some from a couple of longer business flights so 195,000 in the family account… I’m hoping to use the 2 for one to Asia or south America as for me I’ll never have this many again…. but I could use for India and keep some in hand for Europe flights but is either worth it…??? And is ot easy to fly Inverness and back una day for onward flights? About to trigger 2 for one and have 24 months to spend….any articles I should look for or suggestions?

  19. I am retired and looking to maximise any way to save money on our holiday flights. I don’t fly enough to achieve Gold status. I am using my 241 Voucher to treat my wife to Business Class long haul to São Paulo on our bucket list trip. The fees & taxes for 2 are about the same as Economy flights with cheapest airline. It will be the first time for her in Business class. I have only travelled Business when my company was paying. I do enjoy tlfl and the tips, tricks and offers alerts.

  20. Paul – agree Short Haul + receptions are the sweet spot for 2-4-1 although I too am GGL and I take the point of others that for some who travel less frequently and for whom GUFs are not a reality the value proposition is different

  21. So what credit card do you use to make your bookings on

  22. This article raises an interesting point but there are so many flaws in the analysis that the value of the GUFs becomes questionable.

    1) Valuation of analysis purely based on LON-AMS in Y and LON-MAD in J, come on – no one else values Avios as much as 1.48p each. 1p is generally seen as fair but if you earn avios via work travel you could potentially value them a lot lower than that
    2) New York flight comparison for the business class flights looks like it hasn’t been done on the same dates so are not comparable (2x off peak returns would be 200,000 avios)
    3) £1,465 for a LON-NYC return in business? I am sure there is the odd fare there if you want to go for 3 weeks but £2,000 would be a more typical price for a long weekend (certainly as typical as a £450 LON-MAD in J).
    4) Avios bookings can be cancelled with a small penalty so are far more flexible, plus domestic connections are free on long haul flights
    5) What else do you spend your avios on? (apart from short haul RFS?)

    Run the numbers on a £2,000 return ticket in J from LHR-JFK at 1p per avios and even including the value of the “lost” avios that you not get (as it is a redemption flight), my 2-4-1 voucher saves an extra £1,000 versus a standard redemption and £1,300 over a cash ticket.

    But let’s say I want to go to NYC in October for a long weekend (3 nights) flying Business. Wide open availability for a redemption (off peak out, peak return) which would cost 110,000 avios (220,000/2 with my 241) plus £1,338. At 1p per avios this costs £2,438 for 2 people. The cheapest 3-5 night flight on BA I can find in October for 2 people is £5,222 (£2,611 each) – deduct the 35,000 avios earned on the flight then the tickets effectively cost £4,872 – double the price of my 241 redemption.

    Of course destination, availability and planning ahead hugely influence the value of redemptions but I feel the numbers used in this article are not totally representative of a real world situation.

    • Articles can’t cover ALL possible combinations. 1.48p is low. I usually aim for at least 3p!

      • Very big difference between what you value them at and what you can cash them in for. As others have said, “what would you be prepared to pay cash for” is a better metric than what was the equivalent price for my redemption ticket.

        Based on £15k for two returns to LAS in F, I am getting 7p per avios for a redemption next year but this is clearly ridiculous as I would not pay that sort of money.

  23. Ooooh , lots of comments today. I think another point worth thinking about is ‘ what would I be prepared to ever pay cash for?’ EG if I can fly business to Bali on Qatar ex uk for around £1600 pp I would pay that to earn the TP and some Avios. If I could use my 2-4-1 to fly first to KL direct from London, and then any airline to Bali in any class, depending on cost, for cash then I would do that. I think it all depends on circumstances surrounding the trip you want to take.
    PS – are you sure it is a maximum of 24,000 pa Avios that you can purchase? I am certain I have bought more than that in the past

  24. Interesting reading on this .I will be 225 TP short based on planned flights between now and Feb (my cancelled trip to Vegas via DUB) has messed up my plans. Guessing one or two CE trips will sort this out .

  25. We have flights booked for Miami in February and Atlanta over Christmas all in First and all using the vouchers.

    However they are there to hold the fights.

    If BA or AA have a sale and it is viable I will cancel the seats and rebook in cash probably ex Europe. Although would only fly business on AA or First on either until the new business suite is available.

    We are both Gold but this year will earn 0 tier points. We will fly more next year maybe. Will never get higher as only fly for pleasure and from my own pocket.

  26. Ref the Companion Voucher terms:

    The return does not have to be booked at the same time as the outbound – it can be booked later when the flights become available, either by phone or online.

    You can buy up to 100,000 avios per year.

    And a question about GUFs – as I have just earned my first one! How does Propeller book separate tickets with one GUF?

  27. I totally agree with you Paul. I thought I was the only person thinking that!
    I would only use the amex 2-4-1 on club europe redemptions and use the rest of the avios for Iberia long haul business class. I’d rather use 34000 avios to NYC with Iberia business + low taxes and fees rather than nearly double the avios + high taxes with BA.
    The 2-4-1 voucher would be totally worthless on this example.

  28. It’s an interesting read thank you. Unfortunately, a different situation for us as neither of us are frequent business fliers so we’re only Bronze card holders, rather than gold. For the first time this year, we’ve had two BA credit cards (one in each of our names plus the other as additional card holder) so we have managed to get two 241 companion vouchers.
    We’ve just booked 4 first class flights from London to Boston, then back from Bermuda to London in July 2020 for 320,000 Avios plus £2,700 in taxes. Agreed that it’s not a sale time so the price is higher than it could be, but putting our exact flights into the website comes out at £38,400. For us, that would be impossible to justify paying for in cash.
    I was trying to work out (for non Gold or Silver card-holders) whether booking First, with free seat choice,could be cheaper than booking Business and paying for seat selection if you’re bothered about where you sit. We flew business to Tampa last year and it would have cost £800 for all 4 of us to reserve seats on both legs. We monitored the seat availability regularly but, in the end, coughed up on one leg to avoid getting the two central seats that don’t have direct aisle access as availability started to disappear. The flights have cost us an extra 40,000 Avios to fly first to Boston/Bermuda over business – if you don’t already have the Avios, the most recent promotion cost £495 to buy 39,000 Avios, which might represent better value for long-haul flights than booking business and paying to reserve seats if you’re not a gold or silver card holder? I can’t remember the cost of reserving seats using Avios as another comparison (albeit I know this is a poor use of Avios).
    Anyway, this is probably old news to most of you who are far better than us at navigating the world of reward flights but just in case it’s helpful…

    • A very interesting read – thanks for sharing!

    • On reflection, my analysis above should have specified that the extra 40,000 Avios was per 2 people, so an extra 80,000 Avios in total (for 4 people in First compared to Business, using two 241 vouchers). This makes it more marginal if you ignore the other First benefits and focus only on the seat reservation benefit.

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