The British Airways Companion Voucher, also known as the Companion Voucher, is one of , if not the most, beneficial perks of the reward card with the potential for massive savings.
Benefits Of The British Airways Companion Voucher
The benefit of the voucher is that it entitles you to book two Avios redemption seats on any return ticket from theUK for the price of one. While taxes and other surcharges still have to be paid for both tickets, you can instantly see the savings available here. In fact, you can save up to a maximum of 400,000 in the unlikely event you were able to find two First Class return seats to Australia. On the other end of the spectrum, you can still save 8,000 Avios by getting a return off-peak economy ticket to Paris.
In reality, most people use them for long haul redemptions in Club World, typically something to North American or Asia where you can save around 100,000 to 150,000 Avios on an off-peak return. Assuming you value an Avios point at 1p, the companion voucher would be worth £1,000 to £1,500 for such a trip.
How is it Earned?
The voucher can only be gained through having, and reaching, a qualifying spend target with an American Express British Airways reward credit card. You need to spend either £20,000 (on the British Airways American Express card) or £10,000 (on the British Airways Premium Plus American Express card) on qualifying purchases within a card year (this excludes cash withdrawal and advances). Note this is ‘card year’ and not calendar year. Your card year runs from the date you are approved.
The voucher on the free credit card is valid for one year while the voucher on the Premium Plus card is valid for two years. As explained below , the key thing to know is that, whilst both cards offer a companion voucher, it makes no sense to earn the voucher on the free British Airways card.
The voucher will be automatically posted to your BAEC account in 10 to 15 working days once you have reached the required spend.
British Airways American Express
Annual Fee: £0
Spend Target: £20,000
Validity: 12 months
British Airways American Express
Premium Plus Card
Annual Fee: £195
Spend Target: £10,000
Validity: 24 months
British Airways Companion Voucher Small Print
While people buy into the potential savings on the companion voucher, most people become stuck when placing a booking as there are a significant number of limitations to be able to use the voucher.
General Flight Booking Rules
Reward Flight Saver Prices
Recently, British Airways has been experimenting with ‘no taxes’ redemptions on short-haul flights as well as some select long-haul economy flights too .The problem is with this is that this impacts on the number of Avios you are required to pay.
Historically, a return economy flight to Paris was 8,000 Avios + £35 in taxes and charges, using ‘Reward Flight Saver’ on off-peak dates. Under the new trial, there is a band of prices. The lowest cash option is now 17,000 Avios + £1 return.
However, when using a companion voucher, you will pay the regular price. There is no flexibility in this.This isn’t a problem as the new £1-in-tax pricing option is generally a bad deal and should be avoided.
Getting The Seats You Want
There are certain routes that are very tricky to get First class seats on. Cape Town, Sydney, Singapore and Los Angeles to name but a few. If you want to go for one of these you need to be organised.
Seats become Available Midnight GMT 355 days in advance. British Airways releases 2 Club World/Europe (Business Class) seats and 4 Euro/World Traveller seats for every flight on this day. There are usually no First Class or World Traveller Plus seats released at this time.
More reward seats do tend to be made available closer to the date of travel depending on the route – but if you absolutely must travel on a certain day and know it is a popular route then you should definitely be planning to book 355 days out. For a booking 355 days out, you should book your outbound flight on the day they become available, there is no need to wait until the return flights come up. In fact, British Airways allows you to book the outbound leg first – BA sees it as a booking where an element is beyond the available booking range and therefore there should be no charge to add your return flight when it becomes available.
A general trick (if you can call it that) is for people to call an open BA call centre, usually in the US or Japan, on the stroke of UK midnight (or 1am during British Summer Time). Unlike doing it online, a call centre agent can hold a ticket ahead of someone booking online; this is because until you submit your credit card details online, a call centre agent can take the visible seats and hold them during the transaction and effectively ‘steal’ the seats from under you.
This is a reason why the voucher on the Premium Plus is FAR more valuable than the voucher on the free card is that you are able to plan and book far in advance. Without this, you are on a ticking clock the moment you get your vouchers to book a ticket.
How Do I Get a First Class Ticket?
As a First class ticket does not appear 355 days in advance, the usual strategy is to book a redemption for Business Class ticket upon its release, and as two First Class seats become available, simply make a call a BA call centre and the ticket can be amended and the difference in Avios settled. There is a £35 change fee per person unless you are a BAEC Gold Guest List (GGL) member.
Can You Reduce the Ammount Of Tax Payable
There are no real tricks to reduce the taxes paid on your redemption ticket as all trips must start from the UK. All charges are set by governments, airports and British Airways is known to charge extortionate fuel surcharges (which is partly why the taxes are so high) so there is not much flexibility there.
The only possible thing to reduce your bill is to reduce the Air Passenger Duty. Air Passenger Duty is payable for flights starting from UK airports, excluding Northern Ireland and the Scottish Highlands and Islands region. This realistically measns starting from Belfast, Jersey or Inverness.
However you have to weigh up the costs from doing so as you may not be saving very much (or at all) with checked luggage fares.
There is also no APD out of Newquay. With British Airways due to start flights from Newquay in July 2020, this gives you a new option.
Update: In light of the ruling by the UK Advertising Standards that the phrase “2-for-1” in promotions was misleading, references to British Airways 2-for-1 have been replaced with British Airways companion voucher instead.