Introducing the British Airways Companion Voucher
With the British Airways companion voucher, I have travelled Business Class to Canada, Japan, India and other destinations, however given the extortionate taxes and fees we pay in the UK, you could be forgiven for wondering if this perk is worthwhile. For those of you unfamiliar with this incentive, holders of British Airways AMEX cards receive a companion ticket after spending £10,000 (BA Premium AMEX) or £20,000 (BA Standard) in an account year. This allows two travellers to book reward flights for only the AVIOS cost of one. However taxes and fees must be paid for both passengers. With this perk, I have saved thousands on flights, but considering annual card fees, the minimum spend requirement and APR, is it really worth your time and effort?
Let’s take a look at this in more detail.
First let’s address this important question. Many people make the mistake of opting for the AMEX Standard card. Don’t! Unless you rack up mammoth business expenses, spending £20,000 on a credit card in a year is no mean feat. There are six reasons why you should view this annual fee as an an investment with a guaranteed return.
- It pays a more generous bonus of 1.5 AVIOS per £1 spent (the Standard card only pays 1 per £1). Your 10,000 minimum spend earns you 15,000 AVIOS compared to only 20,000 for spending double that with the Standard Card.
- The minimum spend is much more achievable, especially as AMEX is not universally accepted. You need to spend less than a £1,000 a month on the Premium Card to earn your companion voucher.
- The sign up bonus is much higher. You earn 25,000 AVIOS after spending £3,000 in 3 months compared to 5,000 for spending £1,000 on the standard card. If you use this referral link, you can have an extra 1,000 AVIOS for signing up. You will earn 26,000 on the Premium Card and 6,000 on the Standard card.
- Any referrals you make reward you with 9,000 AVIOS compared to a measly 4,000 on the Standard card
- Your companion voucher is valid for 24 months whereas the Standard Card companion voucher is only valid for 12 months. You may find that you simply cannot find reward flights in such a tight timescale. Popular reward routes will often sell out over 300 days in advance of departure, and your outbound flight must take place within that 12 month period. 24 months gives you a much higher likelihood that you will actually be able to use the British Airways companion voucher that you have worked so hard for.
- And finally, once you have secured your companion ticket, you can downgrade the card and receive a partial refund of the fee for the remainder of the year.
You can get the lowdown on all the UK Credit card options here, but the £195 is absolutely worth it.
Make no doubt the APR on these cards is high. 76% for the Premium and 22.9% for the Standard. In my Golden Rules of Travel Hacking you will note however that I stress repeatedly, you should be paying off your credit card balance in full every month. Failure to do so means the cost of your companion ticket is increasing with every interest payment.
Taking out these cards is definitely not an excuse to spend more. You should simply be diverting existing spending, where possible, on to your card.
So, let’s get to the crux of this. Are the savings substantial enough to warrant the investment?
Let’s consider a number of BA companion voucher destinations. All figures assume off-peak redemptions in February 2019 and the prices shown are the total for two people travelling from London. All prices assume you will use the companion voucher.
|Destination||Class||AVIOS||Taxes||BA Cash Price||Skyscanner Cash Price|
|Mexico City||Economy||41,250||£823.60||£1263.82||£1,111 (BA)|
|Mexico City||Business||137,500||£ 1,179.60||£6761.82||£6,440 (BA)|
|Shanghai||Business||49,500||£ 644.10||£4960.22||£3,365 (Finnair)|
|Delhi||Economy||41,250||£ 578.84||£1244.22||£808 (Air India)|
|Delhi||Business||125,000||£ 986.84||£4436.82||£2,187 (Swiss)|
|New York||Business||110,000||£ 1,069.98||£5628.22||£1,790 (Norwegian)|
|New York||Economy||33,000||£ 741.98||£944.32||£548 (Norwegian)|
As you can see, the taxes and fees are eye-watering on those long haul flights., but more palatable on the short haul flights. There is no way to avoid these sadly.
But, how much is each AVIOS worth?
|Destination||Class||Saving If Book BA||Saving if Book Cheapest Flight||AVIOS Value (compared to booking BA)||AVIOS Value (compared to booking cheapest flight)|
Assuming an average value of 1p per AVIOS, I have highlighted all the options in green which offer better value than average. As you can see, British Airways cash fares tend to be more expensive than other airlines, so if you are happy to always fly with the cheapest airline, you will get less value on your AVIOS. However, that assumes that you would be happy to fork our a few grand for a business class flight, which I am not. I earn my AVIOS from everyday spending so in essence they don’t cost me anything, other than the cost of the annual fee.
Although economy class flights can sometimes offer reasonable value, the best use of British Airways’ companion voucher is to use AVIOS to book business class flights. In some cases, your flights even cost less than the cash price for economy fares.
Is the companion ticket worth the effort?
So to answer the question as to whether the voucher justifies the effort and cost, in my opinion it absolutely does. I would pay over a £1,000 for two people to fly to Mexico City so why not pay less, and fly in business class? To me, it is a no brainer!
If you want to read more about why you should only consider this companion ticket, you can read the best airline credit card companion ticket which compares the best airline credit cards with companion tickets.