Tuesday, 10 July 2018

What is a British Airways Companion Voucher and how do I get one?

If you read my Blog you will probably hear me ramble on and on about British Airways Companion Vouchers and how it's a must have for anyone collecting Avios. But you might be left thinking how does one ever get a super awesome must have companion voucher, well wonder no more as I explain everything (there is actually not too much to it) in this post.




FINANCIAL REGULATIONS (Disclaimer) 

This post details the use of a companion ticket and how to earn one, it does not recommend any financial products nor advises to take any out. Any details provided about credit cards is for information purposes only and in no way is recommending you take out a credit card.


SO WHAT THE HECK IS IT?

A companion voucher will allow you to book two seats in the cabin you selected for the same air-miles (Avios) as for one. For example, a business class ticket from London to New York will cost 120,000 Avios per seat, use a companion voucher and you will still pay 120,000 Avios but this time for two seats.


WHERE CAN I USE IT

You can only use the voucher where two reward seats are available in that class of travel and it must be on British Airways metal (that is a physical BA plane and not a code share flight). So, for example you could use the voucher if there was two reward seats in First Class to New York from London flying on a British Airways plane, you couldn't use the voucher where only one reward seat was available or if the flight was on an American Airways plane but had a BA code number on the booking.


I STILL HAVE TO PAY MONEY!!!

Unfortunately, since the government like to tax the hell out of everything flights are no exception with each class taxed differently. So, if you are booking a premium flight (above premium economy) then you will be charged around £500 in taxes along with your air-miles for long haul (only £75 if flying within Europe). A little trick to reduce this tax is fly from Inverness (they have a direct BA flight connecting in London every day) where there is no APD (air passenger duty) and you can save around £75-£150 per ticket meaning the taxes are between £350-425.


HOW DO I USE IT

Use this website (https://baredemptionfinder.com) to find a flight easily and see availability and then head over to the British Airways website and use the reward seat finder to book (best routes are to New York). Check out my post here where I explain in detail the best way to book a reward flight.


DO I HAVE TO TRAVEL?

Yes you must be part of the booking party and travelling with the person you used the companion voucher on. This means you can't book a flight for two friends and not travel with them.


DO I HAVE TO FLY FROM LONDON

If you use your air miles (Avios) to book a long-haul you will get a connection to any UK city for no extra cost, this means you can fly from anywhere in the UK via London (remember Inverness will be cheapest). If you book a flight to Europe then you will not get a free connection and the Avios costs will be more since you will need to pay for a connection flight.


STOP OVERS?

One added benefit of the Air Miles system is you can get a free stopover in any connecting city, when booking the reward flight from say Glasgow you will be asked if you would like a stop over which can be used for no additional cost to give you multi-centre holiday.


NO AVAILABILITY?

This can be quite frustrating, you have the air miles and you have the companion voucher but you be dammed if you can find a flight that's any use and not to the back of beyond! Well here's the best way to book a popular route. Reward seats are released 365 days in advance at midnight London time, so what you need to do is 365 days prior to your departure date is phone BA just after midnight and ask for the outbound leg using your companion ticket. Once you have this booked phone again in 365 days time when the inbound leg is released and ask to have this added to your booking (they will use the same companion ticket you used for the outbound and will only charge you a small fee £30ish to change the ticket).

There are 2 First Class seats and 4 Business Class seats on every flight made available for Avios Rewards. People also book up flight and cancel them last minute so the other option is to look for last minute availability and remember you have to be flexible.


LONG HAUL OR SHORT HAUL / ECONOMY OR PREMIUM?

This is all about maximising your air mile value and totally down to your circumstances, since a companion ticket effectively doubles the value of your Avios the best way to maximise its value is use it for 2 First Class tickets, but that does mean having 150,000+ Avios in the first place. I just wouldn't use it for economy since you will find the ticket cost is sometimes almost as much as you would be paying for taxes anyways making your Avios worthless.


HOW DO I GET ONE?

The Companion Ticket is offered by American Express and you can receive one by taking out a British Airways American Express Credit Card (click the image below for my post on the best Amex cards for collecting Air Miles).



Blue Card (NO FEE)  = Spend £20K in one Calendar year and will be valid for 12 months after the spend criteria is triggered.

Black Card (£150 FEE) = Spend £10K in one calendar year and will be valid for 24 months after the spend criteria is triggered.

The spend trigger of £20,000 is quite unrealistic for the blue card and the fact that the voucher is only valid for 1 year leaves this card as a bad choice if your aiming for a companion voucher. Instead pick this card to save up your Avios balance and when you think your nearing your target upgrade to the black card (where your current yearly spending will be transferred and count towards your 10K spend).


If you start on the other end with a black card and have your companion voucher and don't want to pay the fee for the next two years you can downgrade to the blue card whilst still keeping your voucher (once you earn it, it will be loaded into you're BA Executive Account).

You must hold a BA Amex card to keep the voucher, if you cancel your card you will lose the voucher unless you have used it to book a flight already (i.e. you can safely book a flight in 6 month's time, then cancel the Amex card).


BLACK OR BLUE CARD

Again, this is down to your circumstances, if you are going to be using a companion ticket every year then it's worth getting the black card and paying the £150 yearly fee. On the other hand, if you're just saving up Avios miles I would opt for the blue card until you know you have enough to actually use them then upgrade to the black card.

Again, please remember these recommendations are for the companion ticket and your choice of taking out a credit card is totally down to your own circumstances, seek advice from a financial adviser for these types of recommendations.


BONUS AIR MILES

If you do opt to take out a British Airways American Express card, then remember you can receive bonus Avios for triggering the spending target (Normally around £2000 within the first 3 months). This bonus can range from 7000 to 25000 depending on the card but you an earn around 10% on top of these through the referral process (drop me an email to find out about this).


This turned out to be much longer than initially planned but hope it was somewhat helpful for anyone wondering how that magical Companion Voucher works.










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