In this post, I wanted to take a closer look at the British Airways travel together voucher, which is a benefit that you can unlock if you spend $30,000 on the card in a year. Is it worth putting $30,000 of spending on the card in order to earn a companion voucher?
British Airways Visa Card Basics
The British Airways Visa offers lots of great benefits for a reasonable $95 annual fee:
- A welcome bonus of up to 100,000 Avios — earn 50,000 bonus Avios after spending $3,000 within the first three months, plus an additional 50,000 bonus Avios after spending a total of $20,000 within the first 12 months
- Receive 10% off British Airways flights
- Receive up to $600 in statement credits each year when redeeming Avios for award tickets
- Receive a British Airways companion ticket when spending $30,000 on the card in a calendar year
Save 10% on British Airways tickets with the BA Visa
The British Airways Card Travel Together Ticket
The British Airways Visa perk that tends to cause the most differing opinions among people is the travel together ticket that you can earn for spending $30,000 on the card. I say it’s “controversial” because some people find it to be invaluable, while others find it to be worthless.
Let’s take a closer look at how this benefit works.
British Airways Companion Voucher Basics
The British Airways Visa offers a companion voucher when you spend $30,000 on the card in a calendar year. Cardholders can earn up to one of these per year, and it will be deposited in your Executive Club account four to six weeks after you’ve completed the required spending. Here are the basic things you need to know when it comes to redeeming the certificate:
- It’s exclusively valid for travel on British Airways flights originating in the United States; it’s not valid on partner airlines, including American, Iberia, etc.
- You can use it for a one-way or roundtrip ticket
- You can use it for travel in economy, premium economy, business, or first class
- You need to redeem the certificate within 24 months of when it’s issued (outbound travel has to occur by that date, though you can return on a subsequent date)
- You’re allowed to have stopovers on the ticket
- There needs to be award availability for two passengers on the flight you want in order to use it
- You need to pay the taxes and carrier imposed surcharges for both passengers, though you only need to redeem Avios for one passenger
Potentially get lots of value with the BA companion certificate
Earning The Companion Certificate Is Easiest The First Year
Due to the tiered 100K Avios sign-up bonus on the British Airways Visa, the incremental earnings rates are as follows:
- If you spend $3,000, you’re earning ~17.7 Avios per dollar spent (53,000 Avios for $3,000 of spend)
- If you spend $20,000, you’re earning an incremental ~3.9 Avios per dollar spent (67,000 Avios for $17,000 of spend)
I’m happy with an incremental return of 3.9 Avios per dollar on non-bonused spending, so I find it to be worthwhile to put $20,000 of spending on the card the first year, if you’re in a position to do so. At that point you’re only $10,000 from earning the companion certificate.
What’s the opportunity cost of that incremental $10,000 in spending? I value Avios at ~1.3 cents each, so by putting $10,000 of spending on the card you’re earning $130 worth of Avios, by my valuation.
Meanwhile if I instead used one of the most rewarding cards for everyday spending, I’d be earning the equivalent of a 3.4% return, which I’d value at $340.
To me the acquisition cost of the companion certificate is roughly $210 the first year, and $630 in subsequent years (assuming you wouldn’t otherwise spend anything on the card).
You can even use the companion certificate for first class
Redeeming Your British Airways Travel Together Ticket
On the surface taking advantage of the British Airways companion voucher might seem like a no brainer. After all, if you can get a two-for-one international award ticket, that sounds like a great deal. But there are some things to be aware of, which I wanted to address below.
How Much Does British Airways Charge For Award Tickets?
For context, British Airways has a distance based award chart, and the cost of each segment is calculated separately, per the following chart:
|Zone // Flight Distance||Economy|
Off Peak // Peak
Off Peak // Peak
Off Peak // Peak
Off Peak // Peak
*Not available in North America
|4,000 // 4,500||5,750 // 6,750||7,750 // 9,000||15,500 // 18,000|
|6,500 // 7,500||9,500 // 11,250||12,750 // 15,000||25,500 // 30,000|
|8,500 // 10,000||12,750 // 15,000||17,000 // 20,000||34,000 // 40,000|
|10,000 // 12,500||20,000 // 25,000||31,250 // 37,500||42,500 // 50,000|
|13,000 // 20,000||26,000 // 40,000||50,000 // 60,000||68,000 // 80,000|
|16,250 // 25,000||32,500 // 50,000||62,500 // 75,000||85,000 // 100,000|
|19,500 // 30,000||39,000 // 60,000||75,000 // 90,000||102,000 // 120,000|
|22,750 // 35,000||45,500 // 70,000||87,500 // 105,000||119,000 // 140,000|
|32,50 // 50,000||65,000 // 100,000||125,000 // 150,000||170,000 // 200,000|
As you can see, British Airways has peak and off-peak pricing, and that varies based on the specific date you’re traveling. To figure out how much an award would cost you’d then use additive pricing for each segment.
High Carrier Imposed Surcharges & UK APD
The major “catch” to redeeming Avios for travel on British Airways is the high fees associated with such travel:
- British Airways is known for their high carrier imposed surcharges on award tickets, which in some cases can total $1,000+ per person for a roundtrip ticket in a premium cabin; note that these vary market-to-market, so you may pay significantly different surcharges whether your destination is Paris or Copenhagen, for example
- If your ticket involves a departure out of the UK with a stopover of more than 24 hours there, you’ll pay the UK Air Passenger Duty, which is $102 in economy and $225 in premium economy, business class, or first class (and this doesn’t include any of the other taxes)
BA Visa Carrier Surcharge Rebate
While there are hefty carrier imposed surcharges when redeeming through British Airways, the good news is that you can stack benefits. When redeeming your companion ticket you can also take advantage of a $100-200 statement credit, as the BA Visa offers up to $600 in statement credits per year towards award ticket carrier surcharges.
The way this works:
- You can get a $200 reward for a reward flight in British Airways first or business class
- You can get a $100 reward for a reward flight in British Airways premium economy or economy
Those won’t be reflected in the amounts shown below, because this rebate is credited after the fact.
Where To Find Your British Airways Companion Voucher
The terms indicate that your companion certificate will post within four to six weeks of when you complete spending. In my case, my statement closed on December 18, and I received an email informing me that I had received a companion voucher on December 30.
Once the certificate is in your account, you’ll see the option to redeem it every time you go to the award search tool.
The Travel Together Ticket Is Rarely Worth It In Economy
Redeeming Avios for travel in British Airways economy is rarely worth it, because in many cases the surcharges are almost as much as you’d outright pay for a ticket in cash.
For example, using the British Airways companion voucher you could fly roundtrip from New York to London in economy off-peak for two people for 26,000 Avios plus $701.86.
While that’s not terrible, I also wouldn’t consider it to be a great deal.
If you wanted to fly from New York to Rome via London instead, you’d pay 39,000 Avios plus $596.36 for two people.
Overall I’d hardly consider that to be a great deal.
The Travel Together Ticket Could Make Sense In First & Business Class
Generally speaking, the sweet spot for redeeming on British Airways is for first & business class tickets, given how much they would cost if paying cash.
For example, you could use the companion voucher for a roundtrip off-peak business class ticket between New York and London and pay just 100,000 Avios (yay) plus $3,319.86 (booo). That’s an average of 50,000 Avios plus $1,660 per person.
Using a companion voucher for a roundtrip off-peak business class award ticket between New York and Rome (via London) would cost 125,550 Avios plus $2,936.36. That’s an average of 62,775 Avios plus $1,468 per person.
What about if you want to travel further? You could fly all the way to Johannesburg, for example, but the carrier imposed surcharges would get even higher. For example, for two people in business class you could be looking at paying 247,500 Avios plus $4,191.72.
What about first class? You could book a roundtrip first class off-peak ticket with a companion voucher from Boston to London for 136,000 Avios plus $3,319.86. That’s an average of 68,000 Avios plus $1,660 per person.
Is The British Airways Travel Together Ticket Worth It?
Above I’ve given some examples of how you can redeem the British Airways companion voucher. This raises the question of whether the companion voucher is worth earning. As usual, there’s no “one size fits all” answer to that.
I want to once again emphasize that I think the math is different the first year compared to subsequent years. That’s because the first year you could spend $20,000 to earn the full 100,000 Avios sign-up bonus, and then you just need to spend an incremental $10,000 to earn the companion voucher. In subsequent years you’d be starting from scratch, and would need to spend $30,000 to earn it, without any other threshold bonuses.
For example, I decided to earn a BA companion voucher in 2019 (as it was my first year having the card), but I doubt I’ll earn it in future years.
Who Shouldn’t Earn The British Airways Companion Voucher
If you’re not someone who values premium travel immensely, and/or not someone who is willing to spend $1,000+ per person for an award ticket, then the voucher definitely isn’t for you.
I think it’s totally fair that many people avoid programs with high surcharges, and with this you’re still paying the surcharges for two passengers (minus a rebate of up to $200 per itinerary).
Who Should Earn The British Airways Companion Voucher
I also think there are many situations where the British Airways companion voucher is well worth it. British Airways’ business class product is improving significantly with their new Club Suites, and the airline has an incredible route network in the US, as they increasingly fly to secondary markets (Austin, Charleston, Nashville, New Orleans, Portland, etc.).
If you’re someone who values the convenience of a nonstop flight to London and wants to fly first or business class, then the companion ticket is likely going to be one of the best options.
Furthermore, the companion ticket allows you to have a stopover in London, so if you’re someone who values the ability to do that enroute to your final destination, I think it could also make sense.
British Airways is greatly improving their business class product
Overall I find the British Airways Visa to be an exceptionally well rounded card. In addition to a sign-up bonus of up to 100,000 Avios, the card also offers perks like 10% off British Airways tickets, and up to $600 per year in statement credits to offset carrier surcharges. If you fly British Airways with any frequency then this card is worth having and holding onto, in my opinion.
The British Airways companion voucher is something that some people swear by, while others find it to be worthless.
In general earning the certificate the first year is the easiest to justify, given the minimal incremental spending required to earn it.
Whether or not it’s worth it really depends on your travel patterns. If you value the ability to travel nonstop to London in comfort then I think it absolutely could be worth it. If you’re looking to travel to other parts of the world the value proposition isn’t as obvious.
If you’re someone who usually prefers to fly economy, or who absolutely won’t pay surcharges on award tickets, then this isn’t for you.
I earned the British Airways companion voucher recently, and look forward to seeing how I’ll use it.
If you have the BA Visa, have you earned a travel together ticket? If so, how did you use it?