Do you ever feel like the harder you try to hit your goal in collecting miles, the further they move the stick, leaving you with an endless feeling of chasing? You're not alone. Just about every airline has made it more expensive, harder, or less valuable to use miles. As the tides have shifted, finding ways to capitalize on opportunity has become more important than ever. As such, British Airways offer a companion voucher for holders of their credit card, which instantly doubles the value of your miles. Here's how to play it...
The Basics + Earning
In the UK and in the US, British Airways offers a companion voucher for hitting spending goals on their credit card, an American Express in the UK and a Chase Visa in the US. I recommend going for the highest version of the card in the UK, not only because it doubles the expiration date of the voucher to 24 months, it also requires less spending to achieve it AND a higher rate of earning while in pursuit. You have twelve months to complete the spending goals, which for the Premium Plus in the UK is £10,000 and for the Chase Visa in the US is $30,000. Your spend over that amount does not apply to next years pursuit of a companion voucher until the account anniversary. Once you hit the spend amount, don't go out of your way to spend more on that card. Always consider if there are other cards with better earning rates or good purpose, such as a hotel card to help offset hotel costs for your big trip. Once earned, you're still on the hook for paying the exorbitant taxes and surcharges that accompany the voucher, so using it wisely is the battle.
The Rules For Voucher Flights
The main rule, which somewhat takes the jam out of people's donuts, is that the flights must take place on British Airways metal, also known as a flight operated by British Airways. That eliminates the possibility of using it towards airlines like Cathay Pacific, Qatar, Qantas and so forth, who are known for awesome seats. You must depart from the country where the voucher was issued and you must depart, but not return, before the expiration date. That should be simple enough to figure out. One cool thing you can do is to open jaw your voucher, meaning that you see two destinations using the voucher, just booking a separate one way flight in between the two cities. For example, you could fly London to Hong Kong, returning from Tokyo to London. If you're traveling with more than two people, another clever feature is that Premium Plus holders can apply two companion vouchers to an itinerary, allowing four people to travel for the Avios price of two...
Using The Voucher Wisely
Tons Of Avios
If collecting Avios from travel, spending and all the other opportunities nets you hundreds of thousands of points every year or two years, as it does for me, the only way to justify the taxes and fees, which amount to more than a paid economy ticket, is therefore to use them for a ticket up front in First or Business, on a route which is never cheap. You've probably seen us post Dublin to USA business deals, which fall as low as £550 round trip. The taxes on a companion voucher are sadly comparable. At the risk of cashing in a ton of miles and STILL paying taxes higher than just booking a ticket and earning miles instead, for East Coast USA flights you'll almost always want to shoot for First Class, where the taxes are more than justified. Routes to Asia, South Africa and South America almost always fetch a prohibitive premium using cash and therefore shooting for a Business or First Class flight using your voucher on one of them is a brilliant value.
Not Tons Of Avios
The decision maker here is whether or not you'll amass enough Avios (miles) for a long haul flight in First or Business within the two years, before the voucher expires, and you're prepared to pay the high taxes on those flights. Assuming your stack of Avios is less than 100,000, and even if it isn't, another great use of the companion voucher is to apply it on intra Europe or regional flights, where taxes are substantially less than long haul. There are regions in North Africa, eastern Europe and elsewhere, which require substantially less miles than America or Southern Africa, with far less taxes and sometimes, even really nice seats. Either way you'll be able to double the value of your miles with taxes and fees less than £50 per person. So much better than the multiple of that number for long haul.
If you're not sure where you fall or what you can get, searching around is a great idea. Find out the distances of places you'd like to visit, see the chart to figure out how many miles you'll need. Sure, you may want to go somewhere right now, but if you can obtain a bunch more Avios before your voucher expires, you might miss out on something unforgettable by being short sighted. If you know that you've reached your earning limit and your comfortable with cashing in, go for it. Just be calculated in your decisions.
If finding availability is your biggest issue, consider using the new BA mobile app. If that's not powerful enough, sign up for ExpertFlyer.com or AwardNexus.com. Going further, Open jawing is a great idea. You'll feel like you took two separate trips. I personally am a bit of a plane geek and think it's always cool to fly new planes. If you're flexible, try to track down the Dreamliner or the A380, which British Airways are operating on some great routes. In the Dreamliner you'll experience the brand new First Class and on the A380, you'll find one of the most refreshed cabins with tons of space.