Amex Companion Voucher or Barclaycard Upgrade Voucher — what’s best for solo travellers?

Jun 14, 2022

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There was exciting news earlier this week with the big announcement that British Airways Companion Vouchers can now be redeemed for solo travel, as well as companions travelling together.

If you are a solo traveller you now have the option of two different vouchers to earn and redeem each year the Companion Voucher from the British Airways American Express cards, and the Upgrade Voucher from the Barclaycard Avios Mastercards (and the Barclays Avios Rewards current account). You can earn a voucher from both if you wish.

A cynic might say the Upgrade Vouchers from the new Barclays credit cards are the reason American Express has now added the solo redemption option to their Companion Vouchers, but regardless, it’s great news for anyone travelling alone.

So, how do the two vouchers compare, and which is the better option for a solo traveller?

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British Airways Companion Voucher

You can earn the Companion Voucher through the following minimum spends on your British Airways American Express cards:

The Companion Voucher allows two passengers travelling to book with Avios but only charges the Avios required for one passenger. So if the Avios required is 200,000 for two passengers total, applying a Companion Voucher would reduce the Avios cost to 100,000 Avios total.

Fees, taxes and surcharges for both passengers are payable, and for long-haul premium cabin redemptions, these are substantial.

In addition to the existing Avios availability and the doubling of the minimum guaranteed number of Avios seats for all Executive Club members, British Airways has opened up additional Club World seats for Companion Vouchers earned from the Premium Plus Card.

You can start your journey anywhere to redeem your companion voucher. This is handy if you live outside the U.K. or perhaps want to save money on the APD tax by starting your journey in, say, Paris (CDG). You could also start anywhere British Airways flies and redeem it for a one-way flight back to the U.K.

(Photo by The Points Guy)

Barclaycard Upgrade Voucher

The Barclaycard Avios Mastercard has no annual fee and offers a 5,000 bonus Avios after spending £1,000 in the first three months of card membership. You will also earn 1 Avios per £1 spent on the card on everyday purchases.

The Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard has a monthly fee of £20 and offers 25,000 bonus Avios after spending £3,000 in the first three months of card membership. You will also earn 1.5 Avios per £1 spent on the card on everyday purchases.

Here’s how the voucher works:

  • You can earn a cabin upgrade voucher every 12 months you hold either card, provided you have spent at least £10,000 on the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard, or £20,000 on the Barclaycard Avios Mastercard, over those 12 months.
  • You can upgrade one person return, or two people one-way on a Reward Flight Avios redemption booking by one cabin, for example from World Traveller Plus to Club World/Club Suite on any British Airways flight with Reward Seat availability in the higher class, except up to first class.
  • You can only use the upgrade voucher to upgrade an Avios redemption, not a cash ticket.
  • There’s no need to find Avios availability in the lower cabin to use the voucher, provided there is Avios availability in the higher cabin.
  • You won’t be charged any extra Avios for the upgrade when redeeming the cabin upgrade voucher. Fees, taxes and surcharges are payable for the higher class, which can be substantial, depending on the route and class.
  • The upgrade vouchers earned from these cards work in the same way as the upgrade vouchers from the Barclays Avios Rewards current account, so you could earn a voucher from each, every 12 months.
  • You can only redeem the voucher for flights operated by British Airways and the voucher cannot be combined with a British Airways Companion Voucher.
(Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

So which is the better voucher for a solo traveller?

Let’s look at a few different scenarios.

For a traveller who is happy to fly economy and wants to keep their costs as low as possible, the American Express Companion Voucher would be a better option, as the Barclays Upgrade Voucher upgrades you to a higher class of service whether you want to or not. For any solo travellers looking to travel in first class, the Companion Voucher is your best option because the Barclays voucher cannot be redeemed for first class.

Related: Which is better? British Airways’ Club Suite or First class?

So, for anyone looking to travel in either long-haul World Traveller Plus premium economy, or Club World/Suite business class, let’s crunch the numbers to New York, a popular voucher redemption destination. This is because the high frequency of flights means it’s usually fairly easy to find redemption seats.

  • For a return solo journey in World Traveller Plus, you will need 52,000 Avios on off-peak dates, or 80,000 Avios on peak dates. If you apply a Companion Voucher this would reduce by 50% to 26,000 / 40,000 Avios depending on the date. If you applied a Barclays Upgrade Voucher you would pay the Avios required for a class lower (World Traveller). This would be 26,000 Avios off-peak or 40,000 Avios on peak dates, so the same as the Companion Voucher option.
  • For a return solo journey in Club Suite, you will 100,000 Avios on off-peak dates or 120,000 Avios on peak dates. If you apply a Companion Voucher this would reduce by 50% to 50,000 / 60,000 Avios depending on the date. If you applied a Barclays voucher you would pay the Avios required for a class lower (World Traveller). This would be 52,000 Avios off-peak or 80,000 Avios on peak dates, so the Companion Voucher option would be better, especially on peak dates.

Let’s also look at the cost difference for a short-haul redemption in Club Europe which could make sense given the fees, taxes and surcharges are kept low as part of the Reward Flight Saver deal.

If you were looking to fly to the Greek islands in business class you would need 35,000 Avios return on off-peak dates, or 41,500 Avios on peak dates. Applying a Companion Voucher would reduce this by 50% to 17,750 Avios off-peak or 20,750 peak. Applying an Upgrade Voucher would reduce this down to the Euro Traveller level of 18,500 off-peak or 21,500 peak so it’s a slightly better deal with a Companion Voucher, but there’s not much in it.

Keep in mind that the annual fees for both the premium Amex and Barclays cards are very similar (£250 vs £240) and the spend to earn a voucher on each card is the same (£10,000) as is the expiration of the vouchers (24 months).

(Photo by Benjamin Smithson/The Points Guy)

Bottom line

For solo travellers keen for either economy class travel or first-class travel on British Airways the American Express Companion Voucher remains the better option as neither class is available with the Barclaycard Upgrade Voucher.

If you’re looking to travel in premium economy or business class, the redemption rates are similar using either voucher, with the Companion Voucher being slightly better value than the Upgrade Voucher on some destinations we compared.

Travellers can earn a voucher through each card if they want to have two ways to maximise their solo travel.

Featured image by Ben Smithson / The Points Guy

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