What are the differences between the Barclays Avios Rewards Upgrade Voucher and the American Express Companion Voucher?

Jul 2, 2021

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If you’re a British Airways Avios collector and keen to really maximise your travel, some exciting developments are happening right now.

Firstly, there’s a brand new way to earn Avios called Barclays Avios Rewards, which gives you Avios just for keeping a bank account open. If you’re eligible for Barclays Avios Rewards, once you’re enrolled, you’ll receive the following perks:

  • 25,000 bonus Avios if you are new to Barclays, open a Barclays Premier current account and perform a current account switch from your existing bank to Barclays Premier within 90 days — worth £275 based on our most recent valuations;
  • 2,500 bonus Avios if you have already held a Barclays Premier current account, or a Barclays Personal Wealth current account for at least four months — worth £28 based on our most recent valuations;
  • 1,500 Avios each and every month you are enrolled in the Barclays Avios Rewards programme (18,000 Avios per year, worth £198 based on our valuations); and
  • A British Airways cabin upgrade Voucher at the end of every 12 months you are enrolled in Barclays Avios Rewards which we will talk more about below.

Related: How I’m earning at least 1,500 Avios every single month without leaving the house

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The other exciting development is for the most valuable credit card perk in the U.K., the Companion Voucher earned from the cobranded British Airways American Express cards. The Voucher earned from the British Airways American Express Card basic card is being devalued from 1 September 2021, but the Voucher earned from the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Credit Card gets even better as of that date.

Why?

British Airways has recently doubled the guaranteed minimum number of seats bookable with Avios and Companion Vouchers, making it easier than ever to find the seats to the destination you want. Additionally, from 1 September, British Airways will release additional Club World availability specifically for Companion Vouchers earned from the Premium Plus Card. Also from that date, you can start your journey anywhere, not just in the U.K., which is great if you just want to book a one-way redemption or want to avoid the costly U.K. APD tax.

(Picture by Nick Morrish/British Airways)

As you’ll notice, both developments include a Voucher. Let’s look at what each would give you.

So, what are the differences between the Vouchers?

Firstly note that you can absolutely earn both Vouchers — the BA Amex Voucher and the Barclays Avios Rewards Voucher — every year. Earning one Voucher would not have any impact on your ability to earn and redeem the other Voucher. They are different products, from different providers that are used in different ways. They just happen to both be redeemable with the same loyalty programme, British Airways Executive Club.

Related: The ultimate guide to British Airways Avios

One Voucher is not really better or worse than the other because they work in different ways. You don’t need to try and choose one over the other — you can earn both if you wish.

The main difference between the Vouchers is:

  • The Barclays Upgrade Voucher provides a one-class discount on the Avios required for one passenger, return on British Airways. For example, if you book one passenger return in Club World business class and apply a Barclays Upgrade Voucher, you will only be charged the Avios required for World Traveller Plus premium economy, as that is one class below;
  • The British Airways Companion Voucher allows two passengers travelling to book with Avios but only charge the Avios required for one passenger. So if the Avios required would be 100,000 for two passengers total, applying a Companion Voucher would reduce the Avios cost to 50,000 Avios total.

For both Vouchers, fees, taxes and surcharges are payable by all passengers for the class of service they travel in, regardless of how many Avios they did, or did not pay for the flights. These fees, taxes and surcharges can be substantial.

Related: How to avoid high taxes on your next Avios redemption

So, think of it this way. With a Barclays Upgrade Voucher, “one passenger receives a discount on the Avios required,” whereas with an Amex Companion Voucher “both passengers receive a discount on the Avios required.”

This means the Barclays Upgrade Voucher is great for solo travellers, while the Companion Voucher is more suited for two people travelling together. One Barclays Upgrade Voucher can be used for two passengers, however, you could only upgrade two passengers one-way. Two Barclays Upgrade Vouchers could also be used for two passengers to upgrade both passengers both ways, though note each Executive Club member can only earn one Barclays Upgrade Voucher every twelve months.

It has been a long-time complaint from solo travellers that the Companion Voucher can only be redeemed for two people travelling together — the Barclays Upgrade Voucher solves this problem.

Here is a summary of the other differences between the Vouchers:

Barclays Avios Rewards Upgrade Voucher British Airways American Express Credit Card Companion Voucher British Airways Premium Plus American Express Credit Card Companion Voucher
Spend required to earn a Voucher None £20,000 in credit card spend £10,000 in credit card spend
Date Voucher is available for redemption At the end of each 12 month period As soon as required spend is reached As soon as required spend is reached
Annual fees £144 (£12 per month) £0 £195, increasing to £250 from 1 September 2021
Voucher validity 24 months 12 months 24 months
British Airways classes of service you can fly in with the Voucher Economy, premium economy, business class Economy only for Vouchers earned from 1 September Economy, premium economy, business class and First

Unfortunately, British Airways has confirmed that the Vouchers cannot be combined on the same booking, so you can’t book two passengers, have the second passenger travel at no Avios cost and receive a discount on the Avios required for the first passenger. This rule is disappointing, but not unexpected.

Related: My post-coronavirus British Airways Companion Voucher strategy

(Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

Bottom line

It is genuinely an exciting time to be an Avios collector amongst all the doom and gloom of the continuing pandemic. There are now two quite different but very lucrative Vouchers available to earn each year, the Barclays Avios Rewards Upgrade Voucher and the British Airways Companion Voucher.

Best of all, you can absolutely earn both Vouchers each year to really maximise your travel. The Upgrade Voucher is great for solo travellers, while the Companion Voucher is great for those travelling in pairs.

Featured image by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images

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