You’ve probably heard of points/miles either earned with every flight you take or use to get upgraded to a better seat. It may all seem confusing and quite frankly, it can be initially – but once you go through the process of understanding how they work, they can potentially save you thousands of dollars long term.
In this article, I’m going to cover one of the most valuable international “currency” offered by British Airways owned alliance: Avios. If you fly any BA or one world partner airline flight (list covered here) you can earn avios. You would need to create a BA Executive Club (link here) in order to get a club member number. While booking/checking in for a flight, make sure to enter your Executive Club number to earn Avios.
Ways to earn Avios
There are other ways to earn Avios too through credit cards. You may apply for BA partnered Chase credit cards or transfer UR Points (Chase) or MR Points (AMEX) to your Executive Club account.
Currently, Chase (valid till 16 June 2019) is transferring points to Avios on a 1:1.3 (30% bonus)
The British Airways Signature Visa offers 4x Avios back per $1 spent upto $30,000 with a potential to earn 120,000 but it doesn’t really make a whole lot sense to spend that much to receive those many points.
AMEX Membership Reward earning cards like the cash, green, gold and Platinum card has British Airways as a transfer partner so sign-up bonuses can be transferred to book flights/hotels.
Redeeming Avios for flights
While it may seem obvious to redeem Avios to book BA flights, it isn’t the most optimal as flights in/out of the UK tend to charge extremely high taxes in addition to the points. For example, a $900 ticket from Houston->Delhi via London can cost upto 80,000 Avios + $751 in taxes/fees.
The best part about Avios is that it can be redeemed not only for international flights but for one world partners operating in the US (like American Airlines) as well.
It costs only 7500 Avios + $5.60 in taxes/fees to book a one way domestic American or Alaska Airlines economy flight and 15,000 Avios for business class.
As a quick comparison, a one way AA flight booked via the AAdvantage website costs 12500 AA miles + $5.6 in taxes/fees. This proves to us AA miles are worth less than Avios.
International flights with partner airlines are another venue to get great redemptions. New York to Montreal, Vancouver or Miami to the Caribbean also cost a low 7500 Avios plus taxes when booking American when you select “Book with Avios”.
The possibilities are endless as long as the partner airline flies to a destination. If you are unable to find availability on the BA website but can see openings in Google flights, call up BA booking Customer Care and they’ll make the booking on-call.
Planning is key
As long as you compare prices on Google flights and see a 2CPP (cent per point) value, it makes sense to book a flight using points. You get a 1.5 CPP value if you use the Chase Sapphire Reserve to book through the Ultimate Rewards program and 1.25 CPP if you hold the Sapphire Preferred.
For example, I cover a round-trip flight for under 7500 UR points because I made the booking early.
Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to book tickets using points if you’re getting the roundtrip for cheap. If the cash price for the ticket is $80 but Costs 15,000 Avios + $11.20 then you’re better off booking with cash.