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How to Use British Airways Miles: Post 9, Leveraging Miles and Cash Redemptions

by on April 27, 2011 · 39 comments

in British Airways, Points Guy Pointers

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Update: The current sign-up bonus offer for the British Airways Visa is 50,000 Avios. 25,000 upon first use, and another 25,000 when you spend $2,500 within 90 days.

This is the ninth installment of my series on maximizing British Airways miles. Since so many of you got in on the super-lucrative 100,000 mile BA Visa sign-up bonus (see details of the current 100K offer), it would be beneficial to check out: General tipsPost 1 – Booking BA Awards, Post 2 – Booking Partner Awards, Post 3 – Oneworld Alliance, Post 4 – Taxes and Fees, Post 5 – Household Accounts, Post 6 – Companion Ticket, Post 7 – Using ExpertFlyer for Partner Award Availability, Post 8 – The Art of the Stopover, Post 9 – Leveraging Miles and Cash Redemptions, and Post 10 - Using Qantas.com to Find Oneworld Award Availability. Also, be sure to look at my post on the credit card deal itself and the lengthy Q&A in the comments section.

One of the less advertised aspects of the British Airways Executive Club is the ability to use a mixture of miles and cash on award redemptions. While I normally ignore most attempts to “sell” me miles directly from the airline, this one can make sense for you depending on how you value a mile and what you redeem for. Without a promotion most airlines sell miles for about 3 cents each.

Let’s take a look at this option with four New York – Rome itineraries on British Airways in coach, premium economy, business and first.

Coach

Economy options are:
60,000 miles and $525 or
48,000 miles $620 (pay $95 more to save 12,000 miles, .75 cent a mile) or
42,000 and $665 or (pay $140 more to save 28,000 miles, .75 cent a mile) or
39,000 and $690 (pay $165 more to save 21,000 miles, .78 cent a mile) or
36,000 and $715 (pay $190 more to save 24,000 miles, .79 cent a mile) or
30,000 and $760 (pay $235 more to save 30,000 miles, .78 cent a mile)
Summary: I’d buy BA miles at .78 cents all-day-long. Using cash and points is a fantastic deal.

Premium Economy

Premium Economy options are:
90,000 miles and $525 or
72,000 miles $665 (pay $145 more to save 18,000 miles, .8 cent a mile) or
63,000 and $735 or (pay $210 more to save 27,000 miles, .78 cent a mile) or
58,500 and $770 (pay $245 more to save 31,500 miles, .78 cent a mile) or
54,000 and $805 (pay $280 more to save 36,000 miles, .79 cent a mile) or
45,000 and $880 (pay $355 more to save 45,000 miles, .78 cent a mile)
Summary: I’d buy BA miles at .78 cents all-day-long. Using cash and points is a fantastic deal.

Business

Business class options are:
120,000 miles and $665 or
108,000 miles $935 (pay $270 more to save 12,000 miles, 2.3 cents a mile) or
90,000 and $1,340 or (pay $675 more to save 30,000 miles, 2.3 cents a mile)

Summary: Not such a hot deal. My guess is that BA knows they can sell business class (its often the hardest award to find), so they don’t need to incentivize people more to redeem for it.

First

First class options are:
180,000 miles and $665 or
162,000 miles $935 (pay $270 more to save 18,000 miles, 1.5 cents a mile) or
135,000 and $1,340 or (pay $675 more to save 45,000 miles, 1.5 cents a mile)

Summary: Not amazing, but not terrible either. If you have the cash and redeem for first class, this is a no-brainer.

The great thing about cash and miles is that they work on partner awards as well (even the ones without fuel surcharges).

Domestic American Airlines Economy options are:
25,000 miles and $5 or
20,000 miles $70 (pay $65 more to save 5,000 miles, 1.3 cent a mile) or
17,500 and $100 or (pay $95 more to save 7,500 miles, 1.3 cent a mile) or
16,300 and $120 (pay $115 more to save 8,700 miles, 1.3 cent a mile) or
15,000 and $135 (pay $130 more to save 10,000 miles, 1.3 cent a mile) or
12,500 and $165 (pay $160 more to save 12,500 miles, 1.3 cent a mile)
Summary: A decent deal since taxes/fees are low to begin with.

AA South America First Class options are::
120,000 miles and $61 or
108,000 miles $356 (pay $295 more to save 18,000 miles, 1.6 cents a mile) or
90,000 and $791 or (pay $730 more to save 30,000 miles, 2.4 cents a mile)

However, some partners don’t have the cash and points option, like this Cathay Pacific Chicago to Hong Kong in business class:

The point is that you shouldn’t automatically dismiss the option to mix cash and miles on awards using BA miles. If anything, it allows the flexibility to achieve an award that you wouldn’t have been able to achieve normally, so I personally like this option a lot. Feel free to share your thoughts on the valuations and whether you think this option is a good deal.

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