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Buy British Airways Avios For 2.8 Cents Each – Worth It?

Dec. 22, 2012
4 min read
Buy British Airways Avios For 2.8 Cents Each – Worth It?
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You can purchase up to 24,000 Avios per account per year, and as December 31 approaches, British Airways sent out reminders to Executive Club members reminding them they have just about a week left to top up their account for the year before the maximum purchase amount resets.

A few readers have written in with questions about whether this is worth it, so I thought I’d crunch the numbers and suggest some strategies for those of you thinking about it.

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Here are purchase Avios terms:

  • Purchase up to a maximum of 24,000 Avios points in any calendar year.
  • Avios points can only be purchased online and in multiples of 1,000.
  • Purchased Avios points are non-refundable.
  • In most cases your Avios points will appear on your account immediately, for you to spend straightaway. There are some instances, however, where this could take up to five working days and you cannot use your Avios points until you have seen them added to your account.

The purchase price is on a sliding scale, so if you purchase just 1,000 Avios, it’s $53 – so 5.3 cents each. If you were to purchase the whole 24,000 Avios max, you would pay $685 – a price of 2.85 cents per Avios.

You can purchase up to 24,000 Avios per account per year at prices ranging from 2.85-5.1 cents each.
You can purchase up to 24,000 Avios per account per year at prices ranging from 2.85-5.1 cents each.

That’s cheaper than the usual 3.5 cents per mile US airlines tend to charge (not even including processing fees and a 7.5% excise tax) but still not a great deal. At that rate, a roundtrip award ticket to Hawaii – one of the best values in the distance-based Avios redemption formula at a cost of 25,000 Avios – you would be paying the equivalent of $712.50. You’d be hard-pressed to find a redemption of that value for your Avios, even though there are plenty of ways to squeeze more than 2.85 cents of value out of each one.

However, there are three other ways that you can get more Avios for less money right now if you’re looking to top up your account.

First, before you buy any miles or points at all, remember that if you have a premium Chase card that earns Ultimate Rewards like the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold or Ink Plus, or an American Express card like the Platinum Card or the Premier Rewards Gold card that earns Membership Rewards points, you can transfer those points to British Airways to top up your account.

If you don’t have the Ultimate Rewards or Membership Rewards points to transfer, you can actually consider buying one or the other and then transferring them to your British Airways Executive Club account.

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You can buy Ultimate Rewards points at a rate of 2.5 cents each up to a max of 5,000 per month and then transfer those to British Airways. It’s not saving you a ton of money, but that’s $17.50 cheaper if you buy the whole 5,000 max this month.

A better option (and only if you have no points in your account already and need Avios in a real hurry) at the moment would be to buy Membership Rewards points at 2.5 cents each then take advantage of the current 30% transfer bonus to British Airways. That way, instead of spending $685 to end up with 24,000 Avios, you’d be spending $475 to purchase 19,000 Amex Membership Rewards points and then ending up with 24,700 British Airways Avios.

Again, that’s a lot to pay for that amount of Avios – you’re essentially paying the equivalent of $481 for a roundtrip domestic coach award, so again, this is just as a last resort if you have a specific, imminent British Airways Avios redemption in mind and you need to get some extra miles in a hurry.

If you have a little more time on your hands and still have your eye on bonus Avios, you also have time to apply for the current British Airways Visa Signature Card offer where you get 50,000 Avios for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.

As with all buy miles propositions, the value really depends on what you are hoping to redeem those purchased miles for, so do the math based on your own needs and plans, and see if this is worth it to you.
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