Travel Tuesday Top 10: Most Valuable Ways To Redeem British Airways Avios
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
The Chase British Airways Visa Signature Card 100,000 Avios offer is back, offering 50,000 Avios after after $3,000 spent, an additional 25,000 after $10,000 total spent and another 25,000 after a total of $20,000 total spent within the first year of cardmembership. When you factor in the 1 Avios for every dollar spent, you're looking at a minimum haul of 120,000 Avios if you hit the $20,000 spend requirement for the full bonus.
While huge credit card sign-up bonuses are great, what good are they if you don't know how to use them! Here are my top 10 favorite Avios redemptions. Feel free to share yours in the comments below.
1) Short Haul Flights. The Avios program uses the distance of the flight to calculate how many points are needed. Flights 650 miles or under are only 4,500 Avios each way in economy! This includes flights on partners like American Airlines, Cathay Pacific and LAN. Another great aspect of the Avios program is that there are no last minute booking fees, like the $75 fee on American for awards within 21 days of departure. So if you want to fly a last minute one-way trip Chicago to Toronto you can use 4,500 Avios and $2.50.
To purchase that exact flight on AA.com, you'd need to spend $383.29.
So those 4,500 Avios save $380.79, or nearly 8.5 cents apiece! Pretty incredible for a domestic coach redemption. The same exact flight would cost 12,500 AA miles and $77.50 (the $75 fee is waived for AAdvantage elites).
To see how many Avios your flight will cost, you can use the Avios calculator (note you need to calculate segment by segment).
2) Travel Together Ticket Redemptions in Business or First Class. If you spend $30,000 within a calendar year on your British Airways Visa, you get a Travel Together Ticket, which gets you two award redemptions on British Airways flights for the amount of Avios of one roundtrip plus taxes and fees on both. So while taxes and fees are steep, this redemption can still be lucrative if you value or pay out of pocket for business or first class flights. For example, a New York-London round trip in business class next June for 2 people is 80,000 Avios plus the Travel Together Ticket and a total of $2,300 in taxes and fees.
The same itinerary is currently priced at $12,846 (it is possible to get cheaper, but this was the first random date I selected where the a Travel Together Ticket was available).
So the 80,000 Avios save $10,546 or 13 cents per Avios. Clearly if you would never spend that much to purchase business class this redemption isn't as valuable, but you are still looking at extremely discounted pricing for confirmed business or first class flights. Check out this post for more details on the Travel Together Ticket.
3) Upgrading Paid Tickets from Premium Economy to Business Class. British Airways has four classes of service on most international flights: economy, premium economy, business and first and they allow upgrades from one class to another for a relatively small amount of Avios. To calculate how many you need to go up one class, you take the amount of Avios needed for an economy award on that route and halve it. NYC to London is 20,000 Avios each way for coach awards, so an upgrade from Premium Economy to Business would only cost 10,000 Avios each way.
Britishairways.com will let you search for upgradeable fares using their Cash & Upgrade search function (though at the time of writing this post, that feature was down). For instructions on how to use that functionality, check out this post.
You do need to buy certain fare classes (remember, when you pay with your Chase BA Visa card you get 10% off and 2.5 Avios per dollar spent), and you can use Avios to upgrade American and Iberia flights, but those fare classes are generally more expensive than upgrading on British Airways operated flights:
Upgrades are available from the following booking classes:
- British Airways: J, C, D, R, I, W, E, T, Y, B, H
- American Airlines and Iberia: J, C, D, Y, B
4)Intra European Flights. British Airways doesn't charge fuel surcharges on flights within Europe and when leveraged with their competitive short/mid-haul flight pricing, these awards can provide huge value-especially on expensive routes not serviced by low cost carriers. London to Budapest is 15,000 Avios and $45.
5) Transatlantic Flights on Aer Lingus. British Airways doesn't charge fuel surcharges on Aer Lingus flights and one great redemption is Boston to Dublin on Aer Lingus, which is only 25,000 Avios roundtrip in coach or 50,000 Avios for business class. Aer Lingus availability does show on Britishairways.com, but you have to call to book Aer Lingus awards. They can also be found on Expertflyer (coach availbaility), Qantas' site or United.com.
6) Transatlantic flights on Air Berlin. New Oneworld carrier Air Berlin is yet another carrier who you can fly across the Atlantic to avoid huge taxes and fees and awards can be booked on Britishairways.com, so no need to call and get hit with phone booking fees. I pulled up a sample Miami to Dusseldorf flight that came to 25,000 Avios and $2.50 one-way in economy.
7) Avios and Cash Redemptions. When booking flights, you'll often be given a sliding scale to use a combination of Avios and a cash copay. The price of the copay is cheapest when redeeming for economy awards- for example on that Chicago to Toronto American Airlines example I used in #1, instead of using 4,500 Avios, I was given the option to use 2,250 Avios and $37.50. So $35 out of pocket would save me 2,250 Avios, essentially "buying" them at just under 1.6 cents each. That $383 flight only costs 2,250 Avios and $37.50, so each Avios is worth over 15 cents apiece!
8) American and Alaskan Airlines Economy Flights to Hawaii. Los Angeles to Honolulu using AA miles costs between 17,500 miles (off-peak economy one way) to 22,500 (peak MileSAAver economy one way) vs just 12,500 Avios - plus you avoid last minute booking fees with Avios.
I priced out a sample Los Angeles - Lihue (Kauai) flights for next June: just 25,000 Avios and $5 roundtrip with British Airways:
The same exact flight using AA miles was 45,000 miles and $5. Nearly double!
9) Intra-Australia flights on Qantas. While British Airways adds on approximately $780 on Qantas awards from the US to Australia, flights within Australia has very low fees (and are often very expensive to purchase). A business class Sydney-Darwin flight costs only 40,000 Avios and $66.96 vs. purchasing for $1,979! Qantas codes all of their domestic premium flights as business class so it only costs twice the price of economy redemptions, whereas in the US, AA classifies many 2-cabin flights as "first" class so it costs 3x the price of Avios (I wrote about this issue here).
10) Transferring Miles to Iberia's Avios Program to Avoid Fees. British Airways bought Iberia, but never 100% folded the IberiaPlus program into the British Airways Executive Club program. Iberia still has Iberia Plus, which has a different search engine and often taxes and fees are much cheaper to redeem through Iberia than British Airways. The great thing is you can transfer British Airways Avios to Iberia Avios instantly for free, which can save bundles of cash.
You can sign up for an Iberia Plus account here. Then on BA.com, you simply log into your Executive Club account, go to the Manage My Account tab on the lefthand side of the page and it pulls up a screen with your options, the last of which is to “Combine My Avios.”
Check out this post for full details about leveraging Iberia to save on fees.
Related reading: How to Redeem British Airways Avios Without Huge Fees, Highlight on Taxes and Fees on Multiple Avios Redemption Options.