Unique Benefits to Using Avios For Reward Flights

Feb 11, 2013

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I recently wrote about why I used British Airways Avios to book a last minute flight for my aunt to go help out with a family emergency. One of the main reasons I used Avios to book a flight on American Airlines is that there are no last minute booking fees to do so. Many carriers charge you a fee to book an award flight within 21 days or so of departure (including a $75 fee if I had booked her flight on American Airlines using American miles).

However, this is not the only little “secret” of British Airways Avios that makes them a pretty solid tool to have in your miles and points arsenal, even if your travels will never take you on a British Airways flight. You can read about some of my favorite uses for Avios in this previous post, but for now I want to focus on some of the unique qualities of these miles that make them quite handy.

• No close-in booking fees
• No online cancellation fee – just lose the taxes that you paid for the flight which is often $5 – $10 for domestic flights.
• Just a $40 change fee – which is much lower than many other airlines (of course, you could potentially just cancel and rebook for even less)
• Free checked bag, priority access in the airport, and priority boarding on American Airlines (this is not a published benefit anywhere I know, but my family was still getting this “perk” as of last week, though some in the comments report they have not been getting free bags, so YMMV)

Once you book a flight using British Airways Avios on one of their partners such as American Airlines or Alaska Airlines, just take your BA confirmation number and go to www.checkmytrip.com to get the confirmation number that will be recognized by the partner airline. You can then select your seats with that operating airline.  I know some folks like to add their American Airlines frequent flyer number to the reservation as well, which can come with some added benefits for American elite flyers. I have no status with any BA partner, so all I care about is getting a seat assignment in advance.

If some of these extra “perks” sound helpful to you, the easiest way to rack up a respectable Avios balance in a hurry is via one of several credit card sign-up bonuses. British Airways is unique in that it is a transfer partner with both Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) and American Express Membership Rewards (MR). Points can be transferred 1:1 from both MR and UR, but MR occasionally has offered periodic transfer bonuses of up to 50% that can make transferring a pretty lucrative option.  A couple of cards that offer Membership Rewards that can go to British Airways are the Amex Premier Rewards Gold Card or the Mercedes Benz Amex Platinum Card.  Some options for Ultimate Reward points that can transfer to British Airways are the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Ink Plus Business Card.

Another option right now is to take advantage of the limited time offer for the British Airways Visa Signature (now expired) that offers 50,000 Avios after spending $1,000 in the first three months. If you happen to be a heavy user of that card, you can also get 25,000 bonus Avios after you make $10,000 in purchases within the first year of account opening, and an additional 25,000 bonus Avios after you make an additional $10,000 in purchases also within the first year of account opening.  That’s a bunch of Avios, but even if all you do is get the initial 50,000 points, that isn’t too bad for just $1,000 in spending.

Do keep in mind that Avios work differently than some other types of miles as their award chart is distance-based, and using them to fly internationally can result in some very hefty fuel surcharges, depending on where you want to go and on what carrier. Your best uses within the US will be on short- to medium-distance routes where American or Alaska Airlines have direct flights.

Have you taken advantage of some of these unique features of using Avios for some of your travels?


Disclosure: Some of the cards mentioned in this post are affiliate links, and I do receive a commission if you are approved for a credit card using one of my affiliate links.  As always, your support is very much appreciated!

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