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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
As announced back in October, British Airways will soon remove the 4,500-Avios option for one-way nonstop flights less than 650 miles on partner flights “originating or terminating” in the US.
However, there’s still time to take advantage of this sweet spot on the British Airways award chart before it goes away; you can make bookings using the current award chart through February 2.
Wondering which flights you should book before then? I dug through the fares from various American Airlines and Alaska hubs to find some high-value options you might want to consider before the deadline.
According to TPG’s latest valuations, British Airways Avios are worth 1.6 cents each. This means that the 9,000 Avios you’d redeem for a round-trip flight under the current chart are valued at ~$144. While taxes on cross-border redemptions will add to the cost, you only have to pay ~$11 in taxes for domestic flight redemptions. So, look for flights that’d otherwise cost at least $155 round-trip to get good use of your Avios.
Since British Airways doesn’t charge a close-in booking fee and airlines typically charge much higher fares for tickets purchased within a few weeks of flying, you’ll likely get even higher value for your Avios for last-minute bookings.
However, since you can book award flights as far out as December 2016 by the February 2 deadline, let’s focus on routes that seem to be perpetually pricey. The fares listed below are the cheapest fares available for flights between these cities anytime in the next few months. So, the higher the price, the more valuable of an Avios redemption you’ll be getting.
- Atlanta (ATL): While these cities are just a four-hour drive apart — without traffic, that is — a round-trip flight between the two will set you back at least $359 round-trip!
- Jacksonville (JAX): $343 round-trip
- Tampa (TPA): $343 round-trip
- Cincinnati (CVG): With the exception of some last-minute fares for $168 round-trip, flying the short 264-mile hop between these cities will cost a whopping $325 round-trip. American Airlines has seven nonstop flights between these cities each day and they aren’t full. So, there’s award availability almost every day.
- Syracuse (SYR): $276 round-trip
- Columbia, MO (COU): $273 round-trip
- Rochester (ROC): $261 round-trip
- Monterrey (MTY): Head south of the border for just 9,000 Avios and $89 in taxes vs. booking a fare for $459 round-trip!
- Mobile (MOB): No other airline has nonstop service between these two airports, so American Airlines doesn’t mind charging $339 round-trip for this 539-mile route. Not surprisingly, American isn’t selling out its three daily American Eagle flights. So, there’s plenty of award availability.
- Destin (VPS): $329 round-trip
- Des Moines (DSM): $229 round-trip
Use American Airlines’ nonstop routes to a wide variety of beach destinations to get great value from your Avios.
- Cozumel (CZM): $484 round-trip. American Airlines doesn’t fly every day between these cities, but there’s quite a bit of availability for the dates with flights. Even after paying $78 in taxes, you’d get at least 4.51 cents per Avios in value for this redemption.
- Grand Cayman (GCM): $468 round-trip. I’m seeing seven award seats on all three daily nonstops between these cities for quite a few dates. Note that you’ll have to pay $86 for taxes for this round-trip.
- Montego Bay (MBJ): $261 round-trip
- Key West (EYW): $257 round-trip
New York City (LGA/JFK)
- Montreal (YUL): $283 round-trip. There’s plenty of availability on this route. Even after paying $48 in round-trip taxes, you’re getting a solid 2.61 cents per Avios for this redemption.
- Cleveland (CLE): $265 round-trip
Use British Airways’ partnership with Alaska Airlines to get great value for flights into Canada:
- Edmonton (YEG): $261 round-trip. While you have to pay $53 in taxes round-trip, there’s plenty of availability on Alaska’s 3x daily flights between these cities.
- Reno (RNO): $251 round-trip
- Vancouver (YVR): $236 round-trip
- Calgary (YYC): $227 round-trip
Sources of Avios
British Airways is a transfer partner of all of the major transferable-point programs. So, which source should you use first?
1. British Airways Avios (1.6 cents apiece) — Go ahead and use your existing Avios first to book these flights before transferring any points. After all, you may not longer want to transfer points in once these 4,500 Avios flight options are no longer available. Need more? Earn a total of 50,000 Avios through the Chase British Airways Visa Signature Card.
2. Chase Ultimate Rewards (2.1 cents apiece) — If you don’t have enough Avios, you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Avios in increments of 1,000. If you need more, you can earn a 50,000 Ultimate Reward sign-up bonus after spending $4,000 within the first three months with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
3. American Express Membership Rewards (1.9 cents per apiece) — Due to the new 1,000:800 transfer ratio, you’ll be effectively “spending” 2.375 cents in value per Avios. You can currently earn 25,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 in the first three months with the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express or 60,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 in the first three months with the Platinum Card® from American Express.
4. Starwood Preferred Guest (2.5 cents per point): Due to the high value of Starpoints, this should be the last source you should use for mining BA Avios. That is, unless you’re taking advantage of the 5,000 bonus for transferring 20,000 Starpoints — which effectively cuts the “cost” to 2.0 cents per Avios. You can currently earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints after you spend $3,000 in the first three months with the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express.
What are your favorite sub-650 mile routes for the soon-to-be-retired 4,500 Avios redemption?
The Points Guy Assessment:
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great pick for the beginner and the frequent traveler. The CSP has superb travel benefits, double points on certain purchases, and a 50,000 point sign up bonus. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year so this puts it as one of the less expensive cards, while still allowing you to earn one of the most valuable point currencies.
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards