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TPG reader Vincent sent me a message on Facebook to ask about earning rewards to redeem on Aer Lingus:

“Now that the new AerClub has been folded into the Avios program, what’s the best way to collect Avios for use on Aer Lingus?”

I never saw much value in the Aer Lingus Gold Circle program, but the airline has remained relevant to award travelers as a good option for avoiding fuel surcharges on flights to Europe. Now Aer Lingus is scrapping Gold Circle for the new AerClub program, which will use Avios as its reward currency. While you could already redeem Avios on Aer Lingus, this move should inspire British Airways to show Aer Lingus award availability online, making the points a bit easier to use.

The options for earning Avios haven’t changed much. You’ll now be able to earn points on paid Aer Lingus flights — AerClub will be revenue-based, so you’ll earn 3 Avios per euro spent. Those opportunities should extend to alliance partner flights once Aer Lingus returns to Oneworld — of course you can already credit those flights to British Airways, but Aer Lingus may offer a better earning structure depending on your fare.

I tend to earn more rewards from spending than I do from travel, and there are plenty of options for stockpiling Avios that way. The British Airways Visa Signature Card up to 100,000 bonus Avios. Earn 50,000 bonus Avios after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Plus, an additional 25,000 bonus Avios after spending $10,000 total within the first year and an extra 25,000 Avios after spending $20,000 total within the first year. That’s a good way to jump-start your account. However, the card only earns 1 point per dollar spent on purchases outside the airline, so it’s not the best choice for everyday spending.

British Airways is also a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest, so credit cards in those programs can effectively be used to earn points that you can redeem on Aer Lingus. Last year, Amex lowered its British Airways transfer ratio by 20%, which means you now get only 200 Avios when you redeem 250 points. Amex offers several cards with higher earning rates as well as occasional transfer bonuses, so Membership Rewards remains a viable option despite the lower rate.

Every Starpoint you earn is essentially worth 1.25 Avios, since you get a 5,000-mile bonus when you transfer 20,000 points from SPG to most airline partners (including British Airways). Chase doesn’t offer transfer bonuses, but there are several Ultimate Rewards cards with good earning rates, so you can still get a good return on your spending overall. The Chase Freedom Unlimited earns 1.5 points per dollar, and those points can transfer evenly to British Airways (if you also have a premium Ultimate Rewards card). That’s a great baseline if your goal is to earn Avios.

New York, USA - June 13, 2011: Airbus A330 Aer Lingus approaches John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, NY on June 13, 2011. Aer Lingus is the national flag carrier of Ireland. It is Ireland
Transatlantic flights on Aer Lingus are a great way to redeem Avios. Image courtesy of rypson via Getty Images.

There are some concerns about how the new AerClub program will affect Aer Lingus’ partnerships with British Airways and other carriers. Surcharges could be added to award tickets, and some partners (like United) may no longer be available in the future. For now, though, the move should create more opportunities to redeem Avios inexpensively.

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

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