These are the best ways to redeem 100,000 British Airways Avios
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
Two cards in the Avios family — the Aer Lingus Visa Signature® Card and Iberia Visa Signature® Card — offer an impressive welcome bonus of 100,000 Avios after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
Plus, the British Airways Visa Signature® Card currently offers 100,000 Avios after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening your account.
But when it comes to a huge travel credit card bonus, it's not just the big headline number that's important — it's what you can do with those points or miles.
And when we're talking Avios, there's a lot you can do with them, but also several options you want to avoid. Knowing which is the vital piece of the puzzle to help you get the most value out of this bonus.
Here, I'll show you some of the best ways to redeem 100,000 Avios. But before that, I'll give you a quick overview of the differences between the three types of Avios and how to use them.
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The difference between different types of avios
Before we dive into redemptions, it's important to discuss how Avios work.
There are three types of Avios out there: Aer Lingus Avios, Iberia Avios and British Airways Avios. Each has different award charts and sweet spots, giving you a ton of different redemption options. Better yet, you can move your Avios between programs — for example, if you have Iberia Avios, you can move them to British Airways.
You can learn more about moving Avios between accounts in our complete guide. There are a few restrictions to keep in mind when doing this — for example, if you want to move from British Airways to Iberia, both accounts must be open for at least 90 days. With that in mind, try and make your accounts before you need to use them, so you don't run into difficulties.
We published an article that compares the three types of Avios late last year. As a quick recap, each of the carriers has distance-based award charts with different sweet spots. For example, you'll want to use British Airways Avios for short-haul domestic flights, while Iberia Avios can be a great bet for flights to Europe. Read the full article for a complete breakdown.
With that out of the way, let's jump into the best ways to redeem 100,000 British Airways Avios.
Short-haul awards — here and elsewhere
Since British Airways has a distance-based award chart and American Airlines and Alaska Airlines are Oneworld partners, you can use Avios to book any American or Alaska flight with saver-level award availability.
Now, that used to be a terrific deal for short-haul flights because the bottom level distance band is just 4,500 Avios for flights up to 650 miles long, which meant you could get tickets on expensive shuttle routes like New York to Washington, D.C. for just 4,500 Avios. Meanwhile, American would charge 12,500 miles for the same flight.
Unfortunately, British Airways changed the rules in 2015 and slightly devalued its partner award chart years later. Now the lowest band costs 6,000 Avios each way in economy, and British Airways now charges a minimum of 7,500 Avios for all flights to, from or within North America. The lowest price is available on flights up to 651 miles long, like New York-LaGuardia (LGA) to Boston (BOS) and Washington-Regan (DCA).
Flights up between 651 and 1,151 miles cost 9,000 Avios. This includes popular routes like New York-JFK to Miami (MIA) and Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) to Denver (DEN).
Also, what many folks forget is that the 6,000 Avios restriction is only in place for flights related to North America — you can still get that price on flights anywhere else. This is great for hopping around Oneworld hubs where cash prices are high, like Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific) or Japan (JAL), potentially letting you stretch your bonus for as many as 16 short flights with a 100K welcome bonus.
Domestic business class on American
On the other hand, another change in the last few years in booking American flights with Avios actually radically improves the situation. In the past, AA coded its domestic premium cabin as "first class" instead of business, even though in most cases there are only two cabins on domestic AA flights — economy and premium. Since the Avios chart has three different prices for economy, business and first, American domestic premium awards would price at the highest "first class" price, making them outrageously expensive.
However, in late 2016 American finally began coding its domestic premium cabin as "business class," which means you can now use Avios to book seats up front on domestic AA flights at the middle, business-class price, which is much more reasonable.
The real kicker is that American Airlines regularly flies internationally configured widebody aircraft on domestic routes, including 777s and 787s. You'll find AA's flagship 777-300ER operating some flights between New York-JFK and Miami (MIA), a 1,089-mile journey. You could book a business-class award on this flight for only 16,500 Avios, giving you enough Avios for three round-trips from a 100K welcome bonus.
West Coast to Hawaii
Since we're on the subject of American, another sweet spot you'll find with Avios is the ability to fly from major West Coast cities to the Hawaiian islands for just 13,000 Avios each way, thanks to the Avios distance-based chart. That beats the award rate for all the U.S. airlines, and there's no close-in booking fee either.
But in this case, it's not just about American's route network. Alaska Airlines is also a British Airways partner, which means you have access to Alaska's flights to Hawaii as well (though you'll need to call to book Alaska flights with Avios since they aren't searchable at ba.com). That opens up routes that AA doesn't serve, but Alaska does, such as San Jose (SJC) to Honolulu (HNL) and Seattle (SEA) to Maui/Kahului (OGG).
So if you live almost anywhere on the West Coast — or can easily position there — Avios can be your friend to Hawaii. At this rate, you can book almost four round-trip economy tickets to a tropical paradise with your British Airways Visa Signature welcome bonus.
JAL first class to Tokyo
If you want to burn your entire haul of 100,000 Avios on one awesome flight, Japan Airlines first class is a great choice. You can depart from either San Francisco (SFO) or Los Angeles (LAX) to Tokyo (HND/NRT) and spend 11 hours in style. There are also minimal carrier surcharges on flights to/from Asia, so you'll only have to add $100-$200 in cash to your redemption. These flights technically cost 103,000 Avios each way now, but you'll be able to cover that with the Avios you earn from spending your way to the bonus.
Keep in mind that American — who is also a Oneworld partner — has a more favorable award chart for first-class flights to Tokyo. Booking this same JAL seat with AAdvantage would only cost 80,000 miles, a 20,000-mile discount. But AAdvantage miles are also harder to come by than Avios since American isn't a transfer partner with any major flexible currency programs (except Marriott). Meanwhile, you can transfer points to British Airways from Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy.
Aer Lingus at off-peak prices
In 2015 British Airways brought Aer Lingus into the Avios fold, and in the process, made a few changes. While it devalued the previous sweet spot in which you could fly from Boston to Dublin for just 12,500 Avios in economy or 37,500 Avios in business class, it added the ability to redeem for Aer Lingus flights at off-peak prices.
If you can travel during the off-peak dates — which cover roughly eight months of the year — now you can leave from a handful of different U.S. cities, including as far west as Chicago, instead of having to reposition to Boston and get to either Dublin for just 26,000 Avios round-trip in economy or as low as 50,000 one-way in business. And if you live in the south in cities like Orlando and Miami, or the west in Los Angeles and San Francisco, the price only increases to 33,000 Avios round-trip in economy and 62,500 one-way in business.
Here are the best routes for your consideration, allowing you to score nearly four full round-trip tickets to Europe from a 100K welcome bonus. When you consider how cheap flying within Europe is, you can use this Aer Lingus sweet spot to really open up the entire continent.
|Departure City||Route||Flight miles|
*Despite the distance falling below 3,000 miles, Aer Lingus prices these routes as though they cover 3,000+ miles
Aer Lingus is owned by IAG, the same company that charged so much for fuel surcharges that it got sued and was forced to settle. So, you’d be right in assuming that there will be fuel surcharges tacked onto these award flights. But, they aren’t as bad as you might think.
I priced out a couple of different award options to see exactly how much you’d need to pay beyond the terrific award rates above. From New York-JFK to Shannon (SNN), awards cost $113 one-way or $258 round-trip when booking with Aer Lingus Avios. From Miami (MIA) to Dublin (DUB), awards cost $125 one-way or $285 round-trip. Those fees are steep enough to ruin this deal for many.
Considering British Airways is infamous for surcharges, one might assume that BA’s fees are even higher. But shockingly, BA actually charges substantially less in taxes/fees while still requiring the same number of Avios. From JFK to Shannon, awards price out at $35.07 one-way and $114.55 round-trip. From Miami to Dublin, the round-trip award cost just $118.83 in taxes/fees.
The next limitation to these cheap rates is that you’re going to have to fly during off-peak dates. The good news is that most of the calendar is considered off-peak — including parts of April and June and all of May 2021. Here's a look at 2021's off-peak dates:
- Jan. 7 to March 25
- April 12 to June 11
- Sept. 6 to Dec. 15
Spring can be a great time to visit Europe, with mild temperatures and fewer crowds. Just note you have to call British Airways to book this award ticket.
Perhaps the most telling thing is what you don't see on this list — using Avios for transatlantic flights on British Airways or non-flight redemptions such as hotels and cars. Since British Airways insists on tacking huge surcharges onto its award tickets, using Avios for transatlantic flights on the carrier itself usually doesn't make any sense. And the value you'll get from burning Avios on hotels or car rentals often isn't worth the cash you're saving in the first place.
But now that you know the best uses, you can get terrific value from the up to 100,000 Avios welcome bonus on the Aer Lingus and Iberia credit cards, regardless of whether you prefer economy or premium class or tend to take either international or domestic flights. Just remember the hows and whens so you can use your Avios wisely.
Additional reporting by Ethan Steinberg and Andrew Kunesh