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Why it makes sense to earn at least 1 British Airways Avios every year

April 07, 2021
8 min read
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One of the biggest letdowns in the points and miles hobby is letting your points and miles expire. Not only is it a potentially huge setback to your travel redemption goals, but it's also a waste in value you're letting slip away.

Right on that same line comes missing out on potential savings by not knowing the mileage earning rules that come with specific airline loyalty programs.

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Today, we're taking a look at British Airways Executive Club. And more specifically, we're taking a look at why you want to make sure to put in the effort to earn at least one Avios every 12 months, which allows you to take advantage of the carrier's esteemed Reward Flight Saver redemption option.

What are Reward Flight Savers?

Reward Flight Savers (RFS) are British Airways' way of rewarding customers with savings. More specifically, British Airways caps the taxes and fees payable on award tickets with Reward Flight Savers. On short-haul awards to Europe, that means being able to take advantage of BA's unpublished award charts for these flights. RFS also allow passengers to pay as little as a $1 (£1) if they pay more Avios — think of it as a sliding scale, though you'll get far less value for those redemptions.

Related: Guide to British Airways' Reward Flight Saver redemptions

A few weeks ago, British Airways devalued this unpublished award chart so that each level was 750 Avios more. While not the worst as far as devaluations go, an increase in award rates is an increase in award rates. Currently, BA's short-haul award chart within Europe (Zones 1-3) is as follows, with premium economy and first blocked out, as they're not options on short-haul flights:

Related: No-notice change: British Airways quietly increases short-haul redemption prices

Zone #

(distance in miles)

EconomyPremium EconomyBusinessFirst
Off-PeakPeakOff-PeakPeakOff-PeakPeakOff-PeakPeak
Zone 1

(1-650)

4,7505,250N/AN/A8,5009,750N/AN/A
Zone 2

(651-1,151)

7,2508,250N/AN/A13,50015,750N/AN/A
Zone 3

(1,152-2,000)

9,25010,750N/AN/A17,75020,750N/AN/A

In addition to these short-haul European zones, British Airways has also experimented with expanding RFS to some long-haul routes. For example, in September 2020, BA launched RFS on the route from London to New York — but don't expect to get great value.

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The value with RFS really shines through on short-haul European redemptions. The only thing with Reward Flight Savers is that to take advantage of the flat taxes and fees payable, you must have earned at least one Avios in the past 12 months.

After a year when many travelers remained grounded — especially from traveling to the U.K. — it's entirely possible that you could have gone a full year without earning one Avios. But to lock in savings that come with RFS, you should prioritize earning at least one every 12 months.

But why should you care? As travel begins to pick back up and suddenly Americans have the possibility of going on vacation to Europe this summer, Reward Flight Savers could come in handy if you're looking to visit multiple destinations on the same trip. For that reason, it's important to keep your Executive Club account up to date.

How do I earn one Avios every 12 months?

The most obvious way to ensure you earn one Avios every 12 months is to fly with British Airways or one of its Oneworld partners and credit the flight to British Airways Executive Club. However, that won't make sense for everyone.

An equally simple way to get some activity in your Executive Club account is to transfer 1,000 points from a transferrable currency to your account. For example, you could transfer 1,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards to BA. TPG Senior Editorial Director Scott Mayerowitz transferred 1,000 Amex points to British Airways and instantly had access to RFS once again.

You could also consider looking at shopping using the BA eStore, British Airways' shopping portal. The portal may have some different retailers than what you're used to with U.S. carriers. TPG always recommends making online purchases through an airline shopping portal to ensure you're earning extra miles items you were going to purchase anyway.

Related: The beginner’s guide to airline shopping portals

Finally, consider opening a cobranded BA credit card, such as the British Airways Visa Signature® Card. It currently comes with a sign-up bonus of up to 100,000 Avios. Earn 75,000 Avios after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening and earn an additional 25,000 Avios after you spend $20,000 in the the first 12 months of account opening. There's a $95 annual fee with the card.

(Photo by John Gribben/The Points Guy)

A look at RFS in action

As mentioned, Reward Flight Savers cap the amount of taxes and fees you'll have to pay on an award ticket. In the U.S., that's capped at $31, while in the U.K., it's capped at £17.50 for economy travel. That capped fee rises for business class (Club Europe) travel.

In the below three examples, you'll see the RFS savings in example itineraries in Zones 1-3. Based on the chart above, the Avios level we're concerned with here is the base level — 4,750 Avios for Zone 1, 7,250 Avios for Zone 2 and 9,250 Avios for Zone 3. You'll see an example booking for someone who doesn't have access to RFS (someone who hasn't earned one Avios in the past 12 months) alongside the booking for someone who does have access to RFS.

Example 1 — London (LHR) to Glasgow (GLA), 345 miles in Zone 1

For this 345-mile journey, both the RFS user and the non-RFS user have access to the award at the base 4,750 Avios level. However, while the RFS user has capped taxes at $31, the non-RFS user must pay nearly $78 for the same ticket.

(Images courtesy of BA)

Example 2 — London (LHR) to Madrid (MAD), 773 miles in Zone 2

We're going a bit farther afield to Madrid in this dummy booking, which falls in BA's Zone 2. For this award, both travelers have access to the award level of 7,250 Avios one-way. However, the non-RFS user will have to pay $70 in taxes and fees, while the RFS passenger is still capped at $31.

(Images courtesy of BA)

Example 3 — London (LHR) to Athens (ATH), 1,510 miles in Zone 3

Finally, looking at this example booking from London to Athens, both flyers yet again have access to an award at the 9,250 Avios level. However, the RFS user is still capped at $31 in taxes and fees, while the non-RFS user has to pay $70 for the same award.

(Images courtesy of BA)

Bottom line

If you travel frequently — or even occasionally — within Europe, Reward Flight Savers can represent great value. A family of four can save a total of $375 on a single round-trip flight if each traveler saves $47 each way.

Unfortunately, British Airways often pre-populates the first rate you see on a booking with the most Avios and lowest amount of cash. However, that's pretty poor value. You'll get the most bang for your buck by booking at the standard level with the $31 in capped taxes and fees.

Featured image by PA Images via Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
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    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

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  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
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Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more