If you've got Avios points stashed, there are tons of hidden points boosters to help you push it (baby), push it real good (apologies to Salt-N-Pepa).
We've put together 30+ ways to help max your points, including the best Avios reward cards, how to earn 10,000s of bonus points and the best value redemptions.
Avios is the points scheme formed, with much public disquiet, from Airmiles and BA Miles in Nov 2011 (see Avios launches MSE news).
Many mistake Avios for a frequent-flyer scheme. Actually it's a points scheme like Nectar and Clubcard, earnable in Shell, Tesco and by spending on reward credit cards, though its rewards are travel-focused.
You pay taxes under Avios
Unlike the old Airmiles system, Avios charges passengers taxes and fees on flights, usually £70-£90 for European return flights. Yet under its Reward Saver scheme, you pay a fixed £30 fee on most short-haul economy flights, as long as you earn at least one point the year before you book. See full Reward Saver details.
Avios has some benefits over Airmiles, however. Avios customers can book one-way and 'open-jaw' tickets – say London to Vegas, Los Angeles to London. Plus flights departing from non-London UK airports are no longer subject to a 500 Airmile supplement. You can also use points to upgrade cabin class.
How much are Avios points worth?
Depending on how you spend them, 1,000 Avios points could be worth anything from £1 to £20. Here are some examples of how long it takes to earn enough to travel ...
Avios vs BA Executive Club Avios
Confusingly, both the BA Executive Club and Iberia Plus points are called Avios. Avios points are worth the same, regardless of scheme. You can also now transfer BMI destination miles to Avios, see Airline Credit Cards for full details.
Avios says the main Avios scheme's better for irregular travellers and the BA Executive Club's best for frequent flyers, offering benefits such as free airport lounge access. However, you can move or pool Avios and BA Executive Club points at any time, so if you change your mind later, it doesn't matter.
A boon for high spenders is that the BA Amex credit card gives a free like-for-like companion ticket if you spend over £20,000/year (always repay in full or it's 19.9% representative APR). See BA Amex card.
Use the best Avios credit card
We've crunched the numbers on the big Avios credit cards to find the best way to earn points while you spend.
You'll need a reasonable credit score and a decent income. Applying without either of these will leave a search on your file, even if you're rejected. See the Credit Rating guide for more details.
Always set up a direct debit to repay the card in full each month, so you'll never pay interest
Companion ticket on £20k spend: BA Amex Taxes not included.
- Intro bonus? 9,000 points
- Standard points: 1 for every £1
- Rep variable APR: 19.9% Official APR example
- Annual fee: N/A
- Min income: £30,000 household
- Points expire after? 3 years from when you collect your last one
The BA Amex* card gives a free 2for1 flight voucher giving an identical ticket, even if biz class, when redeeming though you need to spend over £20,000 in a year to get it (and pay taxes on both flights).
You'll earn 1 Avios point for every £1 spent. Be sure to repay in full, otherwise the gain will be eroded by the 19.9% representative APR.
Current introductory offer
Apply now and you'll get an extra 9,000 Avios if you spend £500 within the first three months.
- What airlines can points be redeemed against? Avios points can be redeemed on BA and other Oneworld airlines, which includes BA, American Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Qantas.
- Companion ticket: The companion flight can be used to get the same ticket type as the card holder (eg, if you go first class so do they), though only on BA and is valid for 12 months. You'll also need to pay taxes and charges. You can continue to collect points after it has been issued, but ensure you leave enough time as seat numbers can be limited when redeeming points.
- Additional cardholder: Those in trusting relationships can boost their points further by adding a partner to your account. The points accumulated when they spend will also be added to your account, making your points grow quicker.
The BA Amex card is the clear winner. If you don't have the £30k family income to get it, the Lloyds Duo card is the next best fee-free option.
If you're willing to pay a hefty £150 fee, the BA Premium Plus will boost your points with 50% more points per £1 than the standard BA card above. You only need to spend £10,000 for a free companion ticket. A fee that big is a risk - you'll need to be a big spender for it to be worth it. For full details on all these cards see Airline Credit Cards.
It is possible to earn Avios via a Tesco Clubcard credit card, but this never comes top. The main advantage is it gives 0% for 16 months on new purchases if you want to spread the cost of a big purchase. For full details see 0% Spending Cards.
You can boost Avios by 30,000
Apply for selected cards, spend a trigger amount and you could see your Avios boosted by up to 30,000 points. For full details see the Airline Credit Cards guide.
|Avios cards compared||BA*||Lloyds Duo*||BA Premium Plus*||Lloyds Premier Duo*||Tesco*|
|Avios per £1k spend:||1,000||1,000||1,500||1,250||600|
|Sign up bonus:||9k avios (£500 spend in first 3 mths)||15k avios (£500/mth Amex spend in first three months)||18k avios (£3,000 spend in first 3 mths)||20k avios (£500/mth Amex spend in first three months)||16 mths 0% on purchases|
|Amex?||Yes||Yes plus Mastercard||Yes||Yes plus Mastercard||No, Mastercard|
|Companion Flight?||£20,000+ spend||-||£10,000+ spend||£15,000+ spend||-|
|Minimum income||£30,000 household||-||£30,000 household||-||£5,000|
(see Official APR Examples)
|15.9%||17.9%||56.4% (inc fee)||23.7% (inc fee)||16.9%|
You're not getting something for nothing
Don't think Avios is giving you something for nothing. Loyalty points schemes are incorporated into pricing policies. So the golden rule is: choose where to shop on price, not because you get Avios points, but always get points when you're spending there anyway.
Convert Tesco vouchers to Avios
If you convert Clubcard vouchers into Avios points, £2.50 becomes 600 Avios points. This means £37.50 buys a Eurostar return to Paris. It could also get you to Prague or Milan (plus £30 taxes).
Just exchange your vouchers on the Tesco Rewards site. See Boost Tesco Points for a full guide.
Earn points at Shell
Flash your Shell Drivers' Club card at Shell when buying petrol and you bag 10 Avios points per 20 litres of fuel.
To sign up, pick up a card at your nearest Shell, then register it online and swipe it each time you spend. 20 Shell points equals 10 Avios points.
It's also worth signing up for Shell's mobile app, which periodically has promos of 'buy 30 litres, get 50 extra points' (£10).
... though Tesco fuel beats it
Earning points via Shell is slow going. You'll need to fill up 30,000 litres of fuel (about £42,000) to earn enough points to get a flight to Rome (plus £30 taxes).
However, buy £42,000 of fuel at Tesco, and you'd get £210 Clubcard vouchers, which convert to 50,400 Avios, enough for three flights to Rome (plus £30 taxes per flight).
Avios e-store - useful but beatable
Avios's e-store works like a cashback site: you sign up, then click through it to buy something. The site gets paid for sending traffic and gives some of this cash to you in the form of Avios.
Sounds great, yet the top cashback sites almost always beat it. For example, spend £50 at House of Fraser and you'd get 100 Avios (worth 80p), yet spend £50 at House of Fraser via Topcashback and you'd get £2.50. Full info's in our Top Cashback Sites guide.
Though if you're buying something small and haven't collected an Avios point in the last year, this is an easy way to ensure you earn the points you need to qualify for Reward Saver or bonus points offers.
Earn Avios points for your opinion
Sign up for Avios e-Rewards and you get paid points for your opinions. To become an e-Rewards member, you have to be invited. This isn't guaranteed, but follow Avios's instructions to get your name on the waiting list and you may get an invite.
If you do, wait for survey alerts to land in your inbox and zip through the questions. The number of points you can earn depends on how many surveys you qualify for - once you earn 1,200, they convert to 250 Avios.
Some MoneySavers who take part say they've earned 500 Avios a year, others have earned nowt.
Earn via American Express Currency Exchange
Every £1 you exchange at American Express airport currency exchange, you'll get one point. Always check you're getting the best deal first. For the best rate, see Travel Money Max.
Got a top Avios boosting tip that we haven't listed? Feed back in the Avios Points Boosting discussion.
Pick redemptions carefully
Choose how you spend your Avios with care. 1,000 Avios can be worth anything from £1 to £20 depending on how you spend them, so aim to redeem on things giving better value. Always check what it would actually cost to buy first to see if it's a good value exchange.
Watch out with long-haul economy
Many folks used to squirrel away Airmiles for a trip of a lifetime, eg, long-haul economy flights to New York. Sadly, for long haul, economy charges can be similar to paying to fly on a cheap airline (see Cheap Flights).
For example, in our check, an economy return to New York was 40,000 Avios plus £349 taxes. The same flight cost just £375 direct from British Airways, so 1,000 Avios spent on this would be worth a piddly £1.
The exception's if you want an economy long-haul flight at expensive peak times. For example, if you flew around Christmas and were lucky enough to find space on an Avios flight, this could boost points' value.
Redeem on Eurostar and there are no taxes
Swap Avios points for Eurostar return tickets and you don't pay taxes or charges, which makes it an excellent value exchange. Plus Eurostar's rarely discounted.
Return tickets to Paris, Lille or Brussels all start from 9,000 Avios points (redeem this way and 1,000 Avios are worth £8ish). You need to book ahead for peak times, as Eurostar only releases a limited number of 9,000 returns for each day – once those have gone the price in points goes up.
You pay just £30 taxes on short-haul flights
Unlike the old Airmiles scheme, Avios charges passengers taxes and fees on flights, usually £70-£90 for European return flights. Yet under its Reward Saver scheme, you pay a fixed £30 fee on BA and Iberia flights in zones 1-3, as long as you earn at least one Avios point in the year before you book.
Destinations in these zones include Europe, Moscow and Marrakesh. To see a full list, see Avios's map and click 'show Reward Saver Flight Destinations only'. The fee is £40 for business class flights. We found 1,000 Avios points redeemed on short-haul flights are typically worth £8.
You may be able to bag a 1p flight
The downside of spending your Avios points on short-haul flights is that some destinations may be served by budget airlines, so it could be possible to fly for 1p.
Our Flightchecker tool cleverly tells you WHEN to go for super-cheap prices. You just say ‘find any £10-and-under Barcelona flights during August’ or set a price and pick 'I’ll go anywhere'.
Though, of course, with Avios flights you can put baggage in the hold without extra charges. See Budget Flight Fee-Fighting for a full guide to beating budget airline fees.
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Biz usually beats economy long-haul
Using your points for long-haul business or first-class flights gives you a better cash equivalent return.
Plus, while you pay taxes on long-haul flights, on pricey first class tickets these make up a smaller proportion of the overall ticket price. We found 1,000 Avios points redeemed on biz-class long haul flights were worth up to £20.
However all this is, of course, based on business class flights' list value, and you pay a huge amount more for that extra comfort (many days' worth of five-star hotels' worth) so it depends on how much you value flying business. You get more flights using your points for economy short-haul trips and don't have to wait as long to earn enough.
A story from Martin ...
“Over Xmas I used a couple of years of saved-up points and a credit card companion ticket to treat Mrs MSE to a New York trip, flying out biz, back first class. If I'd paid cash, it would have cost £12,600 – completely unjustifiable. Yet with total charges of £875, it was cheaper than economy during that peak time."
Consider a Merlin annual pass
If travel rewards don't rock your boat, you can swap 16,000 Avios points for a Merlin annual pass. Usually £159, the passes give unlimited annual visits to Merlin Entertainment attractions and theme parks, including Alton Towers, Thorpe Park and Chessington.
We found 1,000 points were worth about £10 spent this way. You can also swap Avios points for individual theme park entry tickets. 1,000 points are worth about £8 via this route, though 2for1 vouchers abound, so consider spending points on something you can't cut the cost of so easily (see cheap Theme Park deals).
Flight upgrades give cracking value
You can use Avios to upgrade when you make a cash booking with British Airways or Iberia. Upgrades depend on availability in the class you want to upgrade to. You can only upgrade one cabin level up, ie, premium economy to business, not economy to business.
These are fab value for points. Though be aware that you can only upgrade on certain types of fares, usually not the cheapest non-flexible economy ones. If you're keen to upgrade a flight, before you purchase call 0844 49 333 99 to check the ticket type will be eligible.
See a examples of upgrade prices. Upgrades can only be booked its Customer Contact Centre, not online.
Remember the points' value is based on list prices, and you pay a huge amount more for that extra comfort so it depends how important luxury is to you.
Always earn at least one point
Points on all Avios schemes expire if you don't collect or redeem at least one point in three years. Plus under its Reward Saver scheme, you pay a fixed £30 fee on most short-haul flights, as long as you earn at least one point the year before you book. See full Reward Saver details.
Book quick, quick, quick for peak times
Availability is much more limited than when paying for flights, so ensure you're flexible when booking. If you want to fly at peak times such as Christmas or school holidays, book well in advance.
You can combine Avios & BA Exec accounts
You can combine Avios points from different Avios schemes (eg, BA and Iberia) and different family members' accounts online – handy if you're saving for a dream trip.
To do this, log in to the Avios scheme you want to put the points in, go to your account and click 'combine your Avios'. If you have a free companion flight, it makes sense to combine accounts, so you can fly further away.
Check availability on Avios and BA Exec
Bizarrely, flight availability sometimes varies between the main Avios site and the British Airways Executive Club's. If you're struggling to find the flight you want, check availability on both sites and move your points into the scheme with flights available.
Buy extra points if you're short
The Avios scheme lets you buy extra points, so if you're just short, you can top them up.
The points aren't cheap, at £31 per 1,000. So only do this if you need to travel soon and don't have time to earn miles. 1,000 Avios are typically only worth £8-£10 (though up to £20 if you spend them on business-class or are taking a free companion).
To buy them, visit Avios or the BA Exective Club.
|Buying extra Avios points||
Max no. of points you can buy per year
Also keep an eye out for promotions when buying points, because sometimes you can get up to 30% extra free.
Earn via BA & Iberia flights
Avios members can still earn points in the same way when flying on BA and its partner airline Iberia. So remember to collect if you were flying on those airlines anyway.
Use companion tickets wisely
Some Avios credit cards give you a companion ticket when you spend over a certain amount, so you get to take someone else with you under exactly the same conditions for no extra points.
In other words, if you're going business to Miami, they come for free (though most cards require you to pay taxes for both as well).
If your card does that, it's worth waiting until you have the companion voucher before spending your points as you get much better value from them. Remember they usually only last a year.
What not to spend Avios on
Think twice before spending Avios points on hotels or car hire. In our research we found these gave poor value for points - you're usually better off redeeming on other rewards.
Keep your eyes open for sales
Avios sometimes holds points sales that temporarily cut the number of points needed to fly to certain destinations. Be ready to pounce if they happen.
You can change bookings for £25
It's worth noting changes or cancellations can be made for £25 up to 24 hours before a flight. so if you change your mind about a flight, you usually needn't lose your Avios.
Combine one-way tix with budget flights
One big advantage over the old Airmiles scheme is you can book one-way tickets – they simply cost half the number of points as a return flight.
This is a boon, for example, if you find a super-cheap budget airline flight for your outward journey, but can't find a cheapie on the way back.
To find uber-cheap budget flights, use our FlightChecker tool to find 'all sub-£20 flights in May' either to a specific destination or just 'I’ll go anywhere'.
Play with zones
Avios divides the world into nine geographical zones with each costing a specific number of points (see its Zone Map).
Within these zones, some destinations are better value than others. Zone 1 covers Paris, but stretches as far as Prague – both cost 9,000 Avios (plus £30). Zone 5 includes charter-flight destination Orlando, but also more exotic, pricier destinations such as Cape Town and Beijing – all cost 50,000 Avios (plus taxes).