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 Avios points, including the best reward cards, how to earn 10,000s of bonus points and the best value redemptions.
Confusingly, the main Avios, BA Executive Club, and Iberia Plus points schemes are all called Avios. This guide applies to the specific Avios scheme, and largely covers BA Exec and Iberia Plus too - see more info on the differences between them.
How Avios works
Avios is a points scheme formed from Air Miles and BA Miles in 2011. Many mistake it for a frequent-flyer scheme but it works more like the Nectar and Tesco Clubcard loyalty schemes. You can earn points on Britsh Airways, Iberia and Flybe flights, in Shell and Tesco and by spending on reward credit cards. Rewards are travel-focused.
Here are some examples of what you'll have to spend in order to get a free flight or Eurostar ticket:
Where you could go
|Action||Includes||Points needed||Taxes (1)|
|Exchange £37.50 Tesco Clubcard vouchers||Eurostar rtn to Paris/Lille/Brussels||9,000 (2)||None|
|Exchange £80 Tesco Clubcard vouchers||Return to Moscow||20,000||£35|
|Sign up for BA Amex & spend £1,000 (3)||Return to Prague||9,000||£35|
|Buy 30,000 litres at Shell||Return to Rome||15,000||£35|
|1) To pay the £35 fixed Reward Flight Saver fee, you need to have collected at least one point in the last year - otherwise you'll pay full taxes. 2) Eurostar only releases a limited number of 9,000-point returns for each day - after that the points price goes up. 3) Spend £1,000 in the first three months and get 9,000 bonus points.|
Avios vs BA Executive Club Avios
The main Avios, BA Executive Club, and Iberia Plus points are all called Avios. Points are usually worth the same, regardless of scheme.
Avios says the main Avios scheme's better for irregular travellers while the BA Executive Club's best for frequent flyers, offering benefits such as free airport lounge access for members in certain tiers. 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 15.9% representative APR).
You still pay taxes under Avios
Avios charges passengers taxes and fees on flights, wiping some of the gain. These can be up to £100 or more for British Airways return flights in Europe. But under its Reward Flight Saver scheme, you pay a fixed £35 fee on most short-haul economy flights, as long as you earn at least one point during the year before you book. See below for more info.
Avios customers can book one-way and 'open-jaw' tickets – say, London to Las Vegas, Los Angeles to London. You can also use points to upgrade cabin class.
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
The BA Amex card is the clear winner for most people. There's no annual fee and it offers a free companion ticket if you spend more than £20,000 in a year.
Get a companion ticket on £20k spend
BA Amex* - Taxes not included
On the BA Amex* (you can use our eligibility calculator for this card) you accrue one Avios point for every £1 spent. In addition, spend £20,000 on your card in a year and you'll get a 'free' companion ticket to use when you redeem your miles.
So it's good for bigger-spending couples wanting long-haul flights - though you must pay taxes and charges. Here's what you'd have to spend on the card to get to different destinations:
|London to...||Paris||New York||Cape Town|
|Passengers||1||2 (1)||2 (1)|
|(1) Incl 'free' companion ticket. (2) Under the Reward Flight Saver scheme. (3) Spend needed for an off-peak booking.|
Apply before Wed 15 June and you'll get an extra 9,000 Avios points if you spend £1,000 within the first three months. Be sure you repay in full though, otherwise the gain will be eroded by the 22.9% rep APR.
Going to get this? Click for full details first
- What airlines can points be redeemed against? Avios can be redeemed on BA and other Oneworld airlines, including American Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Qantas. See the Avios site for where you can go.
- Companion ticket: The companion flight can be used to get the same ticket type as the cardholder (if you go first class, so do they), though only on BA. It's 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 miles.
- Additional cardholder: If you're in a trusting relationship, you can boost Avios 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.
If you're willing to pay a hefty £195 fee, the BA Premium Plus card is the best way to boost your points as you get 50% more points per £1 than the standard BA card above. Plus, you only need to spend £10,000 for a free companion ticket. A fee that big is a risk though - you'll need to be a big spender for it to be worth it.
It is also possible to earn Avios points via a Tesco Clubcard credit card, but this never comes top. The main advantage is it gives 0% for 21 months on new purchases if you want to spread the cost of a big purchase.
See the table below to see how all the major Avios cards stack up. For full details, see the Airline Credit Cards guide.
|Avios cards compared||BA*||Lloyds Avios*||BA Premium Plus*||Lloyds Premier Avios||Tesco*|
|Avios per £1k spend:||1,000||1,250||1,500||1,500||300 (min 600 Avios can be exchanged for £2.50 in Clubcard points)|
|Sign up bonus:||9,000 Avios (£1,000 spend in first 3 months)||Double Avios for the first 6 months when using Amex||25,000 Avios (£3,000 spend in first 3 months)||Double Avios for the first 6 months when using Amex||21 mths 0% on purchases|
|Amex?||Yes||Yes plus Mastercard||Yes||Yes plus Mastercard||No, Mastercard|
|Companion flight?||£20,000+ spend||-||£10,000+ spend||£12,000+ spend||-|
|Minimum income||£20,000 household||-||£20,000 household||-||£5,000|
(see Official APR Examples)
|22.9%||23.7% (incl fee)||76% (incl fee)||52.1% (incl fee)||18.9%|
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.
If shaving the cost of your flight is primarily what you're after, see our Cheap Flights guide.
You pay nowt if you redeem on Eurostar
Swap Avios points for Eurostar return tickets and you don't pay taxes or charges, which makes it an excellent value exchange. Plus it's rare to find hefty discounts on Eurostar fares.
Return tickets to Paris, Lille or Brussels all start from 9,000 Avios points (redeem this way and 1,000 Avios points 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.
Short-haul flights are great value
Avios charges passengers taxes and fees on flights, which can be up to £100 or more for European return flights.
Yet under its Reward Flight Saver scheme, charges on most short-haul economy BA flights are currently fixed at £35. The fee is £50 for business class flights.
The scheme tends to cover European destinations and some in South Africa - check whether where you're going is covered on the Avios website. You must earn at least one Avios point the year before you book to take advantage.
Keep your eyes open for sales
Avios sometimes holds points sales that temporarily cut the number of points needed to fly to certain destinations, or reduce the flat-rate Reward Flight Saver fee charged on short-haul flights.
They're always short-lived - the last one only ran for a week - so be ready to pounce when they happen.
Tesco shopper? Time your Avios trade-in
When you convert Clubcard vouchers into Avios points, £10 becomes 2,400 Avios points. This means £37.50 of Tesco vouchers buys a Eurostar return to Paris. It could also get you to Prague or Milan in economy (plus £35 fee).
But it occasionally boosts this to 4,000 Avios for every £10. So if you've no plans to use your points yet, hold your horses until Tesco runs one of these promotions. See Boost Tesco Points for more on getting max value for Clubcard vouchers.
Pick redemptions carefully
Choose how you spend your points with care. 1,000 Avios points can be worth anything from £1 to £50 depending on how you spend them, so aim to exchange them for things giving better value.
Always check what it would actually cost to buy in cash first to see if it's a good value exchange. We've used estimates in the table below, so it's best to check yourself before booking to make sure it's worth using your points on the flight.
How much are Avios points worth?
Watch out with some long-haul economy
Back in the days of Air Miles, folk used to squirrel them away for a trip of a lifetime, such as economy flights to New York. But if you're going to shorter long-haul destinations (ie New York, Dubai, or north or central Africa), Avios economy charges can now be similar to paying to fly on a cheap airline (see Cheap Flights for how to compare prices).
However, if you're flying long haul to destinations such as Sydney this isn't such a problem. The taxes you pay are similar on flights to New York (a seven-hour flight) as they are to Sydney (a 24 hour flight) - it's the cost of the ticket that varies.
The other 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 your points' value.
Buying business class tickets is top value
Using your points for long-haul business flights gives you a better cash equivalent return than economy. 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.
Use your points on an economy New York return and 1,000 points can be worth £3.88 - but use them to buy a business-class return and those same 1,000 points are worth £12.63.
This is, of course, based on business flights' list values, and you pay a huge amount more for that extra comfort (often days' of five-star hotels' worth). So it depends on how much you value flying in luxury.
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..
One Christmas, 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.
Upgrades are also good value - yet there are catches
You can use Avios to upgrade when you make a cash booking with British Airways, Iberia or American Airlines.This can be fab value. On a typical London - NYC return, you can upgrade from Premium Economy (usually £1,050) to Business Class (usually £2,636), using 20,000 Avios points. Based on list prices, spend your Avios this way, and 1,000 points would be worth £79.30.
There are a few catches. Perhaps most annoyingly, you can only upgrade on certain types of fares. Only fully flexible economy tickets are eligible. Though you can upgrade all British Airways fares in World Traveller Plus and Club World using Avios.
Upgrades depend if there's room in the class you want to upgrade to. You can only upgrade one cabin level up - so usually premium economy to business, not economy to business. Though the next cabin up varies depending on which flight you're on.
You can only book upgrades via its call centre, not online. If you're keen to upgrade a flight, before you purchase, call 01925 848619 to check the ticket type is eligible.
The way you earn and spend on flights with Avios changed last year
Changes to the scheme year year means fewer points are awarded when flying economy. You may now only earn 25% of the economy miles flown (though if you booked before the changes on 28 April 2015, you'll earn the full miles flown as before).
BA also split flights into peak and off-peak for those using points so you need fewer points to book off-peak. Peak is mostly the summer, Easter, Christmas and half-term holidays; while off-peak is other times + ALL Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
See full details what changed below, including exact rates, business and first class tickets, and flying from a non-London airport. You can book on non-BA flights using Avios, but we've focused on BA as it's the dominant UK airline. See the the section below if booking on another airline.
Fewer points needed to book off-peak flights
But off-peak, you need 8,000 points for flights to zone 1, 13,000 to zone 2 (eg, Madrid), and 65,000 to zone 9 (eg, Sydney).
Business and first class bookers buying a ticket with cash often earn more points
Business class flyers earn 150% of the miles flown in points for non-flexible fares as before, but they now also earn 250% for flexible. First is 250%, 300% for flexible flights.
Non-flexible economy tickets bought in cash earn half or a quarter of the points
More points needed for most premium cabin bookings
From London to Zone 4 (eg, Kuwait) you will need 50,000 in peak and 40,000 in off-peak to fly return in premium economy rather than the previous 37,500.
In premium economy you used to earn 125% of the miles flown – now you get 100% for non-flexible tickets but 150% for flexible tickets.
Those using points to fly from a non-London airport to Europe need to use & pay more
So if you want to fly from Manchester to Paris return using points, it's 18,000 points + £70 in charges (9,000 points + £35 in taxes and charges for each return leg), double what it was previously. Connections are free for long haul though.
Full tables with Avios earning and spending rates
Post 28 April 2015 changes to points earned on flights
Earning on BA - points earned per miles flown
|Cabin class||Ticket type||New rate|
|Non-flexible||25% or 50%|
|100% means 100% of the miles flown, so fly 2,000 miles, get 2,000 points|
Post 28 April 2015 changes to points needed to book flights
Economy points needed per return (+ taxes & charges)
|1 (eg, Paris)||8,000||9,000||11,500||13,500|
|2 (eg, Madrid)||13,000||15,000||19,000||22,500|
|3 (eg, Marrakech)||17,000||20,000||25,500||30,000|
|4 (eg, Kuwait)||20,000||25,000||40,000||50,000|
|5 (eg, New York)||26,000||40,000||52,000||80,000|
|6 (eg, Barbados)||32,500||50,000||65,000||100,000|
|7 (eg, Mauritius)||39,000||60,000||78,000||120,000|
|8 (eg, Singapore)||45,500||70,000||91,000||140,000|
|9 (eg, Sydney)||65,000||100,000||130,000||200,000|
Business/first points needed per return (+ taxes & charges)
|1 (eg, Paris)||15,500||18,000||31,000||36,000|
|2 (eg, Madrid)||25,500||30,000||51,000||60,000|
|3 (eg, Marrakech)||34,000||40,000||68,000||80,000|
|4 (eg, Kuwait)||62,500||75,000||85,000||100,000|
|5 (eg, New York)||100,000||120,000||136,000||160,000|
|6 (eg, Barbados)||125,000||150,000||170,000||200,000|
|7 (eg, Mauritius)||150,000||180,000||204,000||240,000|
|8 (eg, Singapore)||175,000||210,000||238,000||280,000|
|9 (eg, Sydney)||250,000||300,000||340,000||400,000|
Iberia changed how you earn and spend points in much the same way as BA did (they're part of the same group).
On spending points, it also introduced peak and off-peak pricing. For economy flights, off-peak short haul and peak long haul cost the same. But short haul peak fares are 10%-11% more, while long haul off-peak flights are 12%-15% less. Check the BA website for full details.
Iberia's point system per mile is similar to BA. In general, those on non-flexible, economy flights are worse off, while those flying business class are better off.
Avios collectors can sometimes book on other airlines such as Malaysia Airlines and American Airlines too. For premium cabin flights, you need more points to get a reward flight. See the BA website for more on other airlines.
You may be able to bag a £50 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 around £50.
Our FlightChecker tool cleverly tells you when to go for super-cheap prices. You just say "find any £50-and-under flights to Bordeaux during December" or set a price and pick "I’ll go anywhere".
Though, of course, with some British Airways 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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Combine one-way tix with budget flights
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 budget flights, use our FlightChecker tool to find "all sub-£50 flights in May" either to a specific destination or just "I’ll go anywhere".
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 Flight Saver scheme, you pay a fixed £35 fee on most short-haul economy flights, as long as you earn at least one point the year before you book.
Book quick, quick, quick for peak times
Availability is much more limited than when paying for flights, so ensure you're flexible when booking.
Tactically, the ideal time to start checking is a year before - this is when seats start to be released. Though keep checking, as sometimes there are no seats available when a flight's launched, but extra seats are released later.
If you want to fly at peak times such as Christmas or school holidays, book well in advance. Use Avios's zone map to find routes with availability.
Use Avios eStore or Gate365 via BA to boost points BUT cashback sites can beat them
Avios's eStore and Gate365 via BA (you'll need to log into your Excutive Club account to access it) work like a cashback sites: you sign up, then click through to buy something. The site gets paid for sending traffic and gives some of this cash to you in the form of Avios points.
Sounds great, but do check cashback sites as well - rates for some retailers can easily be beaten. For example, spend £50 at House of Fraser and you'd get 200 Avios points, yet spend £50 at House of Fraser via Topcashback and you'd get up to £2.10 which, if you opt to convert into Avios, gives you 220 points, including a 5% bonus.
However, for other retailers such as Selfridges, you get 8 Avios per £1 spent, often doubled to 16 Avios per £1 (most recently over the Christmas period). So spend £570 or more online at Selfridges via the eStore or Gate365 during a double points promotion, and you'll have enough Avios for a Eurostar return or a return to Copenhagen or Geneva (plus £35 taxes).
Plus, 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 Flight Saver or bonus points offers.
Want to know more about cashback sites? Full info's in our Top Cashback Sites guide.
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 usually 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 points.
Some MoneySavers who take part say they've earned 500 points a year, so you're not going to build up points quickly this way but it will boost your stash. For more ways to earn with online survey sites and focus groups, see the Top 20 Online Survey Sites guide.
Got a top Avios boosting tip that we haven't listed? Feed back in the Avios Points Boosting discussion.
Trade in cashback site earnings for Avios
If you've money squirrelled away with cashback site Topcashback*, there's another trick to boost your Avios points stash. You can trade in 1p for 1 Avios point, but you can a 5% bonus if you swap more than 20p. That means for every £10 of cashback you get 1,050 Avios points.
You could also use cashback for Tesco points and convert them into Avios to get even more points - 2,400 per 1,000 Clubcard points (600 Avios per £2.50 of Tesco points). There are step-by-step instructions in the Tesco Points Boosting guide.
If you're new to cashback sites, they work by giving you a cut of revenue earned for directing you to retailers and providers. See full help and warnings in the Top Cashback Sites guide.
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 into the Avios scheme you want to put the points in, go to your account and click 'combine your Avios' or 'create a Household Account'. You can share points with up to six people who live in the same house as you.
If you have a free companion flight, it usually makes sense to combine accounts, so you can fly further. The companion must be named on the household account, as well as the cardholder.
Earn points at Shell...
Flash your Shell Drivers' Club card when buying petrol at Shell and you bag 10 Avios points per 20 litres of standard fuel and 20 Avios for Shell's V-Power Nitro+ fuel.
To sign up, pick up a card at your nearest Shell, then register it online and swipe it each time you spend. You earn 50 bonus points when you opt into Avios within 28 days of signing up. Every 20 Shell Drivers' points equals 10 Avios points.
It's also worth signing up for Shell's mobile app, which occasionally has promos such as "buy 30 litres, get 50 extra points".
...though Tesco fuel beats it
Earning points via Shell is slow going. You'll need to fill up almost 39,000 litres of fuel (about £45,000) to earn enough points to get a flight to Rome (plus fees).
But buy £45,000 of fuel at Tesco, and you'd get £225 Clubcard vouchers, which convert to 54,000 Avios - enough for four Europe Zone 1 returns, plus a £35 Reward Flight Saver fee per flight. While this is a better deal than Shell, the Tesco Fuel Save scheme is ending 31 Aug. Tesco says you'll be able to redeem your points until 30 Sept.
Check availability on Avios and BA Exec
Bizarrely, flight availability sometimes varies between the main Avios site and the British Airways Executive Club website. 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 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 them.
|Number of extra Avios points||Price|
|Max number of points you can buy per year||35,000|
Also keep an eye out for promotions when buying points, because sometimes you can get up to 30% extra free.
Earn via BA, Flybe & Iberia flights
Avios members can still earn points in the same way when flying on BA as they can on its partner airlines. 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.
So if you're going business to Sydney paid for with Avios, they can come for free (though you need to pay taxes for both of you).
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.
What NOT to spend Avios points 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, like flights or upgrades.
You can change bookings for £35
It's worth noting changes or cancellations can be made for £35 up to 24 hours before a flight. So if you change your mind about a flight, you needn't lose your points.
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 points (plus £35). Zone 5 includes popular charter-flight destination Orlando, but also more exotic, pricier destinations such as Cape Town and Beijing – all cost 50,000 Avios points (plus taxes).