Sally | Edited by Guy
Updated October 2017
Avios points can be your golden ticket to cheap flights. Plus, if you get really creative, there are a host of ways to boost your points stash so you can watch your savings really take off.
You can earn Avios on flights and when shopping and buying fuel, in a loyalty scheme not dissimilar to Nectar and Tesco Clubcard, but with travel-focused rewards. Here we've pulled together our top tips to earning and spending Avios. Also see our Cheap Flights, Easyjet tricks and Ryanair tricks guides for much more.
31 ways to boost and max Avios, including...
Avios, BA Exec & Iberia Plus – join all three for different offers and more availability
There are three schemes that use Avios points: Avios (formerly Airmiles), the British Airways Executive Club and Iberia Plus. To make the most of Avios Points, join all three. Points are usually worth the same, regardless of scheme, and can be freely transferred between them. It just gives you more opportunities to boost and use your points.
For example, you can only book Eurostar using the Avios scheme, and you can only part-pay on bookings with British Airways (BA). There may also be more flight availability on one than another.
You can move or pool Avios between the three at any time, log in to the Avios scheme you want to put the points in, go to your account and click 'combine your Avios'.
The rest of this guide concentrates on earning via and using the Avios and BA schemes, though having an Iberia account also gives you the option to spend via it by transferring points across.
London to Europe is good value but ALWAYS check budget airline prices too
For ALL return economy flights from London to destinations in Avios's zones 1-3, which include all of Europe and parts of North Africa, you pay a flat £35 (£17.50 one way) in taxes and charges, plus the relevant points, as long as you've earned at least one Avios point in the previous year.
If you consider you can sometimes pay £300 for a return flight to Europe, particularly if going to the eastern edges such as Turkey, you can make substantial savings by only using a small number of points.
Where budget airlines beat Avios
Always compare against the cost of paying in cash - see our Cheap Flights, Easyjet tricks and Ryanair tips guides to help. If you can get a £50 return flight, it may be better to pay the extra £15 and keep the points for another time.
A quick search in Feb 2017 found London-Marseille return flights on Ryanair in June 2017 for less than £30 return – less than even the Avios taxes and charges (you'd need 9,000 Avios points). Or to Marrakech, again on Ryanair in October, for less than £75 return (20,000 points).
Do note that Avios bookings come with checked baggage included, so if you need to take a big suitcase, factor that into the cost of buying a flight outright.
Going beyond Europe? Avios can save you £100s but always compare with cash prices first
If you're saving for a particular trip, and you can use Avios points towards the cost, do it – it'll cut the price of the ticket.
But if you're weighing up whether to use Avios now or save them for a later trip, the cash price for the same flight will determine the worth of using points, and this can vary.
In Avios's zones 4-9 (essentially every non-European destination), you pay the same taxes and charges you'd pay when booking with cash, which are typically £200-£500 for a return economy flight.
If you find a flight that doesn't cost much more than the taxes and charges for using Avios points, it may be best to save the points.
To show where it may be best to save Avios points for later, we found (we've chosen direct flights where possible and chosen peak times to travel):
- London to New York on Air India. Return economy class. Cash price: £375. Avios cost on BA: 40,000 points, £300 taxes. Cash difference: You only save £75 using Avios
- London to Sydney on Air China. Return economy class. Cash price: £555. Avios cost on BA: 100,000 points, £450 taxes. Cash difference: You only save £105 using Avios.
Yet it can work the other way:
- London to Dubai on Royal Brunei Airlines. Return economy class. Cash price: £630. Avios cost on BA: 40,000 points, £280 taxes. Cash difference: Avios saves you £350.
- London to Singapore on British Airways. Return economy class. Cash price: £1,010. Avios cost on BA: 70,000 points, £320 taxes. Cash difference: Avios saves you £690.
The same principle applies for premium cabins, eg, business and first
The examples above are all for economy flights, but the same principle applies to premium economy, business and first class flights, though taxes and charges are high (eg, from £50 for a London to Europe return).
That said, Avios points are good for booking cheap flights in premium cabins.
Avios allows you to fly like a king in business without paying a royal ransom
Using your points for long-haul business flights allows you to fly in style (and bag lounge-passes too), which for many is unaffordable booking by cash.
In business, it's generally twice the number of economy class points needed for a European flight, three times for the rest of the world. Taxes and charges are higher in business, but nothing like the enormous jump if paying fully in cash.
Say you're planning a return trip from London to Cape Town. In economy, you'd need 32,500 points off-peak, and 125,000 in business. Taxes and charges are £460 in economy and £680 in business. We found economy tickets in October 2017 for £900, soaring to £4,370 in business – over six times as much.
Or, let's say you're planning a city break to New York. In economy, you'd need 26,000 points off-peak for a return, and 100,000 in business. Taxes and charges are £370 in economy and £530 in business. We found economy tickets in October 2017 for £400, £2,800 in business – five times the price.
Do note that business class within Europe (called Club Europe) is nothing like it is in Club World – you won't get a flat bed, so weigh up if you want to use so many points for a short flight.
Flying from outside London to Europe? You must stopover and pay twice
British Airways only flies to Europe from London, so if you're coming from elsewhere in the UK, you need to connect via London, and you'll be charged in Avios points and taxes for both sectors per leg – from your origin to London, then London to your destination. For a return you pay for four sectors.
If you fly economy from Manchester to Madrid return, peak-time, you pay 24,000 points and £70. It's 9,000 points return to get to London, then 15,000 return from London to Madrid. You pay two lots of £35 in taxes and charges.
So check prices to fly with another airline based on value and convenience (if you prefer direct flights), as others fly direct to Europe – see our Cheap Flights, Easyjet tricks and Ryanair tips guides.
Flights are NOT free – you pay taxes and charges on top
Gone are the Airmiles days when you could redeem miles for a flight without paying a penny. With Avios points you need to pay taxes and fees on flights, wiping some of the gain.
But under its 'Reward Flight Saver' scheme, you pay a fixed £35 fee on most short-haul economy flights in zones 1-3 (Europe and parts of North Africa), as long as you earn at least one point during the year before you book.
You need fewer Avios points going off-peak
On British Airways, off-peak means outside the longer private school holiday periods. See the BA Avios peak and off-peak calendar you'll need to click the green 'off-peak calendar' button having opened the web page. The Iberia calendar is similar but with a few tweaks.
So if you don't mind when you go, aim for the cheaper period when you need a typical 10%-35% fewer points in economy, eg, Madrid requires 15,000 points peak, 13,000 off peak. New York is 40,000 to 26,000, Sydney is 100,000 to 65,000.
Going in peak times? Avios can still smash hugely inflated cash prices
While we've said above you need fewer points off-peak, if you have to travel during peak times – say, to take kids of school age on a summer holiday – Avios can be good value, assuming you book early enough to find reward flights.
While you may need a few more Avios points, it may be nothing compared to how cash prices can spiral. Plus, the cost in Avios and the taxes and charges are fixed, giving extra financial security.
Take going to New York. We found return economy flights from London for £600 in the peak Christmas period when we looked in May 2017, but just £400 a month earlier, in November. Going peak can cost you 14,000 more points but taxes, at about £370, are the same year-round, saving you £400.
Got a flight planned? Find the number of points required
The number of Avios points you need depends on where you are flying, the cabin class you fly in and when you fly.
Below we've listed the number of points you need for different flights, but to understand more it is also worth looking at Avios's zone map to know which zone your destination is in, and British Airways' peak and off-peak flight schedule.
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|
One-way flights on Avios can be good value
Booking a one-way flight on the likes of British Airways can be expensive. But using Avios points is a good way not to get fleeced.
Unless on a budget airline, when paying cash in full, one-way tickets can be exorbitant – we found a Singapore Airlines one-way direct flight to Singapore for £480 (with BA it was an eye-watering £1,300). For comparison the cheapest BA return around the same dates was £460.
How Avios points work on one-ways – great for Europe
When using Avios points to go one-way, you simply halve the number of points required for a return trip.
With taxes and charges, you also halve the return cost for a return trip to zones 1-3 (Europe and parts of North Africa), so you pay £17.50 for a single leg. With longer-haul flights, the amount you pay in taxes and charges is more complicated to work out, as it depends on the distance and airport you're departing from, as some charge more than others.
As you can usually get a decent value one-way ticket to Europe on a budget airline, it may be cheapest to book one leg with Avios, one with a budget airline.
The top way to boost points – everyday spending on specialist credit cards
We've crunched the numbers on the big Avios credit cards to find the best way to earn points while you spend. This can significantly boost your Avios stash, simply for doing everyday spending on one.
Before you begin though, a few things to note:
ALWAYS pay off in full or interest will dwarf the rewards
Just do normal spending on the credit card, instead of your debit card, and set up a direct debit to repay in full so you never forget.
If you fail to pay in full you're charged the standard APR which is likely to kibosh the points gain.
You NEED a good credit history
Don't borrow on these cards
They're best if you're a regular flyer
Don't think you can use your frequent flyer miles for any flight, any time. There's far less availability using miles than paying in cash so your destination may be booked up when you need it.
If you're a regular flyer and that happens, just hold the points for next time. But if you're not, they may go to waste and you'd be better off with a Cashback Credit Card.
Will you need other credit soon?
Multiple searches on your credit file can damage future applications, so if you think you'll need to apply for important credit soon – such as a mortgage – consider holding off applying for one of these cards to spread out your applications.
You'll gain more if you've a companion
A number of the cards include 'companion tickets' if you spend over a certain amount.
These usually allow you to take someone with you, in the same cabin as you, for no extra points, though they'll have to pay taxes and charges. If you go long-haul business-class, so do they.
Eligible flights are those booked via BA with a flight number starting 'BA' (BA1234 for example).
The top Avios-earning credit cards
All the cards in the table below are top points boosters, but the highest earning ones usually come with hefty annual fees – eg, up to £195 with British Airways Premium Plus. To make that worthwhile, you'll need to weigh up the benefits it comes with, ie, a companion ticket on a £10,000 annual spend and 1.5 points instead of the normal 1 per £1 spend.
Our top pick is the Amex Preferred Gold card. It's fee-free in the first year, you can earn a big 20,000 intro bonus Avios points and get 1 point per £1. Plus, there's a trick that allows you to earn the intro bonus again and again – see how you can manipulate your Amex below.
The Lloyds card below requires a minimum £20,000 household income so beware of that before you apply.
|Avios card||Avios per £1 spend||Sign-up Avios bonus||Annual fee||Companion flight?||Rep APR
(see Official APR Examples)
|Amex Preferred Rewards Gold (eligibility calc / apply*)||1 (must convert Member Reward points to Avios at 1:1)||20k (£2k spend in first 3mths)||Free in year 1, then £140||No||N/A – it's a charge card so must be paid in full each month, or you pay a £12 penalty|
|BA Amex (eligibility calc / apply*)||1||5k (on £1k spend in first 3mths)||N/A||On £20,000+ annual spend||22.9%|
|Lloyds Avios Amex & Mastercard (apply)||1.25 on Amex, 1.25 per £5 on M'card||Double Avios for first 6mths on Amex||£24||No||23.7% (incl fee)|
|BA Premium Plus Amex (eligibility calc / apply*)||1.5||25k (£3k spend in first 3mths)||£195||On £10,000+ annual spend||76% (incl fee)|
Use companion tickets wisely – they can quickly expire
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, though like you, they still pay taxes and charges.
So if you're going business to Sydney paid for with Avios, they can go too and all they'll pay is taxes and charges (around £750 each). While this does work on short-haul flights too, savings on long-haul run into the £1,000s, rather than the much smaller sums you'll save on a return to Europe.
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. Though do note the expiry limits – for the fee-free BA Amex, it's one year from issue, and for the Premium Plus BA Amex, it's two years.
Two years is a decent amount of time, but with one-year companion tickets, you'll need to be more flexible and ready to pounce when reward seats are released, usually a year in advance.
Manipulate credit card offers to boost Avios by 80,000+
As mentioned, specialist credit cards are the top way to boost Avios and at the basic level simply involve doing everyday spending on the card, then paying it off in full every month. But on the Amex Preferred Gold, British Airways Amex and BA Premium Plus Amex cards you can max this even further...
Warning. It's ONLY for those who are debt-free & financially savvy. If not, avoid it, as mistakes can be costly. And if you're close to applying for important credit such as a mortgage, beware that too many applications in a short time can hit your ability to get credit.
Cancel Avios credit cards, wait six months and you're re-eligible for the up-to-20k bonus
On the Amex Preferred Rewards Gold card and the BA Amex cards, take them out, hit the trigger spend to get bonus points, then cancel.
Wait six months and re-apply to be eligible for the bonuses again (provided you're accepted again). If you have more than one Avios-earning card you could alternate so when you cancel one, you spend on the other.
Got a trusted partner or spouse? Join forces to boost points
Set them up as a secondary cardholder and do all your household spending on the cards to boost your stash, though the primary cardholder is responsible for the debt.
The 'refer a friend' trick – earn up to 9k bonus points for you, 2k for them
Refer your partner (and any interested friends/family/colleagues) and pick up an extra 9,000 Avios boost for the Amex Preferred Gold card, and an extra 4,000 Avios for the BA Amex.
They'll get boosted bonus points after the trigger spend too – 2,000 extra on the Amex Gold (making the total 22,000), and an extra 1,000 on the BA Amex and BA Premium Plus (6,000 and 26,000 in total).
EXTREME collecting: How to earn 81,000 points/year without paying fees
If you have the income to spend the requisite amount (remember, only use these cards for planned budgeted spending), you can manipulate Avios to the max and up the gain to 81,000 Avios points per year between a couple who spend £25,000/year each on a credit card. That's enough points for a return trip off-peak to Singapore or premium economy return to Dubai. Here's a step-by-step breakdown of how to do it:
- Kate opens the Amex Gold and spends £2,000 in the first three months to earn a 20,000 Avios bonus.
- Ben opens the BA Amex card at the same time and spends £1,000 in the first three months to earn a 5,000 Avios bonus.
- Once Kate hits the £2,000 trigger on her card, she cancels it, and gets a secondary card on Ben's BA Amex card to help them both get to the £20,000 per year trigger spend to earn a companion voucher.
- But before she cancels her Amex Gold she refers Ben to it, and he uses the Amex Gold link she generates to apply for it so she gets an extra 9,000 bonus points.
- Ben takes some time off the BA Amex card to hit his £2,000 trigger in three months on the Amex Gold to earn an extra 22,000 bonus points (the normal 20,000 plus the extra 2,000 having been referred), and then cancels it to go back to his BA Amex.
- Assuming a £26,000 a year annual spend between them, they'll also earn 25,000 Avios points on normal spending.
- After a year that's 81,000 Avios points and they've got a companion ticket, so they could both get to Singapore or fly premium economy to Dubai (plus taxes and charges).
- But it doesn't end there. In year two they can reverse roles to earn more intro bonuses, as by the end of year one only Ben will be registered as an account holder on the BA Amex, so they could both get the intro bonuses again on the Amex Gold, and Kate could do the same on the BA Amex.
EXTREME collecting: How to earn 111,500 points/year by paying fees
- Kate opens the Amex Gold and spends £2,000 in the first three months to earn a 20,000 Avios bonus.
- Ben opens the BA Premium Plus Amex card at the same time and spends £3,000 in the first three months to earn a 25,000 Avios bonus. Plus he'll need to pay the £195 annual fee.
- Once Kate hits the £2,000 trigger on her card she cancels it and gets a secondary card on Ben's BA Premium Plus Amex card to help them both get to the £10,000 per year trigger spend to earn a companion voucher.
- But before she cancels her Amex Gold she refers Ben to it, and he uses the Amex Gold link she generates to apply for it so she gets an extra 9,000 bonus points.
- Ben takes some time off the BA Premium Plus Amex card to hit his £2,000 trigger in three months on the Amex Gold to earn an extra 22,000 bonus points (the normal 20,000 plus the extra 2,000 having been referred), and then cancels it to go back to his BA Premium Plus Amex.
- Assuming a £25,000 a year annual spend between them making only the trigger spend on the Amex Gold (£4,000 between them), they will also earn 35,500 Avios points on normal spending.
- After a year that's 111,500 Avios points and they've got a companion ticket, so they could both get to Sydney or fly premium economy to Cape Town (plus taxes and charges).
- But it doesn't end there. In year two they can reverse roles to earn more intro bonuses, as by the end of year one only Ben will be registered as an account holder on the BA Premium Plus Amex, so they could both get the intro bonuses again on the Amex Gold, and Kate could do the same on the BA Premium Plus Amex, though again, she'll need to pay the £195 annual fee.
MSE Dan – the Avios-boosting king
Dan's day job is working behind the scenes on our top tools such as Cheap Energy Club and Credit Club, ensuring everything is running smoothly. But outside of that, he's an ace Avios accruer:
My fiancée and I have been using tricks like this for around four years, earning around 100,000 Avios a year between us.
I take out the Amex Gold and BA Amex cards, spend the trigger to hit the bonus, refer my fiancée to them to earn an extra 13,000 Avios points, then cancel.
My fiancée does the same when she gets the cards, so we alternate who has them with the other one being added as an additional cardholder.
Most of the time, I spend using a credit card. Since contactless came in, this is quicker even for small value items, so hitting the trigger spends is always done via everyday spending.
When it comes to spending my points, I like to use them towards hotel stays. It means I get to stay in nicer places than I'd be prepared to pay cash for. For example, the 48Lex in New York and the Tokyo Hilton.
But even when paying with Avios points I check whether it's a good deal – I always look at the Avios as well as the BA site as sometimes Avios has a wider choice and the number of points needed can vary between the two.
MoneySavers Darran and Eileen Burr – 'We flew first-class to California for the price of economy'
Darran and his wife Eileen used credit cards and tips in this guide to amass the 200,000 Avios needed for two first-class returns to San Diego next Christmas – and it's the second year running they've done it.
"We fly out in December 2017 – we're really looking forward to celebrating the festive season in paradise. We did the same in December 2016 to San Diego in first with BA, all possible thanks to MSE's Avios pages!"
See the 'We flew first-class to California for the price of economy' MSE News story for the full lowdown on how they did it.
Book way ahead to use Avios points
Availability is much more limited than when paying for flights, so go quick.
Tactically, the ideal time to start checking is around 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, booking well in advance is usually essential. Use Avios's zone map to find routes with availability.
Don't automatically buy points if you're short – part-pay is usually cheaper
If you're set on using Avios points to book a flight, you don't always need the full number of points for booking a British Airways flight – you're always offered the chance to part-pay in Avios and part in cash.
From our research, we found it cheaper to part-pay in Avios points on the BA or Avios flight-booking pages than buying extra points, especially as points can only be bought in 1,000 increments. However, Avios occasionally holds offers where it will add bonus points to any you buy, so check if one of these deals is on first.
While you should always compare first before booking in case things change or you choose a route where part-pay is pricey, the table below highlights how part-pay is better than buying extra points. Also, see how much it costs to buy points.
Rates below are for buying from BA or Avios. Sales can mean you get more points for your money, ie, a 15% bonus on points purchased, so do watch out for those as it can make it slightly better value.
|Number of extra Avios points||Price|
|Max number of points you can buy per year||100,000|
Part-pay Avios plus cash vs buying points
|Off-peak return flight|
|Avios needed + taxes||Points shortfall (1)||Cost to buy extra points (2)||Extra cash required for part-pay (plus taxes)|
|Amsterdam||8,000 + £35||3,600||£79 (4,000 pts)||£50|
|Rome||13,000 + £35||2,600||£63 (3,000 pts)||£30|
|Athens||17,000 + £35||5,900||£111 (6,000 pts)||£60|
|New York||26,000 + £370||13,000||£223 (13,000 pts)||£100|
|Sydney||100,000 + £550||20,000||£335 (20,000 pts)||£160|
|(1) We've used different points per example as you cannot choose to only use a certain number of points if short. BA fixes this in the payment option, and it's what we were given when trying ourselves. (2) You can only buy points in 1,000 increments.|
You may only earn 25% of the miles flown following the Avios schemes' overhaul in 2015
If you have a British Airways Executive Club or Avios account, and you fly on British Airways or its partner airlines, you usually earn points to add to your Avios stash. You'll need to register your Executive Club or Avios account number on the flight booking, which you can do when booking or via the online 'manage your booking' section afterwards.
You earn points based on the distance flown, the cabin class and type of ticket you've bought – flexible or non-flexible.
But the overhaul of the Avios schemes in April 2015 means you now earn fewer points flying on a cheap economy-class ticket than you used to. Before, you often got 100% of the miles flown on any economy ticket, so if you flew 2,000 miles, you got 2,000 points.
Now, a cheap economy ticket gets you just 25% or 50% of the miles flown. To get the full 100% you'll have to buy an expensive, flexible ticket which will rarely be worth it.
Avios earning rates for the BA Exec Club & Avios schemes by flying on BA
Earning on BA – points earned per miles flown
|Cabin class||Ticket type||Points earned based on miles flown|
|Non-flexible||25% or 50%|
|100% means 100% of the miles flown, so fly 2,000 miles, get 2,000 points|
Taken a flight and not had the points? How to claim them
You've six months from the date of travel to claim points via the BA or Avios sites. If you've only just joined Avios, you can claim back flights from the previous three months before the date you joined.
You'll need to fill in the ticket number printed on your paper ticket. If you've got an e-ticket, it's the code labelled 'document number'. If you're claiming via the BA app, it's the 'ticket number' (if in doubt, it's a number that follows the format: 125 – 1234789534).
These rules also apply to points earned on partner airlines.
You can earn points on non-BA flights
The rates we've mentioned apply to British Airways flights, but you can earn points flying on airlines that, like BA, are part of the OneWorld airlines alliance, or other airlines it has chosen to partner with – the full list is below.
Economy earning rates are generally the same, but you usually earn fewer points in premium cabins. See British Airways partner airlines points for what you can earn.
Note that when flying to Europe on a non-BA flight, taxes and charges will be more than the usual £35 return.
OneWorld and other partner airlines include:
- Aer Lingus
- Air Berlin
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- Cathay Pacific
- Japan Airlines
- Malaysia Airlines
- Qatar Airways
- Royal Jordanian
- S7 Airlines
- US Airways
- Sri Lankan Airlines
You can also spend points on BA partner airlines
Avios points can be spent on flights with more than just British Airways – reward flights are available on partner airlines too, but there are no set 'zones'. How many points you need depends on the route, travel dates and the airline or airlines you'll be travelling with.
For example, when we looked for a reward flight to Sydney, a return with Qantas was 100,000 Avios plus taxes, the same as BA. But a return to Kuala Lumpur cost 90,000 Avios plus taxes with Malaysia Airlines/Qatar, 20,000 more points than you'd need for BA.
To check, use BA's Reward Flight Calculator – the results show you the airlines flying to your choice of destination, and the points you'll need.
Play with zones if you don't care where you're going
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 peak time (plus £35). Zone 2 includes popular summer holiday destinations such as Barcelona and Rome, but also Finland's capital Helsinki – all cost 15,000 Avios in peak times (plus £35).
Upgrades have lost their shine
You can only upgrade expensive, fully flexible economy tickets on British Airways, Iberia or American Airlines, so if you've bagged a cheap flight you often won't be able to. You'll need to check the 'fare class' of your ticket, which is printed on the booking confirmation, with each class assigned a letter. BA excludes upgrades from economy to premium economy on fare classes Q, O and G.
You can only upgrade one cabin level up – so premium economy to business, not economy to business, and only if there's availability. You can upgrade all BA fares in premium economy (World Traveller Plus) and business (Club World) using Avios points.
On London to Madrid you can upgrade from fully flexible economy to business for 25,000 Avios. On a London to Singapore return, you can upgrade from fully flexible economy to premium economy for 45,500 points, and premium economy to business class for 77,000 Avios points – see full details on upgrading with Avios.
You can also check if a flight's eligible for an upgrade by searching the 'book and upgrade' tab on the Avios flight search tool on BA.
There's no one best way to use Avios points – it depends what you'd normally pay for that flight or hotel
We'd love to be able to tell you exactly what each point is worth or what type of reward gives you the best value. However, it's not that simple as it all depends on the equivalent cash price to buy whatever it is you use Avios points for, and these prices can fluctuate wildly.
If you use points on a £400 return flight to New York, you get nowhere near the same value as you would if the flight cost £600, given you pay £300 in taxes anyway.
To get you at least part of the way there, we've looked at the average price of popular flights and hotels, and compared them with the Avios points' cost to show you examples of what they can be worth.
How much are Avios points worth?
|Action||Points (1)||Taxes||How much to buy direct||How much are 1,000 points worth?|
|Three star hotel in Paris||17,000||Zero (2)||£100
|BA economy return to Amsterdam||9,000||£35 (3)||£95 ||£7
|BA economy return to Prague||9,000||£35 (3)||£145||£12
|BA economy return to NYC||40,000||£300||£400
|BA biz-class return to NYC||120,000||£500||£2,500
|2x business class rtns to Singapore (with 2for1 BA card voucher)||180,000||£1,000||£5,500
|(1) Peak miles needed for flights. (2) City tax may apply on arrival. (3)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.|
Earn points online shopping via Avios or BA Avios
Avios's eStore and British Airways' Gate 365 (you'll need to log in to your Executive Club account to access it) work like 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.
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.
Sounds great, but check cashback sites as well – rates for some retailers can easily be beaten. Plus you can choose to convert cashback via Topcashback* into Avios, once the cash is payable from your online account.
You get 1 Avios point per 1p of cashback, but you'll need at least 20p of cashback to convert into Avios points. The Avios points will be credited to your Avios or BA Avios account within 10 days.
Want to know more about cashback sites? Full info's in our Top Cashback Sites guide.
Reward flight bookings are flexible: you can change them for £35 per person, per flight
It's worth noting changes or cancellations can be made for £35, up to 24 hours before a flight, regardless of where you're going. So if you change your mind about a flight, you won't lose your points, even if you want to cancel it. You'll be refunded the Avios points and taxes and charges, minus the £35 per person, per ticket fee.
In comparison, if you'd booked a Ryanair flight, it would cost you up to £60 (£90 at the airport) as a fee to change + the price difference of a new flight if changing. You can't cancel, you'd simply have to forfeit what you'd paid.
Booking a non-Reward British Airways flight would cost £15 to £40 to change or cancel if it's flexible, though some are non-refundable (other than some taxes and charges).
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 reduces the flat-rate Reward Flight Saver fee charged on short-haul flights – one of the last flight sales gave 40% off the number of Avios needed for long-haul flights.
They're always short-lived so be ready to pounce when they happen.
BA tier points – how they work and how to earn them
Tier points allow you to move up the four British Airways Executive Club levels. You start on blue then can move to bronze, silver and gold if you earn enough tier points in a membership year (each membership year ends on the anniversary of you joining the BA Executive Club).
Each level up gives you more perks, such as lounge access and larger baggage allowances. See what each level gives you.
Being frank, only seasoned travellers are likely to earn enough points flying to move up a tier, usually business travellers. For example, moving from blue to bronze requires 300 tier points.
A flight from London to Barcelona earns you 5 tier points in the cheapest economy return (20 for a flexible economy, 40 in business) so you'd need to do it 60 times in a year. Alternatively, you can move from blue to bronze if you fly 25 times a year – in other words, more than twice a month.
You can't buy, sell or share tier points. The only way to earn them is on flights with BA and its partner airlines including Iberia, American Airlines and Qantas.
You can only earn tier points via a BA Exec account, not an Avios account.
Tier point earning rates
To see how many tier points you have, you'll need to log in to your BA Executive account. There you can also see how many you need to move up to the next level.
You'll get at least five tier points per flight based on the cheapest economy short-haul tickets, up to around 360 tier points for a first class ticket to long-haul destinations such as Sydney. To see how many points you'll get for a flight you're planning, use the Avios Flight Calculator.
- To reach Bronze, you need to fly BA at least twice and earn 300 tier points or take a total of 25 BA flights.
- For Silver, you need to fly BA at least four times and earn 600 tier points or take a total of 50 BA flights.
- To get to Gold, you'll need to fly BA at least four times and earn 1,500 tier points.
Partner airlines you can earn tier points on
- Air Berlin
- American Airlines
- British Airways
- Cathay Pacific
- Japan Airlines
- Malaysian Airlines
- Royal Jordanian
- S7 Airlines
- TAM Airlines
- US Airways
- Sri Lankan Airlines
Earn Avios points for your opinion but beware spam
Rewards for Thoughts – 600+ points
e-Rewards – 800+ points
Sign up to e-Rewards and register your Avios account details. You'll get 750 after completing your first survey within 60 days and earn 'opinion points' for surveys after that.
Once you've 1,200 opinion points, these can be converted into 250 Avios. This doesn't happen automatically; you'll need to convert your Avios in the 'Reward Centre' (click the 'rewards' tab at the top of the page after you've logged in), and claim the bonus this way too.
Word of warning though – you'll be sent a fair few emails about new surveys for both sites. If you'd rather not have to deal with them, unsubscribe after you've got the bonus, or sign up using an email account you don't regularly use. For more ways to earn with online survey sites and focus groups, see our Top 25 Online Survey Sites guide.
Earn at least one point every three years or lose them
Points on all Avios schemes expire if you don't collect or redeem at least one point in three years. If you're nearing expiry, consider signing up to its survey sites, or going via the Avios shopping portal to boost.
Plus, earning at least one point the year before you book means you're eligible for its Reward Flight Saver. This means you pay a fixed £35 fee on most short-haul economy flights.
You can use points on more than flights – experience days, wine and car hire are all options
We think the best-value use for your Avios points is on flights, but just so you've got all the information, we've put details below about some of the other spending options.
The full list of what you can use points for can be found on the Avios site and includes things like theatre tickets and cases of wine to days out at theme parks – it's a bit like other major loyalty schemes such as Tesco Clubcard and Nectar in that way. The details in brief...
Worldwide hotel stays
Using Avios points for hotels isn't a bad decision – MSE Dan likes to spend his points on hotels because he's happy to shell out points but not cash for nicer places – though points vary, so whether it's a good deal depends on the hotel and other offers at the time. Always check cash prices before booking with Avios points.
See our Cheap Hotels guide for full tips and tricks to cutting costs.
Avios partners with big-name car-hire firm Avis, allowing you to to book and pay in Avios points, a mixture of points and cash, or just in cash, while earning Avios points on the booking. However, we found it was easily beatable – you'd be better to use points on other things.
A week's car hire for a small car in Malaga, Spain, starts at about 21,000 Avios points. To compare we checked the price using comparison sites and found a similar car for around £50 in total (£30 with a stricter fuel policy) making 1,000 points worth just £2.40.
Using the same example, part-pay costs more in cash alone, plus you'd need to use Avios.
And paying just in cash and earning Avios may not be worth doing – on the same Malaga example, buying car hire via the Avios site and paying in cash was more than double the price, at £117, only adding about 500 Avios points to your stash.
Wine, prosecco or champagne cases
Twelve-bottle mixed cases start at about £75. With Avios points, you'll need at least 14,500 for a similar case, meaning 1,000 points are worth around £5. Plus there are sometimes special offers giving you glasses as part of a case via Avios, which boosts the value of your points slightly. But weigh up the offers on at the time, and if you know anything about wine, the wines on offer.
Experience days and days out
These include major UK theme parks such as Chessington and Legoland, as well as days out such as the Eden Project and Kew Gardens.
Points here are worth about £5 per 1,000, so again, decent value but check to see if there's a discount voucher or two-for-one offer on at the time you want to go – that could be a better option. See our Cheap Days Out guide for more.
You can combine points to create a household account
You can combine Avios points with up to six Avios or British Airways members living at the same address as you by creating a household account. The only criteria is you must live at the same address; you don't have to be related to each other.
It also allows children to earn points for travel – something they can't otherwise do until they're 18 and have their own account – meaning your collective Avios points stash can be boosted further (though children on the account can't spend Avios points until they're at least 18).
Household accounts allow eligible members – those over 18 – to spend the collective Avios points in the account. However, once you've created a household account, you can't transfer points between the various schemes (eg, BA Executive Club to Avios). You can only do that with individual accounts.
The BA and Avios household accounts do work slightly differently in the way points are treated when you use them to spend. In general the BA account is more flexible as it still acknowledges individual earnings and tier points unlike Avios, so consider this before signing up.
Avios household account
Log in to your Avios account and select 'create a household account' to set it up. There you'll be able to add new members.
When joined up you're creating a central pool of points between all members so you no longer have individual balances. Say you and your partner join forces, and you both have 20,000 points each to start with, you'll see your new pooled account with a 40,000 balance.
Any member of the household account can use the points – the total spent will be taken from the pooled total.
Points earned will be added to the pool but you won't retain your individual points-earned status.
If you leave the scheme your individual account is credited with your portion of what's left in the pool. Say you're a couple with a pool of 50,000 points, you'll get 25,000, regardless of what you started with or what you've earned in the meantime.
BA Executive Club Avios household account
To sign up to a BA household account, you'll need to nominate a 'head of the household' – basically a lead name on the account who can add and remove members.
To then create an account, sign up via BA Executive Club, though do note, you'll need to be logged in to do it.
The big difference between the Avios and BA Avios household accounts is that with BA, each member of the household account continues to earn Avios points and tier points individually as well.
The household balance will show both individual Avios, and the collective pooled Avios. Any member of the household account can spend Avios points in the account – when they do, a proportion of the total spent will be taken from each individual, based on the number of Avios they have stashed.
You can also redeem points for five nominated family or friends. They don't have to live at the same address, but points redeemed will be taken in the same way – as a proportion of the number of Avios points held by individuals.
Extra ways to boost on eating at Pizza Express, shopping at Tesco, fuel at Shell & more
While credit cards are the best way to boost your Avios, there are a few quick other ways to do so, which may work for some, depending on your shopping habits:
6 Avios per £1 at Pizza Express
Download the Bink app for iOS or Android and create an account. Next, add your Avios membership number and your credit or debit cards to it, though do note Barclays debit and Barclycard credit cards aren't accepted.
Then as long as you pay at Pizza Express using the payment card linked to your Bink account, the points accrued will automatically be added to your Avios account.
600 Avios for £2.50 of Tesco Clubcard vouchers
This means when £37.50 of Tesco vouchers are converted into Avios, they're enough for some Eurostar returns to Paris or an economy return to Prague or Milan (plus a £35 fee).
To make it easier, you can opt to auto-convert your Clubcard points into Avios – just log in to your Clubcard account and change your settings under 'Options & Benefits' on the left hand side.
See Boost Tesco Points for more on getting max value for Clubcard vouchers.
10 Avios per 20L of Shell diesel or unleaded (20 Avios with Shell's V-Power Nitro fuel)
If you regularly buy fuel at a Shell garage, this is an easy way to boost points, otherwise it's not worth going out of your way to do it.
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.
Boost points on hotel bookings via specialist hotel comparison sites
Kaligo and Rocketmiles are hotel-booking websites linked to a number of frequent-flyer and loyalty schemes, including Avios. They work almost like a cashback site but instead of cashback, you get points for the scheme you've chosen every time you book.
You can earn from 1,000 points per booking usually, and it can be as high as 70,000 Avios, depending on the class of hotel and the price you're paying – the more expensive, luxury stays earn the most points.
The rates you pay for the hotel are competitive but not necessarily the cheapest – weigh up the cost using tips in our Cheap Hotels guide.
Reward flights in Europe include hold luggage, saving approx £30/return
When you book a flight to Europe using your Avios points, you get more than just the basic hand-luggage-only fare with British Airways – you get to take a checked bag too. If you were paying cash for flights, return fares with checked luggage can cost around £30 more per return flight.
This makes the £35 Reward Saver flights better value – especially for those who can't comprehend packing light. For long-haul, checked luggage is often included as standard and factored into the cost already for both Avios and cash fares.
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