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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. 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.
Avios is a rewards scheme, similar to Nectar and Tesco Clubcard, but with travel-focused rewards. Four frequent flyer schemes use Avios points: the British Airways Executive Club, Iberia Plus, Vueling Club and the Aer Lingus AerClub, and your points will sit within these schemes.
To keep it simple, this guide concentrates on earning via and using the British Airways scheme, though it's worth signing up to all of them.
Here are some of the basic need-to-knows:
Though of course, don't spend with these sites simply to earn points. Check our Cheap Flights, Cheap Car Hire, Cheap Hotels and Cheap Online Shopping guides first, to ensure you're getting the cheapest deal.
The UK Avios Rewards Programme (formerly Airmiles) closed in July 2018 and members were transferred to the BA Executive Club, which continues to use Avios points as its currency. See our MSE News story for more info.
Gone are the old days of 'Airmiles' 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. Eg, in peak times you'll pay £505 in taxes (plus 40,000 points) for a return flight from London to New York.
Under the 'Reward Flight Saver' scheme, you pay a fixed fee on most short-haul economy return flights to Europe, as long as you earn at least one point during the year before you book.
Previously this was a flat £35 fee for a return, but Avios introduced a cheaper £1 option in 2019 (though you usually have to use more points than before). It says this is a trial, which doesn't currently have an end date.
Eg, an off-peak return from London to Paris costs £1, plus 8,000 points.
You can spend and collect Avios points with all these schemes, so join all four to access more offers and availability of flights. 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.
You can move or pool Avios between them 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'.
On British Airways, off-peak means outside the longer private school holiday periods. Enter a route on the BA reward flight calculator, and then click 'view off-peak dates' to see the full off-peak fare calendar.
If you don't mind when you go, aim for the cheaper period when you need a typical 10%-35% fewer points in economy, for example:
While we've said above you need fewer points off-peak, if you have to travel during peak times Avios can be good value, assuming you book early enough to find the offers.
While you may need more Avios points, it can be nothing compared to how cash prices can spiral.
When we looked in March 2019, we saw return economy flights from London to Sydney for around £800-£1,000 in the peak July period.
Going at a peak time will cost you 100,000 points (it's 65,000 off-peak). But taxes are the same (about £580), so using your points here would likely be a decent saving.
With Reward Flight Saver, you can get a flight to Europe from £1, 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, you can make substantial savings by only using a small number of points.
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 cheap return flight, it may be better to keep the points for another time.
If you're saving for a particular trip, you can use Avios points towards the cost and 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 whether it's worth using the points.
For flights that don't qualify for the Reward Flight Saver fee, you pay the same taxes and charges you'd pay when booking with cash, which are typically £200-£580 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 the following return flight costs (we chose economy class, direct flights where possible and peak travel times):
Using your points for long-haul business flights allows you to fly in style (and bag lounge-passes), 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 also higher, but nothing like the enormous jump if paying fully in cash.
Here are some examples of how much bigger the jump between economy and business can be when you pay in cash, compared to Avios points:
London to Cape Town.
Economy: 32,500 points off-peak, £460 taxes
Business: 125,000 points off-peak, £755 taxes
Cash Price: We found economy tickets for £840, soaring to £6,810 in business – over nine times as much.
London to New York.
Economy: 26,000 points off-peak, £505 taxes
Business: 100,000 points off-peak, £860 taxes
Cash Price: We found economy tickets for £640, business tickets for £3,440 – four times as much.
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.
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 journeys. For a return you'll pay for four journeys.
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.
The number of Avios points you need depends on where you're flying, the cabin class you fly in and when you go.
The old Avios scheme divided the world into geographical zones – these determined the number of points you'd pay. While these zones no longer exist, the number of points needed for each destination doesn't appear to have changed. Here are some examples:
So some destinations are still better value than others in terms of distance flown, and the cost of paying the cash price for your flight. So play around with destinations to see how much you can save.
We've listed some popular destinations below to show the range of points needed when flying from London. See BA's Reward Flight calculator for more.
Economy points needed per return (+ taxes & charges)
Business/first points needed per return (+ taxes & charges)
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.
Eg, we found a Singapore Airlines one-way direct flight to Singapore for £600 (with BA it was an eye-watering £2,670). For comparison, the cheapest BA return around the same dates was £680.
Unlike when you pay cash, the cost of using Avios points to go one-way is simply half the number of points required for a return trip.
Taxes can vary however. For trips to Europe, it's simply half the cost of a return trip. But with longer-haul flights, the amount you pay in taxes and charges is more complicated to work out - 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.
Here's an example of how this works:
London to Berlin (off-peak)
Avios cost each-way: £17.50 plus 4,000 points
We found one-way Ryanair flights to Berlin from £15 in May, so in this case it's cheaper to book with a budget airline than use your Avios.
However, the cheapest return flights on certain days in May could be as much as £64, so if you needed to return on these more expensive dates, you'd be better off booking with your Avios.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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).
Our top pick is the Amex Preferred Rewards Gold card. It's fee-free in the first year (£140 thereafter), and you can earn 10,000 intro bonus points (worth 13,000 Avios), plus one point per £1 spent.
There are a few cards that 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 per £1 spend.
Full details and best buys in our Airline Credit Cards guide.
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.
Refer your partner (and any interested friends/family/colleagues) and pick up an extra 6,000 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 12,000), and an extra 1,000 on the BA Amex and BA Premium Plus (6,000 and 26,000 in total). This is on top of the usual points you'd earn for everyday spending.
For the Amex Preferred Gold card, your bonus Membership Rewards points will appear in your Amex account, and you'll need to convert them to Avios points before cancelling your card, otherwise you'll lose them.
For the BA card, your bonus Avios points will appear in your BA Executive Club account (so they won't expire as long as you keep the account open and collect, spend, purchase or share at least one Avios point every 36 months).
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 flying business class to Sydney using your Avios, they can go too and all they'll pay is taxes and charges (around £900 for a return). 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 you have a card that offers a companion ticket, 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.
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.
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's generally 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.
If you have a British Airways Executive Club 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 account number on the flight booking, which you can do when booking or online via 'manage your booking' afterwards.
You earn points based on the distance flown, the cabin class and type of ticket you've bought – flexible or non-flexible.
In the old days of the Avios scheme, 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 – that's 500 or 1,000 points for flying 2,000 miles. To get 100% you'd have to buy an expensive, flexible ticket which will rarely be worth it.
Earning on BA – points earned per miles flown
|Non-flexible||25% or 50%|
You've six months from the date of travel to claim points via the BA site. 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.
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.
Avios points can be spent on flights with more than just British Airways – reward flights are available on partner airlines too. How many points you need depends on the route, travel dates and the airline or airlines you'll be travelling with.
To check, use BA's Reward Flight Calculator – the results show you the points you'll need to fly with a partner airline.
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.
The number of points you need to upgrade is simply the difference between the points needed for each class.
You can check if a flight's eligible for an upgrade by searching the 'book and upgrade' tab on the Avios flight search tool on BA.
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 either way.
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?
|Three star hotel in Paris||8,100||Zero (2)||£34
|BA economy return to Nice||15,000||£1 (3)||£82
|BA economy return to NYC||26,000||£221||£400
|BA business class return to NYC||120,000||£717||£1,935
|2x business class returns to Singapore with companion voucher (4)||210,000||£1,233||£6,065
|(1) Peak miles needed for flights. (2) City tax may apply on arrival. (3) To pay the Reward Flight Saver fee, you need to have collected at least one point in the last year – otherwise you'll pay full taxes. (4) Available with certain BA credit cards.|
British Airways' Executive Club e-Store works like a cashback site – you sign in, 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 one 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 BA Avios account within 10 days.
Want to know more about cashback sites? Full info's in our Top Cashback Sites guide.
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, you'd pay up to £95 to make the change, plus the price difference of a new flight. You can't cancel for a refund – you simply have to forfeit what you've paid.
Booking a non-Avios British Airways flight would cost up to £40 to change or cancel if it's flexible, though some are non-refundable (other than some taxes and charges).
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. In the past we've seen sales offering 40% off the number of Avios needed for long-haul flights.
They're always short-lived so be ready to pounce when they happen.
As well as Avios points, you also earn tier points on flights. Tier points allow you to move up the four British Airways Executive Club levels. You start on blue then move to bronze, silver and gold if you earn enough tier points in a membership year (each year ends on the anniversary of you joining the BA Executive Club).
The different levels give you more perks, such as lounge access and larger baggage allowances. See what each level gives you.
Being frank, only frequent 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.
London to Barcelona return
Economy: Five tier points
Flexible economy: 20 tier points
Business: 40 tier points
Buying the cheapest economy return? You'd need to fly this route 60 times in a year to earn enough to move from blue to bronze.
Alternatively, you can move up if you fly BA at least 25 times in a year.
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.
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.
Rewards for Thoughts allows you to earn Avios for your opinion. Join it to bag an easy 600 Avios just for signing up and doing one survey.
Anyone can sign up and you'll get the bonus points after you complete your first survey. Subsequent surveys will get you up to 50 points. Points are automatically added to your BA account.
A word of warning though – you'll be sent a fair few emails about new surveys. 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.
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 a survey site, or going via the Executive Club e-store to boost.
Plus, earning at least one point the year before you book means you're eligible for its Reward Flight Saver.
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...
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. 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 points.
See our Cheap Hotels guide for full tips and tricks to cutting costs.
BA partners with big-name car-hire firm Avis, allowing you 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 off using points on other things.
A week's car hire in August for a small car in Malaga, Spain, starts at about 34,000 Avios points. To compare we checked the price using comparison sites and found a similar car for around £90 in total, making 1,000 points worth just £2.65.
Even paying in cash and earning Avios may not be worth doing – paying cash for the same car hire in Malaga via the BA site was more than double the price, at £194, only adding about 970 points to your stash.
When we checked, mixed cases started at about 9,500 points. Via Laithwaites, similar cases are around £42, meaning 1,000 points are worth around £4.40.
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.
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 Avios points with up to six other BA Executive Club 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.
It also allows children to earn points for travel – something they can't otherwise do until they're 18 and have their own account. This means 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 members over 18 to spend the collective 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 Iberia). You can only do that with individual accounts.
To create an account, sign up via BA Executive Club. You'll need to nominate a 'head of the household' – basically a lead name on the account who can add and remove members.
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.
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:
Update 13 October: the partnership between Avios and Clubcard is ending in January. See our MSE News story Tesco Clubcard customers will no longer be able to convert points into Avios from January for full details.
Until 18 January, you can exchange £2.50 in Clubcard vouchers for 600 Avios points.
See Boost Tesco Points for more on getting max value for Clubcard vouchers.
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.
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.
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 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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