Who doesn’t love cheap flights? I often get asked questions about air miles and Avios in particular – How can I get them? How do I spend them? Are they worth it? I’ve used them to get cheaper flights to Dubai, business and premium class upgrades to the United States and a trip to Moscow for just £70 ($94 / €84) return from Edinburgh (or only £35 ($47 / €42) return from London)! Here’s what I think of collecting, spending and boosting your Avios.
What are Avios?
These points are essentially airmiles, as they used to be called before their rebranding in 2011. You can collect Avios from taking flights operated by many airlines including British Airways, American Airlines, Iberia, Qatar Airways, Qantas and Aer Lingus. The good thing about these airmiles is you can collect them without even having to fly! You can gain points from your everyday shopping, petrol spend, credit card spend and even your online shopping. Your points can then be used to get cheaper flights, pay for hotels, car hire, travel insurance or even get some on-plane food.
Credit Card Spend to Boost Avios Balance
Over the last year the biggest source of my Avios points by far has been through my British Airways American Express Premium Plus card. At the time of writing, through the above link, you’ll get 6,000 for signing up to the ‘blue’ British Airways American Express Credit Card and 26,000 for the ‘black’ British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card (£195 ($262 / €222) fee per annum). The differences between the cards are detailed below but 88% of my points per year is through my BA card. With certain spends on these cards, also below, you can even get a 2 for 1 voucher. I’ve detailed what you have to do in this post – cheap flights.
|Card||Sign Up Bonus||Points per £1||Points per BA £1||Cost||2 for 1 Voucher|
|British Airways American Express Credit Card||6,000||1||1.5||£0||£20,000 per year|
|British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card||26,000||1.5||3||£195 per year||£10,000 per year|
There are also a couple of ways to boost your Avios with your everyday spending. Firstly, if you shop at Tesco you can convert your Tesco Clubcard vouchers in to Avios points. You get 600 Avios for each £2.50 ($3 / €3) you have in Tesco Clubcard vouchers. If you shop there on a regular basis then you can rack up points pretty quickly. Within Europe you can get off-peak return flights for just £35 plus 8,000 Avios, this means you need roughly £33 ($44 / €38) in Tesco vouchers for a return flight in Europe. Make sure you check all of your options before redeeming as other Tesco Clubcard redemptions might be better value. It’s also better to stick to promotions when exchanging Tesco Clubcard points to Avios but these are very rare.
You can also earn Avios points online as ‘cashback’ through the Avios eStore on many of the top online shopping websites. For example you could get 4 points per £1 spent at House of Fraser, Apple or ASOS. There’s also regular offers where the Avios figures are boosted especially near holidays. It’s worth mentioning that Quidco and TopCashBack offer exactly the same service however you get actual cash rather than Avios points. I tend to use Quidco more than I use the Avios eStore then use the money from Quidco to buy flights.
The tips above are all fairly easy to do and you don’t even have to step foot on a plane!
The Harder Way – Flying / Take Advantage of Work Trips
I’m in the fortunate position of being able to fly semi-regularly with work, mainly to London but always on Avios partnered flights. So if you work full time like me then there might be a chance of you flying with work. If you have an online booking system then make sure all of your regular flying accounts are logged! You could be flying on British Airways, FlyBe, American Airlines, Iberia, Qatar Airways, Qantas or Aer Lingus. They all count towards your Avios balance.
If you don’t fly with work then you can still attain Avios through your regular flying on the above airlines too. There are two pieces to this: your ‘status tier’ and your booking class. The higher the tier you are in with British Airways for example the more points you get. If you’re the lowest category then you can get 100% less than those that are in Gold. Gold is a stretch to get to but you get the idea! The higher the status, the more points you got. The same stands for premium classes. If you’re in flexible economy then you’ll only get 25% of miles flown back in Avios compared to 250% in flexible business class. It’s always worth checking out the sales from airlines in order to get cheaper business class flights, you’ll get a nice flight plus extra Avios!
Spending Avios on Flights
Now that you’ve got a mountain of Avios, how are you going to spend them? We’ll start with flights. When you book a flight with points you do still have to pay taxes, fees and carrier charges so money does have to change hands unfortunately. You can redeem your points on your preferred Avios partners’ website fairly easily however availability might be an issue for more popular routes. The flights go up for points redemption at midnight 355 days before departure date so be quick especially if you need more than one or two seats.
The amount of Avios you pay also varies depending on whether you’re flying in peak or off-peak times. You can also pay partly in cash for flight redemptions too so if you don’t have enough points you can just pay a little more money. A great way to spend Avios in the UK is through British Airway’s Reward Flight Saver deals. The amount of money you spend on taxes, fees and carrier charges is replaced with just £35 ($47 / €42) return in economy or £50 ($67 / €60) in business. The area for this from the UK goes as far as Russia!
Top tip: Watch out for British Airways’ Avios redemption deals, sometimes you get (non economy) flights for 50% less Avios spend
Examples of My Avios Spend
|Dubai||EDI to LHR to DUB return||July 2016||March 2017||30,000||£300 off|
|New York / Miami||EDI – LHR – JFK out, then MIAMI – LHR – EDI||December 2016||October 2017||100,000 plus 2 for 1 Voucher||Business / Premium Economy Upgrade for 2|
|Moscow||EDI to LHR to DMO return||July 2017||June 2018||25,000 for 2 plus 2 for 1 Voucher||£915 each|
Non-Flight Examples of Spend
Flights aren’t the only thing you can spend your points on. The Avios website lets you spend your points on car hire, hotel bookings, airport lounges, theatre tickets, bus tours, zoos, driving experiences, photo-shoots, alcohol to name a few! It’s always worth checking how much it costs to buy these using just cash on their own websites to compare it against your Avios spend and you’ll be able to figure out if it’s good value or not. I’ve included some examples and costs below. I’ll be honest, I’ve only used them on flights but the discounts on some hotels look pretty good!
|Hotel, Car Hire||Variable|
|Cat 1 London Theatre Ticket||17,500|
|View from the Shard||4,800 adult, 3,800 child|
|London Tour Bus||4,000 for 2|
|London Eye||3,800 adult, 3,100 child|
|Airport Lounges||from 3,250|
|Airport Parking||1,000 for £5 off|