Make Your British Airways Avios go Further: Here's How
Whether or not you've ever flown British Airways, it pays to understand how to earn British Airways Avios. These valuable points are some of the most lucrative milage currencies on the planet, and there are many ways you can earn them without ever stepping foot on a British Airways plane.
How to Use the British Airways Executive Club Program
British Airways has been the flag-carrier of the United Kingdom since its inception in 1976. It's famous for flying the Concorde, the now-defunct supersonic passenger jet that could get you from New York to London in three and a half hours. While the Concorde has been retired, British Airways still serves 183 destinations with 273 aircraft. They fly direct to the United Kingdom from 29 Untied States destinations, including smaller markets like Austin, Phoenix, and New Orleans.
Mileage Currency: The British Airways Avios
Instead of points or miles, British Airways passengers can earn "Avios." These Avios can be used on British Airways flights, and, most importantly, can be transferred to British Airways partner airlines. Because British Airways is a part of the oneworld alliance, you'll be able to earn and use miles on all of those partners, as well as a few more. They include:
- American Airlines
- Cathay Pacific
- Japan Airlines
- Royal Jordanian
- S7 Airlines
- SriLankan Airlines
- Aer Lingus
- Meridiana fly
- Alaska Airlines
You'll be able to earn Avios on all of the above partners, but if you're flying economy, be prepared to earn between 25 and 100 percent of the mileage flown, depending on the fare class that you're booked in. If you're flying business or first class, though, you'll earn as much as 300 percent of mileage flown on British Airways-operated flights.
How to earn Avios on the ground
Flying is just one way to earn Avios, and out of all the options, it's definitely the hardest! There are actually a lot of ways to earn Avios on the ground, and some of them are better than others.
Sign up for the Chase British Airways Credit Card and earn 100,000 Avios
This is a great signup bonus if you can swing the minimum spending requirements. This bonus is tiered:
You will receive the first 50,000 Avios when you spend $3,000 in the first three months of card membership. The next 25,000 Avios will come after you spend $10,000 in the first year of account opening. You'll earn another 25,000 Avios after spending an additional $10,000 within the first year, for a total of 100,000 Avios.
This card will also give you three Avios for every dollar you spend with British Airways.
How to transfer from other credit card currencies
British Airways is a transfer partner of multiple credit card currencies. For example, you can transfer Avios to Ultimate Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio. The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve cards both currently offer 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points for meeting spend minimums, and the Ink Business Preferred card earns 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points for meeting spend minimums as well. If you have an Ultimate Rewards-earning credit card, like the ones above, and a cash back card issued by Chase (like the Chase Freedom or Chase Freedom Unlimited cards), you can also transfer your cash back rewards into your Ultimate Rewards account at a one-cent-to-one-point ratio.
American Express is also a transfer partner of British Airways, though at a worse ratio (five Amex Membership Rewards Points = four Avios). You can earn these points from the American Express Platinum personal and business cards, Amex EveryDay Credit Card, and Premier Rewards Gold Card.
Finally, British Airways is a transfer partner with Marriott, at a 1 Avios : 3 Marriott point ratio, with a 5,000 Avios bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to earn Avios without flying. If you have a good credit score, you can definitely rack them up quickly through sign up bonuses and responsible spending.
How to use your Avios
Avios are fun to earn, but they're even more fun to spend! Avios are especially valuable because you redeem your rewards based on a distanced-based award chart for flights, rather than the geographically-based or revenue-based chart other airlines use. This means you can get flights up to 1,149 miles in the U.S. for as little as 7,500 Avios each way!
The one way to redeem Avios that I normally don't recommend is with British Airways. While there are some sweet spots, British Airways charges obscene fuel surcharges on award tickets, especially on transatlantic flights. Instead, book with a partner like Air Berlin, which charged me only $25 in taxes to fly to Europe a few summers ago! Other partners, like American Airlines, don't charge much for taxes and fuel surcharges either.
If you're looking for more amazing ways to spend your Avios, check out our post on the subject, which details ways to fly to:
- Easter Island
- Domestic Airports
You can also...
Lie flat from LAX/SFO to NYC
While nearly impossible to find award availability nowadays, American Airlines operates lie-flat internationally-configured planes between Los Angeles and San Francisco to New York JFK. Using Avios, business class will cost you 37,500 Avios one-way, while first class will cost you 50,000 Avios one-way.
Get free short-haul international flights
Since Avios are redeemed by distance, short-haul flights from the U.S. to Canada are way cheaper than rival airlines. You'll be able to fly from LA to Vancouver or New York to Toronto for only 7,500 Avios each way, redeeming on American. Same goes for Miami to nearly all Caribbean Airlines that American Airlines serves, as well as Dallas to Mexico City.
Book a flight to Hawaii
It's still a long flight, but flights from West Coast airports to islands in Hawaii on partner Alaska airlines are only 12,500 Avios each! Alaska is great because they fly to every major island. My wife and I just did exactly that to Honolulu from Phoenix.