Tricks to SQUEEZE thousands more miles from your AVIOS POINTS
MILLIONS of us collect them to get discounts and upgrades on flights. But how many of us are squeezing the maximum value out of Avios points?
The experts say few collectors truly know the best ways to use their pots — which vary depending on how many points you’ve racked up over the years.
Here, three points pros reveal how to get the most bang for your buck . . .
WHAT ARE AVIOS POINTS?
AVIOS points are rewards earned through spending on specialist credit cards which users aim to pay off in full each month.
They can also be earned by flying with British Airways (BA), conversions from Nectar points and through sign-up bonuses from American Express and BA and Barclaycard Mastercards.
Staying with a BA hotel partner, renting a car with Avis, shopping at the BA e-store, buying fuel and converting BPme Rewards points and linking your Uber account to BA’s Executive Club are other ways to grow your pot.
WHAT CAN YOU SPEND AVIOS ON?
TYPICALLY, Avios can be put towards the cost of flights or flight upgrades.
However, they can also be redeemed on BA hotel bookings, or converted to Nectar points and spent at Sainsbury’s, Argos or eBay. Avios can be donated to charity through the BA Better World Community Fund.
They can also now be spent on BA package holiday deals for the first time . . . but experts say this new option doesn’t typically offer good value.
When it comes to spending, Rob Burgess, editor of frequent flyer website Head For Points, says ‘the 1p rule’ is key to finding a good deal.
He aims for each Avios he spends to be worth 1p in value. So for example, 30,000 points should get you £300 of value on flights or upgrades.
If you get more than 1p of value per Avios, that’s a good return; less than 1p represents a poorer deal.
IF YOU’VE GOT A BUMPER POT . . .
IF YOU are Avios points rich, booking long-haul business-class flights is almost always the best value way to spend them, according to experts.
BA’s Reward Flight Saver programme, which gives users a way of spending more points in exchange for lower airline taxes and fees, is a good way to do this.
This scheme was recently changed to add long-haul destinations. It means Avios collectors can use more points on a booking than ever before.
Michele Robson, editor of travel website Turning Left For Less, explains: ‘You can now fly business class to New York for 160,000 Avios and £350 in charges. Previously, the limit was 110,000 Avios, but an additional £853 in fees.’
The typical business-class flight from London to New York costs £2,000, according to the experts. So in the example above, where you’re spending 160,000 Avios and £ 350 in charges, the value is 1.03p per Avios point.
However, there are limited numbers of reward flights, which can be difficult to pin down. You must also compare how much the same flight would cost without using Avios to ensure it offers good points value.
Nicky Kelvin, of The Points Guy UK, recommends the SeatSpy website. He says: ‘The BA website is clunky, but SeatSpy allows you to find reward flight availability.
‘You can look up specific dates and it will tell you which routes are on offer, or you can search for routes and it will give you available dates.’
IF YOUR HAUL IS MID-SIZED . . .
CUSTOMERS who are getting the knack for collecting Avios may be unsure how to make use of their growing pot.
Mr Burgess recommends looking at other airlines which accept Avios — Qatar Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus — for the best deals. He says: ‘While you’ll need to spend 300,000 points and about £700 for business-class flights from London to Sydney with BA, you’ll only need 180,000 Avios and £600 for business class on Qatar Airways.
‘Around £3,500 is about as good as you’d get on a cash flight to Australia, so this works out at 0.93p per Avios in value for the BA flight, but a bumper 1.6p per Avios for Qatar.’
Mr Kelvin says another good value way to use a mid-sized Avios pot is to book a premium economy cash ticket — and then use your points to upgrade.
‘It depends on the route, but often it is better value to use points on an upgrade on peak dates.
‘For example, upgrading a cash premium economy one- way London to Hong Kong ticket to business on BA would cost 36,000 Avios on off peak dates, but 30,000 Avios on peak dates.
‘This is because you are paying the difference between how much it would have cost you to use Avios for business class and for premium economy, which are often closer in value at peak times.’
According to the 1p rule, this is the equivalent of upgrading for as little as £300, whereas buying a business-class flight outright can cost thousands of pounds extra.
Mr Kelvin adds: ‘The important thing is there needs to be availability in a higher cabin, so you should plan upgrades in advance. Book a ticket and SeatSpy can send you an alert when a seat becomes available in business or first.’
AND IF YOU’RE STARTING OUT . . .
IF YOU have a relatively small pot, you can still put it to good use. Experts agree that short-haul economy is almost always the best way to spend the points.
Michele Robson says: ‘Booking a reward flight in economy on shorthaul European flights can pay dividends. During half-term, for example, you can save because even budget airlines are expensive. The trick is to research how much the flight would cost normally.’
Reward Flight Saver means you can reduce taxes and fees to as little as £1 for a return flight. For an off-peak return trip to Berlin, you can spend 18,500 Avios and £1.
Going by Mr Burgess’ 1p rule, this works out at £186 — £185 ‘worth of Avios’ and the £1 fee.
But he warns the £1 tax option is rarely the best value on short-haul, and you’re better off paying with fewer Avios and more cash. You get the best deal if you spend 9,500 Avios and £35 — the equivalent of £130, with the Avios being ‘worth’ £95 added to the £35 in fees.
And if travelling isn’t your thing, points can also convert to Nectar credit. One Avios is now worth 0.67p of Nectar points, so 30,000 Avios will give you £201 to spend. But this is not good value versus flights and upgrades.