Avios – what, where, who and how (and why)

Avios. A lot of people have a lot of strong opinions. I’ve heard rants about how they’re useless and I know people who love them as much as some people love their in-laws.

First disclaimer – Avios is the currency of British Airways and I have a love hate relationships with BA (I want to love them but recently I’ve found it hard).

Second disclaimer – I have collected Avios for years, will continue to collect them and think that anyone not collecting them is basically walking through a rainstorm where it’s raining money (notes probably, as coins would hurt) and not picking up the free cash.

OK, now that’s out of the way let’s address some pain points:

  1. It can take ages to collect Avios – true. It can. It really really can. But if someone told you that you could have a savings account that they’d pay into, it would cost you nothing, and you could eventually use the contents to buy something really cool I bet you wouldn’t say no
  2. Taxes can be expensive when using them – kind of true. For long-haul flights this is true. Although these land up about the same as an full price Economy fair when using Avios to fly Business. So would your rather pay for a full price Economy fair and fly Economy or pay the same amount in taxes and fly Business? Short-haul is a different story as Avios taxes are capped within Europe to £25 – both in Economy and Businedd. £25 plus a few Avios for a return trip to Spain with all the champagne you can inhale anyone? I would. In fact I did. Several times!
  3. Avios expire – also true. The crucial thing here is that they expire if you don’t add anything to your account. All you have to do is add a handful every now and then (fly BA and credit your miles or even just buy some milk and cereal on a BA Amex every few months). So, whilst true, this really isn’t an issue

Let’s take an example. My husband and I flew Business Class return to South America earlier this year on our honeymoon. This was all done on Avios and the taxes were less than the equivalent flight would have cost in Economy (we actually paid for First Class using Avios but they decided the plane wouldn’t have First Class for our flights – WTAF – although that’s a different story). This wasn’t accomplished though flying BA every month for three years, nor was it accomplished through hundred of thousands spent on a credit card. I always push for us to put all big expenditure (and a lot of my small expenditure) on a card that earns us points. It so happens that we changed cards twice over the past couple of years and both times benefited from a sign up bonus. Couple this with the fact that we ALWAYS collect miles from our flights (our guide on how to collect airmiles) meant that within a couple of years we had well over 150k miles. Again, to stress, this was not within an insane credit card spend.

When it came to spending these miles and booking these flights we also took advantage of our two-for-one voucher. This is a voucher that BA credit cards offer customers who spend £10k/£20k per year (depending on card). This voucher allows you to get two return flights for the equivalent airmiles cost of one flight. And that’s it. Enough airmiles and a voucher secured us memorable and comfortable (and, crucially, champagne fuled) start and end to our honeymoon.

Convinced that you should start collecting? Good. Do I get I prize?

Here are my top tips when it comes to Avios:

  • Never fly an airline without collecting your miles. This is a golden rule in general but applies even more so to BA as they’re our national carrier
  • Check out the Avios / BA portal where it’s possible to earn avios from your everyday shopping at dozens of brands – these really can add up – my train travel alone nets me 4-5000 avios a year
  • Consider cards that allow you to earn airmiles, especially with the sign up bonuses
  • Be flexible with the destination when booking – if it’s just a beach your lucking for then there are loads of options. If you’re keen to fly further afield then consider booking up to 12 months in advance
  • Remember the lounge and airport benefits- when you do book your Business Class flight don’t forget to get to the airport early to enjoy the lounge and take advantage of fast track security and business check in – you’re premium today baby!

Remember, with capped taxes you can get European redemption from just 20k miles and £25 so follow the above and you could soon be jetting off.

Whilst we’re talking about avios, you may want to check back soon for our guide on how to get upgrades on planes. Tried and tested methods to turn left – everyone wants to turn left.

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