Short version: earn Avios from British Airways, but don’t use them to fly with British Airways. More below.
In a post from a few days ago, I mentioned that the British Airways Signature Card now offers a 50,000 Avios signup bonus with no annual fee in the first year. This is a special promotion and normally the fee of $95 isn’t waived.
Avios is the frequent flyer currency of British Airways, and I heard from a few people who mentioned that they’ve earned Avios in the past but had difficulty using them. Here’s how one reader put it:
“My question is about using Avios on BA. I have over 70,000 points but when I check to use them I’m still getting charged $600-$700 for the flight. Is there a different way to do this or am I going to get stuck with basically paying for a discounted flight instead of a free one?”
In short, you should be able to avoid those fuel surcharges if booking flights on American Airlines instead of British Airways. Iberia, another OneWorld partner, does have fuel surcharges but they are much less than those charged by BA. You need to make sure the flights are actually operated by AA or Iberia, and aren’t just codeshare BA flights.
If flying transatlantic, also check for options on Aer Lingus (which continues to expand to the U.S.) and Air Berlin, which each have shiny new Business Class seats on their long-haul routes. Fuel surcharges are completely absent on flights booked with those carriers.
Avios are also great for booking short-haul flights within the U.S., thanks to their distance-based award chart. With most airlines, when you book a domestic award, you pay a “flat rate” of miles regardless of destination—for example, 25,000 miles for a saver round-trip ticket.
With Avios, however, you can pay a much lower number of Avios if your destination is relatively close to the city of departure. This strategy is especially valuable for short-haul flights that are expensive, which tends to be the case between hub cities and busy east coast cities.
Finally, once in a while I’ll actually spend more miles than is technically optimal. For me, it’s not always about getting the lowest possible price or the maximum possible value from any particular trip; it’s about finding the best use of any given mileage currency and then putting it to work. Remember: life is for spending, and so are points and miles.
Link: British Airways Signature Card (50,000 Avios, annual fee waived in the first year)
You can earn Avios by transferring points from several other cards as well. All of these cards feature healthy signup offers and also offer points for ongoing spend that will transfer on a 1:1 basis:
- Chase Sapphire (40,000 point signup bonus)
- Chase Ink Plus (50,000 point signup bonus)
- American Express Platinum (40,000 point signup bonus)
- Starwood American Express (Up to 25,000 point signup bonus)