Best Ways To Redeem British Airways Avios Without Huge Fees (2022)

Best Ways To Redeem British Airways Avios Without Huge Fees (2022)

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British Airways Avios can simultaneously be one of the most valuable and one of the most frustrating points currencies out there. British Airways has a distance based award chart, meaning the currency is valuable in instances where other points wouldn’t be as valuable. However, British Airways also imposes big surcharges on many award redemptions.

In this post I wanted to look at some of the great ways that you can redeem British Airways Avios without paying huge fees. Let me of course start by noting that international travel is still complicated in some cases, so some of the redemptions I list might not be particularly practical at the moment (especially within Asia). However, I’m hopeful things will improve, so skip the redemptions that don’t interest you.

First I wanted to look at some of the best ways to earn Avios.

How to earn British Airways Avios

The great news is that even if you’re not a British Airways frequent flyer, there are quite a few ways to earn Avios (“Avios” is the name of British Airways’ points currency).

Get a US Avios credit card

British Airways, Iberia, and Aer Lingus, all use Avios as their points currency. There are three credit cards issued in the US that directly earn Avios:

You can find a detailed comparison of the three cards here. Note that Qatar Airways now also uses Avios as its points currency, but Qatar Airways doesn’t (yet?) have a US-issued credit card.

Transfer points from a bank currency

There are lots of ways to earn Avios with US credit cards, way beyond the above three credit cards.

British Airways Executive Club is also transfer partners with Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One, and Chase Ultimate Rewards. Points transfer at a 1:1 ratio, and historically we’ve even sometimes seen transfer bonuses. Ideally, I’d wait until there’s such a bonus to transfer points, as that will make your rewards stretch even further.

Buy Avios outright

In addition to being able to earn Avios through credit cards, this is a points currency that often also goes on sale. We sometimes see bonuses of up to 50% for purchasing British Airways Executive Club Avios and purchasing Iberia Plus Avios. Note that the Iberia promotion is often the better deal.

The basics of redeeming British Airways Avios

British Airways has a distance based award chart, though it’s different depending on the airline you’re flying.

Here’s the award chart for travel on British Airways, Iberia, and Aer Lingus:

Zone // Distance
Economy Off Peak // Peak
Premium Economy Off Peak // Peak
Business Off Peak // Peak
First Off Peak // Peak
Zone 1
1-650 miles*
*Not available in North America
4,000 // 4,500
5.750 // 6,750
7,750 // 9,000
15,500 // 18,000
Zone 2
651-1150 miles
6,500 // 7,500
9,500 // 11,250
12,750 // 15,000
25,500 // 30,000
Zone 3
1151-2000 miles
8,500 // 10,000
12,750 // 15,000
17,000 // 20,000
34,000 // 40,000
Zone 4
2001-3000 miles
10,000 // 12,500
20,000 // 25,000
31,250 // 37,500
42,500 // 50,000
Zone 5
3001-4000 miles
13,000 // 20,000
26,000 // 40,000
50,000 // 60,000
68,000 // 80,000
Zone 6
4001-5500 miles
16,250 // 25,000
32,500 // 50,000
62,500 // 75,000
85,000 // 100,000
Zone 7
5501-6500 miles
19,500 // 30,000
39,000 // 60,000
75,000 // 90,000
102,000 // 120,000
Zone 8
6501-7000 miles
22,750 // 35,000
45,500 // 75,000
87,500 // 105,000
119,000 // 140,000
Zone 9
7001+ miles
32,500 // 50,000
65,000 // 100,000
125,000 // 150,000
170,000 // 200,000
British Airways Executive Club Award Chart

Then here’s British Airways’ award chart for travel on partner airlines, excluding Aer Lingus and Iberia:

Zone // Flight Distance
Economy
Premium Economy
Business
First
Zone 1
1-650 miles*
*Not available in North America
6,000
9,000
12,500
24,000
Zone 2
651-1150 miles
9,000
12,500
16,500
33,000
Zone 3
1151-2000 miles
11,000
16,500
22,000
44,000
Zone 4
2001-3000 miles
13,000
25,750
38,750
51,500
Zone 5
3001-4000 miles
20,2750
41,250
62,000
82,500
Zone 6
4001-5500 miles
25,750
51,500
77,250
103,000
Zone 7
5501-6500 miles
31,000
62,000
92,750
123,750
Zone 8
6501-7000 miles
36,250
72,250
108,250
144,250
Zone 9
7001+ miles
51,500
103,000
154,500
206,000
British Airways Executive Club Award Chart for Partner Airlines

The basic things to be aware of include the following:

  • For the British Airways award chart, peak and off-peak pricing varies based on the day you’re flying
  • Pricing is per segment, so no matter what type of award you book, you’ll pay individually for each segment
  • Travel on British Airways and many partner airlines is subjected to carrier imposed surcharges, which is the frustration that many people have with the program (separately there’s the UK Air Passenger Duty, which applies for itineraries originating in the United Kingdom)

I agree with those who are frustrated by the surcharges that apply to long haul British Airways flights. For example, having to pay ~$800 in addition to the 50,000 Avios for a one-way business class award ticket from New York to London is rough. However, note that the British Airways Visa Card offers an award surcharge rebate that can help offset that somewhat.

British Airways’ A350 business class

The best uses of British Airways Avios

The good news is that there are many better ways to redeem Avios, as I’ll cover in this post. What I appreciate about Avios is that the currency is useful in different ways than other points currencies. Avios are complementary to many other currencies, which is to say that I redeem them differently than I redeem most other points currencies. The program has some great award sweet spots.

Below are some of my favorite redemptions that minimize carrier imposed surcharges and maximize the distance based aspect of the award chart. With that out of the way, in no particular order, below are some of my favorite uses of Avios.

Travel to Hawaii on Alaska Airlines

You can redeem just 13,000 Avios for a flight of under 3,000 miles in economy, which includes flights from the west coast to Hawaii on Alaska Airlines. Alaska Airlines makes a fair amount of award space available, and given how much these tickets can cost in peak season, this represents a great deal.

While I consider Hawaii to be the sweet spot, there’s also a lot of value to be had in redeeming Avios for Alaska flights up and down the west coast. For example, for 9,000 Avios you can book a one-way ticket covering a distance of up to 1,150 miles, which will get you up and down the west coast easily.

Alaska Airlines 737

Travel on American domestically or to the Caribbean

British Airways’ distance based award chart can really come in handy either for short haul travel within the United States, or for travel to the Caribbean. There aren’t typically fuel surcharges for domestic awards or flights to the Caribbean, Latin America, etc., while there typically are for flights to Europe or Asia.

This is an especially good option for flights to the Caribbean, where cash tickets are typically really expensive, while mileage tickets are reasonably priced. For example, you could redeem just 11,000 Avios plus taxes and fees for a one-way ticket from Miami to St. Kitts, which is a great value.

American’s A321 economy

Travel short haul within Europe on British Airways

While ultra low cost carriers are doing a lot to lower the cost of airfare within Europe, there are still some markets that are super expensive, especially last minute. For just 4,000 Avios one-way, plus some carrier imposed surcharges, you can fly nonstop from London to any destination in Europe that’s within 650 miles.

Always be sure you check the cost of paid airfare, because sometimes paid tickets are cheap as well. However, there are lots of cases where this represents a great deal. Note that the below pricing shows the option to redeem more Avios and pay less in cash, but you can modify that.

Some may disagree, but I think it can also be worthwhile to redeem Avios for Club Europe, which is British Airways’ regional business class. This will typically cost you roughly twice as many Avios, but you’ll get priority security, lounge access, priority boarding, a blocked middle seat onboard, and free food and drinks. Personally I think that’s worth it for an extra 4,000 Avios or so.

British Airways’ Club Europe

Travel within Asia on Cathay Pacific

Airfare within Asia can vary wildly. Thanks to ultra low cost carriers, airfare is cheap in some markets, though in others it’s expensive. Redeeming Avios for travel on Cathay Pacific within Asia is a great deal.

This is especially true for travel in business class, given how many long haul configured aircraft Cathay Pacific flies on short routes. You can fly fully flat business class between Hong Kong and Singapore, for example. The cost? 25,000 Avios plus $83. Of course it’s anyone’s guess when Hong Kong will fully reopen its borders.

Cathay Pacific’s A350 business class

Travel on Qantas within Australia

Travel within Australia can be expensive, so redeeming Avios for Qantas’ extensive route network is a great opportunity. Fees are limited, and Qantas is generally great about making award space available on domestic flights.

For example, you can fly one-way from Sydney to Perth for 13,000 Avios in economy. If you want to fly business class, the same route will cost you 38,750 Avios, which would get you the flat bed “premium” transcontinental service.

Qantas A330

Travel on Royal Air Maroc across the Atlantic

Royal Air Maroc is one of the newest oneworld member airlines, and opens up some great redemption opportunities.

For example, you could fly from the US to Casablanca in business class for 60,000 Avios one-way, plus roughly $186 in surcharges. While there are surcharges, they’re at least much lower than if flying British Airways.

There are plenty of other situations where it makes sense to redeem on Royal Air Maroc, including for travel to many hard-to-get places in Africa, as well as for travel between Europe and Northern Africa.

Royal Air Maroc’s 787 business class

Travel in Qatar Airways’ short haul first class

Qatar Airways’ Al Safwa First Class Lounge in Doha is one of the best first class lounges in the world. It also has an interesting access policy, as it’s only available to those in long haul first (which is very few routes, as Qatar only has three cabin first class on A380s and select 777s), or those traveling within the Gulf region in the forward most cabin.

For example, you could fly from Doha to Muscat and use Qatar’s excellent first class lounge. You could arrive 20 hours early, get a bedroom in the lounge, have a nice meal, etc. Maybe it’s not for everyone, but that’s a heck of a deal for experiencing one of the world’s best lounges.

Qatar Airways’ Al Safwa Lounge Doha

Travel in Qatar Airways’ long haul business class

Qatar Airways’ Qsuites business class is one of the best business class products in the world. Thanks to Qatar Airways Privilege Club recently adopting Avios as its points currency, British Airways has lowered many redemption rates on Qatar Airways. For example, you can now travel between the United States and Doha for just 70,000 Avios in business class, and surcharges are even minimal. This is a pretty spectacular use of Avios.

Qatar Airways’ 777 business class

Travel on Aer Lingus across the Atlantic

Redeeming British Airways Avios for travel on Aer Lingus can be an exceptional value. While the number of Avios required are similar to what you’d pay on British Airways, the benefit is that the surcharges are much lower.

The good news is that these awards are nowadays bookable on ba.com. The bad news is that surcharges are outrageously high when departing North America, while they’re low when flying to North America. So I’d ideally recommend using this when traveling westbound.

I also happen to think that Aer Lingus’ business class is better than British Airways’ (at least the old one). In terms of the number of Avios required:

  • Aer Lingus flights between Ireland and Boston, Chicago, New York, Toronto, and Washington cost 13,000-20,000 Avios (off-peak/peak) in economy, or 50,000-60,000 Avios (off-peak/peak) in business class
  • Aer Lingus flights between Ireland and Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, San Francisco, and Seattle, cost 16,250-25,000 Avios (off-peak/peak) in economy, or 62,500-75,000 Avios (off-peak/peak) in business class
Aer Lingus’ A330 business class

Travel on Iberia across the Atlantic

British Airways and Iberia have the same parent company, though award tickets on Iberia represent a much better value than awards on British Airways. For example, you could fly from Chicago to Madrid off-peak in business class and pay just 34,000 Avios plus $124.50 in taxes, fees, and carrier imposed surcharges. That’s a phenomenal redemption.

In the past you had to transfer Avios to Iberia Plus to get such low surcharges, but that’s not even necessary anymore nowadays.

Iberia’s A330 business class

What about redeeming Avios for hotels, car rentals, and more?

As is the case with most frequent flyer programs, there are ways to redeem British Airways Avios that don’t include flights. You can redeem British Airways Avios for everything from car rentals, to hotels, to merchandise.

However, it’s almost never a good deal. Using these redemption options, you’ll pretty consistently get under one cent of value per Avios, which I wouldn’t consider to be very good (personally I value Avios at ~1.3 cents each).

Just to give one example, for a night next weekend you can book the Sheraton Times Square New York for 20,650 Avios, which shows as being reduced from 30,250 Avios.

The paid rate for that night, including all taxes and fees, is at most $174.

That’s just one example, but you’ll find a similar pattern with most redemptions.

While redeeming for non-travel experiences might be a good way to minimize fees, it’s not a good way to maximize your Avios otherwise.

Bottom line

If I could only ever collect a single points currency again it wouldn’t be British Airways Avios. However, they also serve a useful and specific purpose for me, and I always value having a sizable balance of Avios.

If you’re someone who is disenchanted at the thought of redeeming Avios for travel on long haul British Airways flights and paying huge surcharges, hopefully the above gives you some good ideas for how you can redeem these Avios.

Between the British Airways Visa Card and the ability to transfer Amex, Capital One, and Chase points to British Airways, there are lots of great ways to collect Avios.

What are your favorite uses of British Airways Avios?

Conversations (18)
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  1. Katie Guest

    Every site/blog talks about the same very specific deals for avois, but how do you SEE them online. The BA site shows only BA flights and I can't get it to show any partner airlines. What am I missing here??

  2. Wigand Weirich Guest

    Thanks.

    However, I'm missing all the options to move avios easily between Privilege Club, Air Club, Iberia Plus and Executive Club for the best options in those four.

  3. James Guest

    I still have 100k Avios from over 10 years ago that I can never figure out how to use...

  4. Paul ATL Guest

    I use my BA Chase credit card to pay the surcharges and have never received the advertised refund. Do other readers have the same experience?

    Also, as a BA gold member there always seems to be availability on BA transatlantic. This is hugely valuable to me!

  5. Tom Guest

    Fees are low using Avios on JAL from the US to Japan, although travel is restricted right now of course.

    1. Guri S Guest

      The fees out of LaX to NRT was 167 and without notice, it is now 300+ in just fees.

      Sad! That was a good deal on JAL but it is too expensive counting the fees.

  6. KJ Guest

    I did a search on LHR-KEF. Gcmap is showing a distance of 1180 miles. When I search on BA, the off peak rate is showing 13750 avios for economy. It doesn’t seem to be in line with the chart based on the distance. The chart also doesn’t have any off peak rate at 13750 avios. Would anyone be able to clarify the discrepancies? Thanks

    1. TC Guest

      If I remember correctly, the distance BA uses is that between the capital cities of the two countries. Perhaps that is leading to the discrepancy you find?

    2. TC Guest

      Let me just cast doubt on my own response (!) since LHR and KEF are both very close to their respective capital cities...

  7. Chad Guest

    I’ve come to actually love BA avios over the years. Using ORD as my “home” airport it’s been incredibly easy to find Qatar availability as well as off-peak flights to/from MAD. Hard to beat 13 hours in a Qsuite! I’d also be fine in Iberia premium economy heading west on a daytime flight where I generally don’t sleep.

  8. harry hv Guest

    Sydney to Perth, business award
    25,000 AA miles
    38,750 BA miles
    41,500 Qantas miles
    showing the relative value of the programs (or lack thereof)

    1. platy Guest

      And if you can travel to PER from MEL, there's sweet spot 22,000 BA Avios business class one way and USD33.

      That's about 7 US cents per Avios.

      Select the A330 for the lie-flat seats.

      It's get better.

      There are pricing options presented for part pay points and cash.

      For example, 14,100 Avios and USD112 for an airfare with retail cost of about USD1500.

      Now you're getting USD1388 redemption value for your 14,100 Avios, or...

      And if you can travel to PER from MEL, there's sweet spot 22,000 BA Avios business class one way and USD33.

      That's about 7 US cents per Avios.

      Select the A330 for the lie-flat seats.

      It's get better.

      There are pricing options presented for part pay points and cash.

      For example, 14,100 Avios and USD112 for an airfare with retail cost of about USD1500.

      Now you're getting USD1388 redemption value for your 14,100 Avios, or 9.9 US cents per Avios.

      Of course if you can book during an airfare sale too might be able to find lower cash fares to make your comparison (say USD1200 rather than USD1500 one way), but the redeemed value of Avios is still impressive...;)

  9. Daniel Guest

    Im having trouble finding AA flights using avios on BA.com is there another way to find and book?

    1. betterbub Gold

      It's a lot easier to find award space on AA's calendar and then book that specific flight on the Avios site

    2. Jill Guest

      I tried to do that-to find space on AA calendar and then book through Avios site. But I was told by an Avios agent you can only book BA flights online. All partner airlines have to be reserved by phoning Avios. I was then told that what AA shows available is not what is available with Avios points. Only a few seats per flight are for Avios. I’ve tried Various partner airlines. Not just American....

      I tried to do that-to find space on AA calendar and then book through Avios site. But I was told by an Avios agent you can only book BA flights online. All partner airlines have to be reserved by phoning Avios. I was then told that what AA shows available is not what is available with Avios points. Only a few seats per flight are for Avios. I’ve tried Various partner airlines. Not just American. I’ve tried for months to book anywhere (Spain, Portugal, Italy, etc) from the US and have had no luck. I’ve used ExpertFlyer.com and spoke with Avios agents. They could not find anything. My dates and months of traveling are totally open. I’ve had 390,000 Avios miles for years and have never been able to book. Biggest waste of frequent flyer miles ever!

    3. CJH Guest

      I am having the same issue as Daniel. I cannot find any flight availability on Ba.com for AA flights. Call BA to see if award availability is available?

    4. Creditcrunch Diamond

      I find seatspy a very useful tool in identifying reward availability, they now show inventory for ;

      American Airlines
      Air France
      British Airways
      Etihad
      KLM
      United Airlines
      Virgin Atlantic

  10. Brad Guest

    I’ve had 129k points for almost 10 years and haven’t been able to find a redemption that’s makes since for my travel needs.

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Jill Guest

I tried to do that-to find space on AA calendar and then book through Avios site. But I was told by an Avios agent you can only book BA flights online. All partner airlines have to be reserved by phoning Avios. I was then told that what AA shows available is not what is available with Avios points. Only a few seats per flight are for Avios. I’ve tried Various partner airlines. Not just American. I’ve tried for months to book anywhere (Spain, Portugal, Italy, etc) from the US and have had no luck. I’ve used ExpertFlyer.com and spoke with Avios agents. They could not find anything. My dates and months of traveling are totally open. I’ve had 390,000 Avios miles for years and have never been able to book. Biggest waste of frequent flyer miles ever!

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Chad Guest

I’ve come to actually love BA avios over the years. Using ORD as my “home” airport it’s been incredibly easy to find Qatar availability as well as off-peak flights to/from MAD. Hard to beat 13 hours in a Qsuite! I’d also be fine in Iberia premium economy heading west on a daytime flight where I generally don’t sleep.

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platy Guest

And if you can travel to PER from MEL, there's sweet spot 22,000 BA Avios business class one way and USD33. That's about 7 US cents per Avios. Select the A330 for the lie-flat seats. It's get better. There are pricing options presented for part pay points and cash. For example, 14,100 Avios and USD112 for an airfare with retail cost of about USD1500. Now you're getting USD1388 redemption value for your 14,100 Avios, or 9.9 US cents per Avios. Of course if you can book during an airfare sale too might be able to find lower cash fares to make your comparison (say USD1200 rather than USD1500 one way), but the redeemed value of Avios is still impressive...;)

1
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