You’re not alone if you’re not familiar with the term Avios. When most people think of travel loyalty programs, their minds jump to “points” or “miles” as the rewards they can earn, yet British Airways — along with Iberia, Qatar Airways and Aer Lingus — has created its own currency for its members. “Avios” (pronounced ah-vee-os) may not immediately give you the impression of valuable travel rewards, but that’s exactly what they are.
Here are five reasons why you should care about British Airways Avios.
Avios are easy to earn
The British Airways Visa Signature Card offers new applicants up to 100,000 Avios. Earn 75,000 Avios after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening, and earn an additional 25,000 Avios after you spend $20,000 in the first 12 months of account opening. TPG values Avios at 1.5 cents each, making the full bonus worth $1,500.
The British Airways Visa Signature has a $95 annual fee and earns 3 Avios per $1 spent on purchases with British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia and Level. Plus, you can earn 2 Avios per $1 on hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel. All other purchases earn 1 Avios per $1 spent.
British Airways is a transfer partner of Capital One, Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Bilt Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy, making Avios one of the easiest currencies to earn.
Points transfer from Chase, Bilt and Amex at a 1:1 ratio (in addition to occasional transfer bonuses of up to 40%), while Marriott points transfer to Avios at a 3:1 ratio. Plus, you’ll get a 5,000-Avios bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred.
The following cards all currently offer strong welcome bonuses that you could easily convert to Avios:
- American Express® Gold Card: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first six months of account opening. Terms apply.
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $6,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership. Check to see if you’re targeted for a 125,000-point welcome offer through CardMatch (offer subject to change at any time). Terms apply.
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.
- Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
- Ink Business Preferred Credit Card: Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
There are also plenty of additional ways to earn British Airways Avios, including the online shopping, vacation packages, car rentals, lounge passes, shopping at the airline’s London Heathrow Airport (LHR) hub, completing online surveys and you can also purchase Avios.
Avios are easy to transfer
You can also transfer Avios from your British Airways account to the loyalty programs of the other airline partners who also use Avios:
- Iberia Plus.
- Aer Lingus AerClub.
- Qatar Airways Privilege Club.
Avios can be transferred at 1:1 rate in any direction, as often as you want. This means that you can transfer your British Airways Avios to any of these programs, such as Iberia Plus, and then transfer them back to British Airways should you decide you would rather redeem them in Executive Club than Iberia Plus, all without losing any value in your Avios balance.
This is a noticeable benefit over transferring Amex Membership Rewards points to an airline partner, for example, because Membership Rewards transfers are not reversible. You can’t transfer your Membership Rewards back to your Amex account if you change your mind.
You may be asking, if British Airways Executive Club is such a great program and partners with Aer Lingus, Iberia and Qatar Airways already, why would you need to transfer Avios between the programs? Because each program has its quirks and sweet spots — for example, British Airways Executive Club is best for short-haul flights while Iberia Plus is best for transatlantic business class.
No dynamic pricing
In the past, it was possible to dip your toes into the world of travel rewards by focusing your energy on a single U.S. airline program to get the best value from your points and miles. However, that was before Delta removed award charts and switched to variable (and expensive) award pricing a few years back, and United followed suit. American Airlines is now doing the same.
If you want to fly business class to Europe using Delta SkyMiles, you can expect to pay at least 250,000 SkyMiles flying on Delta metal, thanks to dynamic pricing. British Airways Avios instead uses a distance-based award chart, with peak and off-peak dates. This means business-class flights to Europe start from just 50,000 Avios each way flying British Airways from the East Coast of the United States on off-peak dates. Be aware that British Airways imposes hefty surcharges on Avios redemptions, though you can now choose to pay more Avios in exchange for lower surcharges. Even on BA’s longest flights from the West Coast of the United States, on peak dates, choosing the lowest surcharge amount, you will only need 100,000 Avios each way in business class — far less than SkyMiles will be charging for flights on the same route.
You can earn and redeem Avios on an impressive list of airline partners
British Airways flies to 26 destinations in the United States, more than any other European airline, and has a huge European route network. If you want to travel to Europe, whether the United Kingdom or beyond, flying British Airways is a smart choice. British Airways is also a founding member of the Oneworld alliance, a global partnership of 13 airlines. Oneworld is one of the “Big Three” alliances, with the other two being Star Alliance and SkyTeam.
You can earn and redeem Avios on these Oneworld alliance airlines:
- Alaska Airlines.
- American Airlines.
- British Airways, including Sun-Air of Scandinavia.
- Cathay Pacific.
- Iberia, including Iberia Express and Air Nostrum.
- Japan Airlines.
- Malaysia Airlines.
- Qantas, including QantasLink and Jetconnect.
- Qatar Airways.
- Royal Jordanian.
- Royal Air Maroc.
- SriLankan Airlines.
Note that the S7 Airlines Oneworld membership is presently suspended.
Fiji Airways is what is called a “Oneworld Connect” member, which provides some of the benefits of a Oneworld membership but not all of them. Fortunately, if you have Avios in your British Airways Executive Club account, you can redeem them for flights with Fiji Airways.
Oman Air will be joining the Oneworld alliance in 2024.
If you transfer your Avios from British Airways to the other Avios programs, you can also redeem them on the following airlines:
- Avianca (Iberia Plus).
- Bangkok Airways (Qatar Privilege Club).
- Interjet (Iberia Plus).
- LATAM (Iberia Plus and Qatar Privilege Club)
- Level (Iberia Plus)
- Middle East Airlines (Qatar Privilege Club).
- RwandAir (Qatar Privilege Club).
- Virgin Australia (Qatar Privilege Club).
- Vueling (Aer Lingus AerClub and Iberia Plus).
Avios are useful at home and overseas
Short-haul tickets are one of the best British Airways Avios redemptions. They start at just 4,750 Avios for an off-peak award flight 650 miles or less in distance. Partner awards start at 6,000 Avios but exclude flights within North America. Meanwhile, partner flights in North America start at 7,500 Avios for flights 650 miles or less and get more expensive for longer flights.
Booking short-haul flights with British Airways can still be a great deal, even if you’re booking flights in North America on American or Alaska. A flight from New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA) to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD) clocks in at 733 miles, meaning you need 9,000 Avios one-way in economy class. This is often cheaper than you’ll pay to book the same flight with American’s AAdvantage program.
You’ll get an even better deal when booking flights outside of the U.S. Some of the best examples are flights within Europe. For example, an off-peak award ticket from London to Brussels requires just 4,750 Avios and minimal taxes.
You can also get good value when booking mid-haul flights using British Airways Avios. That said, always compare the price of booking with Avios to the price of booking with other points currencies to ensure you get the best value for your points.
If you aren’t already familiar with British Airways’ Executive Club program, now is a great time to learn. British Airways is relatively approachable and easy to understand (as foreign airlines go). Learning to navigate a distance-based award chart is an important tool to add to your award travel repertoire, especially if you are frustrated by the high prices displayed through dynamic pricing on U.S. loyalty program redemptions.
Avios are easy to come by and use on a wide range of world-class airlines.
Additional reporting by Ethan Steinberg.