British Airways Avios Program: The Complete Guide

A comprehensive look at earning, transferring and redeeming British Airways Avios points.

Elina GellerSeptember 18, 2020
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British Airways Avios Program: The Complete Guide

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It might seem as though a U.K.-based frequent flyer program wouldn't have much to offer travelers living in the United States. However, British Airways' membership in the Oneworld alliance — which includes American Airlines — makes it a worthwhile option for globetrotters with both international and domestic destinations in mind.

Headquartered in London’s Heathrow airport, British Airways flies to more than 200 destinations in 80 countries. Its frequent flyer program is called Executive Club, and when you fly with the airline (or its partners), you will earn Avios, which can also be used to redeem for award flights.

British Airways Executive Club: Avios and Tier points

Each time you fly on a paid ticket with British Airways or with certain Oneworld and partner airlines, you will earn Avios and Tier points. Avios can be redeemed for future award flights while Tier points count toward elite status with British Airways. Unlike Avios, Tier points reset to zero each year and they cannot be used on award flights. Avios only expire if you do not have any activity in your account at least once every 36 months.

How to earn Avios points

There are many ways to earn Avios, including by flying, using a British Airways co-branded credit card, spending money with their business partners, and transferring from American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate RewardsⓇ and various hotel programs (e.g., Marriott Bonvoy). The Executive Club allows you to pool your Avios with up to six other people who live with you with a household account, making family vacations more rewarding.

Earn when you fly

British Airways, Oneworld and other airline partners

British Airways is part of Oneworld, which totals 13 airlines, and also has independent relationships with four other airlines. In addition to allowing you to book with Avios, you can also earn Avios and Tier points with the following airlines:

Airline (alliance type)

Earn Avios

Earn Avios Bonus

Earn Tier Points

American Airlines (Oneworld)

Cathay Pacific (Oneworld)

Finnair (Oneworld)

Iberia (Oneworld)

Japan Airlines (Oneworld)

Malaysia Airlines (Oneworld)

Qantas (Oneworld)

Qatar Airways (Oneworld)

Royal Air Maroc (Oneworld)

Royal Jordanian Airlines (Oneworld)

S7 Airlines (Oneworld)

SriLankan Airlines (Oneworld)

Aer Lingus (Partner)

Air Italy (Partner)

Alaska Airlines (Partner)

LATAM (Partner)

The amount of Avios and Tier points earned depends on the airline flown, ticket type and fare class (award tickets don’t earn points).  Avios bonus points, which are earned when you have elite status, and Tier points, which count toward elite status, are not earned with every partner airline.

The minimum number of Avios earned on any flight is 125, and you can earn Avios on all airlines with the exception of Air Italy. Interestingly, although LATAM has left Oneworld, redeeming Avios is still allowed for LATAM award tickets.

Earn with British Airways other business partners

Avios can be earned on hotels, car rentals, vacation bookings, airport parking, Heathrow Express, by shopping on the British Airways shopping mall, at Tesco, and with many more partners. Here’s our guide to all the ways to earn British Airways Avios.

Collect Avios with a British Airways credit card

Despite its status as a foreign carrier, British Airways offers one credit card for U.S. residents, and the card issuer is Chase:

  • Earn 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. Plus earn an additional 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $20,000 on your purchases within your first year of account opening.

  • Earn 3 Avios per $1 on British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus purchases.

  • Earn 2 Avios per $1 on hotels booked directly.

  • Earn 1 Avios per $1 on all other purchases.

  • Receive up to $600 in flight statement credits each year to cover the cost of taxes, fees and other charges on award flights to London. Eligible amount varies based on class of ticket, maximum use of three times at $200 each.

  • Annual fee: $95.

In the beginning, this is a 50,000-bonus point credit card, until you can manage to spend $20,000 on the card within a year. Introduced as a new perk in 2019, the statement credits offered on reward tickets can total $600 per year, which provides a nice offset to the high taxes and surcharges levied on British Airways award tickets. If you travel frequently on British Airways, these credits offer compelling reasons to consider this card.

Transfer points from American Express and Chase to British Airways

Since British Airways is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards® and American Express Membership Rewards, any points that you earn with each program’s associated credit cards can be transferred to Avios. Point transfers from Chase and AmEx programs are at a 1:1 ratio and must be done in increments of 1,000.

AmEx often runs transfer bonuses, which could really help extend the value of your points. For example, in October 2019, AmEx ran a 30% transfer bonus to Marriott Bonvoy and a 50% bonus to Hilton in April 2020. Chase isn’t as well known for its transfer bonuses, however it did run a 30% transfer bonus to British Airways in May 2019.

Use this step-by-step guide to learn how to transfer AmEx Membership Rewards points and Chase Ultimate Rewards® points to British Airways. If you’re already familiar with the process, here’s a list of cards whose points transfer to British Airways:

American Express Credit Cards

Personal credit cards

The Platinum Card® from American Express (annual fee: $550): Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months. Terms Apply.

American Express® Gold Card (annual fee: $250): Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months. Terms Apply.

American Express® Green Card (annual fee: $150): Earn 30,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Terms Apply.

The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express (annual fee: $95): Earn 15,000 Membership Reward® points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Terms Apply.

Amex EveryDay® Credit Card (annual fee: $0): Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months. Terms Apply.

Chase Credit Cards

Personal credit cards

Chase Sapphire Reserve® (annual fee: $550): Earn 50K bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards® .

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (annual fee: $95): Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Business credit cards

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card (annual fee: $95): New Offer! Earn 100k bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

If you already have any of the cards mentioned above, you can apply for one of the following no-fee cards with Chase. The cash-back you earn can be combined with earnings from other cards as Chase Ultimate Rewards® points. Having these cards in addition to the premium travel cards is a great way to increase your Chase Ultimate Rewards® point balance.

No-fee personal credit cards

Chase Freedom Flex℠ (annual fee: $0): Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening..

Chase Freedom Unlimited® (annual fee: $0): Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

No-fee business credit cards

Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card (annual fee: $0): Earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card (annual fee: $0): Earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Convert hotel points to Avios

British Airways has partnered with several hotel programs, which allow you to convert hotel points to Avios at a specified rate:

Hotel loyalty program

Conversion rate

Marriott

3,000 Bonvoy points to 1,000 Avios. Receive 5,000 bonus Avios when you convert 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.

Hilton

10,000 Hilton points to 1,000 Avios.

IHG

10,000 IHG points to 2,000 Avios.

Hyatt

5,000 Hyatt points to 2,000 Avios. Receive 5,000 bonus Avios when you convert 50,000 points.

Radisson

2,000 points to 200 Avios, 50,000 points to 5,000 Avios, 100,000 points to 10,000 Avios.

ALL Rewards

4,000 ALL Rewards points to 2,000 Avios.

Best Western

5,000 Best Western Rewards points to 1,000 Avios.

MeliaRewards

100 MeliaRewards to 30 Avios. Points can be converted in multiples of 100.

The ratios with ALL Rewards (2:1), Marriott (3:1) and Hyatt (5:2) are the most favorable, with the latter two hotels offering transfer bonuses when you convert a certain number of points. When you transfer 60,000 Marriott points, you will receive 25,000 Avios, which is inclusive of the 5,000 point bonus. Hyatt also includes a 5,000 point bonus when you transfer 50,000 Hyatt points, which convert into 25,000 Avios.

Although hotel points have value on their own, if you have hotel points that you have no use for, converting them to Avios could be advantageous, especially if a transfer bonus is available (e.g., Hyatt and Marriott). Here’s a list of Hyatt and Marriott credit cards that could be used to earn points, which you could then transfer to Avios:

Hyatt Credit Card

The World Of Hyatt Credit Card (annual fee: $95): Earn 25,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, 25,000 Bonus Points after you spend $6,000 total within 6 months of account opening.

Marriott Bonvoy Credit Cards

Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card (annual fee: $0): Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card (annual fee: $95): Earn 5 Free Nights after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card (annual fee: $450): Earn 75,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Terms apply.

Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card (annual fee: $125): Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership. Earn up to $150 in statement credits within your first 6 months of Card Membership for all eligible purchases on your Card on U.S. Advertising in select Media. Plus receive complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status for one year (February 1, 2021-January 31, 2022). Offer ends 1/13/21. Terms Apply.

How to redeem British Airways Avios points

Although British Airways doesn't operate domestic flights in the United States, you can take advantage of its Oneworld alliance membership to book flights with American Airlines directly through the British Airways site. You can use Avios to book flights on 16 airlines, providing for a multitude of redemption options.

Unlike many other rewards programs, British Airways’ Avios are shared between two other loyalty programs: Aer Lingus AerClub and Iberia Plus.

If you want to book a flight on Iberia or on Aer Lingus, you could transfer Avios from British Airways to either of the airlines at a 1:1 ratio. Since each of these carriers have their own award rates, a transfer would only make sense if you already have a redemption in mind.

British Airways Award chart

British Airways has a distance-based award chart, which means that short-haul flights (e.g., Washington, D.C., to Miami) within the same region will cost less Avios than long-haul flights (Boston to Seattle) in that region. Because the chart computes the award cost based on the distance between two destinations, if you have a stopover, each flight will be priced separately, which is important to keep in mind. British Airways’ award chart is not published anywhere and the carrier states that the cost of the flight in Avios is based on the destination, date and class of travel.

Best use of Avios for award flights

There are three elements to consider when you’d like to redeem Avios for an award flight. First, British Airways is known for charging high taxes and fuel surcharges on its award tickets, especially for seats in premium cabins, so economy flights will always require the lowest cash outlay.

Second, shorter distances will likely be cheaper on British Airways than on carriers that use a region-based award chart (e.g., American Airlines), so if you have miles with both, Avios rewards will be more affordable.

Third, promotional prices on off-peak awards and Reward Flight Savers are often available, which decreases the cost of award tickets considerably. Reward Flight Savers are discounted award tickets that are available on roundtrip British Airways flights in Europe and southern Africa.

British Airways sweet spots will occur when you can maximize these aspects.

Off-peak economy British Airways award from east coast North America to Europe

An example of how you can leverage the distance based chart is apparent when looking at an award ticket from the Northeast U.S. to the U.K.

This off-peak award ticket in economy class from New York to London costs only 13,000 Avios + $64 in taxes. Comparatively, fellow Oneworld partner American Airlines charges 22,500 miles for an off-peak award (30,000 miles for a peak award) from the continental U.S. to Europe (regardless of the distance flown). Avios presents the more affordable option, and if you can take advantage of an AmEx Membership Rewards points transfer bonus, you will need even less Avios to book that award ticket.

Note that if you were flying from Los Angeles to Athens, that flight on British Airways would be considerably more expensive (because of distance), while Americans' awards would remain at the same price (because it is region based).

West coast U.S. to Hawaii

Another redemption where British Airways’ distance based chart is better than American’s region based chart is demonstrated on a flight from Los Angeles to Hawaii, which is only 13,000 Avios compared to 20,000 American Airlines miles.

Cost in British Airways Avios:

Cost in American Airlines miles:

Although at over five hours this is not a short flight, the opportunity provided by British Airways’ distance based award chart is obvious.

Watch for award ticket taxes and surcharges

Some premium economy, business and first class awards on British Airways include high taxes and fuel surcharges, which result in much less appealing redemptions.

If you book a flight from New York to London in business class, you would pay 50,000 Avios + $679 in taxes on British Airways. In comparison, American Airlines would only charge 57,500 miles + $5.60 for a similar award, which is much cheaper. If you’re looking for a premium cabin experience, instead of using your Avios, consider a redemption from a carrier that has a region based award chart (like American Airlines).

How to avoid fuel surcharges on awards booked with Avios

So how can you avoid high fuel surcharges while using Avios, especially on premium cabin awards? Book with Oneworld airlines that do not include fuel surcharges, or depart from specific regions. Two examples include intra-Australia flights on Qantas and some flights from Asia to Europe.

Sydney to Adelaide: Economy and business class

An economy award flight from Sydney to Adelaide is 9,000 Avios + $27 in taxes, while a business class award is 16,500 Avios + $27 in taxes. Despite the switch from economy to business class, the tax and fuel surcharges remain unchanged.

Hong Kong to Dublin: economy and business class

An economy award flight from Hong Kong to Dublin is 28,500 Avios + $90 in taxes. In business class, that ticket is 90,500 Avios + $98 in taxes which represents a miniscule $8 increase in cash spend. Despite the switch from economy to business class, the tax and fee surcharge changes remain minimal.

Avios + cash option

If you don't have enough points for a full fare, the Executive Club allows you to pay part of your ticket with Avios. Using Avios to cover a portion of a paid flight does not count as an award redemption. Because this is a regular cash ticket, you will earn Avios and Tier points.

The Avios + cash option is available on all British Airways and American Airlines flights between the U.K. and North America and British Airways codeshare flights with 17 partner airlines. 

Although this option earns Avios and Tier points, which help you attain status, the Avios + cash choice offers very poor uses of your Avios and should be avoided.

British Airways elite status

To earn elite status with British Airways, you need to collect a minimum number of Tier points and paid flights or paid flights only.

Membership tier

Tier Points + Flights

Or Flights Only

Blue

0

0

Bronze

300 + 2 flights

25

Silver

600 + 4 flights

50

Gold

1,500 + 4 flights

N/A

You become a Blue member as soon as you join the Executive Club, and at this level, you can select a seat 24 hours before departure (but not on basic fare tickets) and access to member-only offers on travel and shopping. The other three levels offer many more perks:

Benefit

Bronze

Silver

Gold

Bonus Avios on flights

25%

50%

100%

Priority check-in

Priority boarding

Free seat selection

7 days before flight

At booking

At booking

Priority at baggage service desk

Keep status during leave*

Business lounge access

-

Extra baggage allowance

-

More award availability

-

First class lounge access

-

Only with first class ticket

Business class lounge access

-

✓^

Elemis spa access

-

* Members can keep their status while they are on maternity, paternity and/or adoption leave. ^ Silver members do not have lounge access on codeshare partner flights.

Your Tier Points reset at the end of each membership year. Once you reach a certain tier, you will remain on that tier for the remainder of the current membership year and the following membership year. Although Tier Points expire each year, they are added to your Lifetime Tier Points. Once you've earned 35,000 Lifetime Tier Points, you receive Gold membership for life.

Need more help deciding?

We've covered all the basic details of the British Airways Executive Club program. But if you still aren't sure whether a frequent flyer program is worth the effort, see our beginner's guide to frequent flyer programs.

Photo courtesy of British Airways.

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