9 Great Ways to Maximize 50,000 British Airways Avios

Jan 12, 2015

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – British Airways Visa Signature Card

Credit card sign-up bonuses are among the best ways to boost your loyalty account balances, but knowing how to use the points and miles you earn will stretch your travel even farther. Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Jason Steele looks at some lucrative options for redeeming the 50,000 point sign-up bonus from the Chase British Airways Visa.

If you’ve been playing the points and miles game for a while, then you might have fond memories of 2011, when Chase offered a sign-up bonus of 100,000 Avios for the British Airways Visa. Chase offered another 100,000 point sign-up bonus in 2013, though the spending requirement was much higher. In both cases, the $95 annual fee was applied immediately upon opening of the account.

By comparison, while the British Airways Visa Signature Card currently offers a sign-up bonus of just 50,000 Avios (after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months), it’s still a highly competitive offer thanks to the low spending requirement. Cardholders earn 3 Avios for every $1 spent on British Airways purchases, and 1 Avios for every $1 spent on all other purchases. When you spend $30,000 on the card within a calendar year, you receive a Travel Together ticket valid on British Airways award flights. Other features include an EMV smart chip with Chip and Signature compatibility, and no foreign transaction fees.

However, none of that amounts to much if you’re not sure what to do with your points, so today I’ll look at some options for getting great value out of the 50,000 Avios you’ll earn from the sign-up bonus. Read on to see how you can get short-haul flights for just 4,500 points, round-trip flights to Hawaii from the West Coast for 25,000 points, and more.

British Airways flies one of its birds to Austin.
British Airways Avios can be very valuable with the right redemption strategy.

So what can you do with 50,000 Avios?

The Avios program uses a distance-based award chart, which allows savvy cardholders to realize the most value from their points when redeeming them for short- and medium-haul flights. In addition, the high fuel surcharges often charged on award flights operated by British Airways make these points most valuable when used on partners like American Airlines, US Airways, Alaska Airlines, Aer Lingus, and others (see How to Redeem Avios Without Huge Fees and Surcharges). Here are nine of my favorite ways to use these points:

1.  North American flights under 650 miles. This is one of the best uses of British Airways Avios, as these short-haul flights cost only 4,500 points each way, or 9,000 round-trip. That means the 50,000 points from the sign-up bonus is worth an astonishing 5 round-trip flights, plus an additional one-way! Furthermore, American often has generous award availability on its domestic flights. Examples of these flights include New York (JFK) to Montreal, Miami to Jamaica, Atlanta to Chicago, and Denver to Phoenix. This is especially valuable if you tend to book flights without much advance notice, since the cost to purchase a ticket goes up dramatically, but the cost to redeem for an award flight stays the same (assuming there’s availability). For last-minute bookings, you could easily save $500 or more on a round-trip flight.

Here are all of the major AA, US, and Alaska hubs, and the 650 mile zones that offer award flights for 4,500 Avios one way.
Major AA, US, and Alaska hubs, and the 650-mile zones that you can reach for 4,500 Avios one-way

2. Business class on three-class American transcontinental flights. The Avios program charges twice as much for business class as it does for economy, and three times as much for first class. So, most domestic first class flights cost triple the points, which is rarely worthwhile. The notable exception is the three-class domestic transcontinental flights operated by American on routes such as New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco. These flights offer a lie-flat business class product on the Airbus 321 in its transcontinental configuration, which you can can book for 25,000 points each way, or 50,000 round-trip.

3. Iberia short-haul flights. Flights within Europe and the Middle East on Iberia are not subject to fuel surcharges, just mandatory government taxes and fees. So short flights such as Madrid to Barcelona are only 4,500 Avios and $26 each way, while longer flights such as Tel Aviv to Madrid are 12,500 points each way.

Iberia short haul
Iberia flights within Europe and the Middle East do not have fuel surcharges.

4. Airberlin short-haul flights. Airberlin is another carrier in Europe that you can fly with Avios, and as with Iberia, you won’t be hit with harsh fuel surcharges for these partner awards like you will on flights operated by British Airways. Airberlin has hubs in Berlin (of course), as well as Stuttgart, Hamburg, and even Palma de Mallorca off of the Mediterranean coast of Spain. Thanks to the relative compactness of Europe, you can reach a lot of desirable destinations within the 650-mile radius.

ber 650
This map shows areas within 650 miles of Airberlin’s main hub.

5. Air Niki flights. This is a lesser known British Airways partner that only offers short- and medium-haul service from its hub in Vienna, plus a focus city in Salzburg, Austria. Like most BA partners, it doesn’t impose fuel surcharges, just mandatory taxes and fees.

Air Niki was founded by the Austrian Formula 1 race car champion Niki Lauda.

6. Aer Lingus flights. This Irish airline is another European British Airways partner that offers awards with no fuel surcharges, but it also offers long-haul options. Its flights between Boston and Dublin are just under the 3,000 mile limit for one-way flights at 12,500 Avios in economy and 25,000 in business class. So 50,000 points is enough for two round-trip awards tickets in economy or one in business along that route, both of which are among the best values offered for award flights to Europe.

Also, note that British Airways offers infant lap child awards for 10% of the points (not the dollars), so ticketing a lap child in business class is only another 5,000 points, rather than 10% of the business class fare. For more info, check out TPG’s post on Using British Airways Avios on Aer Lingus to Avoid Taxes and Fuel Surcharges.

Discounted Award Tickets to Hawaii on American Airlines
You can reach Hawaii from the West Coast for just 25,000 Avios round-trip!

7. Hawaii from the west coast. Once again, these flights are just under the 3,000 mile cutoff for one-way flights at 12,500 in economy. This includes flights operated by American, US Airways, and Alaska from cities all along the west coast, including Phoenix, San Diego, Seattle, Portland, and even Anchorage. The 50,000 points from the sign-up bonus is good for two round-trip flights in economy.

8. London stopovers. One of the lesser known features of the Avios program is that travelers always receive a free stopover in London, even with one-way awards. And when traveling to or from cities in the UK, the entire trip is priced as one flight. So in the example below, a flight from Edinburgh, Scotland to London, with a stop in London for a week before continuing on to Dusseldorf, Germany, is priced at 4,500 Avios, since the total distance flown is under 650 miles. Sure, the taxes and fees on both flights combined are over $100, but these are actual government charges, not “carrier imposed” ones.

This itinerary costs 4,500 Avios and $102 for two one-way flights with a stopover in London.

9. Snowbird flights from New York to Florida. After the 650 mile cutoff, the next cutoff is at 1,150 miles for flights that cost 7,500 Avios each way. This includes flights from JFK and LaGuardia to places like Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and Orlando. So 50,000 points is good for three round trip flights between Florida and New York City.

What would you do with 50,000 British Airways Avios?

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