TPG reader question: What is the best value amount of cash to pay for the fees and taxes on my Avios redemption?

Jul 11, 2021

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Editor’s note: This article is part of a weekly column to answer your credit card, points and miles and general travel questions. If you would like to ask us a question, tweet us at @thepointsguyuk, message us on Facebook or email us at tips@thepointsguy.co.uk.


Can you really fly for free using points and miles?

Well, using your British Airways Avios, you can get extremely close.

This is because BA allows you to use Avios to pay for the fees, taxes and surcharges that you would otherwise pay cash for on your next Avios redemption.

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This brings us to this week’s TPG reader question.

When I book a fight with Avios, I’m given different options of how much cash to pay. What is the best amount to choose?

Lisa, TPG reader

Let’s have a look at both a short-haul and long-haul example.

If you’re using your Avios to book a return flight off-peak in economy to the green-list island of Mallorca in Spain using the Reward Flight Saver deal, here are your payment options:

Related: What it’s like flying in British Airways economy to Europe right now

This is a rather confusing number of options. On one end you only need to pay £1 for the return flights (which seems like an amazing deal), if you use 23,500 Avios.

On the other end, you will only need to part with 5,800 Avios, if you are willing to pay £90 in cash.

The easiest way to work out the best value is to look at how much Avios are worth. Here at TPG, we currently value Avios at 1.1p each, so with this value, the options would cost you the following:

  • 23,500 Avios + £1 = £259.50 (23,500 x 1.1p + £1)
  • 22,000 Avios + £9 = £251
  • 19,500 Avios + £20 = £234.50
  • 14,500 Avios + £35 = £194.50
  • 9,300 Avios + £70 = £172.30
  • 5,800 Avios + £90 = £153.80

As you can see, the fewer Avios you use, the cheaper the overall cost as you’ll be parting with far fewer Avios. While it might be tempting to old pay £1 for a return flight to Spain, you will be parting with a substantial 17,700 Avios more than if you paid £90.

Related: Green list deal alert: Good Avios availability to the Balearic Islands this summer with British Airways

On long-haul, there isn’t the option to only pay 50p per flight, though you can choose to pay only £50 per flight for an economy flight to New York. Here are the options:

Using the same Avios valuation, calculation, here is how the numbers add up:

  • 50,000 Avios + £100 = £650 (50,000 x 1.1p + £100)
  • 38,000 Avios + £180 = £578
  • 26,000 Avios + £290 = £576
  • 19,500 Avios + £340 = £554.50
  • 13,000 Avios + £400 = £543
  • 9,100 Avios + £480 = £580.10

These numbers are closer, with the best-value option being to pay 13,000 Avios + £400, though note economy redemptions to New York are usually awful value as you’re likely to be able to just buy a cash fare for under £500 return, saving you having to part with any Avios.

Related: How to get the best value out of BA’s Reward Flight Saver redemptions

Bottom line

It is great that British Airways gives you the option of flying as close to free as you can get by parting with more Avios — there aren’t many airline programmes that give you that sort of flexibility. However, note that it is usually the best overall value to pay the least number of Avios and the maximum amount of cash for your redemption, given how valuable your Avios can be.

If you are sitting on an enormous pile of Avios and desperate to use them, it could make sense to pay more Avios and less cash, but you may be able to obtain even more than 1.1p per Avios by saving your Avios for a long-haul premium cabin redemption.

Featured photo courtesy of British Airways.

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