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How do Avios points work?

Avios points are loyalty rewards you can accumulate from everyday shopping and holiday purchases, and then eventually spend towards flights, hotels and car rental and for online shopping.

Guide to how do Avios points work?

With some credit cards you can collect Avios on all of your purchases, making it easier to build points and putting you closer to great rewards. Some credit card providers also give you bonuses on Avios, rewarding you with extra points simply for signing up for their credit card, or by shopping at selected shops.

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What are Avios points?

Like many customer loyalty schemes, Avios are reward points you can collect by shopping. They are the loyalty currency of British Airlines, as well as other airlines like Aer Lingus and Iberia. You can earn Avios through flying British Airlines or their partner airlines, online shopping, hiring cars, booking travel through BA Holidays, credit card spend and many other ways. There are so many earning opportunities in the UK, even if you don't travel regularly that you can earn lots of Avios quickly.

When you have enough points you can use them to spend with some airlines and travel providers, including hotels and car rental companies. This can hugely reduce the cost of your travel.

What can I spend Avios points on?

Avios is primarily targeted at customers looking to get rewards on travel purchases, such as flights, hotels and car rental, but you can use them on a wide range of products and services, depending on what is available via their website.

You can use Avios to pay, in part or in full, for the following (except taxes and fees):

  • Flights (with British Airways and their partner airlines including Qatar Airways, Iberia, American Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Aer Lingus).

  • Hotel accommodation

  • Car hire

In some cases, you can also use your Avios to purchase experience days out, travel insurance, gift vouchers and other products, including beer and wine. The Avios website has a full list of what customers can spend their points on. Under the current COVID-19 restrictions, activities are not currently available to purchase with points.

On some flights, taxes and fees make up a large proportion of the cost, which is not covered by Avios. That means Avios is likely to give you the best value on flights when you can cover as much of the price as possible. You're likely to get better value from redeeming your Avios for flights, particularly in premium cabins, compared with gift vouchers.

You can also use Avios to upgrade your seat on a flight. It may seem excessive to spend almost double the price of an economy seat to upgrade to first class, but if you have the points, it can be a cost-effective way of giving yourself an upgrade for a much more comfortable travel experience. Rather than being squeezed into an economy seat, sleeping upright with little leg-room or personal space you could instead by sipping champagne, enjoying a multi-course gourmet meal and then having a comfortable night sleep in a fully-flat bed with luxurious bedding.

How can I collect and use Avios points?

Reward flights: if you have enough Avios points you can book flights with British Airways and their partner airlines listed on the Avios website. You can use the points for flights and just pay for an additional taxes fees and charges. Some airlines allow you to cover the cost of taxes and fees with the Avios points as well.

Frequent flyers: when you join a frequent flyer programme listed on the Avios website you can start collecting points whenever you fly.

Hotels, car hire and beer and wine: you can use your Avios points to buy accommodation, rent a car or get discounts on beer and wine with partner companies.

Activities and experiences: Unfortunately, due to the current situation with COVID-19, you're unable to book experiences in return for Avios points.

What are Avios points worth?

Generally you will need 30,000 or more to fly return to most places outside of Europe, per person, plus fees, taxes and surcharges.

However, you can also use your Avios to pay for part of the flight's cost (minus taxes and fees), so if you have only 10,000 Avios you might be able to put it towards the cost of a flight. It may be better value to save your Avios to spend in one go to cover most of the flight costs, but they can be useful when you just want an upgrade or a little discount. Remember, taxes and fees still apply, so you will never get the whole flight on your Avios.

British Airways also has Reward Flight Savers. These are value reward flights where you pay the Avios and a flat fee in cash and you do not have to pay any additional taxes or charges. The Reward Flight Savers are available on selected return flights in Europe, North America and Southern Africa. These can be a great deal and start from just 4,000 Avios one-way, off-peak.

If you don't have enough Avios points it's also possible to buy some extra points, or ask someone to gift theirs to you.

Which airlines accept Avios points?

You can spend your Avios on the following airlines:

  • Aer Lingus

  • American Airlines

  • British Airways

  • Cathay Pacific

  • Finnair

  • Iberia

  • Qantas

  • Qatar Airways

  • Vueling

and other airlines that partner with British Airways.

Other airlines, such as Virgin (Flying Club) and Fly Emirates (Skywards Miles), have their own reward points schemes. Obviously, these schemes only work for their flights, and as a result they don't accept Avios.

They do work similarly to Avios and you can find credit cards that offer specific airline rewards. It just means the rewards will only work for you if you plan to fly with those airlines.

How can I earn Avios points?

There are three main ways to earn Avios points:

  • shopping at online retailers via the Avios website

  • buying flights or travel through one of the airlines partnered with Avios

  • spending with an Avios credit card

You can earn points by joining Avios and shopping via their website. Avios has partnerships with several online retailers, including leading high street brands. Each time you spend money with that retailer via the Avios website, you collect a certain number of points depending on each shop's terms and conditions.

Avios says you can collect up to 14 points per £1 spent (for example, if you are spending with a retailer like Harvey Nichols), but you're more likely to find deals of around 4 points per £1. Look out for bonus Avios offers from time to time for online shopping.

You can also earn points via any of the airlines that are partnered with Avios. By paying for a flight or holiday with British Airways, for example, you can collect Avios points to redeem on future flights. There may be restrictions, or charges if you want to spend Avios earned this way elsewhere. So be sure to check the terms and conditions first.

How many points per spend?

With an Avios partnered credit card you can collect points fairly easily and possibly even get a large sign-up bonus. Some leading airline credit card deals on the market can give you around 10,000 Avios or even more, if you spend a certain amount within the first few months of signing up.

Generally, you get around 1 to 3 Avios points per £1 spent - but you can get more in some cases. This usually applies to all shops, and there might be a bonus for spending at selected shops.

Some of these credit cards have a sign-up fee and have higher interest rates, so it all depends on what works best for you and your lifestyle. Don't simply choose the credit card that offers the most Avios points. Those cards with higher annual fees may also have higher sign-up bonuses to compensate for the fee.

Would I be better off with another rewards or cashback scheme?

Choosing a rewards credit card is tricky, as the perks generally have more merit than others depending on each individual's lifestyle and financial habits. Essentially, it is subjective and down to personal choice.

If you travel regularly, have a high income and can afford to repay your debts in full and on time, then you would be better off with an Avios card that has the highest rewards. This obviously comes at a higher sign up fee and higher interest rates, but overall you would be more likely to benefit.

If you don't travel much, then a cashback or a general rewards credit card might be better for you. With the restrictions on travel abroad due to COVID-19, and the reduction in business flights, it might be worth looking around for alternatives at present.

If you don't have a high income and might not be able to repay your debts in full and on time, then you'd be better off avoiding a rewards credit card altogether. These credit cards can afford to offer great rewards because they have higher rates of interest than most credit cards on the market. The way to get the most out of them is by not paying any interest.

I have a bad credit rating but would like a credit card that rewards on purchases. What are my options?

If you are keen to reap rewards when you spend but are restricted by a bad or non-existent credit rating, the good news is that there are still cashback cards available to you. These are not nearly as rewarding as others on the market though, so your priority should be to rebuild your credit rating to make yourself eligible for these more competitive cards in the future.

To rebuild your score you will need to use your credit card regularly, never missing a payment and always staying within the limit.

Use your cashback card to get a small reward for repaying in full every month while you work towards rebuilding your credit rating. Only get these cards if you can pay the balance off in full every month as the interest rate is likely to be higher than standard cards.

If you end up growing debt on these types of cards you could wipe out any cashback gains you might have made and risk landing yourself deeper in debt and damaging your credit rating further.

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