Now that you’ve read the 4 Things You Should Know about British Airways Avios Points (if you haven’t, check it out first) and are up to speed with the program, let’s look at the top 5 ways to use your Avios points.

As I’ve mentioned many times before BA points can be incredibly valuable, but ONLY if you used in very specific circumstances.

Therefore, it is even more important with BA than with other airlines to know which circumstances give you the best bang for your buck because if you use them wrong, you could end up paying HUGE fuel surcharges…and nobody wants that!

If you’ve already got a nice stash of BA Avios points, great!

If you want to start building up your balance, grab the Chase British Airways Visa (which can be found on the Best Current Deals page or the Airline Credit Card page).

Then, use those points in the following ways:

1. Short haul domestic flights

Using Avios points for short haul domestic flights can offer some incredible value.  Because of the distance-based award chart, you can get flights that are as low as 4,500 points one-way if the distance flown is below 650 miles.

Only 4,500 points?  That’s crazy, considering that the same flight would cost you almost 3x as much if you were flying with AA, United, or USAirways!

This works best for people who live near American Airline US hubs, which are Dallas/Forth Worth (DFW), New York (JFK), Los Angeles (LAX), Chicago (ORD), and Miami (MIA).

There are tons of flights that fly out of these 5 hubs to places all over the United States, so if you live near one of the hubs, you can really make out like a bandit!

If you don’t start your journey at one of the hub cities, you won’t have as many options, and depending on where you are flying, you may have to pay for the leg from your home airport to the hub airport (minimum of 4,500 miles) and then pay for the leg from the hub to your destination.

This isn’t the end of the world, and can still be less than a regular airline would charge for a domestic flight, but its not the amazing deal that those lucky people near hub cities can get.

Examples (all examples in this post are for a roundtrip ticket in economy)

New York-Chicago
Using Avios Points: 15,000
Using regular carriers (AA, United, USAirways, Delta): All 25,000

New York-Miami
Using Avios Points: 15,000
Using regular carriers: All 25,000

Boston (non hub)-Miami
Using Avios Points: 21,000 (4,500 for BOS-JFK, 7,500 for JFK-MIA x 2)
Using regular carriers: 25,000

2. From the West Coast to Hawaii

Again, since the rewards chart is distance-based, it doesn’t matter that Hawaii is normally considered a different zone than the rest of North America by other airlines. All that matters is how many miles you are flying.

This means that by going to Hawaii from somewhere on the West Coast you can get a suuuweeettt deal!

If you are flying American Airlines, anywhere you fly from on that side of the country will route you through the main hub in Los Angeles, so if you can start in Los Angeles, you won’t have to pay for that extra leg to get there.

However, don’t forget that British Airways also partners with Alaska Airlines, meaning that you can also fly direct from Anchorage, Bellingham (WA), Seattle, Portland, Oakland, San Diego or San Jose to Honolulu using your Avios points.

Each route is under 3,000 miles, which means you’ll only pay 12,500 one-way or 25,000 roundtrip!  Hello, hula!

(huge thanks to reader planodude for pointing that out in the comments of last post…that’s why I love you guys; always helping each other, and me, out!)

Examples

Los Angeles-Honolulu
Using Avios Points: 25,000
AA 35,000 (off-peak) AA 45,000 (peak)
Delta, USAirways, United:  40,000 

San Francisco (non-hub)-Honolulu
Using Avios Points:  34,000
Using regular carriers: AA 35,000 (off-peak) AA 45,000 (peak) 
Delta, USAirways, United:  40,000 

3.  Boston to Ireland (Dublin or Shannon)

This is a very specific circumstance, but if you are able to make it work, this is the best deal out there for Avios points, even better than domestic short haul flights. Why? Two reasons:

1. Boston and Dublin are 2,993 miles apart, which puts it just below the 3,000 mile threshold in the Avios award chart, meaning you’ll only be paying 12,500 Avios points each way!

8 measly more miles and it’d be bumped up to category 5 (and cost 20,000 Avios points). Talk about cutting it close.

This route, from BOS to either Dublin or Shannon, is the only route that BA or it’s partners operate from the United States to Europe that falls under the 3,000 mile mark.

2. The route is flown by Aer Lingus, which for reasons unbeknowst to me, imposes only a small fuel surcharge ($150ish) when using BA Avios points and flying on their planes.

BA and every other one of its partners that fly between North America and Europe have huge fuel surcharges (think $400-600) when you use BA Avios points.

This makes it pointless to redeem Avios points on them, seeing as you could buy a ticket outright for the same price. For whatever reason, Aer Lingus has been spared (for now) so take advantage of it while you can.

Aer Lingus also flies to Dublin from New York and Chicago, but those tickets will cost you 40,000 Avios points instead of the 25,000 from Boston because they fall in category 5 on the Avios award chart. Still a really good deal, especially for people who wouldn’t be able to easily get to Boston.

If you’re looking to stretch your Avios points and save your dollars (and who isn’t) and can make your way to Boston (or even New York or Chicago) fairly easily, jump on this amazing deal to Dublin for only 25,000 Avios points roundtrip.

This isn’t just for people wanting to visit the Emerald Isle.  If you want to continue on to the rest of Europe, down a quick pint of Guiness and then fly from Dublin to wherever else you want to go in Europe using a budget airline like Ryanair.

Examples

Boston-Dublin
Using Avios Points: 25,000 
AA: 40k (off-peak), 60k (peak)
USAirways: 35k (off-peak), 60k (peak)
United and Delta: 60k

New York or Chicago-Dublin
Using Avios Points: 40k
AA: 40k (off-peak), 60k (peak)
USAirways: 35k (off-peak), 60k (peak)
United and Delta: 60k

4.  Flying to Central or South America

Sometimes the actual amount of Avios points required will be less than the amount of miles other airlines charge because the distance is fairly short (like Miami to Bogota, Colombio in the examples below).

If this is the case, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that you are getting great value.

Since you’ll never pay a fuel surcharge when using Avios points to fly LAN or for the AA flights that fly to Central or South America, this is a no-brainer if you are flying from somewhere pretty far south already (Miami, Dallas) or if you are flying to the northern part of South America (Bogota, Caracas, etc.)

However, even if the amount of points required isn’t less than other airlines, I still consider using Avios points to go to South America a good value.

If you ask me whether I’d rather use 25k Avios points or 25k United miles to get to Buenos Aires, I’ll pick the Avios points each time!

United miles are much more valuable to me, seeing as I’ll never get hit with a fuel surcharge when I use them, no matter where I fly, whereas the Avios points will often incur a huge fuel surcharge.

Any time you can get a flight using BA Avios points and not pay a fuel surcharge, take it, because they are few and far between.

Many of you may be unfamiliar with, so to give you a brief overview, LAN flies from Los Angeles, Miami, New York (JFK), San Francisco and Orlando in the United States and Toronto in Canada and flies to a ton of destinations in Central and South America.

Direct flights on LAN from North American include:

New York (JFK) to Santiago and Lima
Los Angeles to Lima
Miami to Bogota, Caracas, Santiago, Punta Cana
San Francisco to Lima

Of course, you can always fly in to one of these cities and then continue on from there, so your options are basically limitless.

In addition, AA operates a good amount of flights to Central and South America as well, hitting a bunch of cities in Central America and all the major ones in South America as well, including Buenos Aires and Rio.  Did someone say Carnaval?

Examples

Miami to Bogota
Using Avios Points:  20,000
AA:  30k (off-peak), 35k (peak)
United: 40k
USAirways: 60k
Delta:  45k

New York to Santiago, Chile or Buenos Aires, Argentina
Using Avios Points:  50,000
Using AA: 40k (off-peak), 60k (peak)
United, USAirways, Delta: 60k

5.  Flying to the Caribbean from the East Coast

Much of what was written about Central and South America holds true for flying to the Caribbean as well. If you are flying from somewhere pretty far south, such as Miami, you can get roundtrip tickets for as little as 15k Avios points to most places in the Caribbean (some are just a touch too far and cost 20k).

Amazingly, even coming from New York you can get tickets to places like the Dominican Republic for only 20k roundtrip!

Even the most generous of award charts, such as USAirways off-peak special of 25k roundtrip to the Caribbean, can’t match that!

Of course, if you are flying from further away, such as Los Angeles, you’ll be paying much more because its distance based.  Still, at 40k roundtrip to a lot of the Caribbean, the value isn’t that bad.  You West Coasters have cheap flights to Hawaii, us East Coasters can have the Caribbean!

Examples

Miami to Santo Domingo
Using Avios points:  15,000
USAirways: 25,000 (off-peak on USAirway flights), 35,000 (peak and on partner airlines)
AA, Delta, United:  35,000  

New York to St. Thomas

Using Avios points:  40,000
USAirways: 25,000 (off-peak on USAirway flights), 35,000 (peak and on partner airlines)
AA, Delta, United:  35,000

Final Word(s)

As you can see, it’s not all bad news when it comes to the British Airways Avios program.  When used properly, Avios points can be much, much cheaper than other airlines (I’m still shaking my head at Miami to the Caribbean for 15k roundtrip!).

Just remember that you must use them in very specific situations.

Obviously, it’s best to use them if you can for shorter flights (since the chart is distance-based) but more importantly, only use them on routes that don’t impose a fuel surcharge, which are the ones above.

Do that, and you’ll be singing a different tune than the ol’ doom and gloom that typically accompanies Avios!

If the above trips sound enticing, go and grab the Chase British Airways card and start planning your trip!

If you want to apply for the Chase BA card and help support the site, please use the links on the Airline Credit Cards page or Best Current Deals page.

(photos courtesy of usa map-Don Hankins, hawaii magnets-calsidyrose, ireland-acediscovery, south america- squirlaraptor, caribbean- Vox Efx)

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