The Beginner’s Guide to Airmiles (Avios Points)
Whether you’re new to airmiles or have collected them on and off for years, I hope this short introduction to airmiles will give you a whistle-stop tour of the various ways to collect and, most importantly, use your hard-earned points.
What are Airmiles?
Airmiles are travel reward points that allow you to turn your everyday spending into flights, hotel stays, upgrades, days out and more. Originally airlines set up programmes to reward their most loyal customers. Customers would earn miles based on the distance they had flown which could then be used to buy reward flights. This initially expanded into credit card use, rewarding customers for signing up or hitting certain spending thresholds. These offerings have since expanded into numerous areas, creating opportunities to exploit the generosity of these programmes to earn free rewards.
Within the guide we will mainly be focusing on points that can be accumulated within the UK. As such it’s important you get your head around and sign up to the three following schemes:
All are free to sign up to and offer various opportunities to collect and spend airmiles (or Avios points). You can easily move your miles between the various schemes so it doesn’t really matter where you have the majority of your points. Get signed up now by clicking the links…..
How can I collect Airmiles?
There are quite simply 1000s of ways to collect airmiles, some more cost effective than others. My motto has always been to make sure when you are collecting miles that you are not paying anything more than you usually would. If you stick by this, all points you earn should effectively be free, making that well-earned holiday even more appealing when it hasn’t cost a penny.
I’ll be focusing on the most time-effective ways to start earning Avios, of which card churning is by far the easiest. For those that have never come across card churning, in its most simple form, it involves signing up to credit cards for the bonuses that they offer and then cancelling them once any spend requirements have been hit. Click here (coming soon) for a full overview.
Other ways to earn airmiles include:
- Flying with any Oneworld alliance airline
- Transfer Tesco Clubcard points to airmiles
- American Express Membership Reward transfers
- Online shopping
- At the airport: airport parking, airport shopping and No.1 Lounges
- Hotel bookings
- Everyday spending including Shell, Nutmeg, PizzaExpress
- Completing online forms
- Trains, ferries and car hire
The options are almost endless so please keep an eye on the blog for regular ideas and updates.
What Credit Cards Are the Best to Start With?
One of the easiest ways to collect airmiles is through credit card reward schemes and the sign-up bonuses they offer. It’s unbelievably easy and takes very little time. Please follow the link here to my credit card overview page, which is updated regularly and includes sign-up bonuses for various credit cards available to UK citizens.
For Avios the best current options are as follows. I’ve split between free cards and cards with an annual fee:
- The American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Card: By far the most generous of all free cards available. Free for the first 12 months with 10,000 reward points offered when you spend £3,000 in the first 3 months. Note that a higher amount of 12,000 reward points is available when you use this link. Recent changes to American Express rules now mean that to qualify for the sign up bonus you cannot have held a personal American Express credit card in the last 24 months. There are however 3 exceptions which can be combined for a maximum of 83,000 points – learn more about the sign up bonus restrictions and our suggested strategy here. Click HERE to see my recent article for various other benefits connected with the Amex Gold Card. Note this is a charge card and needs to be repaid in full each month. A great benefit of this card is the 2 free lounge passes offered, making that travel experience even more pleasant.
- British Airways American Express: 5,000 miles when you spend £1,000 in the first 3 months. No annual fee. Please click HERE for my recent review and the additional benefits offered by the card. You can earn a total of 6,000 Avios if you use this unique link and scroll down to the free BA Amex card.
- The American Express Preferred Rewards Platinum Card: The standard offer is for 30,000 points when you spend £2,000 in the first 3 months. Similar to the Amex Gold card, you can earn an enhanced bonus amount of 35,000 points if you use this link and scrolling down to the correct card. The Platinum Amex Card has an annual charge of £575 and as such only really makes sense if you are spending large sums on your credit card. Again please click HERE to see my recent full overview of the Amex Platinum card.
- British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card: 25,000 miles when you spend £3,000 within 3 months. A higher bonus of 26,000 miles is available using this link and scrolling down to the correct card. Note that there is a cost of £195. Click HERE for a review of the card and the further benefits offered.
How Can I Spend Miles?
So now you’ve signed up to various membership schemes and have a growing balance of airmiles. How can you spend these I hear you ask…. The easiest way to spend Avios points is through the British Airways Executive Club website. The large majority of the time miles are best spent on flights, however there are various ways to maximise the miles flown and also minimise the associated taxes.
I’d recommend heading to the Avios redemption calculator (found here) initially to gain an idea as to how far you can fly with your current miles. There are a couple of main points you should consider which I’ve highlighted below.
- European flights with British Airways can be great value and taxes are capped at £17.50 each way. If you consider that sometimes it’s easy to spend in excess of £250 for a return flight, there is a significant cost saving. Make sure you always check budget operators and weigh up whether using your miles is most cost effective. Take into consideration baggage allowances and any further add-ons for a fair comparison. Sometimes it pays to wait and use your miles for an alternative journey.
- Using Avios points will allow you to fly like royalty without the crazy price tag. By using your points to either purchase a long-haul Business flight or upgrade your existing flight, you can gain access to lounges and the premium services offered. Note that you can only upgrade by one class at a time if you are upgrading a pre-existing ticket. Don’t be caught out by the premium economy trap. Below is a picture of the Concorde lounge, available to BA First-Class ticket holders.
- Note that flights are not completely free and taxes will be payable. You can reduce these costs for long-haul flights by flying from hubs such as Berlin, etc., where the taxes can be as low as £1.
- Consider travelling during off-peak hours. Only one third of the year is classed as peak time, so if your travel plans are flexible there’s a real saving to be made. For example, a flight from London to New York would be 20,000 miles during peak periods but can be reduced to 13,000 in off-peak times. That said, if you are travelling in peak times Avios may well be able to help you reduce significantly inflated ticket costs.
- Availability is much more limited than when paying for flights, so it’s important to book as early as possible. Reward flights are released 355 days before the flight, which gives you an idea when you should be booking those peak-time flights.
- It’s worth highlighting that you do not need to fly with BA, you can use any one of the Oneworld alliance members.
There are various other ways to spend miles. Using the Avios website, additional ways miles can be spent include Hotels, Experiences & Days Out, etc., however from a cost-saving point of view I’d 99% of the time recommend spending miles on flights.
For some that have the time to spend, the world of airmiles provides opportunities to travel the globe for little if any cost. For most of us, accumulating and using air miles is enough to save some money each year, and it’s not hard to keep track of.
In the movie Up in the Air, George Clooney’s character never wastes an opportunity to earn points. I’m the same way. I never, ever, ever just earn one point per pound spent if I can get 2, 3, or 6 points per pound spent.
I hope you’ve found this guide to Avios useful. As always please do share with friends if you think they would be interested in the world of air miles.
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