Has British Airways’ Pay With Avios always been this awful??


In any currency these Pay with Avios numbers are a bad deal
In any currency these Pay with Avios numbers are a bad deal

I’ve never strongly considered paying for part of a British Airways ticket using Avios. I’ve heard there are a few edge cases where it might be useful on business class purchases, often when a promo is running, but I generally prefer using points for full rewards, not partial payment or upgrades. So maybe that’s why I’ve never seen a scenario like the one I found today when pricing out a trip. The more Avios I was willing to spend, the less useful they became. Turns out that’s a common play for Avios.

Comparing the value of Avios to the number of points spent. It is bad news when your trend line goes down on the right side of the graph.
Comparing the value of Avios to the number of points spent. It is bad news when your trend line goes down on the right side of the graph.

Typically points grow in value the more you have. It is rare that a 10,000 point award will be worth more than a 20,000 point award, both on an absolute basis and on a per point basis (JetBlue TrueBlue is generally an exception to this trend). Avios are in something of a strange spot where the potential of the 4500 point short-haul awards (0-600 miles) can be amazing; some short hops are awfully expensive, like the £526 LHR-GVA walk-up fare I needed back in February after a Norwegian flight canceled on me. Getting that for 4500 Avios + $27.50 was a huge win. Even with the rates in North America now starting at 7,500 the options can be pretty good.



In this particular case the sliding scale for points value is also going down as the points spent goes up. I actually did a double-take looking at it, assuming I was groggy early on a Sunday morning rather than the points being valued that way. And then I started checking more itineraries to make sure I wasn’t really going crazy.

In any currency these Pay with Avios numbers are a bad deal
In any currency these Pay with Avios numbers are a bad deal

I checked multiple currencies and routes. They’re all the same.

In any currency these Pay with Avios numbers are a bad deal
In any currency these Pay with Avios numbers are a bad deal


In any currency these Pay with Avios numbers are a bad deal
In any currency these Pay with Avios numbers are a bad deal

Maybe (probably) it has always been this awful a deal but this is the first time I bothered to pay attention. Talk about disappointing.

 

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

11 Comments

  1. It used to be much better- few months ago the rates were devalued. They do run occasional promotions for Pay with Avios(currency specific) – but now even with the promos, the best I’ve seen this year is close to 1c.
    Not worth it anymore.

  2. The Avios offers change and there are targeted offers. When using Avios as copay you’d still earn the full Avios and tier points. That’s something to consider.

    1. The full earn is not particularly compelling when my points become less valuable the more I spend. 😉

      With the occasional bonus/targeted offers I can maybe see a point, but this was the first time I’ve really looked at the option. It was disappointing at the base level and even more so as the points involved increased faster than the cash offset.

  3. The was a promo in October 2015 where Pay with Avios worked out to 2.5 cents of value (up to 30k Avios) on paid fares which when combined with some insane paid for TATL airfares it was totally worth it. But yeah that was the first and last time I used this option.

  4. Yes the rates get worse the more points you redeem, however the opposite is true when booking Avios reward flights. For example I just booked a business class SIN-HKG on Cathay using Avios (cash price for flight $1100USD). The Avios price was 20,000 + $29.97. There was the option to pay more cash to use less Avios, starting at 18,500 + $49.97, then with several tiers in between the final option was 11,000 Avios + $149.97, raising the price $120 for a 9000 Avios discount, or 1.33c per Avios. Each tier became a better value as the price per Avios came down as the cash component increased. This is exactly the opposite of losing value on the cash plus Avios way of paying. To me this seemed like a great deal, saving 9000 Avios for only $120. That’s a free one way in business outside NA under 650 miles, or up to 1150? Mile one way in North America

    1. Yes, Avios and Money can be a great option! I have spent quite a bit of time to work out when it is cheapest. My account is in Euro and I can effectively buy Avios for less than a EUR Cent when booking economy reward flights. It becomes cheaper the longer the flight (band 4 to 9) and the more Avios you replace by cash. For Business Class flights Avios can be bought for a little more than 1 Cent – like in your example -but only for short flights (band 1 to 3). Unfortunately once you start looking at band 4 and above it becomes really expensive, replacing 1 Avios will almost cost 3 Cents. First Class is somewhere in between. Usually you can by 1 Avios for around 2 Cents. This can be great value on a route like Hong Kong Taipeh in Cathay First, which is either 18.000 Avios + €36 or just 6650 Avios and €216 🙂

  5. The trend has always been the same, even during promos.

    You miss the key one though – the cap. Either BA wants you to use Avios for this or they don’t!

    Compare with VS. Flat rate of 0.6p and you can pay for your entire flight if you want.

  6. @Chris

    I’ve done this on a few different redemptions and I’ve seen the price to buy back Avios essentially come down to $0.01/pt which is a great deal in my view. If you want to maximize the value of your Avios and effectively book a cash and points flight definitely start with an award booking as long as you don’t need the segment credit or butt in seat miles for some reason….which I don’t.

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