With the exception of a few currencies, most airline miles will expire after a period of time. The British Airways Executive Club program is no exception, as the airline’s policies state that 36 months of inactivity will result in your Avios being removed from your account. This can be problematic for those with a small balance of Avios with no immediate plans to earn or redeem more. What should you do?
Instead of letting them expire, there are a few easy ways you can put them to use for surprisingly good value, so today, we’ll show you our favorite ways to redeem 5,000 or fewer Avios.
Book an Award Ticket
Many programs require a decent number of miles to book award tickets, but British Airways isn’t one of them. The program has a distance-based award chart, and most flights of 650 miles or less in distance can be booked for just 4,500 Avios each way. This can be especially useful for booking flights into or out of London-Heathrow (LHR) or another Oneworld hub, since short, business-heavy routes can often be expensive. While this option no longer applies to flights in North America, it can still offer some fantastic value within Europe, Asia or Australia.
For example, I pulled up a short hop from London-Heathrow to Paris (CDG) for $168 in July 2019. The same flight can be booked for 4,500 Avios and $27.50 in taxes, giving you a valuation of 3.1 cents per point. This is over twice TPG’s most recent valuations, which peg Avios at 1.5 cents apiece.
You can save even more miles by booking your short-haul tickets on off-peak dates — applicable flights drop to just 4,000 Avios for a one-way award ticket, though. You can see British Airways’ off-peak calendar on its website.
If you’re in need of a longer flight, be sure to consider the Avios & Money reward option. In many cases, you can combine a small number of Avios with a cash payment to secure your award ticket.
Upgrade a Short-Haul Economy Ticket
Want to take a short-haul hop from London in style? You can use your Avios to upgrade a paid economy ticket to Club Europe. The number of Avios you’ll need to upgrade your ticket is determined by subtracting the number of Avios for the cabin to which you want to upgrade from the Avios for the cabin in which you’re booked.
For example, London (LHR) to Paris (CDG) costs 7,750 Avios in Club Europe on off-peak dates, and that same flight would set you back 4,000 Avios in economy. This means that the cost to upgrade a paid ticket on off-peak dates from economy to Club Europe is just 3,750 Avios each way.
Book a Hotel Stay
You can use your Avios to book hotel stays too. The number of Avios you’ll need for a hotel stay depends on the cost of the hotel stay, but we’ve actually found some scenarios where you can book an entire hotel stay for under 5,000 Avios.
Don’t have enough Avios to cover an entire stay? You can use your Avios balance to get a discount on your hotel room. Just be sure to crunch the numbers to make sure that you’re getting solid value on these awards.
For example, you can book a night at the Bo18 Hotel in Budapest for 4,600 Avios and £60 (~$77 based on current exchange rates). On the same date, a paid booking would cost $108 outright, giving you a value of just 0.65 cents.
Earn More Avios
Alternatively, you can keep your Avios from expiring by earning or redeeming any amount of Avios miles before your mileage expiration date. One simple way to do this is via a transfer from a flexible point currency like Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards. You could also look at opening the British Airways Visa Signature Card, which is currently offering new cardholders 4 Avios per dollar spent on all purchases within the first year up to $30,000. Finally, consider making a purchase through the carrier’s online shopping portal. This site partners with hundreds of retailers to give you bonus Avios for your online purchases, though you should start at a shopping portal aggregator to make sure you’re getting the best rate.
Small mileage balances are an unfortunate reality of this hobby, but just because you don’t have enough points for a long-haul first class flight doesn’t mean you can’t put them to good use. As you can see, there are many ways to redeem 5,000 or fewer British Airways Avios, and in some cases, you’ll get some solid value, which is better than letting them expire. Of course, you can always look to extend the life of your Avios by earning more. After all, you never know when you might need them for an American Airlines award ticket.
Featured photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images.