Buying points can often represent a great deal, especially when topping-up your account for a redemption or for premium cabin award tickets where cash costs are eye-popping.
British Airways Avios, a popular program for Canadians with access to award inventory on many high-end Oneworld partners, is currently offering a 50% promotion on purchased Avios over the next two weeks.
Buy Avios with a 50% Bonus
From now until April 11, 2021 at 23:59 BST, you’ll earn 50% bonus Avios when purchasing points directly from the program.
This bonus is on par with what British Airways usually offers, and an improvement from their 30% bonus earlier this year. If you’ve been eyeing more points, but held off last time they did a promotional sale, now would be a better time to buy.
The cost per point varies depending on how many points you buy. The more you buy, the lower the average cost will be, although this difference is negligible over about 25,000 Avios.
One interesting feature of buying Avios is that your price varies depending on the currency you pay (GBP, EUR, or USD), which is determined by the country your account is registered in.
Canadian accounts will pay in USD at the prices listed above, which translate into a purchase cost of 2.3–2.4 (CAD) cents per Avios depending on how many points you buy.
At our current valuation of 1.7 (CAD) cents per point, I’d be hesitant to buy Avios at these promotional rates unless I were very confident in my reasons for doing so and had an immediate redemption in mind.
How many Avios can you buy?
Usually, British Airways imposes a limit of 200,000 base Avios purchased per calendar year.
Bonus Avios on points purchases don’t count against this cap. With the current 50% promotion, you can therefore buy a maximum total of 300,000 Avios.
Which credit card should you use to buy Avios?
Like many other frequent flyer programs, British Airways sells Avios through Points.com. As you aren’t buying directly from the airline, you won’t earn any bonus points for using the RBC British Airways Visa Infinite Card.
You also won’t receive the category bonus on cards with a travel accelerator. Instead, you could consider any card with a high base earn rate, or one where you’re working on meeting the minimum spend requirement.
Avios can’t be purchased directly in Canadian dollars, so you may prefer to buy with a card that waives foreign exchange fees, or any US credit card. Even if your Avios account charges in GBP or EUR and you have a European credit card, I’d still favour a Canadian or US card, as credit card rewards tend to be higher on our side of the Atlantic.
When Should You Buy Avios with a 50% Bonus?
If you’re short on Avios for an upcoming booking and have no other way to earn them quickly, there are a few situations where it might be worth it to buy points. Ultimately, as long as you’re redeeming at a value above the cost you pay, you’ll come out ahead.
Maximizing Sweet Spots with Direct Flights on Partner Airlines
If you’ve identified a good opportunity to redeem Avios, you may find it acceptable to pay above baseline value to make up the difference. Any time you’re willing to pay cash but prices are high, consider if buying points to make the same booking would be cheaper.
One popular route is Toronto–Dublin on Aer Lingus, for 50,000 Avios one-way in business class on off-peak dates. At a cost of approximately 2.4 (CAD) cents per point, the break-even point for this ticket is $1,200.
If the cash price of the base fare (before taxes and fees) is higher and there’s award space available, it’d be better to buy points with this promotion and book an award ticket instead.
Another sweet spot, Seattle to Hawaii on Alaska Airlines, can offer great value if you travel during high season, when cash prices are high but award prices are consistent. You can fly one-way in economy for 13,000 Avios, with a break-even point at CA$312.
More generally speaking, if you’re trying to lock in a family vacation over the holiday season before hotly-contested award inventory gets picked over, it might be prudent to strike fast with an immediate points top-up, even at a modest premium.
Booking a Multi-Carrier Award
For more extensive trips, the British Airways multi-carrier award chart is a powerful way to stretch your value. Each ticket can include up to eight flights, one open-jaw, and long stopovers in each city.
At the maximum amount available with this promotion, you can buy 300,000 Avios for US$5,523. That would allow you to book:
- A First Class multi-carrier award of up to 20,000 miles in distance flown
- A business class multi-carrier award of up to 35,000 miles in distance flown
- Two “economy class” multi-carrier awards up to 35,000 miles in distance flown
The price is nothing to scoff at, but if you maximize your ticket(s) with numerous desirable business class or First Class products among Oneworld members, you’ll easily realize the value within the first flight or two.
Other Ways to Earn Avios
Before rushing into this Avios promotion, I’d look to other sources of earning Avios at lower costs first.
Canadian Credit Cards
Luckily, there’s no shortage of ways to earn Avios through the credit cards we have in Canada.
American Express Membership Rewards can be transferred to Avios at a 1:1 ratio, sometimes with a bonus of 30%. Any of these cards would be a good choice:
- Business Platinum Card: Earn 75,000 MR points upon spending $7,000 in the first three months, with an annual fee of $499, for a cost of 0.67 cents per Avios.
- Platinum Card: Earn 60,000 MR points upon spending $5,000 in the first three months, with a net annual fee of $499, for a cost of 0.83 cents per Avios.
- Business Gold Card: Earn 40,000 MR points upon spending $5,000 in the first three months, with an annual fee of $250, for a cost of 0.63 cents per Avios.
- Gold Rewards Card: Earn 30,000 MR points upon spending $1,500 in the first three months, with an annual fee of $150, for a cost of 0.5 cents per Avios.
RBC Avion points can be transferred to Avios at a 1:1 ratio, with frequent bonuses up to 30% and in some cases as high as 50%. They can be earned from the following cards:
- RBC Avion Visa Infinite: Earn 15,000 points after your first purchase, with an annual fee of $120, for a cost of 0.8 cents per Avios. Keep an eye out for frequent elevated welcome bonuses, with First Year Free and up to 25,000 Avios or more.
- RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege: Earn 25,000 points after your first purchase, with an annual fee of $399, for a cost of 1.6 cents per Avios.
Also in the RBC ecosystem, the RBC British Airways Visa Infinite card can earn up to 40,000 Avios in the first year upon spending $5,000 in the first three months, with an annual fee of $165, for a cost of 0.41 cents per Avios.
HSBC Rewards can be transferred to Avios at 2.5:1, with occasional transfer bonuses as high as 35%.
The HSBC World Elite MasterCard currently has a decent welcome bonus of 40,000 or 70,000 points, which equals 16,000 or 28,000 Avios. Moreover, if you nabbed the historic 100,000-point offer in late 2020, you can convert these points to 40,000 Avios.
Marriott Bonvoy points, Amex US MR points, and Chase Ultimate Rewards points can also be converted to British Airways Avios, but all three of these currencies generally command higher value through other redemptions, so I wouldn’t recommend using them for Avios when there are cheaper earning methods out there.
Consider Waiting for an Iberia Avios Promotion Instead
Sometimes, purchasing Avios from Iberia is a better deal than buying from British Airways. Points can be transferred easily between the two at 1:1 if both accounts have been open and active for 90 days.
Iberia also offers bonuses on Avios sales of up to 50%. Unfortunately, there is currently no promotion.
While prices are the same in theory, the biggest advantage of buying from Iberia is that the pricing is based on which website you’re on, not which country your account is registered in. That means Canadians can take advantage of lower pricing, which is normally only available to Europeans.
However, with so many different credit cards to earn Avios, and frequent points-purchase promotions with a similar bonus, I would only take advantage of this opportunity if I had an immediate use lined up and if buying Avios was cheaper than making the same booking with cash.
If you are interested, the deal is live until April 11, 2021 at 23:59 BST, so be sure to buy by then.