There are many loyalty programmes out there; the biggest and easiest to actually earn and spend points in the UK is Avios.
This article was written initially when I started MuslimTravelGirl. in 2014. Since then, however, I have earned and redeemed a couple of millions of Avios, and it has completely changed my life, the experiences I have had and the way I travel.
Why should you concentrate on one loyalty program?
I had heard of Avios before I started collecting points, but honestly, in the beginning, I thought it was very difficult to do so, so I gave up before I even started. I would have been so much ahead of the game if I actually kept going from day one but also if I was smarter about the way I earned my points.
See, many people are money conscious when they choose what airline to book their holiday with and in many cases for good reason. Travelling in Europe when you don’t have kids it is much cheaper to not be loyal to an airline but rather use budget options to explore.
However, if you travel long-haul or you have aspirations to save for a dream trip in business class, collecting points can be a very good option to upgrade your flight for less or use those points for redemption.
Now, why only one loyalty scheme, though?
Well if you keep saving money in several pots, you will never have enough for redemption or to buy what you want. So you are better of to collect in a program that you have easier access to.
Think of the country you live in, the way you can earn through a credit card or the destination you want to visit the most.
For me in the UK, even if I live in the North, the best option was Avios through British Airways. They are part of the Oneworld alliance, which means even if I don’t book flights directly with British Airways for example, to the US; I can book with American Airlines but still credit my flight to BA and earn Avios for it.
This way I am technically more loyal to an alliance than an airline and have more options for flights and redemptions.
In the UK, the biggest and easiest is Avios.
When I lived in Doha, Qatar, I could earn but also redeem flights for them because their flight prices from Doha to Europe were so expensive.
A flight from Doha to Sofia, for example, would be £700 but only 20,000 Avios return and £100 in taxes.
So what are Avios?
Avios is the scheme formed in 2011 between British Airways (BA) and Airmiles. I know many people have heard of Airmiles because they were so popular they do not exist anymore.
Now Avios are extremely popular and much easier to acquire as they are not JUST Airmiles, but rather a points scheme.
They can be earned by, putting petrol at Shells, doing online shopping at the Avios E-store, car hire with their partners, flying through other airlines as I mentioned above like Iberia, Aerlingus, Qatar and much more.
Avios is basically a currency that you can earn and then redeem; the most choices you have to earn the faster you accumulate enough to have an Avios redemption.
Personally, I value my Avios more than money sometimes because although I can save money, I can have some crazy value options when I redeem Avios for flights, especially during peak season.
My most recent redemption for a British Airways flight during the February half term was using my Avios and a 2-1 voucher for a ski trip to Bulgaria in Business class.
The flights for the trip in cash were close to £1100 per person for two, nearly £2200, which is totally unrealistic but even in economy class, they were going for £800 with budget airlines.
I paid £100 plus £36,000 Avios.
The Avios scheme is something that Muslims can take advantage of to have cheap and free travel for themselves and their families.
Collecting Avios is exactly the same as collecting Tesco or Nectar points, which many Muslims do anyways, now, you can travel and explore new cultures and countries just by collecting Avios points.
There is no interest in this and works in a similar way with cashback just instead of a small % of cash into your account after shopping you actually earn Avios for flights.
How do I earn a moderate amount of Avios per year?
I have a full post on my credit card strategy and what cards I use throughout the year that earns me Avios but also other flexible options for other airlines.
Most of my points come from credit card spending and most from shopping via the BA.com portal. Where I can shop for everything I need but also earn up to 20 Avios per £1 spent. Even if I see something I store, I am more likely to buy it online just because I can actually get Avios from this.
I can easily earn about 20,000 or more from regular shopping in a year.
If you have a larger family and you do more shopping, you can definitely earn enough for reward flights.
I fly a decent amount per year, but for most of the trips, I try to use miles to upgrade, so I buy a cheaper flight ticket.
For example, my best way to use Avios is to book a flight in World Traveller Plus which is the premium economy product of British Airways and then use my hard-earned Avios to upgrade to Club World.
I do this especially for flights to the US, even if I have to fly into an airport like New York and then take connecting flight, for example, to another city if this is cheaper. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but works for me.
As I mentioned above, the best way I personally earn is with credit cards like American Express Gold card for newbies and shopping via the portal.
I also sometimes fly, for example, American or Iberia airlines when the flights are cheaper and then credit that flight to BA.
This way, you will earn Avios and tier points for status.
Personally, apart from business class and extra luggage, I didn’t really utilise my status, and I lost this in 2022. I do have access to lounges via Priority Pass as well, so the loss for me is minor. I will try and earn it this year as I have a few flights which I will do, and again I choose Oneworld even if it is a little more expensive due to Avios and Points.
Everything is a matter of what your plans are for your future travels. If I save now on a flight £100, I could have earned 10,000 Avios and extra tier points for status that 10,000 flight could be one-way to Milan during peak time when a cash ticket cost £500.
I booked last-minute tickets using Avios while waiting in a queue to check in because my connecting flight was 10 hrs and I didn’t want to wait! cash ticket was hundreds of pounds, but the Avios cost and taxes were minimal.
This is what I love about the flexibility of Avios.
Of course, the same applies to any airline and loyalty scheme you choose. The point is to choose one that you will use most often and start collecting.
Also, British Airways has a household account option to combine my Avios with my husband or other family members like my daughter, so all our points pool together to create a bigger pool for redemption.
There are restrictions on who you can redeem for, but since 90% I redeem for immediate family, and they are in our household account I don’t have that problem.
British Airways has off-peak travel charts as well as peak-travel charts. During the holiday season, it is normally peak travel time, and you are better planning almost a year in advance.
That ski trip I booked was during half-term, and I booked the flights about 6 months in advance because it was so busy. Many people on my flight, especially in business, were like me on flight redemptions and using their British Airways Amex 2-1 voucher.
You can redeem flights using your Avios worldwide on the flight alliance such as Qatar Airways Qsuites, Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong and more, as long as there is availability, you will see the option to book.
One of my favourite redemptions for Umrah was to Jeddah, but sadly they stopped the route, and the only BA direct flight is to Riyadh. My favourite was premium economy since it was only 25,000 Avios plus taxes and charges.
You do pay taxes, and one of the ways I save especially when I lived in Doha was to book my flight coming into the UK on Avios because the charges are less.
The same when I travel to the US. I usually will redeem Avios on Aer Lingus from Dublin because one, I get preclearance to the US and land as a domestic flight and two because the taxes for a flight into New York are 13,000 Avios and £105 one way compared to the BA 13,000 Avios plus £215 in taxes.
Yes, there are nuisances to the program, and it can feel overwhelming; it has taken me years to know pretty much automatically which route redemptions offer better value, but once you do, you can save so much.
Some airline partners have poor value compared to others, which is important to check before redeeming. Not always sis BA as I gave thee example above the best value. In my US case, Aer Lingus offers more, especially for non-London-based people.
How much are your Avios Worth & Calculating their value
It took me ages to find how to calculate the worth of an Avios because many people do this per 1 Avios. For me, this is quite hard to put into perspective so I found the easiest way on moneysavingexpert.com where they calculate Avios in 1,000s. Now I have a clearer picture of what my Avios costs.
I created an excel with the formula, so I do not have to add them up every time. 🙂
This way I can instantly calculate if the deal I found is worth my time. I always calculate to find the optimum cash/Avios.
Below are the calculations I did on an Abu Dhabi trip years ago. Per 1000 Avios, I can make them worth from £11 to £47!!!
Depending on which cash/Avios route I go. Quite good as some people value them at £7.50.
This helps me mostly decide what my Avios are worth if I pay part cash and part Avios for redemption.
Recently British Airways started offering to pay more Avios and less cash which is a poor value for your points.
For the US you can pay 25,000 Avios and £50 in taxes, but the Avios in my case are worth more than the £170 I will save by giving them 12,000 Avios more.
Rob from Head for Points does excellent calculations for what is your Avios worth as well.
Once you know your Avios worth then it is up to you to make up your mind.
If you are Avios rich and cash poor then makes sense to use your Avios, but if you can afford to pay the £960 then you go down this root and save your Avios for more travel.
Avios has opened up so many opportunities for travelling in business class that would not be possible otherwise. I have flown several times in Qsuites.
I have redeemed for a 13hr flight from Maldives to London with a toddler for ease. Flights that would cost us tens of thousands for a family of three were made way more affordable with Avios.
If you are just starting the loyalty program game then take some time to familiarise yourself with your options and just start planning your favourite destinations to visit.
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