EDIT: This article has NOT been updated to reflect the Avios changes which took place on 28th April 2015. A revised version of the article will be published on Head for Points in late May.
The “Avios Redemption University” series is a good starting point for beginners, although I hope everyone will learn something from them. Click here to see the other articles.
It is inevitable that, at some points, you will need to buy Avios points in order to make a redemption booking. It is rarely great value, but if you are a few thousand short of your target then it clearly makes sense.
The obvious thing to do is to go to ba.com and buy Avios via the website. However, you may be missing out on some clever tricks which can reduce the cost of buying Avios points sharply.
There are FIVE realistic methods of purchasing Avios, plus a few more options which simply do not compete on price and still wouldn’t even under a special offer. This article does not reflect any special offers which are currently running, so do take a look at the pricing at both avios.com, ba.com and Iberia Plus.
Let’s take a look at the options:
1. Buying via ba.com
The official link to buying Avios is here. The standard price is a shocking £31 for 1,000 (there is a flat £15 handling fee which bumps up small purchases), £95 for 5,000 and £447 for the maximum 27,000.
At standard rates, the price is 3.1p when buying 1,000, 2p when buying 5,000 and 1.7p when buying 27,000.
2. Buying via avios.com
The ‘buy Avios’ page at avios.com is here (scroll down for the Avios logo). Unless there is a promotion, the standard price is the same as at ba.com.
3. Buying via Iberia Plus
Here is the Iberia page for buying Avios. If you have an active Iberia Plus account (ie the account is over 90 days old and you have earned 1 Avios in it directly – not sure if buying Avios in itself is enough) then you can transfer them to BA or avios.com using ‘Combine My Avios’. This is free.
The price will move depending on the foreign exchange rate. The minimum is 2,000 for €54, €91 for 4,000 and €655 for 35,000. Oddly, there are only 8 amounts of Avios you can buy – 1,000 or 5,000 are not possible. It is weirdly inflexible.
At standard rates and at current exchange rates, the price is 2.3p for 2,000, 1.9p for 4,000 and 1.55p for 35,000. This is very similar to BA and avios.com.
4. Buying American Express Membership Rewards points
This is a neat little trick for anyone with an American Express Platinum, Gold or Green card. Whilst this is not described anywhere on the Amex website, you can buy up to 10,000 Membership Rewards points per year for 1.5p each. These can be transferred across to Avios at 1:1 so you effectively buy Avios for 1.5p each.
For relatively modest quantities, this is a far cheaper option than buying directly. The only downside is that it will take a few days for Amex to transfer the points across to Avios.
To make a purchase, you need to ring Amex. It may take a while for the agent to work out how to do it, as few people ever do this.
5. Buying Starwood Preferred Guest points
Starwood Preferred Guest – the Sheraton, Westin, W loyalty scheme – lets you transfer your points to Avios at 1:1. More interestingly, if you transfer 20,000 at once you get a 5,000 Avios bonus. Even more interestingly, Starwood runs regular sales which let you buy SPG points at a discount.
Here is the ‘buy points’ page (scroll down for the Starwood logo). 1,000 is $35, 5,000 is $175 and 20,000 is $700. This works out at 2.3p per Avios, except when you buy 20,000 when it falls to 1.8p because of the 5,000 Avios bonus.
The real benefit is when SPG is selling points at a discount. They are occasionally offered at 2.5c each rather than 3.5c, which gets you a 25% discount on the above prices and makes then quite attractive.
6. Buying via other hotel schemes
Other hotel schemes let you buy points and also let you convert points to Avios. However, neither Hyatt Gold Passport, Hilton HHonors, Club Carlson or IHG Rewards Club are cheap enough to be worth considering.
For small quantities, buying Amex Membership Rewards points could be the way to go if you have the right card. Alternatively, check to see if Starwood has a promotion on, and if that fails make sure you check BA, avios.com AND Iberia Plus for special offers before proceeding!