Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Sneaky cheap ways to fly to the USA using Avios for minimal taxes

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

In May, I am heading off to New York to test-drive Upper Class on the Virgin Atlantic 787-9 Dreamliner.  It’s tough work but someone has to do it.

I wanted to find a cheap way to get home.  Virgin had no availability on my preferred date whilst British Airways wanted £306 of tax for the one-way Avios flight.  I didn’t like the sound of that.

Luckily, there are three ways of flying from the United States to Europe without incurring huge taxes and charges bills.

airberlin und oneworld auf der Baustelle des Flughafens Berlin B

The one I have booked is airberlin.  I have used them before from New York and it is a perfectly fine experience with fully lie-flat beds.

The tax for a one-way flight from New York JFK to Dusseldorf is £3.  Yes, £3.  And, of course, 60,000 Avios points.

As well as Dusseldorf, airberlin also flies to Berlin (surprise!).  I booked a BA Reward Flight Saver redemption as a connection to get me back to London.

You can learn more about airberlin flights to the US in this ‘Avios Redemption University’ article.

There are two other ways to fly back cheaply across the Atlantic.

Aer Lingus is a great option, dropping you into Dublin or Shannon for an easy connection back to the UK.

By September 2016, Aer Lingus will be flying to New York, Washington, Orlando, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Toronto, Los Angeles and Hartford.

A new impressive business class seat is currently being rolled out.

The key thing to remember with Aer Lingus is that you cannot book on  You need to ring BA and enquire about availability.  There is no online resource which accurately matches what BA can offer you – other airlines which offer Aer Lingus redemptions online, such as United, have access to a different range of seats.

And the tax?  For a return flight to the USA, you will pay around £75 in Business Class.  That is around £475 less than a British Airways redemption in Club World.

My ‘Avios Redemption University’ article on Aer Lingus is here.

Finally, we have Iberia.

Iberia is now offering fully flat business class seating on the majority of its aircraft.

Taxes are low.  A one-way flight from New York to Madrid will incur taxes of just £56 as long as you book on the Iberia website.  Book on and you will pay over £300 in tax.

You can find out more in my Iberia ‘Avios Redemption University’ article.  Because of a quirk in the Iberia Avios redemption table, New York redemptions can be exceptionally cheap in Avios terms – as low as just 34,000 Avios one-way in Business Class.

Had I been able to get availability – and I couldn’t – my one-way from New York would have been 34,000 Avios plus £56.  That is a better deal than 60,000 Avios plus £3 on airberlin, although the connection back to London is cheaper from Germany.

One thing to remember, however, is that there are no ‘off peak’ dates when booking a redemption on Aer Lingus or airberlin.   You may need to use more Avios than you would when using BA.

With Iberia, remember that Iberia has a totally different calendar of peak and off-peak dates!  68,000 Avios return is their off-peak return cost.  On some days, which BA treats as peak and Iberia treats as off-peak, the saving is 52,000 Avios compared to paying 120,000 with BA.


How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (December 2023)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Get 25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points. These points convert at 1:1 into Avios.

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive 30,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 30,000 Avios) with American Express Preferred Rewards Gold. You receive 25,000 points if you spend £3,000 in three months and a further 5,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive a huge 100,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 100,000 Avios) with The Platinum Card. You receive 75,000 points if you spend £10,000 in six months and a further 25,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points (TO 9th JANUARY), FREE for a year & four airport ….. Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

Crazy 100,000 points (TO 9th JANUARY) and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Run your own business?

We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review

You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

Comments (67)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • PaulH says:

    Would I be correct in assuming that an Aer Lingus return Cardiff to Dublin could not be added to the ticket without the high taxes & APD ?

  • j peters says:

    There is a clear message here, if one airline is making unreasonable and heavy charges and other airlines are not, there seems only one logical conclusion. Profiteering.

    When do you think someone will start a class action against this airline, or the EU looks after consumers interests and considers this practice. No other country in the world permits this level of surcharge.

    When oil is trading at a 12 year low, what possible justification can there be?

    • mark2 says:

      Why give money to profiteering lawyers?
      Just book the lower fare: it’s called competition!

    • Lady London says:

      Errrr…. after the court case that was brought against them in the USA for continuing to demand ridiculous levels of fuel charges when the oil price had gone down so significantly, IIRC BA no longer has fuel charges. But miraculously, we now seem to have ‘carrier charges’ of pretty much the same amounts as the former fuel charges on every ticket…. Allegedly.

  • Rob says:

    No, I used a pile of VS points built up from referring HFP readers to Flying Club. They probably would have comped it if I asked but I couldn’t be bothered – I will save my goodwill with Virgin for another day!

  • Ian says:

    Can’t find any availability on AirBerlin in Economy in 2016, JFK-TXL or JFK-DUS… ridiculous.

    • Choons says:

      it is there, try 07 November, 2 econ, 2 business

    • Rob says:

      Sounds odd, sure I saw plenty of days with economy seats when trying to find suitable dates for my flight.

      • Ian says:

        Nope… nothing showing on for 07 November. Availability seems very, very scarce.

        • friendofbiffin says:

          You must be doing something wrong, fella – there’s definitely availability

  • Tom says:

    Has anyone else seen the 50% off reward flights for new topbonus members?

    Would like to go to Las Vegas this Autumn. We have approx 50,000 virgin miles which should get us a cheap one way from Manchester to Vegas or lax I think.

    Then for the return we saw this 50% off promotion. About 40k avios +£100 becomes 20k + £100 and much more interesting. The only bit I can’t work out is whether I need the full 40k avios before I can book the flight, then the 50% is credited. Or if it will lt me book with just the 50% in the first place.

    Any ideas?

    • Brian says:

      You need topbonus points to benefit from this promotion, I expect, not Avios. 2 different programmes…

      • Tom says:

        Ok thanks – I assumed because of the one world affinity that you could switch avios from baec etc in to topbonus like you would with Iberia. Never mind!

  • Brian says:

    Do you need to be part of Iberia Plus to book a flight on IB using Avios?

    • Rob says:

      You can book them via but you pay the higher tax.

      Otherwise, open an IB account, earn an Avios, wait 90 days and then you can transfer in.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.