What do you do when BA suspects you of selling Avios and closes your account?

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Like virtually all other frequent flyer schemes, British Airways Executive Club lets you issue tickets for other people using your Avios.

Unless you are in a BA Household Account, there are no restrictions on this.  Some airlines take a harder line – Singapore Airlines, for example, will only let you issue tickets for people on your ‘friends and family’ list and restricts how often you can amend this.

Yesterday I got the following email from a Head for Points reader.  I have edited it for clarity:

“As a long time subscriber to your blog I wanted to know if there is any way you can help me.  I am a British Airways Executive Club Gold member, or least I was until Friday.

I received a email from BA last Tuesday telling me that my account was being suspended and investigated.  I am suspected of not keeping with the terms and conditions.  Basically BA suspects me of selling mileage tickets and asked me to email them with my response.

I emailed them to say that I have never violated the terms and conditions.  On Friday I received another email from them telling me that my account has been closed “due to Brokeridge activity” that contravenes their terms and conditions.

I tried to contact them by telephone but couldn’t get a response.  Obviously this is not the case – I have never sold tickets in my life.  I have been a BAEC Gold member for over 13 years and, yes, I have bought tickets for family and friends but I thought that’s what the mileage was there for. 

I’m asking you if there’s any way that you can help me with this as I have over 150,000 Avios and companion tickets and over 20,000 accumulated tier points.  I’m completely devastated and I don’t understand why they would treat their loyal customers like this.”

For clarity, I am not taking sides in this case.  Executive Club has an aggressive anti-fraud programme, and rightly so.  In general, when I receive an email like this there is often something else going on which has raised suspicions.  I know – having personally issued tickets for many friends and family members over the years – that BA does not come after you automatically.

What should you do if British Airways closes your Executive Club account?

Why would British Airways threaten to close your Executive Club account?

If BA does close or threaten to close your account, it will have looked at your Avios redemptions over the medium term and spotted patterns which are deemed suspicious:

Were all flights booked to depart from the UK?  If you were booking flights which either did not touch the UK or were flying TO the UK and then back, this looks more suspicious than booking tickets FROM the UK which are likely to be for genuine friends and family.

Were you using your own credit card to pay the taxes?  Not paying the taxes yourself raises a flag.

Were the surnames of the passengers different to yours? 

Obviously there are honest reasons why you could give Avios tickets to friends and family which would still trigger the fraud alerts above.

There is also one other fact that BA knows and which you don’t know:

Have any of these passengers travelled on tickets issued by OTHER BAEC members?

If British Airways sees a person flying on tickets issued from a number of different BA accounts then this clearly looks like someone who has been buying tickets from other members.

If you were thinking of selling Avios by booking tickets for random people, the one above is where you are most likely to come unstuck.

If your account is flagged, British Airways may put a marker on certain tickets to question the passenger at check-in.  It is easy for the check-in desk to casually ask how they earned so many Avios, or to ask if the passenger gave a nice gift to the person whose Avios were used.

What should you do if BA closes your Executive Club account?

This was my advice to the reader who contacted me (who, remember, has lost around £1,500-worth of Avios and his chance of hitting ‘Gold for Life’ status):

Make a list of all tickets you have issued for third parties in the last couple of years

For each ticket, explain how you know this person and why you would want to voluntarily issue an Avios ticket for them without any money or reward in return

Where the surname differs from yours, get each person to send you an email confirming how they know you and that they did not pay you, either in cash or gifts, for the Avios

Whilst BA can, in theory, do what it wants, they are likely to act responsibly in the face of evidence.  Irrespective of the Executive Club T&Cs, it would also be possible to make a money claim against BA if you believe that your account is totally clean – but you’d be foolish to do this if there is any chance that they have real evidence.

After all, it only takes British Airways to show that one person you issued a ticket to has previously bought tickets via a known ‘mileage broker’ and your case will be thrown out.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

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  1. Interesting read Rob, thank you. It’s rather entertaining to see what other GOLD “BAEC” colleagues get up nowadays.

  2. We had similar problems with amex who sent our accounts for review after we changed the name, and just the name of our house. Another confounding factor was we had kept our own names after we were married. Our credit rating went into free fall as we came off the electoral roll under the old address and waited for the new address to be loaded; flagging us as potential problems to all our credit providers.

  3. I once offered a colleague £150 cash for their £100 of Tesco clubcard vouchers because I wanted £300 in Uber credit. They refused and instead spent their £100 in store. Uber credit to me is like free money. Best redemption from Tesco.

    • I once paid for someone Tesco vouchers got declined returned to original account and person said they didn’t get them back, was a work colleague :/

    • Uber is quite easy though as the Uber code can be added to anyone’s account.

      • Yes Uber would be easy, my redemption attempt was years ago before they did these e codes

    • Mr(s) Entitled says:

      Perhaps you should have been more generous than offering them a 50% return and you 100%. I’d tell you to do one too.

      • No MSE or HFPer should pass up a £50 bonus but clearly the person had no clue spending them at face value!

    • Some people just don’t like to do things that aren’t the most obvious route, if I someone offered me £150 for something I was redeeming at £100 it would be silly of me to decline,,,,

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Madness. The Uber credit is just a code that can be passed on with no repercussions.

    • Shoestring says:

      One of the worst redemptions if you can’t use it

  4. John Sims says:

    Having worked for BA in the past, there are many reasons accounts are suspended. Children using parents cards without there knowledge, cardholders lending out there cards to friends to gain lounge access, booking flights from a cheaper destination but not using a sector are most commonly used, the list goes on

    • Charlieface says:

      A big problem for companies is they (or their staff) don’t understand the difference between types of fraud. Take those 3 examples: the first is external fraud not done by the customer, the second is customer fraud as discussed in the article, the third isn’t fraud at all.

  5. Avios does have a real world value especially when you consider a lot of people could have earned cash back instead of points, so I get why people would try their best to get their accounts back.

    Can’t really see there being a legit way of cashing in Avios unless your already spending on travel already, instead of looking for ways to sell Avios I think not collecting them in the first place and looking at cash back alternatives makes more sense.

  6. could easily be the person was advertising the usage of their avios – either an upset buyer or a “jealous” onlooker, got the persons name and details and reported him to BA.

    issue is a lot of this is grey – so many people had/have those 99p listings on ebay – saying use my referral amex link and get xxxx thousand avios when you sign up..

      • And the seller is part of the BAEC Gold+GGL+Premier FB group.

        • And a student at St Andrews according to their eBay listing giving their address! Interesting turn of phrase too – “The minimal value I have on Avios is 1p per point which means I am not expecting anything more than £542 out of the auction” – surely they mean anything LESS than 😉

      • 54,200 Avios and zero tier points ! ?

        • Qwerty Bertie says:

          My wife and I have about 235k in our household account and a voucher, but each have zero tier points.

      • From the listing: “A discount will be given for bank transfer”… Or to put it another way, of you deliberately lose your right to a refund via PayPal by back transferring instead then I will give you a discount!

        • Anyone could get a screenshot of a BAEC account page and purport to be selling the avios. If this was legitimate they probably wouldn’t be encouraging a bank transfer either. And if they are not based in the UK there’s no chance of them ever be traced once they have the money.

        • Transactions of non physical goods aren’t covered by PayPal, so the problem is not that. And giving a discount if you don’t use PayPal and the seller doesn’t have to pay all the PayPal seller fees seems logical

  7. Seaviews15 says:

    I’m a BA Silver Card holder and 3 weeks ago BE emailed telling me my account had been locked. 10 days later another email arrived advising me my account had been unlocked but change the password for security reasons. My husbands account mysteriously became uncoupled from our Household account and BA system would not allow me to change my password.

    After contacting BA EC as we’ve got 3 holidays coming up, 1 in 2 weeks time, I cannot get into account to find, print anything off and BA won’t speak to me as I don’t know the Booking refs as they are held in my BAEC!!

    Fraud dept then calls me another week later – a shortened version- a friend of a friend of mine gifted me Avios, as i didnt quite have enough for return trip on a 2 4 1 voucher to Caribbean, which transpires have been bought through a stolen card!!! I apologised immediately,gave her the details of the person who gifted me the Avios and asked if I had done something stupid and she said “we all do silly things once in our lives and I’ll call you back next week” she did advise me of the various outcomes, saying “I don’t think it will come to that”when I asked her if my account would be closed

    BA fraud lady v pleasant, said she would call back this week, so I’m waiting to see if they reinstate my Silver card and I’m allowed to go on all the holidays I’ve booked with them for this year – I’m very nervous and still locked out of my BAEC account

    • Shoestring says:

      just search e-ticket in your email to get the booking refs

      • Big Dave says:

        or call the call centre give them your details and they should be able to pull up the booking – pretend you want to upgrade some items on it or book a seat and are computer illiterate

    • Your friends have friends who use stolen credit cards? Why would you not just ask someone you know and trust?

      • The Savage Squirrel says:

        A “friend of a friend” bought Avios with a stolen credit card and then just gifted them to you? Why exactly would they do this? Wow, even the edited and idealised version of the story you’re presenting here sounds dodgy as hell….

        • Lol! 100 percent!

          Look, so much of what gets discussed here is grey and could easily result in a closure of your ba, virgin, amex (and previously Tesco direct) accounts

          Rob, can escalate direct on his own Behalf if caught out. For others, it’s game over. And these companies ban for life

  8. I’ve always wondered about the legality of this. While there are no doubt clauses saying the Avios and tier points are valueless and belong to BA – that is clearly not true in reality. Is that likely to be struck out as an unfair contract clause?

    Same when Amazon started closing loads of accounts for returning too much and keeping all their credit. BA and Amazon deciding they no longer want you as a customer is fine, but I’m not sure they can really get away with keeping the points/credit if you push them in court.

    • Avios are not valueless – tried to find that in their T&Cs, but you can’t find it. But they don’t tell you the value.

      Anyway, the last evidence was the airberlin. They got some cash for their miles…

    • Have you read the terms of your iPhone recently? You may own the dead phone but you don’t own the operating system and Apple can shut you down at whim.

      You certainly don’t own the music you bought from iTunes – https://www.zdnet.com/article/who-owns-your-digital-downloads-hint-its-not-you/ You can’t give it to me or even lend it.

      • That wasn’t my question though. My question was whether the terms are legal. If Apple wrote that they own your first born child, I think we all agree that would not be enforceable – whether you click accept or not!

    • I’m pretty sure you have to agree to the Ts and Cs when you open a loyalty account, so effectively you’re agreeing that BA or whoever can claw back the points if the Ts and Cs are breached. Recent case law suggests that they are only assigned a monetary value once they have been converted into goods or services.

      • The fact you don´t own them doesn´t mean they don´t have a value. How would you react if you had 1M points, and suddenly BAEC decides to remove them?

        • If you’ve agreed to terms and conditions which say that BA can do this then it doesn’t matter how you feel, you’re pretty well stuffed. You could possibly make a civil claim against BA if you bought the avios for cash but if they had been awarded from various reward schemes I really don’t think you’d have a leg to stand on.

        • Well… good for you then.

          But Avios have a value… and even though I don´t own, I have the right to earn and use them (which makes it more complicated for BAEC because how can you earn and use something you don´t own).

          Anyway, there´s enough passt cases where clearly it has been demonstrated that miles/points have value. The latest case, airberlin topbonus.

        • A German court ruling would carry no weight in this country. You have no intrinsic “rights” to earning or using avios, they are awarded and redeemed at a company’s discretion. Though if you can show me anything which details such a right, (as opposed to it being subject to a company’s Ts and Cs), I will be happy to stand corrected.

        • If the German decision interpreted EU law then it would point towards how an English court would decide the same issue. The favt that there are T&Cs shows there is a contract and if a points provider breaches their contract or has terms that are legally unfair then you can take action under the Law. Not sure why you are so against that

        • German courts decided years ago that you should get 10% back on cancelled hotel rooms as no cleaning was needed. Not seen anyone else copy that.

        • Actually Rob – the law in the Uk does mirror that although it is a little more complicated. A hotel can only claim losses and not the whole cost of the booking therefore they cannot claim for eg cleaning, breakfast etc. A clause requiring a 100% cancellation fee is likely to be invalid under consumer protection law. Don’t just take my word for it though

  9. David Lawton says:

    I’m a little scared now after reading this. I’ve been saving my Avios for 4 years now, and have 1 BA Amex 2 for 1 Voucher and almost 700,000 Avios. I intend to get 1 more 2 for 1 voucher and then use it for myself and 3 friends to go NY First Class (I have seen 4 seats available in first if you book early enough on that route). Does this mean it will get flagged as fraud because 3 of the other names won’t match my surname or will i be ok because i am also on the booking?

    • This should be fine as you will all presumably be on the same booking – plenty of people travel with companions who have different names from them. To be extra sure, pay the taxes & feed yourself and get your friends to reimburse you for the cash element (unless you’re a really, really good friend and are covering this as well!)

    • You’re fine if you’re on it. You’d be fine anyway, almost certainly, because 2/3 things I highlight would be fine – flights are from the UK and you would settle the taxes.

  10. Dominic Dunn says:

    Had never heard of the “Avios Broker” however a quick google brings this up:

    You do sense how someone who gets serious avios could be tempted to financially benefit from them ….

  11. Lady London says:

    Cases elsewhere (incl UK and I think US) have judged the other way. The miles are the property of the person travelling not the firm.

  12. So my friend living in Poland and buying ticket for me on HKG-TPE and PVG-HKG would be suspicious then? He has some miles to burn and wanted to use them for something useful, instead of letting them expire. He earned them on HKG trip from Europe before devaluation couple of years ago.

    I bought tickets for number of people and no one has the same name as me, simply because I don’t have close family and didn’t change my name after getting married. Looks like I’m in worse position, because I’m outside of acceptable template. Only buying tickets for strangers (friends).

    • But, at the end of the day, you should be fine if you know you can produce evidence to show that these people are all your friends and didn’t pay you.

      Couple of short Asian redemptions are unlikely to raise many flags. Book them on Cathay First Class from New York to Hong Kong using 80% of your Avios balance and it may be a different story.

  13. Wow this is all news to me. The most unethical or illegal thing is missing last leg of BA flight. I did not think/know you can purchase them.

  14. Any update on this?

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