Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Holiday lessons (1): Avios is not always the answer

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I am back in the UK after 17 nights in the Middle East over Christmas and New Year. We stayed in seven different rooms in five different hotels (long story ….) but luckily for you I am not planning to review it all.

I had to use a variety of techniques to get the cost of this trip down, since we booked at short notice and hotel costs were not far behind what you would pay in the Maldives or Barbados. Instead of reviewing each stage of the trip, I want to focus on lessons worth sharing.

Avios is not always the answer

I am starting at the beginning – flying from the UK to Dubai. Let’s call today’s topic:

‘Avios is not always the answer’

Is Avios the best frequent flyer scheme?

I would imagine that 75% of the frequent flyer coverage on HfP is Avios-related. Virgin Flying Club is probably 15% with everyone else fighting over the remaining 10%.

This is logical, given that Avios is the dominant UK frequent flyer programme and this is a UK-focused site. If you are a heavy credit card spender, however, you have a lot of options to collect miles in other airline schemes via:

….. and of course Virgin Atlantic, via its credit cards, Tesco and many other partners.

Are BA Avios the best air miles scheme?

In general, I don’t recommend building up pots in second-tier air miles schemes speculatively. If you are forced to choose, Avios is the logical home due to:

  • a large number of non-flying partnerships in the UK
  • the ability to redeem for both short and long haul routes

You don’t need to speculatively build up balances in other schemes. With the exception of the Lufthansa credit card, where you are obviously tied in, you can hold your points in Membership Rewards, HSBC Premier points etc and only convert when you know you need to book.

My example …..

No single frequent flyer scheme will ALWAYS offer the best deal on every route in every class.

Every scheme has sweet spots. These are partly caused by the way different countries are allocated to different zones for pricing purposes. Schemes have varying deltas between economy and business pricing. Some have special deals for children. Taxes and charges can vary greatly. Availability is also an issue.

If you are certain that you will be flying a particular route at a certain time, or on a regular basis, you should investigate whether other programmes offer better value.

Why did I choose to redeem Miles & More miles on SWISS?

We flew out to the Middle East using Lufthansa Miles & More miles, flying in SWISS business class.

I will come to pricing in a bit, but there are various reasons why I like doing this trip on Lufthansa or SWISS:

  • there is a 25% mileage discount on tickets for children under 12
  • Star Alliance has multiple options between the UK and Middle East, mainly SWISS and Lufthansa but you can add Turkish and Egyptair to the mix
  • it is easy to get four Business Class seats during UK school holidays, because Swiss and German school terms rarely match UK ones

Let’s compare this with Avios:

  • I can earn Avios more quickly because of the number of partners. Miles & More can’t win there.
  • Avios has no discounts for children
  • with Qatar Airways still banned from flying to the UAE (although this should change soon), British Airways is the only realistic Avios option. Finnair is also an option as, from April, will be Royal Air Maroc via Casablanca.
  • British Airways availability on this key leisure route is hard to find during UK school holidays

How does pricing compare?

None of this would matter if Miles & More pricing was out of line. However, on Middle East routes, it is Avios pricing which is out of whack.

If you have a BA Amex 2-4-1 voucher to use then this doesn’t necessarily matter. My preference is to save my 2-4-1 for another trip during the year, however, so it never comes up as an option for me here. Even if it did, availability is a problem.

This HfP article looks at the most and least expensive Avios route per mile flown. The best routes – Cape Town is top overall – need just 10 Avios to fly 1 mile in Club World. The Middle East routes are amongst the worst at 14-15 Avios to ‘buy’ a 1 mile flight in Club World.

Here is some sample business class pricing:

  • a one-way Avios flight to Dubai is 50,000 or 60,000 Avios, depending on date
  • a one-way Lufthansa or SWISS flight to Dubai from the UK is 29,000 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles
  • a one-way Emirates flight to Dubai is 62,500 Skywards miles (although a return flight is only 90,000 miles if there is ‘Saver’ availability)
  • a one-way Etihad flight to Abu Dhabi is 62,500 Etihad Guest miles (but this requires ‘saver’ availability which seems to have been pulled entirely at the moment)
  • a one-way Etihad flight to Abu Dhabi is 42,500 American Airlines AAdvantage miles

This list only looks at a few frequent flyer schemes – there are more options out there. Note that in some cases the price for an identical flight varies depending on whose miles you book with.

For simplicity, I haven’t factored in taxes and charges. If you were doing this research for real you should do that by making dummy bookings online. Emirates has particularly low taxes following a recent change.

You’ll notice that I didn’t choose the cheapest option

If you look at the list above, you may be wondering why I didn’t book my Dubai flights by using Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles.

After all, the one-way cost of 3 adults + 1 child is 131,250 Miles & More miles or just 116,000 KrisFlyer miles, to take the same Lufthansa or SWISS flight.

The reason is in how I earn the miles. Given my circumstances, the only way I can get hold of lots of KrisFlyer miles is by transferring American Express Membership Rewards points. I generally earn those at 1 per £1 on my spend.

There are LOTS of good uses of Membership Rewards points though.

My Miles & More Mastercard earns 1.25 miles per £1. This makes Miles & More the better deal as it requires less card spend.

More importantly, I have a strong preference for putting my Visa / Mastercard spend into Miles & More and keeping my Amex points for other hotel or airline partners.

Lufthansa 747-8 new livery narrow

There is no discussion of seat, food or service

To keep things simple, I didn’t consider the quality of the seat, food or service in this analysis.

In truth, when flying with my family, I tend to push these factors down the agenda. I save ‘indulgent’ flying for when I am travelling without children.


For the majority of people in the UK, Avios is most valuable frequent flyer scheme to use. You can’t beat the long list of partners, BA’s strong network and the value from the BA Amex 2-4-1 voucher.

For particular routes in particular cabins, there may be better value to be had elsewhere. If there are places you visit on a regular basis it is worth looking at where you may find best value.

There is a PS ….

PS. Whilst I didn’t want to make the discussion above more complicated, there is a caveat to this story.

I never return from the Middle East using Miles & More miles. All of the Star Alliance flights leave around 2am and that’s not my idea of fun, especially with children and especially as I would need to connect too. I would rather pay a mileage premium and return on British Airways, Emirates or Etihad on a day flight.

In this case, we flew back with Emirates on Sunday afternoon at the civilised time of 4pm. It required a big slug of Membership Rewards points. I would have chosen BA if availability was there, but your chance of getting 4 x BA Club World seats on the day before schools reopen is always going to be tiny.

In the next part of this series, I visit the Burj Al Arab hotel ….


How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (May 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:

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 30th May, the sign-up bonus on the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard is doubled to a crazy 50,000 Avios! Apply here.

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 30th May, the sign-up bonus on the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard is doubled to 10,000 Avios. Apply here.

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

CRAZY 50,000 Avios for signing up (to 30th May) and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

10,000 Avios for signing up (only to 30th May) 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.

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 13th June, the sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card is doubled to 60,000 Membership Rewards points – and you get £200 to spend at Amex Travel too! Apply here.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points AND a £200 Amex Travel voucher until 13th June! 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 a £200 Amex Travel credit every year 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 (97)

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

  • Lumma says:

    On a short flight like this (especially with kids) I’d rather fly direct in economy for around £300 a person than drop £1000s in taxes and 100,000+ miles…

    Although I did fly Ryanair all the way to Amman

    • BuildBackBetter says:

      7 hours Oneway isn’t a short flight.

      • Andrew says:

        It all depends on what you compare it to.

        I drive from Oxford to Perth (410 miles) in around 6h30m – usually with just the briefest of wee breaks at Gretna Outlet or Asda, Carlisle.

        Sitting on an economy seat and doing nothing for 7 hours is far more relaxing.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          Ofcourse but you won’t catch me in eco unless I really have to. I’ll happily settle for a cheap PE fare

        • Chris Heyes says:

          Andrew or sitting in First on the Train with free Breakfast or lunch with free wine lol
          Before Covid we used to travel Preston to Euston (or Manchester to Euston) booked 3 weeks in advance for £34 thats for 1st
          For Blackburn to Bognor Regis around £45 all in (only Preston-Euston leg in 1st though)

        • Fenny says:

          Drive alone or with kids? I’m guessing there’s nobody behind you kicking the seat or swinging on the back of your headrest every time they want to get up and move about.

      • Lumma says:

        Flying Swiss you’ve got two hours in euro “business” to Zurich, then 6 hours in real business after changing planes v sitting in a small seat for 7 hours while someone brings you a microwave meal and some cans of beer + £800ish worth of points/cash in your back pocket. Never see the point of business to New York either unless you absolutely must be at work the day you arrive back and need to sleep

        • RussellH says:

          I find 2 hours in a Y type seat on a plane more than enough these days. At 170cm I am not tall, but I still find the lack of leg space on aircraft very uncomfortable.

        • RussellH says:

          I find 2 hours in a Y type seat on a plane more than enough these days. At 170cm and with short legs – I often find it it difficult buying trousers that are not too long – I still find the lack of leg space on aircraft exceedingly uncomfortable.

    • ChrisW says:

      Dubai is a tricky one. It’s a similar distance to New York and you would probably rather connect in business than go direct in economy on the outbound to New York wouldn’t you?

      If I was travelling alone I think I’d be happy to go through the faff for the adventure of connecting in business to Dubai though I can understand if I was travelling with a friend they would probably be happy with econ direct

  • Algor says:

    2 am on the return from DXB to LHR is fantastic … if direct. I never tried indirect overnight flights, that wouldn’t be my idea of fun.
    I’d rather fly the EK 5 you did to arrive 8pm in LHR, it is worth to add I don’t travel with children.

    I like to do overnights to and from Dubai, I get excellent rest and arrive in the early morning. They differ as you are departing around 8pm for 7am arrival or 2 am for 6am arrival (this is hour longer flight). Extra addition is to have a full day on departure, a bit pushing with very late flight but you just go to sleep as soon as in the air.

    • TPB says:

      Same, always fly on the evening flight out of LHR after work, arrive around 7am and get a full day on arrival in Dubai, and get the circa 2am flight back which gets into London for 6/7am and gets me home in time to avoid taking an additional day of leave

      • Number9 says:

        I also like the evening flight out and either the 10am or I think it’s early afternoon flight back. I would never do the 2am flight did it once never again. I’ve been to the Burj couple of times not to stay but they used to do a great promotion day on their beach, a Spa treatment and dinner for not a lot of money, I can’t remember how much the spa is fantastic well worth a visit.

        • Anna says:

          That’s interesting, I might check that out if our Easter trip goes ahead, can’t beat a good spa treatment. Another thing I’m missing just now!

    • Andrew says:

      I always take the 2am flights out of Dubai or Doha – get a fullish day at the beach, back to the room for 3pm to shower and checkout at 4pm, then some dinner then out to the airport for some decent lounge time. And then to sleep on board.

    • ChrisW says:

      You get ‘excellent rest’? Even in business, on a 6 hr 45m flight you can probably only recline the seat for what, 5hr 30m? Even if you were able to sleep every single second the seat was reclined (which I surely can’t!), that’s hardly a full nights sleep!

  • Bigmaggot says:

    “ We stayed in seven different rooms in five different hotels” – Doesn’t sound like much of a holiday moving around so much to save points/pounds

    • planeconcorde says:


      • Rob says:

        To save £20,000 though?

        • planeconcorde says:

          At £20,000 I wouldn’t go. All the faff changing rooms and hotels multiple times takes up quite a bit of time when all added up. I would consider that additional travel time which takes away from holiday time. Making whatever was spent on flights less cost effective. IMO

          • Rob says:

            Over 17 days you don’t really notice it, to be honest. Swapping rooms in the same hotel takes 30 minutes max because you don’t pack, you just pile things onto a trolley. Part of the split was because my wife wanted to go the desert for a few days in the middle.

        • Aston100 says:

          You are only saving £20k if you would have been prepared to pay that to begin with.

          • Rob says:

            Which I would, if necessary – but for better quality hotels than we were at here.

            I also pay for business class flights when I can’t get suitable miles deals.

    • ChrisW says:

      Agreed. Your kids don’t like a 2am flight but are happy to pack their bags every 2 to 3 days?

      • Brian says:


      • Andrew Wells says:

        To be fair, my daughter wouldn’t want to do a 2am flight, but she is very happy hotel hopping as she sees each hotel as a bit of new adventure.

      • Rob says:

        It wasn’t the original plan, but by the time we booked virtually everywhere decent was full. As room rates were £600+ per night over Christmas and New Year (and we needed two rooms, so had we paid cash it would have been around £20,000 for the 17 days we were there) we were juggling around free night availability, Ambassador vouchers etc.

        To be honest we decided that changing hotels was actually beneficial – 17 nights in the same place would not have been fun. The two room changes inside the same hotel were unavoidable.

        • xcalx says:

          “To be honest we decided that changing hotels was actually beneficial – 17 nights in the same place would not have been fun”

          Totally agree. If we book 3 seven night cruises in succession always prefer changing ship instead of back to backs. Although at the moment we would take anything.

    • Anna says:

      Indeed – I always have to plan our holidays around how much “messing around” my OH will tolerate!

      • Andrew says:

        And if the prices are higher than you can afford – don’t go.

    • Phillip says:

      I know I’m the exception, but I actually love trying out different hotels on a holiday (I’m not saying a different one for every night) especially in a market with many options… even if it’s not because of maximising redemptions.

      • Andrew says:

        I do quite like doing that too where convenient. Luckily I don’t have kids but can imagine that would make it less attractive.

      • ChrisW says:

        I would happily do that travelling alone but not lugging the whole family with me

      • Chris Heyes says:

        Phillip I agree with you we used to stay 3/4 days at each hotel in a three week holiday moving further down coast or alps once did Bravara to Italy via Switzerland 3/4 days each place along the way
        Now a days we still always go for 3 weeks (occasionally 4 weeks)
        But now stop around a week each place, sometimes 2 week one place then 1 week another (partners insistence i don’t argue at 73 lol)

      • Anna says:

        I do as well, like you say not every night, I used to be happy to not move for 2 weeks on holiday but I’m much more restless these days and seem to need to change scenery more often.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      4/5 days is enough in one place for me. 17 day holiday I would have tried 3/4 places.

      • Pangolin says:

        Same. When travelling solo I enjoy hotel hopping. A two week stay would normally see me trying out around 5 different hotels. My last two visits to Asia were 5-day trips to HKG and SIN/KUL where I stayed in 3 different hotels.

    • BP says:

      I went travelling around Asia for 3 months for my Honeymoon. Moving to a new place every 2-3 days. I think 5 days was the maximum we had in one place.

      Moving isn’t so bad if you keep yourself organised. Live out the suitcase/backpack instead of unpacking everything.

    • Prins Polo says:

      Especially if checkout is at noon and check-in to the new hotel is at 4pm…

  • Tom says:

    Any COVID tests on your arrival?

  • Froggitt says:

    “I can earn a whopping 1.25 Miles & More miles per £1 via the Miles & More Global Traveller Mastercard. Even better, HMRC accepts this card without any fees.”

    Really? Why? Is this the best HMRC card nowadays?

    • Rob says:

      Because it is a prepaid debit Mastercard, technically.

      • James K says:

        Would love an updated article on best ways to pay HMRC this month!

        • Rob says:

          There’s nothing to put in it, frankly.

          • Mr(s) Entitled says:

            There are a number of articles appearing which are refreshes without much new information. Observation, not complaint. HMRC is at least timely even if not new.

          • Rob says:

            The difference here is that there literally isn’t anything, if you pull up our last HMRC article. Tesco Debit = gone. Miles & More = gone. Billhop = alive but 3% fee so useless for most. Curve = now restricted to metal and even then many problems reported. Revolut = tight restrictions on loading from credit cards.

  • ChrisW says:

    Was the trip meant to be 17 nights or did you extend it because of the lockdown here? That is an extremely long time to be in Dubai!

    • Anna says:

      Not when it’s freezing here and all hospitality is closed!

    • Rob says:

      We extended it because it was pointless coming home. My wife did a couple of days work from the hotel and we sent the kids to her sister! We only came back now because home schooling with a 4 hour time difference was not going to be ideal and we didn’t take enough IT kit with us.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        I would have bought some cheap laptops 🙂 and stayed put.

      • Bagoly says:

        I was expecting you to rent an apartment for a couple of months.
        I just didn’t know whether you would spend more to be in Dubai, or go for somewhere cheaper and more relaxed like RAK.
        The four hour time difference would seem much more manageable there than in Newfoundland.

        • Rob says:

          We would have taken a 2-bed serviced apartment. Frankly none of the hurdles were unsustainable – we could have rented the IT kit for a few hundred pounds, and frankly I’d prefer to work 1-9 (and have the kids in school 12-8), leaving the morning for a trip to the pool, shops or beach. We’d also have had the weekends.

          I think my wife is already regretting it, although at the point we pulled the trigger on returning we were still just talking about a 2-week school closure. My view is that it was a big mistake, although we’d have had to deal with stuff like tax and VAT returns which are due and which require paperwork which is in London.

          To be honest, at the moment I’m still enjoying the novelty of being back but once we hit the weekend and we’ve got to entertain everyone for 48 hours it will hit.

        • ChrisW says:

          I think if they relaxed the travel rules for even a few days in the UK right now there would be a mass exodus of people to wait out the next few months somewhere warm and sunny. I don’t blame anyone who went away for Christmas not coming back – there is nothing to come back for.

          Dubai isn’t a cheap destination to spend months though and with the time difference I think the novelty would fairly quickly wear off.

          Canary Islands on the other hand would be ideal to stay until Easter….

  • Chris says:

    Not sure travelling for leisure is appropriate at this time.

    • Number9 says:

      Think you might be on wrong website then.

      • Anna says:

        Indeed, and pretty much nobody IS travelling for leisure as of this week!

      • Ayearinmx says:

        Reader comes onto travel website, reads article written by travel website owner about his experience travelling… Complains that owner of travel website is travelling for leisure, despite just reading owners written-work… Facepalms ensue

    • C says:

      Rob left while London was still Tier 3.

    • ken says:

      The virus won’t spread itself !

  • EwanG says:

    @Rob typo second paragraph “Maldvices”

    • Anna says:

      I spotted that. Sounds like a Harry Potter character!

    • ChrisC says:

      Depends if you take your spouse or your bit on the side.

      And if you pack the handcuffs.

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