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My 1p rule for picking the best ‘Avios and cash’ combination to book

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In my articles earlier this week on the (positive) changes to the British Airways American Express 2-4-1 companion voucher, I briefly mentioned my ‘1p rule’ when it comes to working out which combination of cash and Avios is best.

Since we receive many emails from people who struggle to make sense of the different Avios pricing options, I thought I’d expand this into a separate article.

If your job involves dealing with numbers all day then you might find this a bit basic, but not everyone sees numbers in the same way.

What is best cash and avios combination

Which Avios pricing option is best?

When you’re booking an Avios redemption, you will – unless booking certain partner airlines who do not allow it – be presented with something like this.

This example is for a Club Europe Avios redemption to Hamburg:

What is best cash and avios combination

Your options are:

  • 30,000 Avios + £1
  • 28,500 Avios + £9
  • 23,500 Avios + £25
  • 17,000 Avios + £50
  • 13,000 Avios + £85
  • 10,500 Avios + £125

Which of these is best? The way I work it out is to assume that I value an Avios at 1p. In this scenario, the six pricing options above work out at:

  • £301
  • £294
  • £260
  • £220
  • £215
  • £230

This means, in my example, that the best option is ‘13,000 Avios + £85’, the fifth on the list, although the last three options all offer similar value.

However, it is only the best choice because I used a 1p valuation for an Avios.

Is 1p the right valuation to use for an Avios?

The main reason I like to use 1p per Avios is that it is simple. I can do the maths in my head. Don’t underestimate the value of simplicity.

I did a long article here on what an Avios point is worth. Personally, I have a spreadsheet of the 8 million I have redeemed since 2013 and based on my ‘fair’ value of each redemption I get to around 1.2p.

(What is ‘fair’ value? The fair value of a redemption flight, to me, is what I would realistically have been willing to pay in cash. I valued the Club World Mauritius flights we took last month at £1,750 each. BA would never have sold them so cheaply over half term, but potentially Emirates or Air France would in a sale. and I would have been willing to pay £1,750 in cash.)

It is VERY unlikely that your value of an Avios will be the same as mine at 1.2p. If you only redeem for 2-4-1 tickets then it will be higher – as we are a family of four, we don’t generate enough 2-4-1 vouchers to book every ticket for every trip on a 2-4-1. If you only redeem for upgrades, it will be higher. If you only redeem for short notice European flights in Economy, it will be higher.

On the downside, the floor value of an Avios is 0.8p. This is the value you get if you turn them into Nectar points and head down to Sainsburys. It would be crazy to redeem for less than 0.8p per Avios of value when the Nectar option is there.

In reality, it doesn’t make a lot of difference depending on whether you value an Avios at 0.8p, 1p or 1.2p. Note that:

  • if I used a value of 1.2p per Avios in my calculation, the ‘best’ option for the Hamburg flight remains as ‘13,000 Avios + £85’
  • if I used a value of 0.8p per Avios, the ‘best’ option only moves by one notch to become ‘17,000 Avios + £50’

You also need to consider ‘replacement value’

There is another factor to think about which may impact which option you pick.

Whilst I may value Avios at 1p, I cannot buy them at that price if I suddenly find out that I don’t have enough.

This means that it may make sense to use fewer Avios for my current booking in order to keep my supply high enough for the next redemption.

In the Hamburg example, based on 1p per Avios, the best three options are:

  • 17,000 Avios + £50 = £220
  • 13,000 Avios + £85 = £215
  • 10,500 Avios + £125 = £230

It’s possible, if my Avios pot was looking a little low, that I would choose the 10,500 Avios option. This is purely to retain more Avios in my account for future use, even though this is not the cheapest option.

(If you are Avios rich and cash poor, the opposite applies. With the three options above being of similar value, if you are ‘cash poor’ then the version which requires a £50 cash payment may be preferable. I would still avoid the option which requires £1 of cash because this is terrible value, despite the cash saved.)

Conclusion

Irrespective of the exact value you put on an Avios point – and you should also factor in your views on potential devaluation risk – I find that ‘the 1p rule’ is the quickest and easiest way to get my head around the multiple Avios pricing options presented.

Comments (76)

  • Marcin says:

    Has anyone realized that recently the “low avios”/high cash redemption rate became much more attractive recently (when using 1p valuation of avios)?

    It used to be on European Flight Saver rate I was always choosing default £17.5 cash + avios rate. Now more and more i’m tempted to choose the high cash rate. Wonder if it is a purposeful choice by BA, most people by default are choosing lowest cash payment option so it is a devaluation by stealth of sorts.

    • Rob says:

      I’ve noticed this too, and indeed have booked them.

      Because we basically ignore Avios for accounting purposes, it also makes sense to use the highest possible cash option when booking for work trips because we get the tax shield effect.

    • G says:

      A devaluation of stealth for the majority is fine for those of us who try and maximise their value!

      Personally, I have no issue with the lowest avios / cash option – it’s a way to get a moderately cheaper fare and still get some avios (triple) with my BAPP.

      • Lady London says:

        and do not forget part pay with avios may work for you on some quotes you’ll get if collecting is more important for you.

  • David says:

    This is exactly the system that I have used for the last 15 years. Whilst I am BA Gold, I generally use discounted purchased Avios, flying in economy, to visit our European and occasionally our Middle Eastern subsidiaries. At an average cost of around £150ish it’s a cost effective travel solution.

  • HH says:

    I just work out the ‘saving’ of each option with a 10 second calculation, and pick the best one:

    Saving in pence per Avios = (normal £ cash price – £ cost of a redemption) / points redeemed * 100

  • moss79 says:

    Is there a way To change my Profile name ?

  • John says:

    I tend to use a replacement valuation when comparing Avios and cash combo offers. That’s about 0.134p based on the last time I bought Avios through a Spanish Groupon sale.

  • Colin MacKinnon says:

    Is there an obvious point – ignoring tier points – where a regular fare with an Avios discount that earns Avios is better value than an Avios reward with a higher cash component that obviously doesn’t earn Avios?

  • Michael says:

    One issue with using the different Avios and cash amounts is when it comes to disruption and refunds.

    In December I bought a CE domestic return for 14500 Avios and £95 as it seemed the most efficient using the 1p per Avios method (which like Rob I have always used to decide value simply).

    On the day there was disruption at the airport (staff shortage). My flight was cancelled and I was rebooked to the next service in ET as there was no CE availability.

    BA refused EC261 downgrade reimbursement (but paid EUR250 cancellation compensation). They did offer a fare basis refund to economy. They refunded 3400 Avios and £10, without any explanation of the calculation. It didn’t match the difference if I had booked economy originally, nor even the taxes difference. BA seem to use some different computation if you use anything other than the standard Avios amount!

    Nevertheless, the EC261 mandated amount wasn’t too different so I felt life was too short to fight it, but beware! (The £210ish compo eased any pain…..)

    • Lady London says:

      Sorry but you should never, ever accept this. BA is denying you your legal rights by trying this.

      In no way is downgrade reimbursement (some call it compo but as ChrisC has pointed out it’s actually a reimbursement) based on fare difference. This is incorrect: it’s based on the total value of the higher cabin class you had paid. With each avios you paid being valued at 1.6p in that calculation as that’s BA’a standard selling price. You are then, in addition to any compensation due for any other reason, entitled to 75% of what you paid for F downgrade to J , and slightly lower % for downgrades from and to lower classes. (It’s in EU UK 261 or on flyertalk.

      Sorry but BA had you for a patsy.

      The only redeeming feature of you accepting this was that on shorthaul the fares are lower so your payout works out much less. On longhaul you’d have been crying into your beer.

      You could rework a correct calculation based on the above as to.what you’re entitled to and
      submit a revised claim. They might say you’d settled but they were legally obliged to inform you of your rights and didn’t.

      Could be worth taking to CEDR if BA refuses to pay the correct amount – it’s free, not a huge amount at stake, but some, should be just about within CEDR’s competence and above all will put BA to the trouble of defending your claim given their shoddy attempt to short you on your rights.

      • Michael says:

        It was CE to ET on a type 1 flight so 30% reimbursement due.

        30% of the ticket for the leg (not sure of the full taxes and charges) would have been 2175 Avios plus £14.25. The fare difference based on cost to book would have been around 3750 plus £22.50.

        The APD difference alone was £13.

        I decided the amount in question was small enough not to be bothered with a frustrated chase. I’m based in NI so it’s proper small claims court rather than money claim online.

        My main point is that the different Avios plus cash amounts seem to be treated differently for refunds – is there a base fare and avios / cash are being converted to get there? Almost like if you use avios to bring down the price of a cash ticket and refund it, you get a full cash refund of the value you “sold” the avios for?

        • Lady London says:

          At 30% you were due £34.80 cash back just for 30% of the avios. You don’t have to accept avios back – your claim is for the 1.6p value each of the 30% of avios. Plus 30% of any cash paid that’s not APD, govt tax or actual things like airport charges. So more than you got.

  • LST says:

    I love the Avios valuations when the BA pricing is completely out of whack. LGW to MCO for 4 using a 2-4-1 economy outbound, Club return 262k Avios abs £1800 frees. The current cash fare is £21k 😂

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