Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

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

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

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.


How to earn Avios points from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (August 2022)

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

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

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

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

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

British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways BA Amex American Express card

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.

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

American Express Amex Gold

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

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

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points, £200 travel credit and an unbeatable set of travel 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 10,000 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

10,500 points bonus – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company 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 card

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.

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits 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 (76)

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

  • qrfan says:

    Good article. I would have thought most people would deduct the fees from the cash fare price and divide by the avios required to get a sense of which option was closest to their personal avios valuation, but I guess if you wouldn’t pay the cash price anyway that calculation is meaningless.

    • TimM says:

      The cash fare can sometimes be less that the ‘taxes & fees’ alone for an Avios redemption, albeit under different T&Cs, and with Avios collected too. I would always advise to check the cash fare first as a sanity check and grounding, before going down the Avios rabbit hole.

      • qrfan says:

        I think if I deduct the fees from a cash fare and end up with a negative number it’s a good indicator that I’m not getting a good deal, so my method covers that 🙂

      • G says:

        Quite; I was looking at a standard club redemption to Porto in August (off peak) the avios +£1 option was actually more expensive than booking a cash fare.

        Generally; for economy – it’s always best to double check.

        For premium cabins (on most routes) it’s often always more cash efficient to book with Avios right?

    • Erico1875 says:

      I would put my bottom valuation around 0.65p per Avios.
      Most of our shopping is done at Aldi/Lidl who are a good 20% cheaper than Sainsbury’s.
      On the other hand, we wouldn’t pay the proper price for business class so the real upper valuation is difficult, so Robs 1p valuation method is a really good way of getting the most out of Avios.

      • Chrisasaurus says:

        There aren’t many, but there are some other merchants than sainsburys you can redeem nectar for so if any of them are options then 0.8p is realistic

      • Rich says:

        Erico – I occasionally use Nectar points to buy diesel – and Aldi/Lidl don’t sell that at 20% less than Sainsburys! If you drive a car then you are nuts valuing an Avios at less than 0.8p imo.

        • Londonsteve says:

          +1. Filled the tank with Nectar on two occasions recently, there’s no way Avios can be worth less than 0.8p if you buy fuel with any frequency. The fact that it’s £120 in cash obviously hurts, but it’s more the calculation in Avios that has bought the cost into sharp relief. “Wow, that’s a peak return flight to Budapest,” is what is really effective at cutting down my miles. I’m using my scooter, walking and taking public transport a lot more than I used to. I may even get rid of my car entirely as it’s so seldom used. It’s almost worthless but not paying out for insurance and road tax is a large saving right there.

        • Erico1875 says:

          Only pay at the pump where I live. Can you use Nectar at these?
          As a rule we get upwards of 1.5p per Avios compared to cash prices of Club World, so yes , I would be nuts to take 0.065p, but I’d also be nuts to take 0.8p

          • Rich says:

            Erico, sorry for using the word ‘nuts’, you opened earlier by saying you put your bottom valuation at 0.65p, hence my response. I think you know the answer to your own question, I’ve never been to a Sainsburys that has pay at pump as the only option but even if I had, I drive past lots as I don’t only fuel up near where I live. Let’s leave it at that hey?

  • Andrew H says:

    I do it a different way. I look at the intervals between the listings. In this case it gives the same answer as to go for the 4th option you spend 4000 Avios to save £35 (so getting less than 1p value per Avios).

    I therefore increase Avios spend per interval as long as I am getting >1p/Avios saving for that interval. I’d suggest that this is the more “accountancy” type rule, though it probably produces the same result much of the time. The result is usually the £50 option on a single return club ticket.

    • Michael C says:

      Yes, I do something similar, in a very basic way!
      Thinking aloud: would I rather have 6,500 avios or GBP25? etc.

    • Mouse says:

      I do the same thing. Rob’s system is great though, very simple and likely same results.

    • pauldb says:

      If the first interval was poor value but the second was good enough to outweigh that, you missed out. You’d never look past the first option even though the third is better. Perhaps only a theoretical risk though.

    • Lady London says:

      Yes the marginal cost of the avios is always worth looking at also, in comparing between the different mixes. For me it’s the final decider.

      Rob kind of said so in one of the examples above but not in those exact words.

  • PlaneSpeaking says:

    Thanks Rob, this is great. I’m not an accountant and Rob is right – not everyone sees numbers in the same way and I’ve always found it a bit complicated. However, today’s article makes perfect sense and I’ll now be much happier on the Avios road without feeling as though I’m caught in the headlights.

  • Tracey says:

    I agree with the maths and like the simplicity of 1p, but we are Avios rich at the moment and frustrated by the lack of availability of reward seats, so I’m tending to the Sainsbury valuation of 0.8p.

    • G says:

      Hang fire and wait until summer is over; lots of the BA long haul fleet by Dec 2023 will be back in service (A380s) and more 777s will be retrofitted with Club Suite!

      More First availability should also crop up as well.

      • Rhys says:

        777s will all be Club Suite by the end of this year

        • G says:

          That’s impressive; I was expecting a delay to this rollout of Club Suite due to Covid.

          Am I correct in assuming all new 777s will be Club Suite and all A380s, 787-8s and 787-9s will be Suite by 2025?

          • Rhys says:

            This is a revised forecast following covid.

            BA haven’t made any noises about a new timeline for other aircraft so we don’t really know.

        • RTN says:

          Including the Gatwick fleet? Or is this just Heathrow?

          • G says:

            I’d assume all 777s include those that operate out of Gatwick also!

          • Rhys says:

            Just Heathrow. Gatwick were refurbished a couple of years ago and are unlikely to get Club Suite for some time.

        • Yorkieflyer says:

          Including Gatters?

  • Chris says:

    Slightly off topic Rob – we’re off to Mauritius in Club next month and wondered how strict they were with masks? Also, assume it’s still the old seat on that route?

    • Rob says:

      Old seat, yes.

      Very strict with masks outside the hotels when indoors. No-one gives you a hard time in, say, the Botanical Gardens though.

      Most locals are voluntarily wearing them outside though.

      Honestly didn’t find it a problem. Was only a faff when going to and from the hotel buffet multiple times. They also liked to ‘card’ my admittedly very tall 11 year old who is technically exempt.

      • Chris says:

        Thanks Rob – did BA enforce masks on the plane? Wondering how my 2 kids are going to sleep with masks on!

        So was mask wearing mandatory in any inside spaces in hotels then (unless you’re eating obviously)?

        • NorthernLass says:

          We also have to wear masks on the 12-hour flight to GCM in a couple of weeks. I’ll probably get lambasted on here but I found a decent trick when we flew to BOS in March (and caught Covid so don’t tell me masks on planes work!). If you put the headphones on then hook the mask elastic over the ear bits it means the mask isn’t rubbing against your face so much and you can actually breathe freely, but ostensibly you are complying!

          • Rob says:

            Mauritius requires masks on the way down, forgot to mention that. BA won’t insist you wear them on the way back.

          • Brian says:

            How do you know you caught covid on the plane? Didn’t go anywhere else where there’s people whilst in Boston?

        • Rob says:

          Yes, but of course the hotels don’t really have ‘indoor spaces’ as such – dining tends to be outside, albeit covered, and of course the beach / pools / beach bar / beach restaurant etc are outside.

          Because One&Only is a big site with not that many guests, it was rare that we were actually in the indoor areas with other people anyway so you’d not bother with a mask if just walking through the lobby. One&Only also has ‘outdoor’ corridors to all the rooms so you can get to/from the beach, pool etc from your room without a mask because you’re never ‘indoors’.

          If we weren’t leaving the resort that day I’d say my total mask wearing was under 5 minutes over 24 hours.

  • JG says:

    A question regarding this and the article earlier in the week on Tier points in Club Europe.

    Are the part-payment offers predictable enough to make creating a chart of the most cost effective way to “buy” tier status feasible? I’m thinking some combination of the cheapest flight price in each cabin over the next 12 months and your modelling from this article of best cash/avios combination at 1p valuation to give a pure cash and a cash+avios price for a route. Then use that to give a cost per tier point.

    That could put a minimum and maximum price on achieving status, and maybe help optimize for European tier-point runs – would be interesting!

    • YFP says:

      Not sure you’ll get tier points on an avios booking, it shows up at 0 on the ones I’ve booked but not yet flow. I do know BA IT has sometimes credited avios and tier points to other people though when flying on an avios booking..

      • ChrisC says:

        The question is about the value of part pay with avios to reduce the cash price of a flight not redemptions.

        Part pay with avios flights do earn full avios and tier points

        • JG says:

          Right! Just to give you a feel for what I’m trying to model. Here’s the calculation showing working for a flight to Sofia that was one of the cheapest in Rob’s article the other day…

          Cheapest flight: £222
          Avios earned: 5064
          Discount offered: £30 for 3000 avios
          Net avios: +2064
          Net cost: £222 (base) – £30 (discount) – £20.64 (net Avios @1p) = £171.36

          Tier points: 160
          Cost per tier point: £1.07
          Tier costs (2022 requirements): £241/£482/£1205
          Tier costs (post Covid): £321/£642/£1606

          Not showing full working, but similar calculation to get tier point prices using cheapest New York travel I could find:

          Economy: £10.46
          Premium Economy: £3.59
          Business: £7.13

          So Premium Economy is the tier point sweet spot, but is still almost twice as expensive as earning through flights to less popular destinations in Club Europe!

          • G says:

            Long Haul Club Europe (Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Malta, Canaries, Sofia, Bucharest) has always been the most cost effective / cheapest way to accrue tier points to my understanding.

    • Richie says:

      Flying forecasting is a good idea. For the year say 2023-24 you could forecast the flying to achieve TPs to maintain preferred status. The next calculation is how many avios will that flying generate. You could then forecast how many avios you’ll want for redemptions for flying in 2024-25. Compare those avios calculations and go from there, you’ll then have a clear picture of how avios rich you’ll need to be and adjust accordingly.

  • ChrisBCN says:

    Hey Rob, I know you say 1.2p since 2013 – what does that look like say across the last two years? Are you getting more or less value over the years?

    • Froggee says:

      Yes. This! I’d love to see a chart of value per point achieved on the y axis and date on the x axis. Then get Excel to do it’s regression analysis thingy and I bet it would be a downwards slope of doom.

      • Rob says:

        Here’s the thing. I’ve never really changed my cash valuations over the years. I am potentially being too conservative given current pricing, but in general airfares get cheaper in real terms as time goes on.

    • Colin MacKinnon says:

      More value for me now than in the past since I gave up using Avios for transatlantic in F (BA fees, no F to Denver, cheap ex-EU cash fares and Covid).

      In contrast, cash fares of £450 Scotland to London while redemption seats are available give a ridiculous value to my Avios!

      And train ticket prices are ridiculous too, and I’m not taking the bus! So not much alternative.

      • Heinztein says:

        If you can get to Edinburgh the routes that CityFlyer are operating direct out of there are pretty good value redemptions too (channel Islands and Florence)

      • Andrew. says:

        Been the case for quite some time now that you could achieve particularly high values for Avios on a domestic. It’s not unusual for a LHR/LCY-EDI route to hit £750 on a weekend. It’s why I keep my Avios for domestic UK or US flights.

        I don’t even bother checking Avanti or XC routings now, just use my Network Railcard to get into London for a Lumo to Edinburgh or LNER service to Perthshire.

        • lumma says:

          Lumo is a dreadful train to get on, no matter what the price.

          As everyone between London and Newcastle/Edinburgh and not shorter trips, there’s no space for luggage.

          • David says:

            Ignoring price, it has another big advantage over LNER – the last train from Kings Cross to Edinburgh is 20:27. This makes it feasible to go out for dinner and drinks after work with friends, which the 19:00 last LNER train would not.

        • Gormlesstraveller says:

          £750 wow

          • NorthernLass says:

            I’ve seen MAN-LHR at £400, so basically £10 per minute in the air!

  • Heinztein says:

    Great piece

    There’s another side to this equation though, as Rob’s methodology presupposes the spender is both avios and cash rich. If, however, you’re avios rich but cash poor then the equation is totally different.

    For example I’m strapped for cash right now and have booked RFS flights for a week away and a hotel using avios. Sure the avios spend on the hotel probably saw them worth about 0.4p but I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to go on a holiday and stay in a nice hotel otherwise, so for me the “value” in some ways priceless. Unless you can buy Expedia vouchers in Sainsbury’s but that’s not the case AFAIK!

    Even if you’re in it purely for the money, the crazy surcharges BA are now applying and the availability of premium cabin avios seats right now, plus the £250 for the BAPP voucher, make avios not all that appealing right now.

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.