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How ‘taxes and charges’ on Avios flight redemptions from the US got out of control

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The level of ‘taxes and charges’ added to long-haul Avios redemptions on British Airways is always a sore point.

In general, following recent rises, I use a ‘finger in the air’ sum of £700 for the taxes and charges on a Club World return redemption from London (£850 for North America) whenever anyone asks what they will be.

That obviously isn’t small change, but given current cash prices it still gives acceptable value for your points most of the time as long as you are redeeming for Club World or First Class.  The biggest threat to Avios – given BA’s dominant UK position – is not from other frequent flyer schemes but from aggressive sale fares from other airlines.

Avios taxes and charges from the United States

Avios is, of course, under threat from other angles.  You can switch from a British Airways credit card to a different rewards credit card.  You can convert Nectar points, Heathrow Rewards points or American Express Membership Rewards into a different treat. 

You can only squeeze things so far, and £1 earned by Avios from Sainsburys when you convert Nectar points is worth a lot more – because it is ‘real’ money – than £1 transferred across intra-group from British Airways.  If people stop seeing value in the scheme, IAG Loyalty will stop seeing the money coming in.

But be grateful you don’t live in the US ….

What you might not realise, if you live in the UK, is how reasonable BA’s ‘taxes and charges’ are compared to what a US resident must pay.

The ‘charges’ element of ‘taxes and charges’ is just a made up number, which BA pockets.  It doesn’t reflect anything in particular and the airline has no qualms about changing it on a market by market basis.

Here’s a little Wednesday quiz

The ‘taxes and charges’ on a Club World return ticket from London Heathrow to New York JFK are £850.

What do you reckon the ‘taxes and charges’ are on a Club World return ticket from New York JFK to London Heathrow and back?  Here’s a clue – it isn’t the £850 you would pay flying UK – US – UK. If you go US – UK – US, would you pay ….




No, sorry, you’re still wrong.

The actual figure is an astonishing £1,801 return for a Club World Avios ticket from New York JFK to London Heathrow. 

You can prove this yourself by doing a dummy booking on  You need to click through to the payment page for it to recalculate to the exact number.

You should see this:

Avios taxes and charges from United States

Why is this?

It isn’t entirely clear why BA treats North America like this.

You don’t see it with other markets.  A return Club World redemption to Dubai is £716.  Book the trip in reverse and you pay £813.  That’s near enough the same, given currency fluctuations.

One view is that, because Avios are so easy to earn in the US (BA has, in the past, given out 100,000 Avios as a credit card sign-up bonus) it tries to create a level playing field with the UK by adding extra charges.

This ‘protects’ UK Avios collectors because it reduces the willingness of US members to redeem on transatlantic flights, with many choosing to use them on domestic American Airlines and Alaska Airways flights instead.  This is only a theory though.

Even if you live in the UK, there is a lesson here

If you are booking Avios tickets to North America, do NOT book them as 2 x one-way tickets.  This is because the ticket from London will attract the lower UK level of ‘taxes and charges’ whilst your flight home, when booked on a separate ticket, will attract the higher US level of ‘taxes and charges’.

For example, as we noted above, a return ticket from the UK to New York has Club World taxes of £850.

Booked as a one-way in each direction, the total taxes are £555 outbound and £774 inbound, for a total of £1,329.

You should bear this in mind if, for example, you see a special one-way cash offer on a low cost airline from the UK.  Don’t think that booking the outbound flight to the US for cash and then using Avios for the return is a good deal, because you will be paying an inflated level of ‘taxes and charges’ for the flight back.

PS.  Remember that using your Avios to fly on Iberia saves hugely on taxes and, for the US East Coast, Avios.

An off-peak Business Class return from Madrid to New York, booked via the Iberia Plus website to avoid British Airways surcharges, costs just 68,000 Avios + £220, a huge saving even after factoring in the cost of getting to Spain:

Redeem Avios from United States to Europe with low taxes

You can learn more about redeeming Avios on Iberia here.


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 (96)

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

  • strickers says:

    Any Westbound for me for the foreseeable future will be outbound using the Barclays voucher to upgrade both of us one-way. Then booking the return from JFK or BOS in economy using RFS and hopefully the early day flight.

  • NorthernLass says:

    Having finally achieved Silver, I’ve arranged a lot of my travel for next year around having free seat selection and lounge access. I feel that the best value point for avios bookings, if you have these, are PE (lower charges but still a good flying experience) and F (access to You First and CCR). CW feeling less attractive than previously, especially on flights up to about 9 hours.

  • Scott says:

    I’ve maybe misinterpreted the figures, but a return from US has fees of 1,800 but for two one-ways it’s only 1,300 ?

  • jjoohhnn says:

    The Iberia tip is good, however it defeats the point of the article which is about flights from the US. How do the taxes and charges compare if you do an Iberia trip from US->MAD->US or even a one-way from the US?

    • meta says:

      No surchages just taxes. If I remember correctly, it’s less than £200 plus 68k Avios off-peak return whether you start in Madrid or US.

  • Mark says:

    Higher and higher taxes and fees just makes buying PE seats in a sale and upgrading with Avios more attractive. Was planning to get a BA amex again next year but not really thinking its worth trying to get the 241 if the taxes and charges are the same as the price of a PE seat in the sale.

    • Scott says:

      But if you upgrade using Avios you have to pay the difference between PE fees and CW fees as well as the additional Avios, so how is this more attractive?

  • Maples says:

    Could the higher taxes and fees be related to the fact that the points earning potential are high AF over there?

  • Pockets says:

    Last February I was purchasing roundtrip tickets Dulles to London on BA for April, and it was so high with the extra charges. So I briefly checked what it would cost 1-way each way and in doing that it saved me well over $1000. It was odd. Maybe that was an anomaly because usually the 1-ways are more. However, it still can pay to just check.

  • Lee says:

    As a US resident, I’ve found it ridiculously easy to earn Avios and ridiculously hard to spend them with BA. In addition to the BA card Chase offers regularly with a100K bonus, Chase offers Iberia and Are Lingus cards with the same bonus. Thus, it’s easy for an American to have a bank of 325K Avios once earnings to achieve the bonuses are included without ever setting foot on a plane.

    Since three roundtrips from the US in PE with a connection through London on paid fares found in good sales gets me to Silver each year, I have even less reason for using Avios on BA. They are very useful on Aer Lingus, Iberia, and short-haul domestic flights in economy, and Chase also offers “experiences” like weekend golf outings or food tours in Chicago and San Francisco that don’t require flying on BA that have represented a very good use of Avios.

    The high earn/low burn ratio with Avios is a curious phenomenon, but I’ve learned to look for opportunities with every negative change to BAEC as well as the other frequent flyer/hotel programs I use. They’re generally there.

    • Tom says:

      Yes, I got a round-trip award flights in JAL First from LAX to Haneda, Tokyo for 200,000 Avios a while back, and the charges were trivial, maybe $10 or $20, cannot recall now. Booked through BA.

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

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