Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

What do you do if British Airways suspects you of selling Avios and closes your account?

Links on Head for Points may support the site by paying a commission.  See here for all partner links.

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.

Here is an email I got from a reader a few years ago when I first looked at this topic:

“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.”

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

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 British Airways does not come after you automatically.

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

If British Airways 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 British Airways 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, had 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 British Airways can, in theory, do what it wants, they are likely to act responsibly in the face of evidence.

As it turnes out, our reader DID get his account reinstated after providing the airline with details about the flights he had issued from his account.

Irrespective of the Executive Club T&Cs, it would also be possible to go to Money Claim Online and 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.

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (April 2024)

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

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

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up 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 £15,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points. These points convert at 1:1 into Avios.

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

40,000 bonus points and a huge range of valuable 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 10,500 Avios.

Capital on Tap Business Rewards Visa

Huge 30,000 points bonus until 12th May 2024 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 sign-up bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit 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 (93)

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

  • Mikeact says:

    And when you’ve had kids on gap year, miles have been very useful getting them out of travel problems around the world !

    • Roosit says:

      I agree. My first thought was if family is based abroad then the majority (if not all) of the flights booked for others will be TO the UK and not FROM. Plus, as someone else wrote, if the BAEC member changed their name, e.g. through marriage, then all of the flights might generally be booked for someone carrying a different surname (other than their own children). Finally, if family lives abroad and comes to visit the BAEC member in the UK for their holiday, then there is a likelihood that other holidays won’t be booked together – so unlike the example of the six sisters in the comments here, the BAEC member may never fly themselves with those family members and thus never be on a booking with them. All for innocent reasons.

  • G says:

    Done 20 flights for family and friends, some on partner airlines, some one way segements, all paid for on my card and 0 issues.

  • yorkieflyer says:

    Maybe I’m being thick but why are some peeps apparently booking loads of flights for friends and family with no apparent recompense?

    • Rob says:

      I do stuff for friends and close family – there is an assumption that my miles are all free and that tapping up Uncle Rob for free stays is OK. Annoyingly these people know what I earn so it’s hard to refuse 🙂

      My brother’s 22 year old is in the Holiday Inn Express Hammersmith at the moment on my IHG points, although I wrote this off as a delayed 21st present as I couldn’t make her party last year.

      • yorkieflyer says:

        Respectfully I’d suggest you are perhaps an exception in the way you are perceived as having loads of points and your public face?

      • Gordon says:

        @Rob- people only know your points/wealth accumulation if you inform them! You have a kind heart so it seems😉

    • Spiral says:

      Not loads, but I’ve booked a couple. One for my neighbours (and friends) over the road, who helped me get first refusal on the bungalow next door. I now have a bigger garden and no newbuilds overlooking me. (I’m sending them to New York, First out and CW back).
      And for the second one, it’s my friend and her partner who have given me excellent moral support over the years. She’s 30 next year and so I’m sending her (and her partner) to New York via CW.

      In both cases I’m using IHG points as well to get them into the Times Square Intercontinental.

      I won’t be travelling much for the next few years (as I’m getting a large dog), so it seems a good use of points (and of course some cash for the flight redemptions). It’s certainly more fun than seeing a couple of Barclays vouchers expire, or swapping them for 7000 Avios. I could have had £3,800 of Sainsbury’s groceries instead, I guess, but where’s the fun in that? Far better to use it for people I care about, who’ll now have a trip of a lifetime they’ll never have been able to have otherwise!

    • yorkieflyer says:

      Despite being from Yorkshire I have in occasion gifted hotel stays to friends for a present and flights to family. A few folk do seem to be doing this on a grand scale, which makes me believe they are getting something in return, barter?

    • cin4 says:

      That’s how friendship works. We aren’t all mercenary penny counters.

  • Mikeact says:

    Mind you, if anybody does have ‘transferable’ companion voucher going to waste, then that would be very useful…..

  • Lady London says:

    @Rob what would be the basis of a claim against BA at MCOL if you were honest and felt you’d been wronged?

    In @JDB’s words I might be described occasionally as gung-ho on MCOL but even to me such a claim would look like a sticky one to present.

    • BA Flyer IHG Stayer says:

      The claim would be for the value of the lost avios.

      But it’s the justification for that claim that would be the issue.

      What actual law for a judge to rule on has been broken by a loyalty programme closing your account?

    • ken says:

      If you had absolutely exhausted BA complaints, had been truly honest and above board (and I suspect this isn’t the case, although people delude themselves), then you don’t really have any other avenue unless a journalist could help nudge BA.

      Clearly miles and points have a value despite what T&C’s might say.

      You can’t in the normal scheme of things force a business to accept (or keep) you as a customer, which leaves the ‘value’ of the miles as the only route to any possible claim.

      You would issue a claim, and if BA decide to defend (and realistically this depends on the value), at least you can see the skeleton arguments before any hearing.

      In my view, its a last resort and to some extent a free hit (assuming the first paragraph holds).

      The court may suggest mediation as a resolution if both parties agree.

      Or provided both you (which I recommend) and defendant agree that there doesn’t need to be a hearing, then the judge will decide based on the written submissions.
      Courts take a fairly dim view of people ‘wanting their day in court’ or equally businesses wasting their time defending with “top lawyers”.

      • meta says:

        As I said on the first page, it’s not about the value here. MCOL has already determined the value of Avios based on what BA is selling them for though as with anything with MCOL it is non-binding.

        Terms and conditions also state that Avios are not yours and BA reserves the right to close the account for whatever reason.

        You could ask at MCOL for the value of the Avios and might get that from BA. Your account would still be closed, you still wouldn’t be able to open a new one and probably additionally be banned from flying BA ever again. It would also not make BA change T&C as MCOL rulings are non-binding.

        • NorthernLass says:

          Could they realistically enforce a ban? It would presumably be extremely difficult, say, if the passenger was called John Smith and had renewed their passport since they last flew BA. IF US border control struggles to differentiate between people who share a name, I can’t see BA’s IT being up to the job!

          • meta says:

            Date of birth, email, phone number, home address etc. might flag things up at which point they might investigate further. You’d need to be pretty good at hiding your tracks and let’s be honest these people don’t think these things through really like you and I would.

            I had a taxi company banning me for life couple of years ago because I did a charge back when their driver never showed up, they refused a refund and I raised my voice. I can’t use their app, website, etc. but my partner can do all of these things even though we live at the same address. He doesn’t share the same surname as me though. So I guess there are ways…

  • His Holyness says:

    If you did nothing wrong it’s surely an early Christmas present it BA confiscates your miles and you get to sue for the value they desperately flog them for.

    • meta says:

      Since MCOL ruling are non-binding, the value can be lower. I bet that BA would argue for less than 1.6p per Avios and go through every single transaction since day one of your account to determine exact value.

      Also say you have 1 million Avios in your account on closure and the court determines the value is 1.6p, that’s only about £16k. Would you trade that for closure of account and possible ban on BA?

      Not to mention that you’ll need to advance 5% of that for MCOL fees, hearing fees, possibly also your own lawyers fees. And if it goes sideways and judge determines BA did nothing wrong you might have to pay BA’s fees…

      I’m not convinced this can actually be argued at MCOL as it’s not only about the value. It would have to be a civil case with full hearing, etc.

      • Ken says:

        Lifetime ban from BA ?
        Are you mad ?

        This is for assaulting staff or trying to open the door mid flight, not winning a 2 bit case.

        Full hearing ?
        Why on earth would it require a full hearing?

        The arguments for BA are;

        1) The claimant doesn’t own the miles.
        2) The miles have no value
        3) The claimant has breached the T&C’s of the account.

        The claimant argues otherwise in written submission.

        We’re not talking about some esoteric finer point of law that’s going to judicial review.

        Judges takes 1 hour to decide and moves on to the endless other amount of cases clogging up the courts.

        • meta says:

          Again I refer you to BAEC terms and conditions which specifically refer to various reasons for baning you from the programme.

          • meta says:

            @Ken It could also go this way. BA argues MCOL has no jurisdiction. You lose and judge decides that you should pay BA’s legal fees or any of the other possible in-between scenarios.

  • Arthur says:

    I’ve had a household account since BA enabled them. The wife, parents, children, nanny. The friends list however, has been an absolute godsend, and the 6 month rule even better. Now I know when it’s time to switch my minor mistresses, and the main one, in recent years, has even made it onto the household list, though I accept that is a bit of a grey area.

    • NorthernLass says:

      I hope you’ve never had the misfortune to have the nanny downgraded to economy like that poor barrister chap on his skiing trip. Shocking.

  • Bagoly says:

    Stranger for cash – wrong.
    Friends and family for love – right.
    That does leave a genuine grey area of genuine friends and family for identifiable favours, ranging from the hotel on the same trip through to cash.

    • yorkieflyer says:

      And I think this is the point

    • yorkieflyer says:

      TBH like many folk I’ve tried to persuade friends to get into this game, especially when the Barclays intro offer came up and period Amex offer. They look at you blankly and it’s either too much trouble or they reckon it’s some sort of scam is the response. So other than family or the very occasional exception I’m content to see them paying cash at the back of the bus

      • Blair Waldorf Salad says:

        Entirely agree yorkieflyer. I’ve had family with flight credit since 2020 who have prevaricated every time I’ve found a great price on a J itinerary. The credit remains unspent with the deadline fast approaching. They’ll no doubt end up in the back of the plane having spent it under time pressure.

        • NorthernLass says:

          +1, I’ve given up! Friends and family with 6 figure incomes who persist in flying economy because that’s what they’ve always done! And are still suspicious of credit cards 😂

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.