Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

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

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We receive many emails from people who struggle to make sense of the different cash vs Avios pricing options.

I occasionally mention my ‘1p rule’ for getting my preferred option, and I thought I’d re-run a longer explanation of this today.

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. This isn’t usually what BA would have sold it for, but I make an assumpton based on what I might pay for an indirect flight or a flight at less sociable times if I needed to pay.)

What is best cash and avios combination

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 0.67p. 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 0.67p per Avios of value when the Nectar option is there.

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. New features like ‘Avios Boost’ (read more here) and ‘Avios Subscription’ (read more here) can help but can’t deliver a large amount of points quickly.

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 from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (February 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 £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. 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

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

Crazy 120,000 points bonus (to 9th April) and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

Huge 60,000 points sign-up bonus (until 9th April) 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 (55)

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

  • TimM says:

    “Don’t underestimate the value of simplicity”. I have A-levels in double maths and two degrees in computer science. I am completely happy with maths, logic, arithmetic and tech. However, the value of simplicity is why I have used Macs rather than PCs for almost 40 years!

    • daveinitalia says:

      As I said in the recent Dell article the main reason I use Macs is the hardware. I can’t stand the crappy trackpads on most laptops but on Macs they’re a pleasure to use and so no need for a mouse. But I can’t stand Windows either so of the PC laptops were any good I’d probably run Linux on them

    • Gordon says:

      You know some stuff Tim!

    • David says:

      Loved the way you forcefully wedged your CV in Tim.

    • Ironside says:

      I have just the one degree in Computer Science. I am also completely happy with maths, logic, arithmetic and tech. However, being able to choose my own path rather than have Apple dictate to me what I should want provides value via simplicity. I don’t have to spend my time finding a way around a problem that Apple tells me I shouldn’t have.

      Each to their own.

      • Gordon says:

        Mmm, I can sense a Degree/Math/Science/Tech/Logic/Arithmetic and computer science stand off here 😬

        • Ironside says:

          It’ll end up like the fight scenes in the Anchorman films, except we just throw algorithms at each other and give up when the WiFi flakes out.

      • Alan says:

        Ditto here! (albeit medical rather than computer science degrees 😂) – very much like being able to customise things how I like! Great to have options though and competition keeps things moving forward.

  • Ian says:

    I used the £1 option as I am never going to use all my Avios. (1.3m).

    But this was with a companion voucher, so wasn’t too bad.

    I also converted 50k to Nectar, which pays for Christmas shopping.

    So I am quite happy.

    • Rob says:

      With a companion voucher, the £1 option may be the best anyway.

      • camille55 says:

        Agreed. Have used the £1 option plus Amex 241’s before and they make sense in the right circumstances. The intangible thrill of a ‘free’ flight is quite a thing!

    • QFFlyer says:

      Never underestimate how quickly you can burn 1M Avios on flights – of course someone taking one annual trip, or who just travels from UK-Europe, is going to take a while – travelling Australia-Asia/South Pacific can burn through them at an absurd rate unfortunately.

      • QFFlyer says:

        Of course I’m not sure how I’d value these – I’d pay $3-4k for a return MEL-HKG (for example) for a week or as part of a larger trip, much as I would use points. But would I do it on a whim for a long weekend?

        I would on points, cash maybe not; but it’s something I enjoy and wouldn’t do it in Economy (especially on overnights where I need to be home and straight to work in the AM).

      • Julia says:

        1 million Avios for one person flying from Dubai to Doha in F (there is no business class) = 27,500 Avios one way. So someone could do 18 return trips (each way only 55 minutes long) and their Avios stash has gone from hero to zero. :/

        • Robert Loblaw says:

          Family of 4 flying QSuites Australia to Europe return is 720K Avios. Very easy to burn through millions per year.

  • Rob says:

    One thing you haven’t mentioned is the fee if you want to change or cancel your tickets later. I booked some flights last year but needed to cancel later for personal reasons – I’d picked the £1 option so was only £2 out of pocket between me and my wife. If I’d have picked the ‘best value’ as described in the article, we’d be £68 (2 x £35 – £2) worse off.

    • Rob says:

      No you wouldn’t. Cancellations are now £1 return – at least on short-haul – irrespective of which option you check. This isn’t meant to be the case and one day the IT will get fixed, but it has been 50p each way for months now.

      This is why I now book redemptions as 2 x one ways. If I need to change the return, it is a £70 fee if I call (because an agent needs to make the amendment and will charge the fee) but if each leg is a separate booking I can simply cancel the return for 50p and rebook.

      The 50p option does lead to abuse though, because people stack up flights they don’t need. I am guilty myself – my wife is booked on a flight back from Germany on Thursday and Friday. One of them will be cancelled on Wednesday for 50p.

  • Sotirios A says:

    My argument with this analysis is that it relies on two “hard” assumptions:

    – considers a value of 1p per avios
    – there will be a redemption for sure

    Whenever I am considering an avios redemption, I tend to go the other way around:

    1. how much is the cash price for the route at the time I am looking to book?
    2. what is the calculated avios redemption value?

    For example, last summer I was looking into ATH-LHR (one way) to travel along with my nephew at the end of August, and the cash price for 2 passengers was around £1000 in economy. There was avios availability, so I booked both seats with 30500 avios and £2 in total. If you do the math, it was around 3.28p per avios, absolutely worth it by all means, not because of this 3.28p, but because I saved a thousand quid.

    If I’d be following the logic presented in this article, then I’d figure out that redeeming 30500 avios +£2 for 2 passengers would represent a value of £307, which is just an out-of-context number that doesn’t tell the full story. In reality, I exchanged 30500 avios for around 3x this amount, because at the time of booking that was the cash price for that specific date. That’s what completes the story.

    I respect the point that this is all about simplicity, so I’d complement the article’s angle as follows:

    (a) use Rob’s “1p rule” to quickly calculate what would be the redemption value in £
    (b) compare with actual cash price at the same time

    If (b) > (a) by a good margin, then it is worth redeeming, at least “mathematically”. Then it comes down to each one’s personal circumstances.

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