Unless you’ve been planning to visit London, British Airways may not have caught your eye on the list of Chase transfer partners. But because of the airline’s distance-based rewards redemptions that also work with the other airlines in the Oneworld alliance, you can find valuable award tickets when you book with Avios.
This guide will start by covering how you can turn Chase Ultimate Rewards points into Avios. After that, we’ll look at using those Avios and which redemptions are worth the price.
What you need
You’ll need at least one active credit card that’s part of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program for this. The following cards qualify:
There’s a 1,000-point minimum for transfers, and you must have an account with the British Airways Executive Club where you can send your points. Don’t worry, despite the fancy name, the program is free to join.
How to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to British Airways
It’s easy to make a transfer online, and everything goes through the moment you submit it. You’ll get the standard 1:1 ratio of points to Avios, just like with transfers to any other Chase partner. The most important thing to know before you start is that all transfers are final. There’s no way to cancel a transfer or turn Avios back into Ultimate Rewards points.
Now let’s go through the transfer process:
1. Go to your Chase Ultimate Rewards account.
It’s easiest to do this from the Chase Ultimate Rewards login. If you have multiple credit cards in the Ultimate Rewards program, Chase will prompt you to select one after you log in.
If you’re already logged in to your Chase account, you can reach the Ultimate Rewards portal from there, too. From a personal account, you’ll need to pick a credit card, click “See Balance” under “Ultimate Rewards,” and then click the “Redeem Rewards” link that appears.
With a Chase business account, all you need to do is click the Ultimate Rewards link on the right-side of the home screen.
2. Select “Transfer to Travel Partners” from the Ultimate Rewards home screen.
Image source: Getty Images
3. Go to the British Airways listing in the Airlines section and select “Transfer Points.”
Image source: Getty Images
4. Choose a recipient for the transfer.
You can only transfer points to:
- An authorized user on your account living in the same household as you
After you pick the recipient from a dropdown menu, you’ll need to enter the Executive Club account number.
5. Decide how many points to transfer.
Chase requires you to transfer at least 1,000 points, and the transfer must be in increments of 1,000 points.
6. Submit the transfer.
The final page is a review screen where you can verify all the details of the transfer. There’s also Chase’s standard warning about potentially closing your account for any fraudulent activities or misuse of either their credit cards or the Ultimate Rewards program. Sending points to someone who doesn’t live in your house would qualify (and wouldn’t be a very good idea).
Once you’re satisfied with everything, go ahead and send it. Transfers process instantaneously.
How to book an award ticket with British Airways
Here comes the hard part. To put it bluntly, award searches on British Airways are awful. I never truly appreciated other airlines’ websites until I tried to navigate the labyrinth that is British Airways.
Want to search for an award flight from the British Airways homepage? Well, you can’t. The airline only lets its Executive Club members do this, so you’ll need to log in to your account, and then click the link that takes you to your account summary, as seen below.
Image source: Getty Images
On the left side of the screen under the “Book with Avios or Money” heading, select “Book with Avios” from the “Payment type” dropdown menu.
Image source: Getty Images
After that, you can enter all your desired flight details and run your search. You’ll need to scroll down as you do this, because the search form doesn’t fit the page very well and is oriented vertically instead of horizontally.
This peculiar sizing continues on the search results page, where each flight listing takes up quite a bit of real estate. While this may seem like a minor complaint, it can actually inconvenience your search.
The problem is that the results will list up to three travel classes for each flight, but there’s no option to scroll horizontally to see a fourth. On international flights where there are seats in economy, premium economy, business class, and first class, you can only view three out of four options at any one time. If you search for economy seats, you’ll see everything but first class. To then check first-class availability, you must modify your search and change the desired travel class.
British Airways doesn’t display the cost in Avios for any flights until you’ve selected them. After you choose flights for each leg of your trip, British Airways will show you a “Journey Summary” popup screen that includes the total price.
The other frustrating part of booking with Avios is that search results aren’t always accurate for British Airways’ partner airlines. This is especially common with American Airlines award tickets, which could be available but not show up through a British Airways search.
If you know the partner airline you want to use, try searching for award availability on their site first. Once you’ve found the flights, you can search on British Airways and call in if they don’t show up (ask them to waive the phone booking fee since it’s a site error).
Where you can fly with Avios
British Airways has flights to over 180 destinations all over the world. Since it’s the United Kingdom’s largest airline and has its main hub in London, it offers frequent flights to and from that city.
The airline has many partners, including other members of the Oneworld alliance and Alaska Airlines, giving it even more coverage. You can use Avios to book flights just about anywhere you want, assuming the award space is available.
The best redemption options for British Airways Avios
Here’s what you need to know about purchasing award tickets with Avios:
- British Airways bases the cost of the ticket on the distance of the flight, even for bookings with partner airlines, and that can result in excellent bargains on short-haul flights.
- There are two types of award tickets, peak and the less expensive off-peak, with the ticket type depending on the date of the flight.
- Award bookings through partner airlines always have the peak rate.
- The airline is known for heavy surcharges on its award tickets, especially if the ticket is in business class or first class.
Image source: Getty Images
Award tickets don’t seem like such a great deal when they include $1,250 in fees.
That final point is why not everyone thinks Avios are a worthwhile rewards currency. While it’s true that many British Airways awards tickets have sky-high surcharges, there are plenty of exceptions. Where Avios shine is in short-haul flights and booking award tickets with partner airlines.
British Airways charges just 4,000 Avios for an off-peak ticket on flights under 650 miles, or 4,500 Avios if it’s a peak ticket. That makes Avios extremely useful if you want to bounce around Europe, Japan, Latin America, or anywhere else that British Airways or one of its partners flies.
I didn’t mention the United States in that list, and that’s because the cost of flights under 650 miles that start or end in the States is 7,500 Avios. British Airways created that rule in early 2016.
Avios can still come in handy for flights in the States, particularly the flights that are expensive, but not very far. If you want to take the ever-popular trip from a city on the West Coast to Hawaii, you can book an economy ticket for just 12,500 Avios each way through American Airlines or Alaska Airlines (note that you can only book Alaska flights with Avios over the phone, not online). That’s a better deal than you’d get with any other airline’s frequent flyer program.
Is it better to transfer points as Avios or redeem through Chase’s portal?
As a member of Chase Ultimate Rewards, you also have the option of redeeming points for travel purchases through that program at a fixed rate. You get either $0.0125 per point with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® or Ink Preferred®, or $0.015 per point with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
For the most part, I’d advise looking for high-value redemptions that you can book with Avios instead of going through the Ultimate Rewards portal. Once you know where those sweet spots are, you can book award tickets and get $0.03 per point, $0.05 per point, or sometimes even more.
The British Airways Visa Signature Card®
Chase and British Airways have also teamed up on a co-branded credit card for the airline. Here are the highlights of British Airways Visa Signature Card®:
- 50,000 Avios signup bonus — 50,000 Avios for spending $3,000 within three months of opening your account.
- Earn up to 100,000 more Avios — Earn an additional Avios once you spend $10,000 within the first year and another 25,000 once you spend $20,000 within the first year, for a maximum bonus of 100,000 Avios.
- 3 Avios per $1 — Purchases with British Airways, Iberia, and Aer Lingus earn 3 Avios per $1 and 1 Avios per $1on all other purchases.
- Annual fee — There’s a $95 annual fee.
Considering all the ways you can use Avios for domestic and international flights, a 100,000-Avios bonus could cover a ton of travel. It will, however, take some serious spending, and $20,000 you spend using a single credit card is $20,000 you can’t use for any other credit card signup bonuses.
With a bonus of 50,000 to 100,000 Avios, the British Airways Visa Signature Card® is worth a look, at least for maximizing your travel rewards. The ongoing rewards of 3 Avios per $1 in bonus categories may not justify a $95 annual fee, whereas other Chase cards earning Ultimate Rewards cards may be a better value for long-term cardholders.
As difficult as the British Airways website can be, Avios can be a useful rewards currency. You won’t find many better ways to book those short to mid-length flights for a small number of miles. And although American Airlines isn’t a transfer partner of Chase, turning your Ultimate Rewards points into Avios gives you a way to book award tickets on the largest airline in the United States, along with all the other carriers in the Oneworld alliance.
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