British Airways: Using Ultimate Rewards Points To Fly For Free

So you have probably caught on that we use credit card sign up bonuses and reward points to travel for free. Well, here is a bit more insight into the “madness” of how we do it all…

We talked about the Chase Trinity or the best combination of 3 cards you can have in your wallet. Now, once you have decided to get all those Ultimate Reward points what should you do with them?

British Airways miles are called Avios and they are one of our favorite uses for Ultimate Reward points.


You may be thinking, when the hell am I going to fly British airways?

Well, you probably won’t. British Airways is in the One World alliance with American Airlines. Therefore, you can fly American Airlines using your British Airways Avios. (Oooohhhh…)

Their award chart is quite different than most airlines and we can use that to our advantage. Avios are charged based on the distance and number of segments of your trip.

Their award chart is shown below for use on American Airlines in economy class.

This method may seem complicated but it is not.

If you have a round trip flight that is direct both ways you will be flying a total of 2 segments. If each segment is 1000 miles then the total cost is (7500+7500) 15,000 avios for the roundtrip flight and $11.20 (Passenger Security Fee; all airlines will charge this for award bookings).

If you have a round trip flight that has 1 layover each way then you are flying a total of 4 segments. If the first segment is 500 miles and the second segment is 1500 miles, then your total cost is (7500+10000+7500+10000) = 35000 miles for the roundtrip flight.

You can probably already see where the sweet spot in their award chart is, short direct flights.

They offer a reward flight calculator.

Their award flight finding tool is not the best but it has improved over the past few years. They used to require piecing every segment together individually but that isn’t the case anymore. You can use American Airlines and look for their saver availability for the flights you want. Anything in the saver category from American Airlines should be available to book using Avios. The same flights using American miles would be 12,500 miles each way for a total 25,000 miles. So we save up to 10,000 miles/Avios by booking through British airways.

If you are near an American Airlines hub, such as DFW, ORD, DCA, LAX, etc., with many direct flights then you are in the perfect place, to take advantage of Avios. Even if you live near a smaller airport chances are you have direct flights to one if not many of American’s hubs that is worth a visit.

Okay, Okay… I’m convinced that is a great deal. 

Well it gets even better…

One of the best parts of Avios is they do not charge a close in booking fee. American Airlines will charge a $75 fee if you book an award flight less than 21 days (3 weeks) prior to departure. British Airways doesn’t charge this making Avios perfect for last minute getaways.

In my experience American Airlines seems to increase their saver award availability during that 3 week window prior to departure so if you have an itch to travel, Avios is your best bet.

A great deal huh? Hold on just one more minute because I’m not done.

The so to speak “icing on the cake” is American Airlines award flights booked through British Airlines give you priority access for free.

This isn’t advertised anywhere to it might be a glitch in the system but this allows you to be one of the first to board the plane. This not only allows you to grab the coveted overhead bin space but you can sit smugly in your seat watching all the other chumps who pay for airline tickets board the plane. (Cue maniacal laughing. I know evil…right?)

Getting Avios:

There are many ways to get Avios, Chase offers its own Co Branded British Airways credit card. Currently it offers a 50,000 Avios sign up Bonus. (That’s more than 3 roundtrip flights)

Even better you can sign up for Chase Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve which also offers 50,000 sign up points which can be transferred to British Airways at a 1:1 ratio. Check out our post on those cards and the complementary chase cards here.

American Express Member Rewards Points transfer to BA as well but at a 250:200 ratio.

What British Airways Avios are bad for:

Pretty much for any international travel Avios are worthless. Unfortunately, they charge fuel surcharges if you travel internationally which can be in the hundreds of dollars, each way. I only recommend using Avios for domestic travel on American Airlines or Short hops while already in Europe.

For your convenience, click HERE to book an award flight.

*By clicking the link for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and signing up through that portal we do receive extra points for “referring a friend.”

**We do not get paid by these companies to write these posts. We are happy customers sharing our secrets with you. Use your discretion when reading our material and taking our advice. We are not financial advisors in any way shape or form. We are happy Millennials figuring ways to travel without hurting our wallet.

As always, if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions feel free to add them in the comment box below! If you are interested in staying up to date with our posts, subscribe with your email on the right hand side. Until next time friends!