How To Use British Airways Avios Points In Canada

December 2, 2021
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British Airways’ Avios program has maintained a love-hate relationship with many travelers for years. There are some great ways to use your points, but British Airways regularly devalues the program, causing your Avios to lose value over time.

The best way to amass a large number of Avios points is with an American Express Card, ideally the Platinum Card, since it carries a welcome bonus of up to 100,000 MR points. Plus, with airport lounge access and a $200 annual travel credit, the Platinum Card is one of the highest-value credit cards in all of Canada.

I’ve been using British Airways’ Avios program for a long, long time. I first opened my Avios account back in 2014, and since that time I’ve earned and spent literally millions of Avios points.

Through all of those redemptions, I’ve learned the ins and outs of the Avios program, and while I admit that it has become worse over the past several years, there are still a few ways to use Avios that you should know about.

In addition, Avios makes for a perfect complement to Aeroplan, and as you’ve seen through our other posts, Aeroplan is an extremely powerful tool when used correctly. So starting today, with the addition of Avios to your toolkit, you’ll be flying more smartly and more cheaply than 99% of the other people who step onto the same plane.

If you don’t want to spend hundreds of hours reading and learning every little flight hack, but would rather have 95% of the information you need to get a cheap flight right now, this post is for you.

How To Use Avios In Canada

What is Avios?

Avios is British Airways’ frequent flyer program, and it works just like Aeroplan: you gather points on your credit card or by flying, and then you redeem those points for future flights. From a high level, then, the two programs are doing the same thing—helping you fly more cheaply—but when you get into the details, their differences become clear.

Avios has one of the widest-reaching airline partner networks out there, which is a fancy way of saying that no matter where you are in the world, there’s a very good chance that you can buy a flight with Avios instead of cash. I’ve personally used it for flights between Colombia, Brazil, Peru and Uruguay; within South Africa; between Thailand and Hong Kong; and a lot of other places. Avios just works.

And there’s another neat feature that Avios has that most other programs don’t: you can choose between different cash and points splits when you pay for your flight. For example, on this direct Toronto to London flight, you can choose any of the following payment options:

Avios gives you a lot more flexibility than Aeroplan

To choose which option you’d like to pay, it just comes down to how much you value your points. I generally opt for paying more cash so that I can keep my points for another flight in the future, but if you’d rather just pay the minimum amount of cash, that’s totally fine too.

In short, Avios gives you options. And when you’re traveling and don’t always have your next step planned to a tee, options are a very, very valuable thing.

Where are Avios points most valuable?

That’s a tough question: if you’re only flying within North America, finding a great way to use Avios in Australia isn’t very useful to you. But if we step back for a minute and look at things from a global level, one particular region stands out:

Flights Between North America & Asia

There are so many ways to use your Avios points here, but I’ll talk about just one: Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a sweet spot because it’s the home of Cathay Pacific, an Avios partner airline, and Cathay Pacific flies direct to several North American hubs like Vancouver, Toronto, and New York. So if you’re going to Hong Kong, or really anywhere in Asia, this is the way to do it.

Vancouver to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific CX889 or CX837 for $65 and 30,000 Avios points
Toronto to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific CX829 or CX825 for $70 and 35,000 Avios points
New York to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific CX845 or CX899 or CX841 for $70 and 35,000 Avios points

Of course, Hong Kong isn’t the only gateway to Asia. Japan Airlines is another Avios partner, which makes Tokyo a great entry point into Asia, too.

For example, here’s a flight from Vancouver to Tokyo for $146 and 25,750 Avios:

And here’s another from New York to Tokyo for $161 and 36,250 Avios:

You aren’t limited to flying to just Hong Kong and Tokyo, though; if you want, you can fly to just about any city in Asia using your Avios points. Whether it’s Bangkok, Hanoi, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Taipei, Beijing, or anywhere else, Avios will help you get there.

Other Avios Use Cases

Flying to Asia is one great way of using your Avios points, but there are plenty of other ways that you can make them work for you.

For example: need to buy a last-minute flight between Toronto and New York departing tomorrow? Cash ticket prices will be through the roof, but Avios ticket prices don’t change over time, so buying last-minute isn’t an issue.

Here’s the quickest way to get four Toronto-London roundtrip flights (26,000 Avios points per roundtrip during off-peak dates, or 13,000 Avios per off-peak one-way) by using your Avios strategically:

How To Get Avios Points

1. Earn Your Points

Your ticket to 100,000+ Avios points is in the American Express Platinum Card, which comes with a welcome bonus of up to 100,000 American Express MR points, depending on when you sign up.

2. Use Your Points

Sign up for Avios here. The application takes 2 minutes and everyone is approved, plus you’ll get access to British Airways’ Avios search tool, so you can start searching for your ideal flights while you wait to receive your card from Step 1.

Now you’re all set.

In Summary

British Airways’ Avios program has maintained a love-hate relationship with many travelers for years. There are some great ways to use your points, but British Airways regularly devalues the program, causing your Avios to lose value over time.

The best way to amass a large number of Avios points is with an American Express Card, ideally the Platinum Card, since it carries a welcome bonus of up to 100,000 MR points. Plus, with airport lounge access and a $200 annual travel credit, the Platinum Card is one of the highest-value credit cards in all of Canada.

British Airways Avios FAQs

Do Avios points expire?

Avios points do not expire as long as you collect, spend, purchase or share at least one Avios point every 36 months. You can collect Avios on flights, of course, but also when you rent a car, stay in a hotel or book a holiday through the Avios portal.

If I’m not flying to/from Asia, are Avios a waste of time?

Definitely not. The Avios program is fantastic for flights within North America (you can use Avios points on any American Airlines flight), Europe (British Airways and Iberia Airlines), and plenty of other regions as well.

How To Transfer Aeroplan To Avios

There’s currently no way to transfer Aeroplan points into Avios points. The wiser approach is to collect American Express MR points using the Platinum Card or the Cobalt Card, and then transfer them into Avios yourself. American Express runs frequent promotions on Avios transfers, which means you can often get a 30-40% bonus on your points, amplifying your travel capabilities. The post above explains more about how to make this happen.

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