Best Avios Redemptions – Short-Haul Flights

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One of the best promotions currently available to Canadians is the 25% transfer bonus from American Express Membership Rewards to British Airways Executive Club. This ends in just less than three weeks, on November 12, 2017.

The bonus is pretty rare, with the last AMEX to Avios transfer bonus back in January 2016. Unfortunately, the new American Express Cobalt Card earns MR Select which are not transferrable to airlines. Cards that earn qualifying Membership Rewards for this promotion are the following:

These are all charge cards and are the current best offers. AMEX has also improved their application eligibility requirements, making it easier for many people to obtain a card. If you need help with completing minimum spend, consider checking out the PayTM app. You can get $10 after paying $25 to your first bill with code PTM9462620.

Additional Reading: PayTM Canada: Pay Bills with your Credit Card and Earn Points!

Best Avios Redemptions – Short-Haul Flights

Some of the best values with Avios are for short-haul flights. These start at just 4,500 Avios or 3,600 American Express points. The sweet spot for business class are flights under 2,000 miles, which cost twice that of economy. Otherwise, flights longer than 2,000 miles in business class cost 3x the price of coach. These redemptions pair well if you book an Aeroplan mini-RTW with an open-jaw.

  • Zone 1: 1-650 miles – 4,500 Economy/9,000 Business
  • Zone 2: 651-1,150 miles – 7,500 Economy/15,000 Business
  • Zone 3: 1,151-2,000 miles – 10,000 Economy/20,000 Business

Flights Intra-North America

Redemptions for flights within North America start at 7,500 Avios. I value Avios at 1.5 cents apiece, so I wouldn’t use them for any airfare that is $120 or less. Furthermore, departures from Canada will have additional airport taxes and fees of $40 or more. You also forgo (elite qualifying) miles, and additional rebates that can be up to 10% on some flights. In my opinion, it only becomes a good deal with the ticket price is at least $250 or more.

I rarely redeem for business class in North America because it’s simply not worth it. The American Express Platinum Card gets me lounge access. My NEXUS card and CLEAR Membership get me priority security. I nearly always get free bags, priority boarding, and preferred seats through a credit card or elite benefit. Given how crappy domestic business class is, the difference is fairly minor compared to anywhere else in the world, especially if you have an empty row in coach.

Cathay Pacific Business Class

Cathay Pacific is one of the best airlines in the world. Their business class is excellent, especially if the aircraft is configured for long-haul flights. One redemption I’ve made was Hong Kong to Tokyo over the Christmas period. Prices were insane, but the redemption cost just 20,000 Avios and minimal taxes.

Cathay Pacific Business Class

Cathay Pacific Business Class

Qantas Business Class

Redemptions on Qantas are very cheap, with no fuel surcharges. The Melbourne-Sydney-Brisbane triangle can be flown for just 4,500 miles. Australia has one of the best domestic business classes out there, with lie-flat seats on trans-con routes. As well, much of New Zealand is also at the 10,000/20,000 price.

Qantas Brisbane Business Lounge

Qantas Brisbane Business Lounge

Other Airlines

There plenty of other redemptions that are valuable including:

  • LATAM Airways to/from Lima and Santiago (although I had an odd experience)
  • Malaysian Airlines to/from Kuala Lumpur
  • Finnair and British Airways around Europe
  • Qatar Airways around the Middle East once the blockade is lifted

Having OneWorld status also makes a difference, as that grants you lounge access and priority boarding. One of the best benefits of having OneWorld Emerald is that you get access to First Class lounges.

Additional Reading: Is Elite Status Worth It?

Be sure to avoid British Airways and other carriers with fuel surcharges. You can look these up with the fare breakdown from site like ITA Matrix. With this Aer Lingus ticket, you can see that taxes and fees total less than $75.

ITA Matrix Fare Construction

ITA Matrix Fare Construction

Other Sweet Spots

Most programs operate with a zone-based chart often clumping large regions together. Thus, short flights that span regions are often bargains with Avios and other distance-based charts. This is a much better value with economy redemptions, since business and first class redemptions are respectively 3x and 4x the price.

  • 12,500 Avios one-way: West Coast to Hawaii with American and Alaska Airlines
  • 20,000 Avios one-way: Aer Lingus flights to/from Boston, Chicago, Hartford, New York, Toronto, and Washington

With the 25% transfer bonus, this gets even cheaper. You only need 10,000 AMEX points to get to Hawaii. If you’re transferring to Aeroplan, that’d cost you 22,500 AMEX. If you’re flying one-way to Europe Zone 1, that’ll cost you 30,000 AMEX to Aeroplan as opposed to 16,000 AMEX. That’s a substantial difference.

Conclusion

The American Express 25% Avios Transfer Bonus is one of the best deals to use your AMEX points right now. Short-haul flights are some of the best Avios redemptions and can be used all around the world. The American Express Business Platinum Card currently has a 75,000 points offer, which is the highest credit card offer in Canada. After completing the minimum spend, the transfer bonus gives you 100,000 British Airways Avios in your account. That’s a lot of one-way flights!

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Comments

  1. Super helpful, thanks Jeff!

    This might be outside your field of expertise, but I had a question about redeeming Avios points on BA’s website for travel on JAL: is there any way to book 5 tickets at a time? It seems like the most that is available at a time for any flight is 4 tickets.

    If I book those 4 tickets, is it safe to assume more will be added in the near future?

    That seems logical to me, but I’m reticent to risk leaving a member of our family behind 🙂

    Thanks!

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