Updated: Jan 20, 2021
"In childhood, a library card takes you to exotic, faraway places; in adulthood, a credit card does." ~EVAN ESAR
Recently, we were asked about using miles and points to find cheaper flights. Our goal is to offer information to help make travel affordable and accessible for the everyday traveler.
If you don’t have a credit card and have no desire to get one, then this blog is not for you. No worries. This is ok and will not hurt our feelings. We can still assist with your travel needs.
There are many credit cards that offer miles and cash back. Finding the ones that benefit what you are needing is so important. We solely chose credit cards (i.e. British Airways and Aer Lingus) that offer miles so we can redeem them to “purchase” a flight.
Our goal was to find the best ways to fly internationally and since May 2018, British Airways flies direct from Nashville to London and that was a big plus for us.
WHAT ARE CREDIT CARD FLIGHT MILES/AVIOS/POINTS?
Now more than ever, many credit cards have a reward system for making purchases with their cards: points, miles, vouchers, and cash back.
For credit cards that specialize in travel, you are awarded miles. You rack up “miles” by spending money using that specific credit card. Most have a 1:1 ratio: spend $1.00 and that equals 1 mile.
The more you use your card for your purchases, the more miles you earn.
In the case of Avios: spend a $1.00 and if this purchase is with an approved merchant, you can earn up to 12 Avios per dollar spent. For example, British Airways has an agreement with certain businesses listed on their website where you gain additional avios for shopping through the website.
THE POINTS/AVIOS/MILES SYSTEM.
I will try and break this down as easily as possible because it can get convoluted.
The key to points is knowing how to work “the system.” The more you know, the better deals you will find on flights.
HOW DO YOU BUILD POINTS?
First, check your credit card’s policies to see if they offer points. Similar to Miles and Avios, when you use your travel credit card for purchases, you build points to be used on future plane ticket purchases.
Find out what your points to purchase ratio is; most are a 1:1 ratio. Also, see if there is an incentive to shop at approved businesses. Some credit cards offer additional points if you shop at these specific businesses.
The more you spend, the more points you gain.
A benefit of using a credit card that earns miles is if you are able to use the card for your normal weekly or monthly expenses and then pay it off immediately. You will gain points without going into any additional debt.
My family puts EVERYTHING on the credit card and pays it off weekly. I am not one that wants interest or finance charges to add up. Buy something, pay it off. #discipline
With these credit cards, read the fine print thoroughly. Be aware of the interest fees and the yearly finance charge. Not everyone wants to pay an additional $100 just to have a credit card. #robbery
HOW DO YOU REDEEM YOUR POINTS?
Now, let's say you have accrued 50,000 points. Let me show you several ways to redeem them.
We will start with British Airways.
From their website, you search for reward flights to use with your Avios.
Under the "BOOK" tab, click on "search for reward flights."
If there are available flights, you choose the flight that matches your travel plans.
Use your Avios to book it.
A word to the wise: with British Airways, know there are extra fees for the surcharges and fuel.
Another option is to transfer your points between airlines. Let's say you want to use those 50,000 Avios Points on American Airlines. When you go on the American Airlines website, click on "Reward" or "Award" flights. Here you will find a listing of affiliate flights or airlines to use to when booking your flight.
For example, flights on American from Nashville to London, choose a reward flight for 35K points and pay only about $5.00 for the flight. You will need to call British Airways representative, explain that you have found the affiliate airline/flight and have them book it using the Avios.
Additionally, British Airways credit card. Points, called Avios, can be transferred between 33 different airlines. There are tiers/parameters you must follow for certain flights. This can be frustrating and we encourage you to keep looking and playing with your schedule to find the best match.
Before we traveled to Ireland, we decided to use the point system to book our flight. We chose Boston to Dublin because it fell in a specific mileage tier. The rules specified if the distance was less than 3000 miles, we could use a set amount of points at the given rewarded price. Boston to Dublin is around 2990 miles so it fell in that tier.
Several examples of how we have used the point system:
Using my points that transferred to Aer Lingus we bought round-trip business class tickets for $115.00. Those same tickets are usually priced for $3746.00. Business class has multiple benefits: lounges, showers, gourmet food, champagne, and a reclinable seat. Using our points wisely allowed us numerous amenities.#flylikearockstar
Check the credit card to see about vouchers. If you spend a specified amount of money in a 12 month time frame, you will earn a free ticket-voucher. Using the points and voucher together sometimes creates a great deal for both travelers. Keep in mind the “owner” of the voucher must be one of the travelers.
Example: A reward flight for two from Nashville to London. It costs $400 round-trip and uses 50,000 points. Split the cost: $200 per person! Without the credit card and the points, etc.. the ticket per person will be over $1000 per ticket to fly.
BOOKING A FLIGHT WITH POINTS
Another Example: This is a comparison of points/without points when booking a flight from Nashville to Edinburgh.
Flying from Edinburgh to Dublin… Dublin to Boston… Boston to Nashville.
Booking the flight with points:
Log in to your account on www.avios.com
Click on the “SPEND” tab.
Type in one-way journey: Edinburgh to Dublin and dates. Miles and Price: *4000 points and the flight costs $56.58 (includes taxes and fees)
One-way journey from Dublin to Boston: 13,000 points and the flight costs $151.35 (includes taxes and fees)
From Boston to Nashville search the cheapest flight on www.skyscanner.com
So, right there, an international flight only cost: $207.93 and used 17,000 points.
(*Side note: always compare regular prices and Avios deals. That flight from Edinburgh to Dublin is also $40.00 without using any Avios)
Booking the flight without points:
Edinburgh to Dublin $40.00 (before taxes and fees)
Dublin to Boston: $555.37 (before taxes and fees)
Total just to get back to the US = $600.00 (before taxes and fees)
Savings of almost $500.00 just by using points.
We have discussed what miles/points/avios are and have given you a how-to use them. It is your choice as to whether this is an option you want to use when traveling.
We have found it works for us with patience, discipline and restraint when using our credit cards. The points and vouchers aren’t always the best deal, so keep looking.
If you have any questions, reach out to us and we will advise as best as we can. Enjoy your journey!