Complete guide to Avios: British Airways, Qatar, Iberia, and Aer Lingus

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a logo with arrows around it

I find that US residents are often skittish about foreign frequent flyer programs.  Many don’t realize that foreign programs can sometimes be the best options for booking domestic flights.  “Avios” is the name of the point currency shared by multiple foreign airline frequent flyer programs: British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, and Qatar Airways.  Points earned in any of those three programs (or transferred from transferable points programs) can be moved to the other programs.  For example, if you have Aer Lingus Avios, you can move those points to your British Airways account.  In this article, we’ll talk about how best to use Avios to book domestic flights on American Airlines and Alaska Airlines, as well as international flights on many different airlines.

Each of the three Avios programs have different rules and pricing for booking awards.  In some cases British Airways (BA) is the best choice.  Other times, Iberia has better options.  Aer Lingus is rarely best.

Here’s (almost) everything you need to know…

What’s new? This guide has been updated for 2022 / 2023 to include new award chart information and reflect some changes such as additional transfer programs and shifts in sweet spot awards since original publication.

Register

You can’t earn or spend Avios until you’ve signed up to be a member with the loyalty programs that use Avios as their reward currency.  Registration is free, but there are no signup bonuses for registering.  Some deals require having had an account open for a certain amount of time before you can participate, so it’s a good idea to sign up for all three programs right now just in case.

Important: Make sure that all of your personal information is exactly the same with each program.  Use the exact same name, email address, phone number, and home address with each program. This will make it easier to move points between programs later on.

Registration links:

After registering, I recommend keeping track of each program with a free tool called AwardWallet.  Click here for details.

Earn Avios

Earn Avios via credit cards

One of the easiest and quickest way to earn Avios is through credit card signup bonuses.  Below are the current cards that directly earn Avios (see the next section for cards that earn points transferable to Avios).

Card Offer and Details
75K Avios after $3K spend in 3 months
$95 Annual Fee
This card is subject to Chase's 5/24 rule (click here for details).
Information about this card has been collected independently by Frequent Miler. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.
Recent better offer: Expired 7/4/22: 100K after $5K spend
FM Mini Review: Good choice for a nice signup bonus. Unless you intend to go for the big spend bonus, though, I don't see it as a compelling card to keep past the first year.
Earning rate: 3X British Airways. Iberia, Aer Lingus, and LEVEL ✦ 2X hotel accommodations booked directly with the hotel ✦ 1X elsewhere
Base: 1X (1.09%)
Travel: 2X (2.18%)
Brand: 3X (3.27%)
Card Info: Visa Signature issued by Chase. This card has no foreign currency conversion fees.
Big spend bonus: Every calendar year you make $30,000 in purchases on your Aer Lingus Visa card, you’ll earn an economy class companion ticket good for 1 year.
Noteworthy perks: Priority Boarding on Aer Lingus flights departing from and returning to the US from Ireland ✦ No foreign transaction fees.
75K Avios after $3K spend in 3 months
$95 Annual Fee
This card is subject to Chase's 5/24 rule (click here for details).
Information about this card has been collected independently by Frequent Miler. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.
Recent better offer: Expired 7/4/22: 100K after $5K spend
FM Mini Review: Good choice for a nice signup bonus. Unless you fly Iberia often or intend to go for the big spend bonus, though, I don't see it as a compelling card to keep past the first year.
Earning rate: 3X British Airways. Iberia, Aer Lingus, and LEVEL ✦ 2X hotel accommodations booked directly with the hotel ✦ 1X elsewhere
Base: 1X (1.09%)
Travel: 2X (2.18%)
Brand: 3X (3.27%)
Card Info: Visa Signature issued by Chase. This card has no foreign currency conversion fees.
Big spend bonus: Every calendar year you make $30,000 in purchases on your Iberia Visa card, you’ll earn a discount voucher good for $1,000 to use toward two tickets on the same flight
Noteworthy perks: 10% off on Iberia flights when you use your Iberia Visa to purchase at iberia.com/Chase10 ✦ No foreign transaction fees
75K Avios after $3K spend in 3 months
$95 Annual Fee
This card is subject to Chase's 5/24 rule (click here for details).
Information about this card has been collected independently by Frequent Miler. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.
Recent better offer: Expired 7/4/22: 100K after $5K spend
FM Mini Review: Good choice for a nice signup bonus. Award rebate makes the card a keeper if you frequently book awards from the US to Europe.
Earning rate: 3X British Airways. Iberia, Aer Lingus, and LEVEL ✦ 2X hotel accommodations booked directly with the hotel ✦ 1X elsewhere
Base: 1X (1.09%)
Travel: 2X (2.18%)
Brand: 3X (3.27%)
Card Info: Visa Signature issued by Chase. This card has no foreign currency conversion fees.
Big spend bonus: Every calendar year you make $30,000 in purchases on your British Airways Visa card, you’ll earn a Travel Together companion Ticket good for two years.
Noteworthy perks: Up to $600 per year in award fee rebates ✦ 10% off BA flights originating in the US. ✦ No foreign transaction fees

Earn Avios via transfer partners

Amex Membership Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Capital One miles, Citi ThankYou Rewards, and Bilt Rewards points can be transferred to Avios 1 to 1. Keep in mind that in some cases, a transferable currency might only officially transfer to one Avios program. For instance, Citi ThankYou rewards can be transferred to Qatar Airways Avios. However, you can then move those Avios to your British Airways, Iberia, or Aer Lingus account.   Even better, there are occasionally transfer bonuses so that you’ll get even more Avios.  There are many ways to earn points in each of those programs.  For full details, see these guides:

Another option is to transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to Avios at a rate of 60,000 Marriott points to 25,000 Avios.  For details about Marriott Bonvoy, please see;

Current transfer bonuses

If there are any current transfer bonuses to Avios (from any program, not just Amex, Chase, or Marriott), it will appear here:

Transfer FromTransfer Bonus DetailsEnd Date

Earn Avios via shopping portals

British Airways offers a shopping portal designed for US customers: www.shopping.ba.com.  When you plan to buy something online anyway, you can start your shopping at this portal then click through to the store where you want to shop. This way you’ll earn extra rewards above those earned with your credit card.

a screenshot of a website

Iberia also offers a shopping portal (found here), but it’s designed for European shoppers.  Sometimes this portal comes in handy when the Spanish version of Groupon offers a sale on Avios.

Earn Avios via travel

Flights

When booking paid flights on British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia, Qatar Airways or on any of their partners (such as American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, etc.) you can earn Avios by entering your British Airways Executive Club number (or Iberia or Aer Lingus number) in the reservation.  Keep in mind, though, that in some instances you’ll earn more or more valuable miles by crediting your flight to another program.  Once you know the booking class you plan to book, a great way to decide where to credit your miles is via this website: wheretocredit.com.

Hotels

a screenshot of a hotel

A number of websites offer bonus miles when you book hotels through their sites.  Sometimes they’ll charge more than other options, though, so always compare prices before booking.  Here are the sites that I know of that offer British Airways Executive Club Avios as an earning option:

  • Agoda Points Max
  • Kaligo
  • Rocketmiles (this is a refer-a-friend link. We’ll both earn 1,000 bonus miles when you complete your first stay)
  • Avios Hotels (note that you’ll need to scroll to the bottom and see the box that says “Collect Avios” and click the link there to earn 15 Avios per Great British Pound spent)

Note that British Airways Avios also partners with Marriott, Hyatt, IHG, and Airbnb so that you can earn Avios on paid bookings with those programs. More details about these partnerships can be found here.

Redeem Avios

Introduction to redeeming Avios

Each of the Avios programs are distance based.  This means that they charge more points for longer flights.  And, unlike zone-based programs, they don’t charge more for crossing borders.  For example, a short flight from the US to Mexico costs the same in Avios as the same distance flight entirely within the US (but taxes and fees may be different).

In general, Avios are great for booking short-distance flights on OneWorld member airlines (and other partner airlines), but not usually great for very long distance flights (but there are exceptions).

Each Avios program has its own award charts and award booking rules.  British Airways tends to be best for relatively short direct flights.  Iberia used to be a good choice for connecting itineraries, but they changed their award chart a few years ago to more closely match the British Airways award chart.  Aer Lingus has the same award chart as British Airways, but with fewer airlines that can be booked.  As a result, only British Airways and Iberia are covered below.

Avios Award Charts

When booking an award on British Airways or Iberia operated flights, the number of Avios required depends on which airline you want to fly.  Whether you book the award from your BA account or you Iberia account, the number of required Avios will be the same.  Strangely, the taxes and fees may be different though, so it makes sense to lookup award prices on both websites to find the cheapest option.

The British Airways (BA) and Iberia (IB) award charts are similar but not identical.  Both offer peak and off-peak pricing based on the date flown.  Each has different charts for flying partner airlines such as American Airlines (covered below).

If you intend to fly British Airways or Iberia, then the following award charts are in effect:

a table of numbers and numbers
All prices shown above are in thousands. For example, a first class flight with a distance between 2001 and 3000 miles costs 42,500 Avios.  Each segment flown is priced separately. For example, a 1,000 mile segment would be in the 651-1151 range and would cost 6.5K Avios to fly BA or 7.5K Avios to fly Iberia. Cells colored green indicate where that carrier’s award pricing is cheaper than the other carrier’s.

As you can see above, during off-peak dates it is almost always a bit cheaper to fly BA economy vs. Iberia economy.  However, to fly business class, BA is only cheaper for short flights whereas Iberia is much cheaper for long flights (32% cheaper where highlighted in green, above).

Peak dates follow a similar pattern, but the award price differences are more modest:

a table of numbers and a number of numbers
Cells colored green indicate where that carrier’s award pricing is cheaper than the other carrier’s. Cell’s colored yellow indicate where the pricing is identical.

BA Partner Awards

If you intend to fly a British Airways partner (American Airlines or Alaska Airlines, for example) using BA Avios, then the following chart is in effect:

a table with numbers and a price

Unfortunately, As reported by FlyForMiles and TPG in 2021, British Airways introduced slightly different pricing for flights in certain zones on specific partners.

For example, zones 1, 2, and 3 follow a different chart for Cathay Pacific:

  • Zone 1 (0-650 miles): 7,500 economy / 16,000 business
  • Zone 2 (651-1151 miles flown): 10,000 economy / 25,000 business
  • Zone 3 (1152-2000 miles flown): 11,000 economy / 25,000 business

They also introduced similar new zone prices for travel on Japan Airlines.

  • Zone 1 (0-650 miles): 7,500 economy / 12,500 business
  • Zone 2 (651-1151 miles flown): 10,000 economy / 24,000 business
  • Zone 3 (1152-2000 miles flown): 11,000 economy / 24,000 business

Finally, there is a separate chart for the shortest zones on Qatar Airways:

  • Zone 1 (0-650 miles): 7,000 economy / 16,000 business / 21,000 first
  • Zone 2 (651-1151 miles flown): 10,000 economy / 24,000 business / 39,000 first

If you plan to fly multiple BA partners on a single award, then the following chart comes into play:

a table with numbers and text

Iberia Partner Awards

If you intend to fly a OneWorld partner using Iberia Avios, then Iberia uses a different chart for each partner.  That said, they’re all almost identical, so this chart which shows rates for flying on carriers like American Airlines or Cathay Pacific is likely to be all you need:

a table with numbers and lines

Iberia used to require round trip booking and price awards based on cumulative distance, but in recent years they ended both practices. You can now book one-way partner awards on American Airlines and itineraries are charged by segment rather than cumulative distance.

How to book flights via British Airways Executive Club

British Airways lets you book almost all of their partners online.  One notable exception for US based flyers is Alaska Airlines.  To book a flight on Alaska, you can search for award space on AA.com, then call British Airways to book the award.  If they try to charge a phone booking fee, ask for the fee to be waived since Alaska Airlines awards can’t be booked online.

a screenshot of a flight

To book flights online with BA Avios, you must log into your British Airways Executive Club account (at BA.com), then hover over the “Book” menu item and click “Book a flight with Avios.”  This will bring you to a dialog box that lets you input your desired airports, dates, class of service, etc.

a screenshot of a computer

Book flights via Iberia Plus

Iberia shows an option to book with Avios directly on their home screen.  Fill out your flight details and make sure to click “Pay with Avios.”  You will have to log in before you can go further.

a screenshot of a travel website

Book flights via Aer Lingus AerClub

With Aer Lingus AerClub, you should use your Aer Lingus log-in credentials to log into Avios.com.  That’s right, the same credentials you would use to log into aerlingus.com should work at Avios.com.  There, you’ll find an easy award search tool:

a screenshot of a login form

Keep in mind that this will only reveal Aer Lingus, BA, and Iberia flights.  If you want to book other partners us BA.com for one-way flights.

Upgrade with Avios

If you pay cash for a British Airways flight, it may be possible to upgrade to the next level of service with Avios.  For example, you can use Avios to upgrade from economy to premium economy; or from premium economy to business; or from business to first class.

The only paid British Airways flights that are not upgradeable in this way are the discount economy fares: Q, O and G.

All other fare classes are upgradeable as long as an award is available in the next level of service.  The price for the upgrade is the difference in price between the awards.  For example, if you want to upgrade from premium economy to business class, you can lookup the cost of a business class award and an economy award.  The upgrade cost will be the difference between those two results.

Sweet spot awards

Avios Sweet Spots (Economy Class)

Fly within Japan one-way for only 6K Avios

When visiting Japan, you can buy a rail pass to get around the country by train.  Alternatively, you can fly around the country for only 6K Avios for each leg.  Full details can be found here.

Note that United offers an even better sweet spot for flights within Japan for only 5K miles.  Details here

Europe from 13K one-way

  • The short story: You can use British Airways, Iberia or Aer Lingus Avios to fly on those airlines for low mileage prices on nonstop routes.
  • Miles required (Note that this gets confusing, particularly for Iberia. For more on the Iberia charts, I recommend reading this post at Travel is Free):
    • For flights on British Airways or Aer Lingus booked via British Airways, Aer Lingus, or Iberia (prices shown off-peak/peak):
      • 13K / 20K for flights 3,000-4,000 miles flown
      • 16,250 / 25K for flights 4,001 to 5,500 miles flown
    • For flights on Iberia booked via Iberia Avios only (prices shown off-peak/peak):
      • 17K / 20K for flights 3,001-4,000 miles one way
      • 21,250 / 25K for flights 4,001-5,000 miles one way
  • How to find awards: Search for British Airways available space at britishairways.com for Aer Lingus at United.com or Avios.com. For Iberia, use the Advanced Avios tool. It's always best to search before transferring.
  • How to book awards: Book British Airways flights online at britishaiways.com or over the phone at 1 800 452 1201. You can book Aer Lingus over the phone with British Airways or use Avios.com
  • Key warnings: Note that it may be worth checking all 3 booking options (Avios.com, BritishAirways.com, and Iberia.com) to determine your best deal, though keep in mind that things like cancellation policies differ (note that Iberia offers no changes or refunds at all on most partner flights whereas British Airways offers cheap cancellation). Aer Lingus and British Airways charge for each segment separately, so multi-segment trips can get expensive quickly (Iberia charges based on cumulative distance each way, which can be cheaper on connecting itineraries).
  • Transfer from: Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy

Hawaii for 13K from the west coast

  • The short story: British Airways offers a distance-based award chart, so flights from the West Coast of the USA on Alaska Airlines or American Airlines can be a great value with Avios.
  • Miles required: 13K miles each way plus $5.60 for economy-class segments between west coast cities and Hawaii.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at britishairways.com for AA or aa.com for Alaska flights.
  • How to book awards: Book American flights online at britishaiways.com or Alaska flights over the phone at 1 800 452 1201.
  • Key warnings: British Airways charges for each segment separately, so multi-segment trips can get expensive quickly. Furthermore, the British Airways site sometimes shows phantom award space for AA (see: Phantom menace: an award search time suck). You may want to double-check Qantas.com for availability before transferring to British Aiways Executive Club for American flights.

South America from 17K one-way via Iberia

  • The short story: Iberia Plus offers a distance-based award chart that matches British Airways. However, since they don't allow changes or cancellations on American Airlines awards, you're probably better off booking via British Airways
  • Miles required: From 11K miles each way depending on distance. No fuel surcharges on American Airlines. See our Avios Complete Guide for a full award chart.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at iberia.com. Use the Advanced Avios Search tool.
  • How to book awards: Book online at iberia.com. Use the Advanced Avios Search tool.
  • Key warnings: Most Iberia partner bookings, including those on American Airlines, are completely nonrefundable and can not be changed. Because of that policy and the fact that Iberia's chart for American Airlines flights now matches the British Airways chart for the same flights, you're probably better off booking via BA. Only book AA flights with Iberia if plans are certain.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Bilt, Chase

Avios Sweet Spots (Premium Cabins)

South America from 22K one-way via British Airways

  • The short story: British Airways has excellent award pricing for shorter distance American Airlines award flights, whereas you're better off booking with another program for longer flights or if you need connections (since British Airways prices each segment separately). Keep in mind that while LATAM has left oneworld, their flights should still be bookable with Avios.
  • Miles required: From 22K miles (Miami to Bogota falls in this distance band) to 92,750 miles (Los Angeles to Buenos Aires is in this distance band) each way in business class. The best deals will be from Miami to Northern South America for 22K or 38,750 miles one way depending on distance (and assuming direct flights). See the full award chart here at One Mile at a Time. No fuel surcharges on American Airlines.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at BritishAirways.com
  • How to book awards: Book online at BritishAirways.com
  • Key warnings: Note that British Airways periodically stops showing American Airlines award availability. When this happens, phone agents are generally unable to book the space either and your best bet is to keep searching or book through another partner.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Bilt Chase, Capital One, Marriott

Europe from 34K one-way via Iberia

  • The short story: Iberia charges as few as 34K miles one-way in business class on its own flights from New York, Boston, Chicago, or DC to Madrid during off-peak season. Sometimes they run a winter travel promotion for even less.
  • Miles required: Varies by distance. Best deal are the cities above to Madrid: 34K during off-peak dates or 50K during peak dates on Iberia metal. Fuel surcharges are very mild (Around $175 in total taxes & fees round trip. If booking one-way, surcharges are higher leaving Europe than flying to Europe.)
  • How to find awards: Search Iberia.com using the Advanced Avios Search Tool
  • How to book awards: Book at Iberia.com after using the Advanced Avios Search Tool.
  • Key warnings: Iberia's website can be challenging to navigate and availability can be challenging to find. There are some surcharges, but at under a hundred bucks from the US to Europe, they are much milder than when using British Airways Avios. Note that Iberia's award chart is distance-based, so itineraries with connections will require more miles.
  • Transfer from: Amex Membership RewardsChase Ultimate Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy

Fly Qatar Airways to Doha for 70K one-way

  • The short story: British Airways normally offers a distance-based award chart, in what is an exception they charge 70K Avios each way for business class between the US and Doha on Qatar Airways (these flights do not follow the distance band).
  • Miles required: 70K miles each way in business class between the US and Doha. Taxes and fees add around $250 round trip.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at britishairways.com. It's always best to search before transferring.
  • How to book awards: Book American flights online at britishaiways.com or over the phone at 1 800 452 1201.
  • Change and cancellation fees: $55
  • Key warnings: British Airways charges for each segment separately, so multi-segment trips can get expensive quickly. Taxes & fees also increase substantially with further segments on Qatar.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Chase, Capital One, Marriott, Bilt

Oceania / Multiple Carrier tickets (build-your-own-round-the-world)

  • The short story: British Airways offers an award chart for travel on a single partner and a lesser-known chart for travel on two partners. That second chart could save you some Avios if you were to mix AA and Qantas for example.
  • Miles required: From around 200K "round trip" in business class from most US cities (can vary based on distance). See the mixed partner chart along with an excellent explanation for how to leverage it here. In short, you could turn this into a multi-stop, multi-carrier journey and the number of miles required will vary some but be less than booking separately via British Airways
  • How to find awards: Search for available space on each segment separately at britishairways.com.
  • How to book awards: Book over the phone at 1 800 452 1201. According to Head for Points, there isn’t a clear methodology for pricing mixed-cabin awards. I suspect some agents may be less well versed in this mixed chart.
  • Key warnings: This secondary chart would save miles over the single-carrier chart, which would price a one-way to Australia at 154K one-way assuming a single carrier and single segment (add more for additional segments). However, as this is a lesser-known chart, some agents may not be well versed in using it. Be prepared to hang up and call again. Furthermore, the British Airways site sometimes shows phantom award space for AA (see: Phantom menace: an award search time suck). You may want to double-check Qantas.com for availability before transferring to British Airways Executive Club for American flights.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Chase, Capital One, Marriott

Manage Avios

Combine Avios across programs (e.g. move points from Iberia to BA)

Avios can be freely moved across programs: BA, Iberia, Qatar and Aer Lingus.  To do so, you must have an account with each program.  And, it’s very important to ensure that all of your personal information (name, email, birth date, address, phone) is exactly the same  with each program.

If you want to move points to/from Iberia, note these additional requirements:

  • You cannot move points to/from Iberia within 90 days of joining the Iberia Plus program.  So, this is a good reason to enroll in Iberia Plus now, even if you don’t have any immediate need for it.
  • Your Iberia account must have had some activity within the past 36 months (points earned or redeemed). An easy option is to transfer 1,000 points from Amex Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • If moving points from Iberia to British Airways, your British Airways account cannot be a household account (but you may be able to get around this by transferring points first to Aer Lingus and then to British Airways).

Full details about moving points from one program to another can be found here: How to transfer Avios between Aer Lingus, BA, and Iberia.

Interestingly, you may be able to book Qatar Airways flights using Avios in your British Airways Executive Club account without even moving them to Qatar Privilege Club. More detail can be found here: Finding Qatar availability and booking it without moving Avios.

Combine Avios across people (share points with family members)

The best way to share Avios with others is via a Household Account.  With a Household Account, Avios held previously in separate accounts are pooled together.  Full details about Household Accounts can be found on BA’s website here.

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