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When 4,500 Avios awards aren’t a great deal + how to book flights for less

by on Wed October 28, 2015 • No Comment
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American AAdvantage

British Airways Executive Club is eliminating the option to book short flights of 651 miles or less on American and Alaska Airlines for 4,500 Avios one way.

Starting February 2, 2016, 7,500 miles one way will be the lowest available price.

There’s no sugar coating this is a big price increase if you’ve been relying on Avios to book flights for 4,500 points.

But before you jump and transfer your points from Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards to redeem them at the 4,500 point level, beware that 4,500 points isn’t always a great deal for an award.

Most short flights are really cheap when you plan just a little ahead. And you can actually pay less than 4,500 or 7,500 Avios by using other points.

Citi ThankYou points via the Citi Prestige Card get you American Airlines flights with a 1.6 cent per point value, while Southwest Rapid Rewards gets you 1.4 cents in value on many Southwest flights (and often more considering the 1.4 cents doesn’t count excise taxes that are covered by Southwest).

So you’ll actually pay less than 4,500 points using:

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards points for flights costing less than $80 or so one way ($160 roundtrip)
  • Citi ThankYou points via the Citi Prestige Card for American Airlines flights costing less than $75 or so one way ($150 roundtrip)
southwestplane

Southwest points are a great option to pay less, especially if you live out West, with lots of cheap, short Southwest flights

And comparing to the new point price, you’ll pay less than 7,500 points using:

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards points for flight costing less than about $120 one way ($240 roundtrip)
  • Citi ThankYou points via the Citi Prestige Card for American Airlines flights costing less than $120 one way ($240 roundtrip)
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards points for flights costing less than about $95 one way ($190 roundtrip)

If your trip involves a connection you’re much better off with these choices than Avios, which charges separately for flights with connections.

Here are some examples…

San Francisco to Los Angeles is one of the busiest routes in the country and available for 4,500 Avios under the old system.

But flights are really, really cheap if you plan even slightly ahead.

Just $63 most days from San Francisco to Los Angeles isn't a deal at 4,500 Avios

Just $63 most days from San Francisco to Los Angeles isn’t a deal at 4,500 Avios

4,500 points for a $63 flight is just 1.4 cents per point in value. A nice deal, but nothing outstanding.

Better: Southwest for 3,183 Rapid Rewards points.

sfolaxsouthwest

Southwest can get you there for less on most days

Up in the Northeast, New York to DC is one of the most popular routes. And airfares are really cheap if you plan just a bit ahead.

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While there is no option to fly Southwest between New York and DC, you can use Citi ThankYou points to book American Airlines flights for just 4,568 points, thanks to a 1.6 cent per point value on a $73 airfare:

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With a Citi Prestige Card cheap American Airlines flights are still a very good deal

Citi ThankYou points via the Citi Prestige will beat the new 7,500 point rate for flights $120 or less one way. And they will beat the old 4,500 Avios rate for flights less than $72 one way:

  • $60 airfare: 3,750 ThankYou points
  • $70 airfare: 4,375 points
  • $80 airfare: 5,000 points
  • $90 airfare: 5,625 points
  • $100 airfare: 6,250 points
  • $120 airfare: 7,500 points

Sure, there are some times, especially last minute, where Avios let you snag a $300 or $400 ticket for 9,000 points roundtrip. And that bargain will be gone for good.

But for most of us who plan ahead, that’s the exception.

A lot of people have been using 4,500 Avios for flights that are pretty cheap to begin with, and using Southwest Rapid Rewards or Citi ThankYou points instead could get you similar or sometimes, better value.

They’re the best points to save money on cheap flights.

 

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