The British Airways Avios program is extremely popular for overseas travel. However, many people might be surprised to find that you can also use Avios for domestic flights within the continental U.S.
As part of the oneworld® alliance, British Airways also offers award travel on a vast array of partner airlines, including American Airlines. Even though British Airways is known for imposing huge fuel charges on international flights, that isn’t necessarily the case for domestic flights. In fact, domestic flights on partner airlines such as American can cost as little as 7,500 Avios one-way, plus around $6.
What to Remember When Using British Airways Avios
Unlike many of the other frequent flyer programs, British Airways redemptions are distance-based. In other words, the cost of your flight will depend heavily on how many miles you are traveling, with longer flights obviously costing more. Short-haul flights, or flights that travel less than 650 miles, are the cheapest to redeem at only 7,500 Avios. So if you want to fly from Chicago to Detroit, you could fly round-trip for as little as 15,000 Avios.
For international flights, it’s important to keep fuel surcharges in mind when booking with Avios. However, you can sometimes avoid surcharges altogether by booking award travel with one of British Airways partner airlines that doesn’t charge fuel surcharges, such as Aer Lingus. Although you may not see the availability for these flights on the British Airways website, you may be able to find them by searching on United.com or calling the airline directly.
Earning British Airways Avios
The easiest way to begin earning Avios is to sign up for a co-branded British Airways credit card such as the British Airways Visa Signature® Card. Doing so will currently net you a huge haul of avios after meeting a modest minimum spending requirement.
The American AAdvantage frequent flyer program is one of the largest and most popular frequent flyer programs in the world. As part of the Oneworld® alliance, American partners with several different airlines to transport passengers to over 1,000 destinations all over the planet.
American Airline miles are easy to earn and remain fairly easy to redeem. And with major hubs in several destinations across the United States and the world, American is a prime airline to fly domestically or abroad.
American’s frequent flyer program also makes it easy to figure out how many miles you will need to fly to any location from the U.S. This chart shows you exactly how many miles you’ll need to travel from nearly any starting position in the continental United States:
|Destination||Off-Peak Dates||MileSAAver Off Peak||MileSAAver||AAnytime Level 1||AAnytime Level 2
|Contiguous 48 U.S. states||12,500||20,000||30,000
|Canada and Alaska||15,000||25,000||40,000
|Hawaii||January 12 — March 13 and|
August 22 — December 15
|Caribbean and Mexico||September 7 — November 14||12,500||15,000||27,500||37,500
|Central America||January 16 – June 14; September 7 – November 14||12,500||15,000||27,500||37,500
|Europe||October 15 — May 15 ||22,500||30,000||47,500||65,000
What to Remember When Using American Airlines Miles
When using this chart for reference, it’s important to remember that the number of miles listed are for a one-way fare. So, for example, flying from the United States to Mexico during the off-peak season will cost 12,500 miles each way, or 25,000 miles. Meanwhile, a round-trip flight from the U.S. to Europe during off-peak season should cost only 45,000 American miles, plus taxes and fees.
And when it comes to those government mandated taxes and fees, it is important to remember that airline miles cannot be used to pay them. In addition, some American partners often charge fuel surcharges on international flights that must be paid in addition to those taxes and fees. Fortunately, American’s search engine does a pretty good job of helping you find flights that fit your itinerary and also lists all fuel surcharges and taxes clearly before asking you to book.
Earning American Airlines Miles
Like I mentioned before, you don’t necessarily have to fly American to rack up a tidy sum of American Airlines miles. In fact, one of the easiest ways to earn American miles is to sign up for one of the co-branded credit cards. The Citi Executive® / AAdvantage® World Elite™ MasterCard® is one option, but there are several other cards that can help you earn American miles as well.
After several major devaluations over the last decade, United Airlines miles are becoming harder (and more expensive) to use. However, there are still plenty of bright spots if you are willing to get creative with your travel plans and booking process.
It can be difficult to figure out how many United miles you will need for your trip, which is why they created an interactive redemption chart for their website. It’s also important to remember that United miles can be used on a vast array of international partner airlines such as Thai Airlines, Lufthansa, ANA, and Asiana. Using partner airlines can improve your strategy if you’re hoping to use United miles for a trip to any one of the international regions United Airlines flies to.
What to Remember When Using United Miles
One-way Saver Awards for domestic flights can cost as little as 10,000 miles each way with United. Meanwhile, one-way economy awards between most destinations in the U.S. and Europe can run as little as 30,000 miles each way.
Like American Airlines, United allows open-jaws in certain cases, or exceptions where you may complete a certain segment of your trip on your own before picking up your flight elsewhere. It all sounds complicated, but the point is, there are a ton of creative ways you can use United miles if you take the time to understand how they work.
Earning United Miles
Earning United miles becomes effortless if you pick up a co-branded United Airlines credit card like the United℠ Explorer Card. Also keep in mind that, since United MileagePlus is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, you can also rack up United miles with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.
Creative Ways to Spend Frequent Flyer Miles
Using airline miles might seem like an overwhelming proposition, but it isn’t that hard to master the art of miles if you learn some basics and are willing to think outside of the box. One way my husband and I get the most out of our miles is to fly during off-peak times when it isn’t as busy and miles are generally worth more. For example, this past June we flew off-peak from the United States to Munich and home from Zurich using 50,000 miles per person transferred to Air France/Flying Blue from Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Other creative ways we’ve used miles is with Southwest’s Companion Pass, a perk you can earn if you rack up a total of 110,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points during one calendar year. The Companion Pass allows your “companion” to fly for free on all of your flights, even if you pay for your own ticket with points. By signing up for both the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and the Plus version, and completing some additional spending on our cards, my husband and I each earned the Companion Pass and flew with or without our kids to Orlando, Denver, New Orleans, Cancun, and Minneapolis over the years.
Creative Ways to Earn More Frequent Flyer Miles
Although co-branded credit cards provide the easiest path toward a healthy stash of airline miles, a ton of other excellent rewards credit cards can also help you build an arsenal of travel currencies. As we mentioned already, credit cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card make it easy to boost your overall balances by allowing you to transfer to the following airlines at a 1:1 ratio:
- British Airways
- Korean Air
- Singapore Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- United Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
- Air France/Flying Blue
- Aer Lingus
How to Get the Most Out of Airline Miles
It is easy to look at this list of cards and programs and find it entirely overwhelming. After all, each program has its own unique redemption rules and rates, and it can be difficult to know which program is best for your situation. Here are some tips that can help you get the most out of your airline miles, and thus, your travel budget:
- Choose airlines that operate in your preferred airport- If you want to redeem your airline miles with as little hassle as possible, the smartest thing to do is sign up for frequent flier programs and rewards credit cards that are affiliated with airlines that operate in your area. If you’re unsure, check out your local airport’s website for information on frequent flights and hubs, or call or check with your airline of choice. The last thing you need is a stash of miles you will never be able to use.
- Diversify your holdings- It’s never wise to put all of your eggs into one basket, even when it comes to airline miles. If you want to ensure you’ll have the miles you need to travel when and where you want, it might be wise to start racking up miles with several airlines that operate in your area. You can even choose one that seems like a good fit for domestic travel and another for international flights. The more miles you have, the more likely you will be able to use them.
- Get your spouse involved- What’s better than one miles-earning rewards credit card? Two, of course! If you want to boost your miles balance enough to travel often or purchase multiple tickets, it makes sense to get your spouse or significant other involved. Doing so will essentially double any points you manage to earn and make it that much easier to book the award flights you’re after.