British Airways’ Avios Valuation – You’re Taking The P***

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I like to think of myself as a kind, gentle, mild-mannered type of fellow.

However, Craig posted this morning, and it made my blood boil. No, not at Craig, but at his target – British Airways, and more specifically, the excruciatingly bad value they offer for their own Avios loyalty currency.

So what’s my rant?

Funnily enough, the subject of my ire is actually one of the lesser rip-offs in the Avios portfolio: the cost of food on British Airways flights. Indeed, it’s sufficiently reasonable value (for me), that I even redeemed some on a flight recently. I got a Berry Burst Porridge for 175 Avios rather than £1.30 (it was dreadful), and some Pip Organic Cloudy Apple juice for 350 Avios rather than £2.70 (very nice).

All very well. However, the crucial point with the above, is BA are very clearly “valuing Avios”, as they are allowing you to pay with Avios, as a clear alternative to cash. They are therefore putting an express, unequivocal, cash valuation on Avios.

So, let’s have a look at the valuation on the in-flight “fresh food” menu:

buy ba avios

The Avios can be valued as follows:

  • Toastie = 0.792p each
  • Bacon roll = 0.792p each
  • Ham and cheese sandwich = 0.78p each
  • Ploughmans = 0.792p each
  • Ham and Egg (with, naturally, pineapple piccalilli) = 0.792p each

So, if I’m being charitable to BA, that’s basically 0.8p per Avios. We generally value an Avios point/mile/whatever at 1p, so that’s not that bad. Also, with my wife’s credit card spending, I have an Avios mountain, so I actually really don’t mind spending Avios if I’m getting 0.8p “value” in return.

So why are BA taking the p***?

Well, BA are clearly valuing Avios here, and that clear valuation is south of 0.8p per Avios. Thanks for the valuation BA, it’s helpful. But hang on [rant alert], don’t you value Avios elsewhere? Oh yes you do – when you sell them to your loyal BA Executive customers, desperate to loyally book your flights. 

So what’s the valuation here? What do your loyal customers pay per Avios?

buy ba avios

  • At the lowest end of the scale, 1,000 Avios will cost you £31 – so that’s 3.1 pence per Avios. If you ever pay this, pretty much regardless of the circumstances, you need to commit yourself.
  • At the mid-point, 50,000 Avios is £815, so 1.63 pence each. This is “good long hard look in the mirror” territory, but not totally unforgivable with mitigating circumstances.
  • At the “best value” point, 100,000 Avios is £1,615, so 1.615 pence each.

So, as you can see, even a “very best value”, bulk-buy of Avios will cost you MORE THAN TWICE the BA valuation of Avios on a commercial transaction on one of its flights.

Ever get the feeling you’re being ripped off?

It’s like an exaggerated version of the FX rates you see at airports, where they’ll buy your Euros for £0.70, but sell you Euros at £0.98. We know that’s a rip-off, and frankly I think exactly the same description can be applied to BA’s very clear, and very biased, Avios valuations.

So, while I will actually continue to spend my Avios at 0.8p value, I certainly won’t ever buy them at BA’s prices. The sad truth is though, there’s lots of people that will. The really sad point is, it’s almost certain that none of them are reading this article.


  1. Mahomed says

    I agree its a rip off . I guess BA depends on people using their avios because they are avois rich or just have to to use it TO AVOID LOSING it ( Hence small amounts to spend on meals and so forth) .

    • Miles Hunt says

      Totally agree Mohamed, and appreciate your thoughts. I am actually an Avios “seller” at 0.8p, as I mentioned in the article.

      My issue here is simply the bald, cold-blooded disparity in Avios valuations by BA. Yes, no-one’s forced to buy or spend at the imbalanced prices, but it just strikes me as a very explicit example of how airlines etc work loyalty schemes in their favour.

      I suppose the ultimate conclusion is the age old one – never buy miles or points!

      Obvious exceptions are where an offer is on which is just too good to turn down, a possible example here being Hilton 100% bonuses, which really can be worked to your advantage. Also, if you need the points to top off a good value redemption.

  2. Craig Sowerby says

    Of course that’s working off the basis of the sandwich’s retail price of £5 onboard. It would have been £3 at the airport shops. And probably cost BA less than £1 to buy.

  3. Alex says

    A possibility to use airline miles for things other than flights benefits absolute majority of program members. It is difficult to appreciate for frequent traveler blog that many people will rarely have enough miles even for one flight. Being able to spend them on meals, or on seat selection, is useful.
    Needless to say it will be extremely stupid for an airline to sell miles for the same price it takes them back.

    • Craig Sowerby says

      I might agree with you, except the Avios & Money option (where you pay more to reduce the number of Avios needed) can cost fewer Avios than the sandwich…

  4. Billy says


    BA is a private company and they want to recover money from the Avios they give you for free.

    The smug sense of entitlement is strong in this article.

    • Miles Hunt says

      I like it. I am contemplating adding “smug sense of entitlement” to my CV, but not sure if it would go in the “strengths” or weaknesses” section.

  5. Matthew P says

    But when BA run an avios sale (the one that expired yesterday) you get an additonal 50% of points for “free” so you’re best value 1.6 per point becomes 0.93. Not too shabby for an exchange rate

    • Miles Hunt says

      Fully agree that bonus offers can alter the picture considerably. I generally regard the Hilton Honors 100% bonus offers as (potentially, depending on redemption use) excellent value – if I didn’t earn lots of Honors points through work, I’d probably be a max buyer each time.

  6. says

    Avios are worth different amounts to different people in different situations – much like any currency.

    I am Avios poor. I get my Avios for free (well, at only opportunity cost) from credit card spend and business travel. I am also cash poor – as it happens from my wife’s credit card spend and her travel for fun! I use my Avios to save money on the economy flights for my my once per two years holiday, or to save a few quid on buy on board. I get 0.8-1.0p per Avios.

    Another BAEC member may be Avios rich from business class business travel and cash rich from a better paid job. They use their Avios to get a lovely flight in First. They get a better return of ~1.6p per Avios.

    For me, using my Avios at a lower value and freeing up more cash to save for a deposit on a house is more important than squeezing more value out of them but at the cost of also having to spend more of my own money.

    Buying Avios is always a rip-off, and it should be. Avios are a reward for brand loyalty, and you shouldn’t be able to buy such a reward. The reason for buying Avios is if you need just a few more to allow you to redeem the ones you already have – although those Avios are overpriced, they allow you to unlock the value locked in the Avios you have already acquired elsewhere. 99k Avios have zero value if you need 100k for your flight redemption, but buying an extra 1k may make a lot of sense if it means you can actually use the Avios you already have.

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