The Real Value of Miles & Points Right Now…

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Some readers might be tempted to argue that the value of points & miles is currently zero, or pretty close to nothing anyway. With airlines grounding fleets, countries closing borders, hotels being forced to close, and the Government advice being to leave one’s home as little as possible, there isn’t much travel going on right now(!). Add the uncertain financial future of many travel businesses, and people’s concerns about the security of their own jobs, and the picture gets even bleaker…

But there is more than enough bad news at the moment, so rather than focusing on that, I thought I’d share a more positive story about the ‘real’ value of points and miles instead.

Most collectors would agree that points and miles allow them to do things they would not otherwise regularly be able to do. In the good times, that might mean things like flying Business or First Class, or staying at hotels that normally charge £500+ per night. That can be a lot of fun of course, but it’s hardly important.

Sometimes, points and miles make a real difference though – and in a time of crisis when transport options are restricted, they can be especially valuable.

“Can you help my son get home?”

Last weekend I got an email from a family friend whose son was travelling in Japan, asking if I might be able to help him get back to the UK somehow.

He was originally due to fly back with Turkish Airlines this week, but had been effectively stranded, because the Turkish Government had banned flights to the UK (and most of Europe). After he had spent days on the phone talking to Turkish Airlines, his insurance company, and British Embassy staff,  there seemed to be no good solution.

Turkish was willing to refund the return portion of the ticket, but not make alternative travel arrangements. This wasn’t particularly helpful because cash tickets on other airlines were now much more expensive. A direct flight was going to be £2,000+ and booking another (also expensive) indirect flight didn’t seem sensible given what had happened with Turkish and the rapidly changing situation with all airlines/governments at the time.

As soon as I read the email, I clicked over to Seat Spy to see if there was any Avios availability on British Airways. Despite the sky-high cash fares, thankfully Avios availability was wide open!

As it was an off peak date, an Economy ticket was just 19,500 Avios + ~£110 in tax/fees. 

I value Avios at about 1p each, so including tax/fees, I would say the total cost was ~£300. That’s a saving of ~£1,700 on what was essentially an emergency flight that would have had to have been booked one way or another. Simply by having access to Avios and knowing how to use them, it was possible to sort out a very stressful situation for friends and save them a large chunk of money. It only took literally 10-15 minutes too!

Bottom line

The global situation with COVID-19 is unprecedented, but there are also many examples during ‘normal’ life where having a stash of points/miles can be just as important – imagine having to travel urgently to be with a sick family member. Last minute flights are usually expensive if you pay cash, but often have plenty of award availability.

Flying First Class is fun, but I always try to make sure I’ve got a variety of different points/miles balances ready for emergency or last minute travel. When times are stressful and transport options seem limited or impossible, points and miles can feel like a silver bullet.


  1. Richard says

    Always keeping 20k Avios and 20k virgin FC miles in my accounts ready to go has saved me on a couple of occasions when a trip has needed to be curtailed midway through.

    There aren’t many places in the world that BA or Virgin won’t get you back to the U.K. from in Y in a pinch.

    Really can’t stress enough how useful it is to always have that buffer option available rather than zero-ing mileage accounts

    • Joe Deeney says

      Exactly – even though I love the flexibility of Amex MR Points, I always try to make sure I’ve got an instantly available pot of miles ready to use in different programmes/alliances, and happily ‘waste’ Amex Points to make that happen.

  2. Richmond_Surrey says

    That’s how I got back to UK when countries in Europe started closing borders and suspend flights.

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