The popular Avios airline points scheme has confirmed it will close this summer, affecting around 2.4 million customers who use the programme to clock up frequent flyer rewards.
The good news is that all existing customers will be moved to British Airways’ Executive Club instead, which already uses the Avios currency.
This means there will be no changes to the value of your points, and customers will still be able to clock up reward points on flights, on credit cards attached to the Avios scheme and by swapping their Tesco Clubcard points.
Avios customers will have more choice of airlines under the BA Executive Club
There are a few differences between the schemes however.
To help you get to grips with how switching could affect you, here’s everything you need to know about the changes, what they mean for your points pot and whether you could in fact end up better off.
British Airways vs Avios: What’s the difference?
The Avios scheme and BA Executive Club systems can be a little confusing.
The easiest way to understand it is to look at Avios as a currency. British Airways Executive Club and Avios use the same points system, but these are collected into separate pots.
Most frequent flyers with the airline will likely already be part of the BA Executive Club as it offers extra perks.
But both schemes offer loyalty points on BA flights and other partners including on hotels, shopping, car hire, insurance and travel money and each has airline rewards credit cards attached to it.
They both also let you spend the points on things other than flights, such as wine and spirits, activities such as spa days and theme park days.
In the past the Avios Travel Rewards scheme also offered redemption with other airlines including Monarch, Flybe and Air Malta.
Currently the BA Executive Club has a few extra airline partnerships that allow you to spend points (see below).
You could be better off
According to Rob Burgess, editor of the UK’s biggest frequent flyer website headforpoints.com, the change may actually leave customers better off.
He explains: ‘The range of redemption options available via the BA Executive Club is broader than it is via Avios and no-one will lose out. This move will also unravel some of the complexity in running two Avios-based loyalty schemes in the UK.’
Tier points at BA
The British Airways Executive Club tier system offers frequent flyers both Avios and its own bronze, silver or gold tier points when they fly.
Most people who frequently fly with BA will likely already have an account and have access to this.
But there are four levels and these points allow them to unlock extra perks, from business class check-in and early seat selection to first class lounge access and travel spas.
Tier points also boost the number of Avios points you earn on flights.
Chris Treadwell, commercial director at Avios, adds: ‘This move is good news for members. Outwardly there will be very little change for them other than their Avios will have a new home.
‘However, they will also enjoy all the advantages that being a British Airways Executive Club member offers, including a smoother online experience, even more ways to collect and spend Avios, plus the tier benefits.’
While customers could swap points between the two schemes previously, the BA Executive Avios scheme has partnerships with more airlines for customers to redeem points with.
According to Avios, frequent flyers will will now benefit from extra airline partners including LATAM, Malaysian, S7, Royal Jordanian, American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, Finnair, Qatar, and Japan Airlines, Air Italy and Alaska.
Members can also continue to collect and spend Avios with British Airways, Iberia, Vueling and Aer Lingus.
You can find out more about where you can collect British Airways Executive Club Avios here.
Why did the Avios scheme fail?
Rob Burgess, editor of the UK’s biggest frequent flyer website headforpoints.com, explains:
While this announcement may be concerning to the 2.4 million Avios members in the UK, there is nothing to worry about. Their points are safe and will be transferred over to British Airways Executive Club.
What is not being discussed, however, is that this represents an admission of failure by Avios to build a stand-alone multi-partner loyalty scheme in the UK.
The plan, launched back in 2011, was to turn Avios into a ‘coalition’ loyalty scheme along the lines of Nectar. They have not succeeded.
This is not really the fault of Avios. The main selling point was the opportunity to redeem points for flights.
British Airways remains a London-centric airline with very little to offer Avios collectors outside the M25. When Monarch went bust, Avios collectors in the regions lost the opportunity to redeem with them.
Flybe remains a partner but it has a patchy and ever-changing route network and Avios redemptions with them are poor value anyway.
With Tesco reducing the role of Clubcard – which was a major driver of Avios, as Clubcard points can be transferred over – and the closure of the Lloyds Avios Rewards credit cards to new applicants following the caps on the fees card companies can charge shops, Avios was likely to struggle to grow going forward.
By returning it to its original Air Miles roots as a frequent flyer programme first and foremost it can consolidate its strongest relationship as the reward scheme for British Airways passengers.
What happens next?
Customers will receive letters from Avios in the coming weeks with the full details.
This summer they will be able to choose to open a British Airways Executive Avios account to transfer their Avios points into.
Once you have an account you will need to activate it online before you can spend your points.
If you have more than one Avios pot you can combine your accounts before your points are moved by contacting customer services.
If you have a BA account already you can move your Avios pot to this instead. You can do this under your account at Avios.com now.
If you don’t want to move, you can opt out by 20 May 2018. Customers will then have six months to spend their points.
British Airways rewards: Customers using the Avios programme will be moved over to the British Airways Executive Club
Can I still collect points now?
Until your points are moved over you can collect and spend points as normal through the Avios scheme.
There may be a short period while your balance is being moved over where you won’t be able to access them, but you will still be able to make changes to existing bookings during the move using the contact number on your original booking.
Can I collect points through Tesco or a credit card?
You can currently transfer Clubcard reward points into Avios. You currently get 600 British Airways Avios points for every £2.50 in Clubcard points you exchange.
You will continue to be able to do this in the future, your points will just be paid into your new British Airways Executive Club account instead.
Credit cards offering their airline rewards have long been popular, helping to boost earning potential, earn free companion tickets and flight upgrades too.
There are two cards that pay into an Avios pot: the Lloyds Avios credit card or TSB Avios credit card, which are no longer available to new customers.
BA Executive Avios: What are they worth?
- 20,000 points – One return flight to Moscow and other locations in Europe, Asia and Africa
- 15,000 points – One return flight to Rome and other locations in Europe
- 9,000 points – One return flight to Berlin and other locations in Europe
Don’t forget you will still have to pay taxes.
You will still be able to clock up Avios on spending on these cards if you have them. Once you switch over to the BA Executive Club points will be deposited into this account instead.
Nothing will change but if you have a companion voucher or flight upgrade to redeem after the move you will have to call 0344 49 333 49 to use them.
There are currently two other credit cards offering Avios points.
The British Airways American Express Premium Plus card currently offers 25,000 bonus Avios when you spend £3,000 in the first three months and you become eligible for a companion voucher after a £10,000 annual spend. You collect 1.5 Avios per £1 spent but it comes with a £195 annual fee and 22.9 per cent interest charged on purchases.
The free version, the British Airways American Express Credit Card comes with a smaller 5,000 point welcome bonus after a £1,000 spend within three months, and one point per £1 spent on the card. You must spend £20,000 in a year to earn a companion voucher and again interest on purchases costs 22.9 per cent.
Read more about the best credit cards in our guide here.