One of the most confusing aspects for someone who does not follow the air miles hobby closely is the difference between “Part-Payment with Avios” and “Avios + Money”. To the uninformed these appear to be the same thing, but if you are trying to qualify for Elite Status then these are quite distinct ticketing differences you need to understand.
Avios Part Payment
If you are buying an eligible cash fare, for instance by clicking through British Airways' Low Fare Finder then you will be following down this route. You are able to reduce the cash component of your fare by trading in some Avios. Take a look at the image below when you look for a fare between London to New York.
The key thing to know here is you will be buying into the revenue fare buckets and these will allow you to earn back some Avios and Tier Points. You can see precisely how many Avios you will earn back using the official Avios and Tier Point Calculator.
In theory you can do Avios Part-Payment to every seat on the plane. These fares are not limited by availability.
You can also see more details on this British Airways page, where they will update terms and conditions when necessary..
Avios + Money
When you want to spend your hard-earned Avios on a Reward Flight (pricing levels here) you will almost always have to pay a cash component which represents government taxes, airport service fees and any fuel surcharges. (aka. “Carrier Imposed Surcharges”).
The key difference here though, is that instead of using Avios to reduce the money you pay, you are using cash to reduce the Avios you pay.
Two sides of the same coin I hear you say, but the significance is that: 1) the amount of tickets available is typically restricted to a handful per flight. and 2) If using Avios + Money then none of these tickets will earn any Tier Points, nor any Avios back.
This is what the screen looks like if you are using this option.
Which should I use?
Firstly you need to determine whether you want to earn Tier Points or not. For instance if you are on a Tier Point run then you want to go with Avios Part Payment.
Also there are situations where you don't have any choice, such as using a 2-for-1 voucher, in which case only Avios+Money applies.
From a pure value-per-Avios proposition your best bet is typically Avios Part Payment. There is a bit of black magic that British Airways applies to price any form of money and Avios payments, but the one thing which is hard to ignore is the opportunity cost, i.e. the Avios you would have received had you purchased a cash fare in the first place.
There is also the ‘Do Nothing' scenario, which I would recommend if either of the following applies:
- For Avios Part Payment, do not spend your Avios if you are ‘trading' them in for less than 0.75p (= £0.0075) each.
- For Avios + Money, do not spend cash if you are ‘buying' Avios in at over 1.5p (= £0.015) each.
I personally would lower my threshold of 2) down to 1.1p, but that is because I have a steady and plentiful supply of Avios. If you are an infrequent collector of Avios your threshold should be closer to 1.5p each.
So in my 50000 Avios + £452.36 Reward fare above, the next option down is 45000 Avios + £572.36, which means you are effectively ‘buying' 5000 Avios for £(572.36-452.36)= £120, or £120/5000 = £0.024. This would violate my second rule above and I would say this is poor value for an Avios + Money fare.
Both options provide flexibility for paying some part of your fare in cash and some part in Avios. However, you should try to understand where the best values lie, and when to do nothing, as I have detailed above.