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Guide: Building up Avios; How I got BA First Class London to Tokyo for £576

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Those of you who follow my Instagram @flashpackermax may have seen a story recently on an upcoming booking for 2020 in Tokyo. We have two first class return tickets for just £576 (and a whole shed of Avios!) I got some DMs questioning how I did it. So here is the breakdown of how!

The Facts

When: Travelling in April 2020

Route: London LHR – Tokyo Narita NRT (British Airways First Class)

Cost: £1,152 plus 204,000 Avios in total for two

Technique: This is an Avios reward flight redemption using a 2-for-1 companion voucher. Plus lots of techniques to earn the voucher and enough Avios; read on to find out!

Getting Started: Sign up and set your target

You will need a BA Executive Club account from the outset for this offer. Sign up for free here.

Back in February, I set the target for earning a 2-for-1 BA companion voucher, which cuts the Avios needed for two return first class flights (or any class of your choice) in half. However, BA charge taxes and fees for both people, even on 2-for-1 reward bookings, so you want something that is a worthwhile use of the points.

A ‘bad target’: Focusing on first class, in my opinion going to the USA would not be the best use of this deal. You can regularly get a first class ticket to the US between £1,700 and £2,000 (as per my recent flight to Nashville). An Off-Peak Avios ticket will cost you between 136,000 (e.g. east coast New York) and 187,000 (e.g. southern Nashville) PLUS £675.32 in taxes. So on a 2-for-1 ticket to Nashville, I’d be paying 93,500 Avios and £675.32 per ticket. A quick search and I can get a return ticket in April for £1,902. This values the £1,226.68 saving in Avios at just 1.35p per Avios, even with a 2-for-1!

Reward flights to the US tend to not be great value.

So, in a nutshell, check the cash price for the destination first! BA tend to do more deals and better prices going west.

A ‘good’ target: Of course, it depends where you actually want to go! But I’ve always wanted to see Tokyo and thankfully it represents good value too. An off-peak return to Tokyo is 204,000 Avios plus £576 in taxes. So 2-for-1 means 102,000 Avios + £576. The cheapest cash ticket I can find today on BA over the next 6 months is £6,998! The cheapest I’ve ever seen a ticket is at around £4,200. So here my Avios are valued between 3.55p and 6.30p!

To find out how much various routes cost, use the reward flight finder and search over a whole year. This only works for non-stop routes! If the route you are looking for includes a connection, you will have to use the book with Avios search until you find an available date. Once you have found a set of dates, the price will be the same except for Peak and Off-Peak dates. So don’t bother trying to find a cheaper reward price unless it says Peak!

The reward flight finder allows you to search a route over a whole year.

How I Earnt My 204,000 Avios Target

I kicked off with signing up for a BA Premium Plus Credit Card with a fee of £195 per year (I’ve made back the fee by making use of their monthly cashback offers, but do consider if this is right for you).

I recommend the Premium BA Amex Card – the black one! (Photo: British Airways)

You sign up with your BA Executive Club number and Avios automatically get transferred on a monthly basis. You get 25,000 Avios if you spend £3,000 in the first three months. Or if you sign up with this link you will get an extra bonus 1,000! You will earn 1.5 Avios per £1 spent, or 3 Avios per £1 spent at British Airways (including BA Holidays). You will need to hit £10,000 in one year to get your 2-for-1 voucher. I did ALL my spending on the card, and with furnishing a new home, hit this pretty quickly. BUT, this is a card for earning points, make sure you can pay it off IN FULL each month, or you will be charged crazy interest. My earnings breakdown is as follows:

  • BA 2 For 1 Voucher for spending £10,000
  • 26,000 Avios for signing up and spending £3,000 in 3 months
  • 25,500 Avios for doing ALL spending on the card @ 1.5 points per £
  • 28,400 Avios for spending on BA @ 3 points per £
  • 3,000 Avios for adding on a companion card for free (one of the monthly offers)

There is also a free version of the card, but I would NOT recommend this. You only get 1 Avios per £1 spent, the sign up is only 5,000 (or 6,000 with a referral) AND you have to spend £20,000 in one year to get the companion voucher. Then, if you do manage to get it, you only have one year to earn enough Avios for your target flight, book it and depart. With the Premium you get 2 years, which I think is really needed, given reward flight availability.

The BA Premium Plus card has a representative APR of 76% (variable) and Purchase Rate of 22.9% (variable). The basic BA card has a representative APR of 22.9% (variable) and Purchase Rate of 22.9% (variable).

As a small business owner, I love this card! Capital On Tap is a business credit card that earns Avios on all your business purchases, including HMRC VAT returns (unfortunately HMRC will charge a fee for this when they swap to Visa next month).

The Capital On Tap Card, charging to Visa this month (Photo: Capital on Tap)

Again, I would recommend the premium version ‘On Tap Club’, where you get 20,000 Avios for signing up and spending £5,000 in the first three months, plus 1 Avios for every £1 spent. It is £249 per annum (tax-deductible). Plus, if you sign up with my Capital On Tap referral code you should get some free credit dropped into your account as soon as you are approved! So make sure to enter my referral ONEREFS882H77. No code no credit!

The more basic version at £99 per annum earns a 5,000 sign up bonus and 0.5 Avios per £1 spent. For this card, you must have a registered UK business and again, pay it off IN FULL each month. My earnings were as follows:

  • 20,000 Avios for signing up and spending £5,000 in 3 months
  • 20,200 Avios for putting all my VAT returns on Capital on Tap

The Capital on Tap card has a representative APR of 39.9% (variable). Monthly rates range from 0.79% to 4.9% per month.

Most people would think you have to fly a ton of flights to earn Avios. My actual flying with BA earnt just 10% of the 204k Avios total. This was from the return Business Class flight to Milan as part of our Emirates Ex-EU positioning and the First Class flight to Nashville.

I am a regular user of cashback sites. If you are going to shop online anyway, why not get cashback on your purchases? I use a combination of Topcashback and the BA E-Store.

On Topcashback, you earn a percentage or fixed cash amount back on your purchases. Once you wait a few weeks, the merchant pays and the money goes into your account. You can cashout as cash, or as Avios. Topcashback currently payout 1.05 Avios per 1p you are cashing out.

BA also has its own cashback e-store. You click through to a merchant and directly earn different rates of Avios on your spend. It is worth comparing the Topcashback offer to the BA offer to see who is best to click through and earn your cashback on!

Finally, I wasn’t expecting to earn my Avios target quite so quick. But on my flight to Nashville there was a slight issue with my seat going down that meant I was up and about for a while whilst the crew fixed it (I think something may have got stuck!) Anyway, at one point it did look like I was going to be without a seat for the rest of the flight. At which point I did speak up and say that wasn’t what I was expecting. Anyway, despite the issue being resolved, I was advised when leaving the flight to report it. To my surprise, BA Customer Service was excellent, and quickly issued some Avios to say sorry. Enough to make up the extra needed for my ticket to Tokyo. It just goes to show the value of POLITELY speaking up when something could be better.

Redeeming your Avios and Voucher

Once you have all the Avios and your 2-for-1, there is just one more challenge, finding two first class reward seats that are available! This is why the Premium BA Card and the 2 year expiry on the voucher is so important. You need time to earn the Avios and then find availability. Find available flights using the reward flight finder (non-stop) or book with Avios (connecting). The rules on using your voucher are:

  • Rewards bookings come available 355 days before departure.
  • Your entire booking must be with Avios. You can’t use any cash at all.
  • You must depart from the UK, but to save on taxes this could be Inverness or Jersey.
  • Your flight CAN include connections but must be all one booking.
  • Your flight must be operated by BA, it CANNOT be a partner airline.
  • You CAN mix up cabin classes or just travel one way.
  • You CAN do an open jaw (flight back from somewhere else, within reason) by calling BA and booking over the phone.

Happy Avios hunting!

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