I always say that my Avios are worth at least 1.67p each or, more commonly that 9,000 are worth £150 or a flight to Nice. This rolls of the tongue, but is there actually any truth behind it?
First of all, your Avios value depends on how you get them and how you spend them. I have only ever bought Avios once, when I had worked out it was cheaper to buy them and redeem instantly rather than pay cash, and I have also done things like hire cars and take out magazine subscriptions with bonus Avios, but only in cases when I wanted or needed them.
I get most of mine through spending on my credit card and from flying, and I value that cost at zero as I could not collect the miles and spend on my debit card instead for the same result.
I travel to Nice a lot – probably 4 times a year for the last 4 years – for skiing or time by the pool, so have come to know the pricing structure well. A weekend skiing in January will be less than £120 on the late Friday LHR-NCE and the late Sunday return – coupled with a car hire it is always better to pay cash.
Compare that to a non-Bank Holiday weekend in mid May and for the same flights you’re looking at £180. Want the August Bank Holiday? That’ll be £320 for the hand luggage only fare.
Now, the May flights are also available for Avios. As it is an off-peak date, that is 8,000 + £35. I work out the value like this:
£180 – £35 = £145 = 14,500p / 8,000 Avios = 1.81 pence per Avios.
That is the cost of the cash flight, minus the cash component of the Reward Flight Saver divided by the number of Avios used. I don’t count the Avios earned on a cash flight, nor do I look at the 540 Avios I would have earned paying for the flight on the BAPP AmEx as that gets too messy.
As is clear, in this case, on my rules I am getting more than my base return so I would pay Avios.
The August Bank Holiday is similar. There are Avios flights outbound, but only the early morning return which I wouldn’t want. As a Gold Card Holder I can force availability on any flight more than 30 days in advance if there is a seat available for cash for double Avios. The sums are even more in favour of Avios:
£320 – £35 = £285 = 28500p / 13,500 Avios = 2.1 pence per Avios.
Again, paying with Avios is the winner, and my minimum valuation of 1.67p/Avios or £150 per 9,000 is intact.
This even works for non-Nice-based travel. Travel in school holidays is always expensive and none more so that May half term to Menorca. Flights are limited, and a return for 2 in economy on the dates I needed was coming in at over £1500. Using a standard Club Europe outbound (the only one available) and a Gold Priority Reward inbound cost me 60,000 Avios and £85.
£1500 – £85 = £1415 = 141500p / 60,000 Avios = 2.36 pence per Avios.
Where the valuation goes astray is when we consider the big ticket redemptions. I have twice redeemed my BAPP AmEx 2for1 vouchers for First Class flights to Washington and New York for a total of 280,000 Avios. My crude £150 / 9,000 Avios puts a nominal value of £4,666 on those Avios, in addition to the £2,000 or so in taxes that would have been paid. That values each return First Class ticket at around £1700 which is a pretty reasonable price and probably a lot lower than the cash price would have been – perhaps £4,000 each. That would give a nominal value of £16,000 – £2000 = £14,000 = 1,400,000 / 280,000 Avios = 5pence per Avios which is huge, and highly inflated!
Because I would not pay that in real life, the valuation is skewed. My first Tier Point heavy trip to Las Vegas a few years ago was cheaper, included one leg in First and one on the CWLCY service, earned over 900TP and 25,000 Avios.
So, whilst there are ins and outs, and it is always necessary to look at the maths before taking a decision. As a rule of thumb, though, I am happy with my nice Nice one!