How Much Are BA (British Air) Miles Really Worth?

Last Updated: 5/5/2011

British Airways offers their Executive Club loyalty program, where frequent flyers earn BA miles which can be applied for free flights or upgrades. Analyzing the value of miles is always tricky business since assumptions like whether you fly first class or economy, domestic versus international, and so on, affect the value of miles. That said, PlasticIQ takes our best shot at it.

Furthermore, this is our first miles value post where we actually provide estimates for business class as well as upgrades (historically, we have only valued economy class). It will be up to you, our reader, to select the mileage value that most closely mirrors your real-world behavior.

A Quick Overview of PlasticIQ’s Approach to Estimating the Value of BA Miles

In order to keep our analysis focused, we restricted our analysis to flights from 5 major US cities (LAX, NYC, Chicago, ATL, Phoenix) to 4 major European destinations (London, Madrid, Frankfurt, Paris). We used Kayak.com to determine flights costs at several times throughout the year in an effort to capture and average seasonal variations.

Since British Airways also tacks on a rather large fuel surcharge, and since flyers still need to pay this charge even if they use their BA miles, we make sure to factor this (and taxes) to our calculations.

The Results of Our Analysis

The tables below contain estimates of the worth of BA miles under varying scenarios, including class and zone of travel (Zone 1 European markets require fewer miles to travel to than Zone 2 markets). We also provide estimates of the value of upgrading between classes.

Valuing BA Miles by Class and Zone (US to EU)
Class Zone Post Tax Ticket Price Taxes + Fuel Surcharge Pre Tax/Fuel Ticket Value Roundtrip Miles Req’d Value of BA Miles
Economy 1 $795 $568 $227 50,000 $0.0046
Premium (World Traveler Plus) 1 $1,893 $667 $1,226 75,000 $0.0164
Business (Club) 1 $2,964 $913 $2,051 100,000 $0.0205
First 1 $4,810 $913 $3,897 150,000 $0.0260
Economy 2 $771 $568 $203 60,000 $0.0034
Premium (World Traveler Plus) 2 $1,821 $667 $1,154 90,000 $0.0128
Business (Club) 2 $3,051 $913 $2,138 120,000 $0.0178
First 2 $4,784 $913 $3,871 180,000 $0.0215
Economy Average $0.0040
Premium (World Traveler Plus) Average $0.0146
Business (Club) Average $0.0192
First Average $0.0237

As the table above illustrates, redeeming BA miles for Economy tickets is an economicaly poor decision–yielding an average value of around $0.0040 per mile. This extremely low value is due to the fact that after getting your “free ticket” you will still need to shell out roughly $600 in taxes and fuel surcharges. The best redemption value is for First Class tickets, yielding about $0.0237 per mile. The catch here: while you are indeed maximizing the value of your miles, you are also shelling out a lot more miles to travel the same distance.

The folks at PlasticIQ have also taken a look at redeeming your British Air miles for upgrades–a move that often yields the highest dollar value per mile of any airline redemption strategy.

Value of Upgrading Using BA Miles (US to EU)
Base Class Upgrade Class Zone Ticket Price Differential Pts Req’d Value of BA Miles
Economy Premium (WT+) 1 $1,098 25,000 $0.0439
Premium (WT+) Business (Club) 1 $1,071 37,500 $0.0286
Business (Club) First 1 $1,845 100,000 $0.0185
Economy Premium (WT+) 2 $1,049 30,000 $0.0350
Premium (WT+) Business (Club) 2 $1,230 45,000 $0.0273
Business (Club) First 2 $1,733 120,000 $0.0144
Economy Premium (WT+) Average $0.0395
Premium (WT+) Business (Club) Average $0.0279
Business (Club) First Average $0.0165

As the table above highlights, upgrading from Economy to World Traveler Plus (aka Premium Economy) yields a value per British Air mile of around $0.0400, by far the best redemption option if you are just trying to max out on value per mile.

Redeeming Your Miles Through British Air’s Partner Airlines

ba-partner-airline-redemption-strategies
So if you were planning on using your BA miles to fly from the States to say London on economy, by now hopefully you realize that’s a losing proposition given the sky-high taxes which you still need to cover. However, all is not lost.

BA is part of the OneWorld Alliance, which means if there is award availability on one of these partners, you can use your BA points to fly on those airlines. It will only be possible to do this for routes that British Airways doesn’t fly (for example, most any flights within the US). OneWorld partners include American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Japan Air, LAN, Qantas, and several other less well-known carriers.

Naturally, the folks here at PlasticIQ were curious as to the value of redeeming through partner airlines. We chose to evaluate domestic (US) routes on American Airlines as the use case, and what we found was one major pro and one major con.

  • The Pro: You’ll be able to obtain roundtrip domestic tickets for as low as 25,000 miles–the same number of miles it would cost you through AA (MileSaaver Fares). Since AA miles are valued at around $0.0136, that represents more than a 3x improvement over BA miles used for BA economy tickets.
  • The Con: In a word, availability. In my test, I was trying to book a full 2 months out, and was unable to get my desired dates. I needed to settle for somewhat different dates. Note that my exact dates were available as reward flights through AA directly, just not through BA, which of course means BA is only getting a limited number of award seats.

Some Final Words on the Value of BA Miles

ba-miles-tough-to-find-inner-peace
If you typically only fly Economy class, trying to earn miles on BA (via a British Airways credit card, for example) is not a recipe for inner peace–given the extremely painful fuel surcharges that reduce the value of the BA miles to a pittance. However, if you normally would fly First Class, or typically upgrade, then pursuing a BA miles accumulation strategy may make sense. In fact, at a value of $0.04 per mile for upgrades from Econonmy to Premium Economy, you are well ahead of the performance of any cashback card.

Also, while you do have the option of trying to book an award ticket through a British Air partner airline (at typically much better value per BA point), availability is a real issue (which technically should decrease the value of BA points by some factor when used in this fashion).

You can apply for the Chase British Airways Visa Card here

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  • Raj

    Thanks a ton. I wish I had read this before getting the card! Would you think its a better idea to redeem the BA miles on domestic airlines such as AA, Alaska airlines etc…?

  • Foo

    You fail to mention that it costs less points and fees to redeem BA miles via OneWorld partners.

  • admin

    Yes that is true, but availability can be horrendous. I have added a partner valuation section to this post. In general, if your primary strategy is to redeem via partners, you may be better off just focusing on joining those partner airline programs and accumulating points within those, as you’ll get much better availability. But if you must fly BA, then partner is an option.

  • Mageedge

    1 plus with BA credit card to consider is the companion ticket. Spend more than $30k per year and get reward flight ‘companion ticket’. With this 75k points gets you 2 RT tix from LAX to London in Premium Economy for the cost of taxes and fees x2. Basically doubles the value of the points.nExample – flight in September ticket cost is $2450 per person of which $728 is “fees”. Cost for two with companion ticket – $1456 + 75k miles. Saves u00a0$3186 or .042 per mile.u00a0nFor me – spending $30k per year nets 37,500 miles + companion ticket. So – 1 Premium Economy trip every two years for 2 people.u00a0nnAnnualized value = $1456 – $95 (annual fee) = $1361.u00a0nnThe card works for me because, with family in England, a trip every two years is a normal expenditure and I spend $30k per year on a card. If either of these standards change then there are other cards that work better for me – probably AMEX Blue Cash with the 6% deal.nFWIW

  • Medicalstud

    British Airway miles are good for redeeming with their partner airlines as the surcharges and taxes are relatively low. I paid $7.50 tax and 7,500 miles for my flight from NYC to ATL. I would not buy British Airway points, but if I could get them cheap I would certainly use them. Right now BA is giving away 50,000 Avios miles after your first purchase and another 50,000 miles after you do some insane spending. There’s an annual fee of $95. The initial 50,000 miles are relatively simple to get and definitely worth spending the $95 bucks link: http://goo.gl/iJiZ8

  • http://www.plasticiq.com/ Marc Davis

    Yes the current 50K sign-up plus opportunity for another 50K Avios (you’ll need to put $20K on the card in first year to get the full additional 50K; you’ll get 25K for each $10K of spend) is, prima facie, a very good offer. Folks need to understand that redeeming for travel from the US to Europe makes Avios points nearly worthless due to the insane fuel surcharges. That leaves you working with their partners. While totally feasible, inventory (seats) are always harder to come by when booking on partner airlines, so be prepared for some additional frustration and to book well in advance.

  • http://www.plasticiq.com/ Marc Davis

    Have you found those policies to be restrictive in terms of redeeming on their partner airlines as well, or just BA? u00a0If the latter, then I would also add that the fuel surcharges along kill the economies of the deal.

  • http://frugalbanker.com/ Frugal Banker

    This blog/analysis is pretty awesome. However, I think you missed a huge perk in program. BA points excel for trips within europe with the Reward Flight Saver program which has flat fees (u00a330 return in economy). There are no fuel charges, etc. London to Istanbul offers some pretty great value. Can also be used one way so you could mix and match with other carriers if the availability doesn’t work etc. Also, can also be used to buy eurostar tix. nnnCompletely agree that the program sucks for long haul from London to US or Asia.

  • http://www.plasticiq.com/ Marc Davis

    Thanks for pointing this out! You are undoubtedly right. I am guilty of tilting the blog slightly more to the US pov (probably because it’s easiest for me to relate to), and also travel analyses are super complicated, and assuming arrival/dept from just 1 place (US), made things a bit simpler. But thanks for adding this international perspective to the discussion, it will undoubtedly benefit many readers!

  • Alex

    There is another great advantage going on for the entire 2013 which is a 10% off on any ticket up to 8 parties from US to Europe (some restrictions obviously)