How much are air miles really worth?


Dreaming of a holiday can make even the dreariest days at the office go by a little faster.

Little wonder, then, that reward schemes promising free flights are hugely popular.

However, air miles can be a murky business.

They're rarely as simple as 'points for flights' any more: there are targets that have to be reached; eligible zones and extra fees to pay and a myriad of other extras.

All in all, it's become increasingly difficult to answer what should be a simple question: how much is an air mile really worth?

Working out worth

It should be easy to work this out: just take the value of the miles and divide it by the value of the flight.

Let's say £1 of spending on our fake miles card earns one mile.

If you earned 20,000 fake miles and got a free £200 flight to Paris, each mile (or pound spent) was ultimately worth £0.01.

Real world examples

As we noted above, however, air mile schemes are rarely as simple as the example above.


As an example, let's look at Avios, the BA scheme previously called Airmiles until September 2011.

There are now a baffling number of ways to earn Avios points and just as many ways to spend them.

Just to give a few examples:

Avios needed Spend needed to get those Avios Mile worth
Eurostar London to Paris return (£69) 9,000 £9,000 on British Airways credit card (cost of credit)
(1 Avios per pound spent)
Eurostar London to Paris return (£69) 9,000 £45,000 on Lloyds Bank Avios Rewards credit card (Mastercard) (cost of credit)
(1.5 Avios per £5 spent)
BA London to Madrid return (£150) 15,000 £6,250 Clubcard-earning Tesco spend
(£2.50 in Clubcard vouchers is 600 Avios)
BA London to Madrid return (£150) 15,000 £10,000 on Lloyds Bank Avios Rewards credit card (AmEx) (cost of credit)
(1.5 Avios per £1 spent)

However, these quick calculations don't take into account the many extra fees and charges involved in earning and spending.

Just as importantly, they don't take into account the many ways you might boost the 'worth' of a mile by spending in a particular way.

Let's take a look at a few specific examples based on the table above.

Credit card fees

The British Airways Premium Plus credit card seems to be offering a pretty good mile worth on a Eurostar trip.

But what we don't take into account in the simple calculation above is that this card has an annual fee of £150, which could put a significant dent in a single air mile's worth.

British Airways Premium Plus credit card (Go to provider »)
british airways premium plus
  • Earn 1.5 Avios for virtually every £1 spent
  • 3 Avios for each £1 spent with British Airways and BA Holidays
  • 25,000 bonus Avios when you spend £3,000 within the first 3 months
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 22.9% p.a. (variable), with a £195 annual fee, your representative APR will be 76% APR (variable).

As you can see above, the fee gives the card a very high representative APR which is the annual interest rate plus anything that increases the total cost of credit, like an annual fee.

Charges and fees for flights

Similarly, Avios require passengers to pay charges and taxes, in cash, on their flights, even though the rest is funded by points.

These taxes amount to approximately £500 to Australia or £300 to New York and could be much higher depending on the route and the carrier.

Within zones 1, 2 and 3 (Europe, basically) a flat fee called Reward Flight Saver applies: instead of taxes and fees it's £17.50 per person per flight (so £35 on a return) to fly Economy, plus the destination Avios.

Avios also offset these fees by allowing passengers to use their points to obtain one way flights rather than forcing them to make a return trip.

Passengers may also opt for some flights to be to and from different airports and make use of regional UK airports without having to pay a supplement, though many will feel it's a poor exchange.

Any way you cut it that's not a free flight.

Ways to boost earnings

On the other hand, the sheer amount of airline credit cards (see the full guide) means that there are multiple ways to boost Avios points.

In the case of many credit cards, for example, the number of bonus miles up for grabs for new cardholders could pay for a whole flight.

And exchanging other reward points for miles is a popular way to boost earnings too.

For example, drivers registered with Shell's Shell Drivers' Club can earn 10 Avios points for every 20 litres of Shell fuel they buy.

However, this is obviously meant as a boost rather than the main way to collect points.

Let's be generous and say one litre of unleaded costs £1.30. To earn 9,000 points for a quick trip to Amsterdam those collecting points through Shell would need to spend £23,400 on fuel. Few people are going to spend that much.

How much are those rewards?

As we've seen, 15,000 Avios, is enough to buy a return flight to Madrid with £35 in charges on top.

We estimate that BA would generally charge £150 for a flight to that destination.

In comparison, though, a return flight via a carrier such as Easyjet might be significantly cheaper and, of course, BA might charge much more or a little less than our estimate.


26 January 2014
Avios is rubbish

I have 350,000 Avios points and I find it hard to find seats. Seems to me this a scam.

9 November 2013

Where in first half of the article you say '0.01p' this should be '£0.01' or 1p.

11 November 2013
Choose team

Hi Si - thanks for spotting this - we've updated the article.

16 April 2013

I have a brochure Earn up to 50 Bonus Air Miles reward miles from Air Miles.

Where is the RIGHT link for to get these rewards. American Express makes everything so complicated.

Please advise.



31 January 2013

Your value per Avios calculations are incorrect.

The Value per Avios for Eurostar should be 0.7 pence not 0.007 pence OR 0.001 pence.

The Value per Avios for LON-MAD flights should be (£150-£30)/15000 or 0.8 pence and not 0.024 pence or 0.003 pence as these flights cost 15,000 Avios plus £30.

25 April 2014

Your value per Avios is still wrong it is £0.007 for BOTH Eurostar examples and £0.008 for BOTH flight examples.

Please read our full disclaimer for important information that relates to the service we provide and your use of this site.

We aim to provide free reviews and comparisons of consumer products and to keep our editorial content as objective as possible. To keep the site free, we are paid by some providers when new customers take products after they've clicked on our links. We don't allow our editorial content to be affected by those links, however we may not include all of the products available in the market. Finally, we do not submit or process any applications for any products or services and we cannot guarantee that any product or service listed on this website will be available to you. Credit providers make the final decision on whether an application for credit will be accepted.

If you would like to get in touch with us you can contact us here.