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Utilizing British Airways' Executive Club for flights in North America

 

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In 2011 British Airways Executive Club went through some drastic changes that primarily revolved around moving to a distance based award flight structure versus a set reward chart. This proved to be both a good and a bad change. The good was that some redemptions became cheaper but others went up drastically. The bad changes were most evident as one of the program changes was that connections were priced separately at their distance based values. That means to make the most of the Executive Club program you'll typically want to redeem for direct non-stop flights where possible (this does not mean there aren't any good values in connecting flights on some long haul routes)

One of the best things to come out of the Executive Club award changes at that time were the amazing redemptions available on award flights out of Canada to the U.S. You've heard us tout the Toronto-New York award of only 9,000 Avios round trip many times in the past but the truth was there were a lot more of those 9,000 Avios redemptions available out of Canada and even some more decent offers at the 15,000 and 20,000 level where competing programs require 25,000 miles. Unfortunately this changed in 2016 when, only in North America, the 9,000 Avios round trip option was increased to 15,000. Still a good redemption but not the star it used to be! Now the star is the second set of 15,000 mile options listed below!

First let's look at some of the best ways to earn Avios for Canadians. Of course travel is best, flights on British Airways, American Airlines and many other oneworld airlines, hotel stays, car rentals and more but for most Canadians however who aren't frequent travellers the best way is with credit card spend. There are a few cards in Canada that you can earn Avios with:

American Express Gold Rewards Card (C$1 = 1 - 2 Avios)
The Platinum Card from American Express (C$1 = 1.25 Avios)
Diners Club Club Rewards MasterCard (C$1 = 0.80 Avios)
Marriott Rewards Premier Visa (C$1 = 0.20 - 0.35 Avios)
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express (C$1 = 1 Avios)
RBC British Airways Visa Infinite (C$1 = 1 Avios)
RBC Visa Platinum Avion/Business Avion/Infinite Avion (C$1 = 1 - 1.25 Avios)
Source: Airlines & Hotels that you can earn miles or points with Canadian Credit Cards
The best of the bunch being the American Express Gold Rewards Card which earns up to 2 Avios per dollar spent (2 points per dollar on Gas, Grocery, Drug Store and Travel purchases. 1 Point per dollar on all other eligible spend and all points convert 1:1 to Avios) and is closely followed by the RBC Visa Infinite Avion (best to convert RBC Rewards points during the twice a year 30% bonus offer) the RBC British Airways Visa Infinite Card and the Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express (which is best to convert at 20,000 Starpoints increments to take advantage of the 5,000 bonus Avios awarded at that level)

Finally you can also join Iberia's Plus program whose currency is also Avios. You can transfer Avios between British Airways Executive Club and Iberia Plus as long as you've had both accounts open for at least three months. There are also other Avios earning opportunities via Avios itself (This was Air Miles UK which was rebranded) as it is a coalition program like our own Air Miles but really it is only useful if you travel lots to the UK and can make use of U.K. retailers.

Now let's get on to those good Avios economy class redemptions from Canada to the U.S. !

15,000 Avios Round Trip Award Flights (30,000 in Business Class) - These are the ones that used to be 9,000 Round Trip (18,000 in Biz Class)

Calgary - Seattle (on Alaska Airlines)
Edmonton - Seattle (on Alaska Airlines)
Kelowna - Seattle (on Alaska Airlines)
Montreal - New York (on American Airlines)
Montreal - Philadelphia (on American Airlines)
Ottawa - Philadelphia (on American Airlines)
Quebec City - Philadelphia (on American Airlines)
Toronto - Charlotte (on American Airlines)
Toronto - Chicago (on American Airlines)
Toronto - New York (on American Airlines or LATAM)
Toronto - Philadelphia (on American Airlines)
Toronto - Washington D.C. (on American Airlines)
Vancouver - Seattle  (on Alaska Airlines)
Vancouver - Portland (on Alaska Airlines)
Victoria - Seattle (on Alaska Airlines)

Why are these 15,000 Avios Rewards so good? Well looking at it from  a credit card spend stand point you can get any of the above flights for as little as $7,500 in spend (all 2x spend on the Amex Gold) which is the same as Aeroplan which needs $7,500 in spend on the same card (or more on other Aeroplan cards: at least $10,000) and even more spend if you look at some of the US frequent flyer programs.  The same goes for business class on these routes: 30,000 Avios is the same as what Aeroplan offers. Where Aeroplan stands to be better is if you need to connect within a short haul region as Executive Club will price out each leg at 7,500 Avios. A good example is Edmonton to Portland, Aeroplan remains at 15,000 miles even with a connection in Vancouver while the Executive Club amount would be 30,000 Avios. Some things to note, if you want to redeem on Alaska Airlines you have to call Executive Club whereas the American Airlines flights can be booked online.


15,000 Avios Round Trip Award Flights (30,000 in Business Class)
Halifax - Philadelphia (on American Airlines)
Montreal - Charlotte (on American Airlines)
Montreal - Chicago (on American Airlines)
Vancouver - Los Angeles (on American Airlines)


Why are these 15,000 Avios Rewards so good? Well looking at it once again from a credit card spend stand point you can get any of the above flights for as little as $7,500 in spend (all 2x spend on the Amex Gold) compare this to Aeroplan which needs $12,500 in spend on the same card for the YVR-LAX route and even more spend on other Aeroplan credit cards or when using miles from a U.S. frequent flyer program. For business class on the YVR-LAX route you are looking at 30,000 Avios versus 50,000 Aeroplan Miles. You can even come out ahead on some connections on these routes that are priced at the 9,000 Avios level (ie YVR-LAX-SAN) as that will come in at 24,000 Avios versus 25,000 miles in most other programs.


20,000 Avios Round Trip Award Flights (40,000 in Business Class)

Calgary - Dallas (on American Airlines)
Edmonton - Phoenix (on American Airlines)
Montreal - Dallas (on American Airlines)
Montreal - Miami (on American Airlines)
Toronto - Dallas (on American Airlines)
Toronto - Miami (on American Airlines)
Vancouver - Dallas (on American Airlines)
Vancouver - Phoenix (on American Airlines)

Just like the above example these 20,000 Avios Rewards are still a good deal when you look at it from a credit card spend stand point. You can get any of the above flights for as little as $10,000 in spend (all 2x spend on the Amex Gold) Compare this to Aeroplan which needs $12,500 in spend on the same card and even more spend on other Aeroplan credit cards (at least $16,667)  Likewise you are looking at using more miles when redeeming from other US frequent flyer programs. The same goes for business class on these two routes: 40,000 Avios versus 50,000 Aeroplan Miles or other frequent flyer program miles.

In conclusion you can see that for select routes out of Canada to the U.S. your best and fastest way to free* travel is via the British Airways Executive Club program. If using a credit card is your primary way to earn miles and these redemptions appeal to you we recommend jumping on the American Express Gold Rewards Card and the RBC Visa Infinite Avion to get you on these flights as soon as possible. By combining spend via these two cards you are sure to get to an award flight in no time! In fact if you have neither card you'll get 25,000 Welcome Points with the Amex Gold Rewards Card and 15,000 RBC Rewards Points with the RBC Visa Infinite Avion card which means you'll already have enough points to get 2 flights to either Dallas or Miami!

* of course taxes and fees are not included but you could always utilize the TripFlex feature on the American Express Gold Rewards Card to pay for those!

Talk to us!

Do you or have you taken advantage of BA's North America redemption options? Any tips you have for making the most of these awards? Tell us in the comments section below or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

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