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In what may be a world-first for a major airline loyalty program, the British Airways Executive Club has introduced a subscription service that permits its members to purchase its currency at a highly discounted rate. As usual, those with US-based Executive Accounts get a worse deal than those with a UK-based account, but for some, this new program may offer an easy (if a little risky) way to save some cash.
The Avios subscription service
The idea is pretty simple. An Executive Club member can choose to purchase 20,000, 50,000, 100,000, or 200,000 Avios per year through this new scheme, and these Avios will be deposited into their account in 12 equal monthly deposits.
Payment for the Avios can be made monthly or yearly and with British Airways offering an extra discount to those who pay upfront for a full year, it’s the yearly packages that offer the cheapest deals.
Pricing for the new Avios subscription service varies depending on the country to which a member’s Executive Club account is registered and as usual, accounts based in the UK get a considerably better deal than accounts based in the US.
Here are what the prices look like:
Even before the pound took a nosedive, the differences between the prices being offered would have been significant. Now, however, the disparity is even greater, with US-based members being offered Avios from ~1.53 cents each and, at the time of writing, UK-based members being offered Avios from ~0.99 cents each.
- When opting in for a Yearly Plan, the Subscriber will pay once, at the time of opting in for the Subscription.
- When opting in for a Monthly Plan, the Subscriber will pay each month throughout the duration of their Subscription. First payment will be at the time of opting in and subsequent payments will be on the same day or as close to the same day in the following months, e.g., first payment on 1st October, second payment on 1st November and so on.
- For Monthly Plans minimum term is 3 months.
- For Yearly Plans minimum term is 12 months.
- The Subscriber has the right to cancel their order within 14 days from opting in for their Subscription, providing their account balance is sufficient to remove the previously credited Avios.
- Your Subscription will automatically renew after 12 months, unless cancelled.
- Only one Subscription plan can be active at any one time.
- Only one Subscription plan can be purchased per customer.
- The Subscriber can buy a maximum of 200,000 Avios in any one calendar year via Subscription. This is in addition to the 200,000 avios allowance through ‘Buy Avios’.
- Avios can only be bought in specified amounts.
- The transaction currency will be pre-determined based on the registered country of the British Airways Executive Club account.
- The Purchaser must be a Member of the British Airways Executive Club and age 18 years or over.
- The Purchaser must have at least one Avios in their Executive Club account in order to buy Avios. If the Purchaser has a balance of zero Avios, they will need to have collected or redeemed Avios in the past 36 months in order to buy Avios.
- The Buy Avios year begins on 1 January and ends on 31 December.
- Purchasing Avios will reset the 36-month Avios expiry rule, as set out in the British Airways Executive Club Terms and Conditions.
Full terms and conditions can be found on this British Airways page.
Leaving aside the unsurprising fact that US-based accounts are at a big disadvantage compared to UK-based accounts, there are positives and negatives to this new subscription service.
The key thing to note is that there’s nothing to stop British Airways from devaluing Avios overnight so there’s no guarantee that a purchase price that looks appealing right now (some of the UK pricing looks very appealing) will look appealing in a week or a month’s time.
With that in mind, the monthly subscriptions (which can be cancelled after just 3 months) look a lot more attractive than the yearly subscriptions (which are locked in for 12 months).
Unfortunately for US members, the difference between monthly pricing and yearly pricing is significant, and because the monthly rates don’t really offer a good deal, they’re not really a sensible option for most people to go for. This leaves US members with a simple choice – ignore this new subscription service completely or sign up and hope that Avios aren’t devalued in the next 12 months*.
UK-based members are in a considerably better position because (a) they’re starting out by paying a lot less per Avios than their US counterparts and (b) the UK prices mean that the differences between the monthly and yearly options aren’t too big so it’s not hugely more expensive to build in some insurance against a sudden devaluation by choosing a monthly rather than a year subscription plan.
*The risk is lowered slightly by the fact that any Avios purchased can be moved across to Iberia, Aer Lingus, and Qatar Airways so it would take more than just a BA devaluation to kill the value on offer completely.
Having said all of that…
What everyone (regardless of where their account is based) has to keep in mind is that British Airways and Iberia offer frequent Avios sales and the prices on offer in those sales need to be compared to the prices offered by the subscription service before any decision on this new service can be reached.
Iberia, for example, recently published a flash sale in which Avios were on sale for exactly (more or less) the same price as UK members will be charged if they take out a monthly subscription for 50,000, 100,000, or 200,000 Avios.
If you’re not interested in being able to buy more than 200,000 Avios a year (Avios purchased via subscription don’t count towards the yearly cap), why would you lock yourself into a monthly subscription when you can simply wait for a suitable sale to turn up at some point in the year and then buy all the Avios you need in a one lump sum?
Overall, I can see how this service may be useful to some (I could easily make this work for me if I was so inclined), and I can also see how it can represent a truly bad deal for others, so there’s no definitive conclusion to be reached here.
Whether this is a great opportunity or simply a chance to throw away money will depend on such a wide variety of things that it’s impossible to say how good or bad this new subscription service is.
I can see how easy it would be to get fantastic value out of Avios purchased at some of the rates being offered to UK-based members, but for US-based members, I would urge extra caution.
British Airways has unveiled a new subscription service that allows members of its Executive Club to purchase a predetermined number of Avios every month at discounted rates. For some, this will open up an opportunity to save money on what would otherwise be expensive cash fares, while for others this should be a service to ignore.