british airways

Pointless Points: Brownie Points

The other day our girlfriend gave us a ride to the airport to begin one of the many first class journeys to India that we booked during the latest Avios award sale. The entire drive, she kept casually mentioning how much she loves saffron, repeatedly interrupting our attempts to estimate how many bottles of champagne we could consume between LAX and BOM (including both in lounges and inflight).

After the fourth interruption, we asked her why she kept bringing up saffron, and she told us that it would be nice if we brought some back from India. Despite our noting that saffron is widely available in the United States, even pointing out an Indian market clearly visible from the road, she insisted and told us that if we complied we would “score some points.” This, of course, got our attention.

We inquired as to what kind of points she meant, to which she offered a quizzical glance before referring to some mystical program called “Brownie Points.” Intrigued, we asked her if that was a new loyalty program. She again shot us an uninterpretable look and simply said, “It’d better be!” Still confused, we asked how many points we would earn, but she just raised her eyebrows and replied, “Bring me back some saffron and find out.”

She’ll never know the difference.

We are always hesitant to engage in this sort of murky points-earning, but we also have an inexplicable tendency to convince ourselves to do unwise things by repeating the phrase “Go big or go home.” More importantly, we arrived at the airport before we could ask any further questions. She kissed us goodbye, and we were off to our first first class lounge of the journey.

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Flash Sale: 25% Off Longhaul BA and Iberia Awards

Normally we don’t bother to wake up on Wednesdays, but today we were thrilled we did. The Avios program is running a six-day sale starting today, whereby you can save 25% off longhaul portions of award tickets on British Airways and Iberia. Lucky, a significantly more knowledgable and less lazy travel blogger, runs through more of the particulars here.

Iberia has a BusinessPlus product that we have not had the “pleasure” of trying out. Assuming they serve jamón ibérico and premium cava, it is probably tolerable. We have, on the other hand, had the pleasure of experiencing both the new and old British Airways first class products, and we consider them to be two of the best in the world. This sale therefore presents a fantastic opportunity for those of you with a hefty stash of Avios lying around, especially considering you would likely otherwise use those points for short domestic flights in American Airlines economy. Please, dear readers, step your redemption games up.

British Airways does, of course, impose hefty “fuel” surcharges, which, if what we overheard in the Heathrow Concorde Room is true, directly fund MI6. Having just seen the new Bond movie, Points Envy has nothing against supporting this high class lifestyle of international intrigue, but our wallets do not generally allow for it. We therefore tend to pay for these 007 surcharges with our Sapphire Preferred cards and then redeem Ultimate Rewards points for a one cent apiece statement credit. Some bloggers may tell you this is not the best redemption value, but they are not taking into account that earning points is much easier than earning money. And now, off to book eight of these first class awards to India next month. Bloody brilliant!

Which Bond are you? Craig or Connery?


Citi ThankYou Points May or May Not Be Valuable in the Future

At Points Envy, we have in the past redeemed Citi ThankYou points exclusively for steakhouse gift cards. After consuming more than $30,000 worth of steak and fine wine in the last two years, we were just as excited as the rest of the frequent flyer community when Dan’s Deals reported earlier this week that ThankYou points would, starting April 1, transfer to British Airways and Singapore Airlines at a 1:1 ratio. Of course, that rate is before Citi’s vicious tax on points, which effectively reduces the ratio to -3:1. Still, the possibility of redeeming ThankYou points for airline miles was intriguing, and the announcement was met with great celebration here in the office.

The following morning, we were greeted with champagne hangovers and the distressing news that Citi representatives had asked Dan to remove the story from his blog. It has since become clear that there is confusion even within Citi as to whether the points will be transferable to BA and Singapore, with Citi’s PR team denying any transferability while sales representatives continue to tell customers that the points will turn into anything the customers want them to.

If you ask us, we think it is clear that Citi has not been receiving enough applications for its ThankYou Premier card and decided to make up for it by playing an April Fool’s joke on people’s credit. We respect their cunning but will not succumb to their bait-and-switch. Maybe one day ThankYou points will get us a suite on a Singapore Airlines A380, but until then you can find us in the VIP section of our local Ruth’s Chris.

April Fools!


The History of “Adios” Points

If you are considering taking advantage of the new Membership Rewards 50% bonus on transfers to British Airways Avios points, you may be interested in the history behind the derogatory “Adios” nickname for BA’s recently-unveiled program. We caught up with Walter Thompson in Omaha, who was around for the first Chase BA 100,000-mile sign up bonus promotion.

“I remember it like it was yesterday,” says Thompson. “I was searching through the AAdvantage Mall for something I could tolerate buying for bonus miles when I looked up to see my wife throwing away an envelope from Chase with a British Airways 777-300 on it.” After saving the envelope from its doom he ripped it open and nearly fainted from the offer within. He immediately logged on to FlyerTalk as user mAAdvantage and posted about the offer. Says Thompson, “Next thing you know, everyone and their mother was taking Chase up on the 100,000 offer.” As word spread in the frequent flyer community, thousands more cashed in on one of the most generous credit card sign-up deals of all time. We at Points Envy got three each.

But the offer was not unique, and when Chase brought back the 100,000 bonus in 2011, Thompson knew something was wrong. “Why would they be so generous after all the deserving people had already gotten it?” He claims to have foreseen the award chart changes that would ultimately devalue BA miles. “I was ready to give up on British Airways, and as soon as I saw talk online of the change to Avios points, I said ‘Adios,’ and I said it online.”

Sources at FlyerTalk have confirmed that mAAdvantage’s post was indeed the first to mention the word “Adios” outside the context of describing a trip to a Spanish-speaking country, but many still hesitate to offer Thompson any praise, usually citing what FlyerTalk user MilesHighness calls “the obviousness of the name.” According to MilesHighness, “Everyone thought of it when they heard about the change; so what if he posted it first?”

Such comments don’t rouse Thompson, who thinks the detractors’ jealousy is unproductive. In a recent post, he states: “Just to prove once and for all that I do think of these things way ahead of the curve, I am hereby unveiling the names ByeMiles and MileageMinus for Delta and United, respectively.” Thanks Walter, we would never have figured those out.


British Airways Visa Infinite Card Offers 50,000 Avios Points

Points fiends up north had cause to celebrate this month with the Royal Bank of Canada’s release of an updated British Airways Visa Infinite Card offer. Cardholders will receive 15,000 Avios points upon approval, and an additional 35,000 Avios points after spending CAD $5,000 within the first three months. The card carries an annual fee of CAD $165 and includes several other perks. Given that we generally only traffic in greenbacks, Euros and gold, we have no idea what a Canadian dollar is worth, but if its value is anything close to that of a real, American dollar, this offer might make sense when partnered with the right redemption strategy.

For example, roundtrip from Vancouver to New York in Cathay Pacific business class will currently run you 50,000 Avios points and $106.13 American dollars, a pretty nice discount on a fare that can cost close to $4,000.  In contrast, it takes 40,000 Avios points and a whopping $620.87 to fly roundtrip from Toronto to London in economy class, a ticket that might normally cost a little under $800. You can generally get even better value from Avios points by using them for short-haul flights, assuming it suits your travel needs.

True-blooded American readers fret not! Chase is still offering a 50,000 Avios points sign up bonus for its American British Airways card (?), though we’d generally recommend several Chase cards over that one. Be sure to check out our Top Deals for some examples.

Click here to read more and apply for the British Airways Visa Infinite Card.