There is currently an amazing 50% off deal on flights paid with Avios points from Spanish airline Iberia. But very few of you will be able to take advantage of it, so instead let’s make this a post about 9 important lessons that all travelers can take away from this deal to increase their chances of being able to take advantage of the next ones.
Helping you travel for less is our mission at Flytrippers. We do that mainly by spotting flight deals at 50% off… but earning free travel with travel rewards points is an even better way to save (one I’ve been doing for over 10 years myself).
Since this deal combines both, it’s a great opportunity to share some useful lessons… and share a very handy free cheat sheet to set up the basics.
Iberia Avios deal basics
It’s really as good as it gets in terms of deals offered by rewards programs: flights on Iberia require 50% fewer points during this sale.
A transatlantic flight costs only 17,000 points roundtrip (compared to 60,000 with the current Aeroplan program). And you can even get a transatlantic business class flight with lie-flat seats for just 34,000 points roundtrip (compared to 110,000 with Aeroplan)!!!
It is a simply amazing deal, despite the caveats I’ll list below for those who are curious.
(I just booked a flight with this deal—it’s actually my third future trip booked in the past week, after months of not booking anything—needless to say, I’m really excited about how well my first coronavirus trip went).
But that said, I won’t even talk about the deal first, since almost none of you will be able to book it.
Why? While points from AMEX, RBC, and HSBC can be transferred to British Airways Avios points… and then British Airways Avios points can be transferred to Iberia Avios points… your Iberia account needs to have been created (and active) for 90 days to do that last transfer.
Is your head spinning a bit?
That’s why this article is more about a few tangible lessons to take away from this deal, and about learning about travel rewards points.
About learning about airline reward programs specifically, as these are powerful tools to earn free travel. Especially if you usually aren’t great at finding cheap flights, but for others as well.
This won’t cover all the very basic concepts of travel rewards points, so I’d also suggest you take a look at our 25 myths about travel rewards points. It is quite a long read but is as good an intro as you can find to get acquainted with this wonderful world if you are new to this (at least until we launch our free beginners’ course in both written and video form).
9 lessons for every traveler
There are 9 things to take away from this Iberia Avios deal:
I’ll go through each briefly.
1. You should create free accounts for the main rewards programs
The first step to being able to take advantage of any future deal (and of points in general) is also a very basic step that will save you time later: simply having already created a free account for each of the main airline (and hotel) rewards programs.
As a Canadian, you simply cannot take advantage of this current Iberia deal if you didn’t already have an Iberia account.
You can download our free cheat sheet with the 12 most important rewards programs (including one-click direct links to the signup pages) for pro travel rewards enthusiasts in Canada.
But I’ve even highlighted the 5 most important programs in that guide, for those who really want just the essentials. Those 5 alone are more than enough for the vast majority of more casual travelers.
Currently, one of those 5 key programs is even offering a very rare bonus just for creating a free account (usually bonuses come from credit cards)!
Signing up is free and easy and will take a few minutes online… and then you’ll be ready for the eventual next steps. We strongly recommend using a password manager (we use LastPass, which has a free version) to secure all your accounts and never have to remember a password.
Another tip: when creating each account, make sure that you use the exact spelling from your passport, just like when you buy a plane ticket. And in the case of BA Avios to Iberia Avios (and many other transferable programs), your home address and personal details must match exactly too, which really shouldn’t be an issue if you fill everything out carefully, but apparently it’s still worth mentioning.
You can get started by downloading our free cheat sheet.
2. You should understand airline alliances and partnerships
With your free accounts in just the 3 key airline programs mentioned in our free cheat sheet, you’ll be able to earn points for any flight you take on over 100 airlines around the world (not that flying is the fastest way to earn—it’s really not).
Most importantly, you’ll be able to use points for flights on over 100 airlines around the world. Yes, with just 3 accounts.
This is all thanks to airline alliances (there are 3) and partnerships. These are very important in the world of travel rewards points.
Apart from Air Canada Aeroplan, British Airways Avios is the airline rewards program I’ve used the most… and I’ve never used Avios points to fly on British Airway, never. And one of the few flights I’ve booked with Iberia Avios was a roundtrip on American Airlines, not on Iberia.
The same is actually true with Aeroplan: even with the new program, the best value when using points will often be with the partner airlines, not with Air Canada itself.
So the Avios program is arguably the second-most important because it has great redemption options all over the world.
Points from a program are simply a currency than can be used on many other airlines, according to that specific program’s rules (not the rules of the airline you’ll be flying with—that one has nothing to do with anything). That’s an important distinction.
You can see which airlines are part of which global airline alliance.
3. You should consider having a stash of different points currencies
As with any financial strategy, diversification is key. That’s a very basic rule. It’s also true for travel rewards points.
If you let us teach you about this wonderful world, you’ll see that it is a lot easier than it looks to earn a lot of points (tens and tens of thousands of points every single year, worth a thousand dollars or more, like I’ve been earning myself).
You don’t want all your points to be tied up in only one program; you want to diversify for obvious reasons. For example, to protect your points in case of changes. But also to have a lot more options, since as I just said, points from one program can be used for any partners in that airline’s alliance.
A good way to diversify is through transferable points.
Airline points are usually not transferable (British Avios to Iberia Avios is an exception): when you use those points on partners, that’s not a transfer (they stay within the program and have to be used with that program’s rules).
Transferable points are points that you can entirely transform into another type of points and therefore use according to that new program’s rules.
Unfortunately, in Canada, we don’t have a ton of these.
But as I mentioned, these 3 transferable points currencies from Canadian banks transfer to British Airways Avios (among other programs):
- American Express points
- RBC Rewards points
- HSBC Rewards points
AMEX points are the easiest to earn in large quantities. But by always having a stash of any of these, you are always able to transfer to more airline or hotel partners and gain a lot of flexibility.
Often, the exact same route costs less with one program than with another. For example, for a nonstop flight from Toronto to Miami, you can pay 25,000 Aeroplan miles (with the current program) or just 22,000 Avios points (not to mention Avios has no cash surcharges, but those are being eliminated in November on Aeroplan).
Both Aeroplan and Avios points can be transferred from AMEX at a 1:1 ratio.
In short, when there is a deal on Iberia Avios, when your specific route is cheaper with Avios, or when it’s not even available with another alliance… you can’t do anything if all you have is a stash of one type of non-transferable points.
4. You should understand that every program is different
This deal would still definitely not be for everyone, even if it wasn’t for the account requirement.
That’s because Iberia only serves the US and while with programs like Aeroplan you can simply add a connecting flight for free (for now) and combine airlines, the Iberia program does not work that way.
Every single program has different rules, and that’s why every single type of point is worth a different amount. While Aeroplan currently has region-based pricing, Avios is distance-based. It is a completely different way to maximize the program.
It’s vital to understand that when getting started in the world of travel rewards. We’ll soon give you introductions to the main programs for Canadians.
A specific airline’s flights cost different amounts of points based on which program you use. Yes, the exact same flight: Boston-Madrid on Iberia costs less with Iberia Avios than with British Airways Avios (and the opposite is true for many other routes). That’s why comparing is always important, like with everything in the world of travel.
That said, this is arguably one of the most confusing currencies because of the shared name: British Airways and Iberia belong to the same owner, and their points are both called “Avios”. But the two programs are completely separate with their own rules and prices, despite the ability to simply transfer points between both programs.
In fact, Irish airline Aer Lingus also has its own Avios currency… but those are never worth using over the other two, so ignore them.
5. You should earn variable-value points if you want outsized value
Points from bank rewards programs mostly have a fixed value and they are infinitely easier to use. But that means they also cannot give you outsized value like variable-value points can. They can’t be maximized, because they’re always worth the same thing.
Points from airline rewards programs are usually variable-value points. So with those, a flight’s cost in points is often set by a chart that has fixed prices. That means no matter the price of your flight in cash, it costs the same amount of points.
That’s what we mean by “getting outsized value”. Let’s say that a transatlantic flight for your dates is extremely expensive in cash because you are not flexible or are flying on peak summer dates. If you pay with airline points, you’ll still pay the fixed price.
You can “save” compared to the cash price. With fixed-value points, you can never “save” compared to the cash price… because their value is fixed.
You can read this extreme example (and more common examples) of how variable-value points are better to maximize value.
6. You should take advantage of the more generous change policies
In an era of uncertainty, flexibility is definitely appealing. For Iberia bookings with points, it only costs €25 to get a full refund of points and taxes if you change your mind for any reason. That’s why I booked the deal.
We’ll soon have a post with tips and details about booking flights in the coronavirus era, but just know that while many airlines are offering more flexibility now, you never get your money back if you want to cancel: you just get a credit, which is not as good obviously.
But with most rewards programs, the cost to change a flight is a lot lower than if you pay for flights with cash.
7. You should be flexible just like with cash prices
It’s not rocket science: the single most important tip to save money on flights is to be flexible. It’s actually very easy to find cheap flights if you’re flexible.
Airlines points are even more valuable for those who can’t be flexible and those who aren’t good at finding cheap flights (because of what I just explained about their variable value).
But even with rewards points, being flexible will always save you more money, just like anything else in the world of travel (or life really).
This deal is a great example. I had to book from Boston to Madrid since only Iberia flights were included in the 50% off sale. I’ll simply book a separate flight (with points or cash) later to connect there (a positioning flight). It’s less convenient, but it ends up a lot cheaper overall.
I did something pretty cool that required being even more flexible for another of the new trips I just booked (to Japan), I’ll share that in a separate post soon.
The trip we just completed to Turkey included 10 free nights in Hilton hotels but it required flexibility. Finally, I once got 90,000 free Iberia Avios in one sitting and it also required flexibility, I’ll tell those stories too.
In short: the more flexible you are, the more you’ll maximize your points.
8. You should never pay for business class seats in cash
If there is one use of rewards points that is universally great no matter the situation, it’s for premium cabin flights. These are so expensive in cash, it really makes no sense to buy them that way.
Using points for business class seats is by far the most “valuable” way to maximize your points, if you were really going to buy the seat in cash of course.
But if you don’t buy business class seats in cash, you can use your points for economy class tickets like we’ve done all our lives to be able to travel more often (with points you usually get two flights in economy for the price of one in business class).
That’s partly why I was able to go on 12 international trips in 2019!
9. You should get into travel rewards points now more than ever
Deals on flights booked with points might very well become more frequent than ever.
There are plenty of great reasons to get into the world of travel rewards points (and honestly, not many great ones not to) but it is especially true in this new pandemic-induced era of travel.
While before the pandemic, the only 50% off deal on reward flights I can remember was a very specific 50% off from Alaska Mileage Plan for flights on Fiji Airways (we actually booked that and we’re supposed to fly to the South Pacific in October… but I’m not very optimistic about that one).
But this Iberia deal at 50% off matches what we saw earlier this summer from Aeroplan (also 50% off) and it’s very encouraging to see these unique promotions. We can never have too many deals, right?
Speaking of Aeroplan, their new program will launch in November and you can expect to get at least $400 completely free when it does (no matter your income) thanks to the credit card welcome offers that will be launched.
That’s pretty amazing.
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For those who have Iberia Avios points
You can actually book this deal if by chance you have Iberia Avios points like I do thanks to that very fun promotion two years ago that I just teased (it gave me over $1,300 worth of points absolutely free).
Here are the details of the promo:
- 50% off
- flights operated by Iberia only
- booked before August 30th
- for travel before March 15th 2021
- cancelation fee is €25
The best deal is for 17,000-point roundtrip flights to Madrid (MAD) from:
- Boston (BOS)
- New York (JFK)
- Chicago (ORD)
Iberia actually has two pricing levels, as they have a Peak and an Off-Peak calendar. You can see the dates that are Off-Peak dates in white.
There are obviously many caveats to this deal.
You need to:
- have Iberia Avios points already
- find a positioning flight to a US city
- hope Spain will still be open to Canadians
- hope Spain will open to those who’ve transited in the US
- be okay with the possibility of the quarantine upon return
- be willing to travel before March 15th
- be comfortable with all the risks that travel currently implies
I booked a one-way economy class ticket from Boston to Madrid and I chose March 15th to increase the odds of this trip being possible. I’ll find another way home for cheap pretty easily since I’m flexible.
This cost me only 8,500 Avios and €49 in taxes (≈C$76). For context, just flying from Eastern Canada to Boston is about the same price! That’s how good of a deal this is for transatlantic flights.
Anyway, if more borders have reopened (it’s in 6 months after all) I’ll then be able to just add a $50 flight to anywhere in Europe like before.
If not, while I’ve already been to Madrid on my trip to Spain to take advantage of free nights in Marriott hotels last October (and also briefly during a long layover a few years ago), there are many other destinations in Spain where this hotel deal works that I can visit in the worst-case scenario.
By the way, if you have the Marriott Bonvoy Card, here’s a reminder that the promo that gives you 5 points per dollar in grocery stores ends tomorrow! Take advantage of it by buying gift cards (to prepay future groceries or to extend the 5X promo to all the other retailers who sell gift cards in groceries). You’ll earn points towards free nights even faster!
The deal itself is not very useful for most of you, but the 9 lessons to take away should be very beneficial for your future as a traveler who maximizes travel rewards points.
Have any questions about these tips? Ask us in the comments below.
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Featured image: Madrid’s Gran Vía at sunset (photo credit: Florian Wehde)
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