British Airways Award Redemption Changes | Bash’em, Bemoan it, or Breath Easy?

Typically, my posts deal only with my declared niche – credit card sign up bonus related topics and issues from a newbie perspective.  Today, I’ll wander beyond the walls of that niche.

In case you haven’t heard, British Airways is making some changes to the reward program.  You can read about them at The Points Guy, or One Mile at a Time.

Since I heavily promoted the BA 100,000 offer (I even insinuated there was nothing to lose) and many of you signed up for the card, I want to spend a few minutes reflecting on the upcoming changes and their implications and lessons for frequent flyer mileage collectors.

6 Lessons from the British Airways Reward Changes

1.  Everything is always in flux, so I pity the person who expects everything to remain the same.

I don’t say it that way to be mean, only to be clear.

Two years ago, I could use 62 US cents to buy one Australian dollar.  Today, I’d need to spend more than a US dollar to get an Australian dollar.  Everything that has value fluctuates from more valuable to less valuable or visa versa.

When you collect miles, you must expect that at some point miles will become (almost instantly) either more or less valuable.  Of course, there will be an obvious trend towards less valuable as time passes.

Award charts change.  Fuel surcharges change.  Airline partners change.

British Airways just changed.  And we’ve got just short of three months to redeem our miles if we don’t like the change.

2.  This was bound to happen.

I almost wrote a post after the big 100,000 BA miles to remind everyone that BA miles just officially got harder to redeem.  Let’s say Wal-Mart had a promotion where they were sending out coupons for a free Whatchamacallit that could be redeemed only when in stock.  As a consumer, I think it would be harder to find a Wal-Mart that always carried that item in stock.

With so many miles floating around as the result of one of the largest credit card promotions, I guess we should all expect there to be some type of devaluation.  I expected it to be in availability.

3. Remember what you invested – not what you’re getting.

Right now, what the new award chart will look like is speculation.  Some are guessing we’re looking at an average of a double redemption rate on one partner One World redemption.  Even if that were the case, your 100,000 BA miles may have been worth $2,000 worth of travel, but are now only worth $1,000.  That’s still an excellent return on a single credit card application.

4.  A case is being built for earn ‘em and burn ‘em approach to miles.

Miles are meant to be used, not collected.  I feel sorry for the person who has collected 500,000 miles and has not taken a single trip with miles.

When you get miles, you should start thinking about how to use them.  The quicker your turn around between getting and redeeming miles, the less likely you are to be disappointed by the devaluation or changes in any program.

I know it’s not always possible to use all your miles at once, but don’t just try and hoard them until you get old and gray.  Probably by then you’d only get a flight or two out of your miles Sad smile.

5.  Perhaps this is the time to redeem your miles.

If you’re concerned about the changes, then try to make a booking before November arrives and the changes are implemented.  That should allow you to travel late into 2012.

I know I started looking into flights to South America.  BA has some great redemption options there, and I figure I’d like to take advantage of the better mileage rates than wait and lose that value in the future.

6.  I most frequently call this the frequent flyer mileage game – because that’s what it is.

As you can tell, I tend to be very low key about big changes.

The reason is simply because I view this as a game or a hobby.  There are enough real injustices – spousal abuse, alcoholism, and poverty, to name a few – that demand my calls for justice.  Any and every trip I get to take is a blessing.  Collecting miles has allowed me to see and stay in a lot of places for free (or very close to it), so I’ll take those advantages and pass over sucking my thumb and getting worked up when an airline changes its policies.  A change, by the way, I can’t control.

Comments

  1. Carol says

    Thanks for the info and the heads-up. You mentioned the idea of trying to book a flight(s) before November when, I assume, the changes will go into effect. You also mentioned that should allow one to travel late into 2012. How far out can flights typically be booked? And, what is the procedure for using BA miles to book an American Airlines flight?

    • Craig says

      Carol,
      Yes, changes go into effect in November. It depends on the airline you’re trying to book but you should be able to do about 11 months in advance.
      To book AA flights you can either search online at ba.com or call their reward booking customer service. Just tell them you’re looking for availability on some American Airlines flights.

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