The best (and surprising way) to earn British Airways Avios in Canada

When Canadians think about airline rewards British Airways Avios is probably not top of mind for most people, but Avios can be a great supplement to your other airline rewards. Because BA is a member of One World, the Avios program offers Canadians the ability to book flights on One World partner airlines, like American Airlines for U.S. travel and Cathay Pacific for Asian travel.

How do I earn Avios in Canada?

The most obvious way to earn Avios is through the RBC co-branded British Airways Visa card. The RBC BA Visa earns 1 Avios per dollar spent on all purchases and 2 Avios on purchases made through British Airways.

However, the better (and in fact best) way to earn Avios in Canada is actually through the HSBC World Elite Mastercard.

The HSBC Mastercard earns HSBC reward points but because HSBC is a transfer partner with British Airways, and you can effectively earn Avios through purchases made on your HSBC Mastercard. The HSBC Mastercard has two tiers of earning rates as follows:

Travel purchases 6 HSBC points per $1 spent 3%  return If redeemed as a statement credit against eligible purchases
All other purchases 3 HSBC points per $1 spent 1.5% return

HSBC rewards points are transferable in increments of 25,000, which will net you 10,000 Avios, effectively making 1 rewards point worth 0.4 Avios, as follows:

Travel purchases 2.4 Avios per $1 spent
All other purchases 1.2 Avios per $1 spent

We’ve also recently seen HSBC offer a 35% transfer bonus when moving reward points to Avios. When compared to the RBC British Airways Visa card its easy to see that the HSBC card does a much better job of earning Avios.

RBC British Airways Visa HSBC Mastercard
Avios earned per $1 spent 1 1.2 – 2.4

Since its introduction, HSBC has been offering a fee waiver for the first year, a two-tiered welcome bonus of 20,000 points on your first purchase, and additional points based on spending.  Most recently, the welcome bonus was double points on travel purchases up to a max additional 40,000 points. The current offer is not as generous so you might want to wait for a better time to apply.

What if I don’t want Avios?

HSBC Rewards Points are very flexible and redeemable directly as statement credits against eligible travel purchases made on your card. 25,000 HSBC Rewards Points will net you a $125 statement credit making the effective return on your spend 3% and 1.5% for travel and all other purchases, respectively. We consider this the baseline rate of return, with much better returns possible when redeeming points for flight rewards through a travel partner.

About the Author: Jacob is a long time supporter of DCTA and new contributor. He got into miles and points while planning for an exchange in Southeast Asia and looking for ways to stretch his student dollars. When he isn’t travelling or helping people find creative ways to save money with miles and points he works as an international trade lawyer in Toronto.

Comments

  1. I have this card, it’s awesome for no fx and effective 3% cash back on travel purchases. I have a lot of foreign currency travel charges. But I normally redeem points for cash (statement credit towards travel purchases), not for avios. Here are redemption choices:

    25,000 points = CAD $125 cash
    25,000 points = 8,000 Asia miles (CAD 15.6 cents each)
    25,000 points = 9,000 KrisFlyer miles (CAD 13.9 cents each)
    25,000 points = 10,000 Avios (CAD 12.5 cents each)

    There may be times when it makes sense to pay CAD 12.5 cents per each avios mile, but those circumstances are very limited. Cash is almost always a better value.

      • You are right! I was thinking 1.25 cents, but wrote 12.5 cents. It’s like paying $162.50 + tax for a one way flight West Coast to Hawaii on AA or AS, but it only works for direct flights, so not from Canada. Short haul on AA or AS maybe a good value sometimes.

        The problem is it’s impossible to transfer the exact number of miles needed for a flight. It’s only in multiples of 10,000, so also doesn’t really work most of the time. At least I couldn’t make it work. So I took cash.

  2. Would the HSBC World Elite Mastercard be better than the RBC Avion card which also allows you to transfer points to British Airways? There is usually a bonus when transferring from RBC Avion to BA.

    • Hi Erkan, even with an Avion transfer bonus the HSBC Mastercard is still better for earning BA Avios. With a transfer bonus (usually 30%) you would be earning 1.3 Avios per dollar, which is much lower than the 2.4 Avios per dollar earned on travel purchases and only marginally better than the 1.2 Avios per dollar earned on everything else with the HSBC Mastercard. You also have to wait around for the next transfer bonus, which may or may not coincide with your travel needs.

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