What Does a Sleight-of-Hand Look Like in the World of Miles and Points

New Chase Avios card -- not a deal!

Here is an idea. Show people a big enough number and they’ll fall for it head over heels.

At least this seems to be the premise behind the new Chase Avios card offer. Get 120,000 British Airways Avios in the first year of cardmembership for spending $30,000.

I personally love Avios! Now, I would never ever use them on a cross-Atlantic British Airways flight because their fuel… pardon me, “carrier-imposed surcharges” are beyond atrocious, but being able to book flights on British partners all over the world starting at 4,500 Avios makes them a very valuable currency indeed.

Here is when you shouldn’t use Avios – a reminder

Aside from flying British Airways over the Atlantic, there are other flights you could do with Avios, but shouldn’t.

  • Forget Avios for any long-haul British Airways flights
  • Forget Avios if you are a Business or First Class “connoisseur.” They are rarely a good deal.
  • Forget Avios for ultra-long hauls – they are never a good deal, even on partners and in Economy.
  • Forget Avios for most connecting flights (they can be a great deal, but usually aren’t).

Best Avios uses

chase avios card: 4,500 Avios everywhere in Peru
Every flight in Peru (except Juliaca-Iquitos) is under 650 miles and costs 4,500 Avios

So what are the best uses for Avios? Well, let’s refresh.

  • Flights start at 4,500 Avios overseas and 7,500 within/to/from the U.S. for distances under 650 miles.
  • Miami to northern South America (Bogota 10,000, Lima 12,500 Avios)
  • 4,500 Avios for domestic flights in Peru on LATAM
  • From 4,500 Avios for domestic flights in Brazil also on LATAM (but use American miles for longer flights: 7,500 AA miles for any domestic flight in Brazil)
  • 12,500 Avios for Santiago to Easter Island on LATAM
  • 10,000 Avios for Lima to Iguassu Falls on LATAM
  • 4,500 Avios for Johannesburg to Victoria Falls on Comair
  • From 4,500 Avios in Asia on Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines, and Qatar (fifth freedom flights), but watch for fuel surcharges on Qatar and Malaysia.
  • From 4,500 Avios for domestic flights in Japan on Japan Airlines (but American charges 7,500 for any flight in Japan)
  • From 4,500 Avios for domestic flights in Russia on S7 (but 10,000 American miles anywhere in Russia)
  • From 4,000 Avios (OffPeak) on British Airways short hauls in the UK or between the UK and Europe (plus a small fee)

These are just some examples of how you can get an awesome value with Avios, but we need to stop somewhere.

The regular Chase Avios card offer is better

Before you start feverishly sorting out your ever-dwindling Manufactured Spend options, lets just think – isn’t there another way? A better way? A way to get a bunch of Avios without committing to manufacture an enormous amount of spend?

And hey! What do you know! There is!

The regular Chase Avios card offer that’s been around for years has the following bonus structure:

  • 50,000 Avios after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • Another 25,000 Avios after spending $10,000 within the first year
  • And 25,000 Avios more after spending $20,000 within the first year

Tell you what – this is still too rich for my blood except for the first 50,000 Avios. I would get them and just stop there.

But I must admit – getting another 25,000 Avios would be relatively easy. You would need to spend just $7,000 more but you’d have plenty of time – 9 more months – to complete the task. That’s not too hard.

But if you’re hell-bent on getting the whole bonus, then you would get 100,000 Avios for spending $20,000. That’s like earning 5 Avios per dollar spent instead of 4 Avios as in this “new” Chase Avios card offer.

But wait – there’s more, as they like to pitch in those infomercials. 100,000 Avios is just the bonus! Let’s not forget that you still get your Avios for spending money. Should you decide to go for the full 100,000 bonus and spend $20,000 – you’ll get 100,000 Avios bonus PLUS at least 20,000 Avios for your regular spend.

I say at least because if you happen to book a British Airways, Iberia, or Aer Lingus revenue flight with this card you’ll get 3 Avios on the dollar.

But at the very least, your total haul will be the 120,000 Avios – the same 120,000 Avios you’d be getting with this “new” Chase Avios card – only with the old offer, you’d have to spend $20,000 rather than $30,000.

Scaling back upfront bonuses isn’t a winning proposition for anyone — banks including

It’s obvious what’s happening here. Credit card companies are trying to find a way to wean U.S. consumers off those huge upfront bonuses. Per Wall Street Journal:

JPMorgan, Citigroup and other large banks, including American Express Co. , are discussing how to cut back or rejigger some of their cards’ rewards, according to people familiar with the matter. The banks don’t plan to end rewards, but want to shift them in ways that encourage more card usage and scale back upfront bonuses, the people said.

And shifting they do, but to what end? Last year Barclays quietly admitted defeat by shutting down the Barclays Arrival Premier card modeled in a similar fashion. What makes Chase think it can succeed by hitting this already overcrowded market with a clearly inferior product? Or was it some kind of a test run?

As far as we’re concerned, let’s just see these kinds of “offers” for what they really are – a sleight-of-hand. There’s nothing else to it.

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