Why I’m Not Joining the Nordstrom/Avios Frenzy

There have been several posts in the blogging community lately following up on The Points Guy’s original notice that Avios, the frequent flyer program for British Airways, Iberia, and various UK retailers, is offering 36 points per dollar spent at Nordstrom through their online shopping portal. Simply log in to your BA Executive Club account, click through to their shopping portal and the Nordstrom offer (it’s 3X the usual 12 points per dollar), and shop Nordstrom’s site like normal. You can even choose to pick up most items at a local store.

This is not a post about why you should do the deal. You can see the links above for more about that. Instead, this is a post about why you SHOULDN’T get involved.

I badly want to be in on this opportunity. Yes, Avios points are saddled with fuel surcharges on international awards and have a distance-based pricing model that makes them less valuable for longer trips. However, that makes them VERY valuable for short-haul domestic trips. For example, I could fly round trip to my parents in San Francisco from Seattle for only 9,000 points on Alaska Airlines or to many other destinations Alaska serves nonstop from Seattle. Those Avios points are worth on average at least 1 cent per point, and much more in this particular scenario. I could realistically expect to spend $250 on a round trip ticket to San Francisco. Or I could spend $250 at Nordstrom, collect 9,000 points, and get the flight and the clothes for the same price!

In addition, I love shopping at Nordstrom. I’m still a student and don’t make much, but I have been fortunate that I can make the occasional purchase. I love the suit I got there and really should buy another one or two as I start looking for a corporate job. I don’t dress as a slob, but certainly I have benefited from the lower standards in a laboratory setting where any moment I could spill bleach, blood, or even radioactive tracers on my clothes. It sounds more dangerous than it is, but it still ends with that particular item getting tossed in the trash. I don’t wear nice things to work. Improving my wardrobe for the real world would be a good idea.

However… I can’t ignore everything I said just yesterday in my introduction to card churning. Don’t spend money you don’t have, and don’t collect points you won’t use.

I am a prodigious saver and have a nice cushion if I wanted to float a couple hundred dollars in purchases now to save a couple hundred dollars in airfare down the road. But I have also been making some very big ticket purchases lately with my trip to Maui coming up. I feel obligated to replace those savings rather than drain them further. Furthermore, I’m not sure I really want to fly on Alaska. They’re not a bad airline, but I am very used to the extra recognition I get from United. I like the upgrades and short lines, I like the possibility of a bump voucher I might use later, and I like that I can check several bags for free and even add on a case of wine to bring back to Seattle. All that would be gone if I traveled on an Alaska ticket.

If it means I’m spending 10 or 12 cents a mile to fly to San Francisco (it’s sometimes much more) that’s still money going toward my primary goal of maintaining my United status rather than the secondary goal of adding on a new program. I dabble in hotel programs because I have no elite status to hold me to one or the other, but air travel is a different story.

So, yeah, I won’t be making much use of this offer. :( This isn’t meant to be a tale of woe. I just want my readers to realize that not every deal comes at a time and place that works for them. This is not your only chance. Offers like this appear all the time if you pay attention. Rather than fully extend yourself on a deal like this, which may be generous but not exactly what you’re looking for, you should feel comfortable waiting for the right opportunity.

I did have one idea, however, which I didn’t notice any other bloggers mention. This promotion is only valid on your first purchase of $50 or more. That means you have to do it all in one go. If I were willing to spare a couple grand to float on this project, I might buy a few very expensive things, maybe for a total of $5,000-10,000. Then I would hand them to my girlfriend as a gift and ask her to return them for a gift card. Because the value wouldn’t be returned to the original card used for the purchase, the Avios points should still vest without being taken back. We would have a couple hundred thousand Avios points as well as several thousand dollars worth of credit with Nordstrom to use over time on smaller purchases!

Wouldn’t that be something? But I’m still young, and there is plenty of time to prepare for the next big one…

Scott created Hack My Trip after learning how to travel better on a budget during grad school. He now flies over 150,000 miles every year.
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  • kyunbit

    Well said. I am a student like you. I can’t imagine I would spend more than $200 in the next 2 years. So, even the gift card method doesnt seem appealing to me.

  • JetsettingEric

    Can you really use Avios on Alaska? I tried it and couldn’t get it to work.

    This promo is great for pricy/luxury goods that are never discounted, that you would buy anyways. Some lacoste polos, ferragamo shoes, etc. I got myself a ferragamo wallet for what I would have paid for a flight from New York to Toronto for my brother’s graduation. I earned more than enough Avios points from that purchase to claim an award (lots of availability at my preferred times), plus i had enough extra avois points left over from Nordstrom’s to more than cover whatever miles I would have earned if i paid for it.

    • http://hackmytrip.com Scottrick

      I just helped a person two weeks ago redeem his Avios points for two non-stop flights from Seattle to Phoenix. Alaska flights do not show up on the Avios award search engine. However, there is an agreement to share award space. Instead, use American Airlines to look for award space, and then call up the Avios desk and ask for a specific flight number.

      And I agree that the Nordstrom deal has some uses for those who have something in mind. But that engagement ring and surprise trip to Maui for my fiancee have run me dry for the time being. Hopefully a similar deal pops up in the near future.

  • Aviosisarippoff

    here’s my comment

    • http://hackmytrip.com Scottrick

      These complaints about space availability are the same for any airline loyalty program. While I don’t have any Avios points of my own, I’ve been able to help several people find award space where Avios was by far the cheapest option.