American Express is offering a 40% transfer bonus on transfers of AMEX Membership Rewards points to British Airways Avios until 9/27/12. This isn't quite as good a deal as the 50% AMEX transfer bonus to Avios earlier this year, but it's still a good opportunity for certain kinds of nonstop short-haul awards, or if you're looking to pad your Avios account for a companion ticket award. I'd still recommend having a good intended use of Avios in mind before deciding to transfer, and wouldn't recommend transferring points speculatively.
How it works
- The 40% bonus is already coded into the AMEX Membership Rewards points transfer, and points transfer almost instantly.
- You can transfer in increments of 1000 points; so 1000 AMEX MR points = 1500 British Airways Avios
- Deadline to transfer: September 27, 2012
- American Express Membership Rewards points only. This promotion is NOT valid for AMEX Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) points or anything other than Membership Rewards points
- Membership Rewards points advances:
- Your AMEX account must be at least 6 months old
- AMEX Premier Rewards Gold, Gold and Green cards may request up to 15,000 MR points advance
- AMEX Platinum cards may request up to 60,000 MR points advance
- Points advance is free if you earn the advanced points back within 1 year
How to Calculate Avios Miles Needed for Your Award Flight
You’ll need to calculate each segment individually. For example, if you’re flying from NYC to Prague on British Airways, you would first calculate NYC to London, then London to Prague. You have a couple options:
- Use the British Airways Avios calculator
- Figure out the distance of each segment using this online travel calculator, then refer to the Avios Award Chart below. Note that all Avios points on the chart are for one-way travel. Simply double the amount for a round-trip.
- British Airways will give you the option to use only Avios (plus taxes and fees) or a cash and points option, which can be very good value if you’re using your Avios to get > 3 cents per point. That’s because the cash option values Avios at about 2.6 cents per point.
How to Search for Availability
If you’ll be using your Avios to fly American or American Eagle, search on American Airlines first for MilesAAver award space (not the more expensive AAnytime awards). Then log into British Airways Executive Club>>Spending Avios>>Book Flights with Avios and search there, segment by segment.
See our full guide at How to Find Oneworld Award Space
As we described in British Airways Avios: Goodbye First Class on Cathay, Hello Coach on American, the best uses of Avios are now:
- Travel on partners (American Airlines, LAN, Aer Lingus) that incur low taxes
- Short, direct flights (chart is distance based, so avoid connections)
- Last-minute travel, when alternative revenue flights would be expensive
- Use in conjunction with the British Airways Visa companion ticket in business or first class to London (high fuel surcharges on both tickets, but the companion ticket makes it a decent value compared to alternative revenue fares)
- Upgrade a British Airways Premium Economy (World Traveller Plus) to Business (Club World). You could upgrade a JFK-LHR flight from Premium Economy to Business for 10,000 Avios one way.
1. U.S. and U.S.-Canada Domestic Awards on American Airlines, Including Hawaii
See our LAX-HNL example in our post 30% AMEX Transfer Bonus to British Airways Avios
2. NYC (JFK) to Vancouver (YVR) in Cathay Pacific First Class for 75,000 Avios and $109 in taxes
See our LGA-YUL example in our post 30% AMEX Transfer Bonus to British Airways Avios
An especially nice award is NYC-Vancouver on Cathay Pacific in First Class for Check out our Best Luxury Hotels in Vancouver for ideas on an equally first class place to stay!
3. Boston to Dublin (or Shannon) in Aer Lingus Business Class Roundtrip for 50,000 Avios
4. U.S. to Caribbean Awards
Be aware that the British Airways site doesn’t always show AA Saver availability—I had a few frustrating cases where I found American Saver availability, but it didn’t show up when searching British Airways. You can call and see if the BA agent can see the availability, although it will incur the telephone booking fee.
For my family, we do very little domestic travel and have no plans to go to South America, but we do have a British Airways companion ticket that will expire in 2013. So, we'll be taking advantage of the AMEX bonus transfer promotion to put together the Avios needed for the first award, in order to get the free companion ticket. Yes, fuel surcharges are high, but we like the British Airways business class product (my husband likes it about as much as the old Lufthansa first class, see Lufthansa First Class Review) we'll get the best value for our purposes here since we prefer international travel in business or first class. Note though that if you travel in business class, you won't be able pre-select seats unless you pay extra for it. So consider springing for First Class! See British Airways phone ticketing and assigned seating fees.
For more tips on the BA companion ticket, including minimizing the UK departure tax, seeHow to Maximize the British Airways Companion Certificate on Award Tickets.
Getting More Avios
This 40% AMEX Membership Rewards bonus transfer to Avios is good if you have a specific award that you want to redeem your Avios for. But if you don't have many AMEX Membership Rewards points should you get an AMEX credit card? In most cases, even if you apply now, you won't get the bonus points in time to use them to get the transfer bonus.
Also, the bonuses now are not all that great; only 25,000 Membership Rewards points for the AMEX Platinum ($450 annual fee is not waived the first year) and the same 25,000 points for the Premier Rewards Gold Card. I'm not enthusiastic about either, especially when cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred have a 40,000 points signup bonus and the Chase Ink Bold and Ink Plus each come with 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points (although I realize they don't help with this MR transfer bonus).
So I'd recommend:
- If you do have an AMEX card linked to the Membership Rewards program and are just a bit short of the Avios you need, try to do a points advance. If you don't see a points advance link when logged in, call and request it (it can't be done by secure messaging)
- Get up to an additional 10,000 Membership Rewards points by signing up for the Extended Payment option
- If you've received an attractive targeted offer for an AMEX card, such as 75,000 Bonus Points for the AMEX Premier Rewards Gold Card with spend you can easily meet and still get the transfer bonus, apply! Although as noted above you won't get the bonus points in time to use them for this transfer bonus, you'll replenish your points supply.
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