Tomorrow, July 31 is the last day to get a 50% bonus when you transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to British Airways. To do the transfer, simply go to the American Express Membership Rewards site, select “Use Points” on the left and underneath, select “Airlines.”
To put this in perspective, 40% transfer bonuses are good, and this is the first time British Airways has offered a 50% bonus. Another great thing is that with British Airways, you don't pay any fees on the transfer itself, unlike the government taxes you pay (well, until the recent FAA shut-down) when transferring AMEX points to U.S. airlines such as Continental and Delta.
What should you redeem British Airways miles for? In our 10 Best Premium Cabin Award Tickets we recently highlighted these two favorites:
- 100,000 British Airways miles (67K AMEX points) for business class round-trip from the U.S. to Asia on Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines, with a free stopover each way as a great deal, even with $300-400 in taxes and fuel surcharges.
- 80,000 British Airways miles (54K AMEX points) for business class roundtrip from the U.S. to Easter Island, with stopovers in Lima and Santiago
Tips for making the most of BA miles:
- Fly on just 1 BA partner; it is much more expensive if you fly on 2 or more carriers on an award
- Take advantage of one-way awards, especially if you want to fly into one city and return home from another. Example: one-way award NYC-Tokyo (stopover)-Singapore on Japan Airlines, then buy a cheap ticket from Singapore to Bali and fly on a one-way award home from Bali-Hong Kong (stopover)-New York on Cathay Pacific
- Take advantage of unlimited stopovers. In practice, this usually translates to one on U.S. to Asia, since Cathay Pacific and JAL have one hub, but for South America it can be two, as noted above in an Easter Island award
- Keep in mind award the 2x and 3x rule: business class awards are 2x coach, first class awards are 3x coach. So round-trip U.S.-South America is 40K coach, 80K biz, 120K first while round-trip U.S.-Asia is 50K coach, 100K biz, 150K first
- Consider using a Cash and Miles award, especially if you are short of miles and/or flying Economy or Premium Economy (not as good a deal for First Class, and a poor deal for Business Class)
- Book European awards using British Airways miles–you'll be hit with massive surcharges on BA flights, which all go through London and are heavily taxed; even on partners such as American there will be high fees
- Don't search for awards on BA, which will usually try to route you through London (with high taxes). Instead, search on Expertflyer.com (requires subscription), AA.com or Qantas.com
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