Today, May 31, is the last day for the 50% AMEX Membership Rewards transfer bonus to British Airways. Since I'm still getting some questions on this, here are some tips in the form of an FAQ:
What are the best uses for British Airways Avios points?
In general the best value for British Airways Avios points, following last year's award chart devaluation, is for short, direct flights within a given region: domestic U.S. flights, intra-South American flights, intra-Asia flights, domestic Australian flights, etc. A few examples, with Avios and Membership Reward points required:
- NYC-Montreal: 9000 Avios / 6000 MR points roundtrip in coach
- Hong Kong-Bangkok: 15,000 Avios / 10,000 MR points roundtrip in coach
- Chicago-Las Vegas: 20,000 Avios / 13,334 MR points roundtrip in coach
- LA-Honolulu: 25,000 Avios / 16,667 MR points roundtrip in coach; 50K Avios / 33.3K MR points rt in business class
- Miami-Buenos Aires: 50K Avios / 33.3K MR points roundtrip in coach; 100K Avios / 66.7K MR points rt in business class
See more of our picks at 50 Percent AMEX Transfer Bonus to British Airways Avios-Best Deals
Another great use is to fly Aer Lingus from Boston to Dublin or Shannon, Ireland for 25,000 Avios (16,667 Membership Rewards points) roundtrip in coach or 50,000 Avios (33,334 Membership Rewards points) roundtrip in business class, with low taxes. See Maximizing British Airways Avios-Fly Aer Lingus to Europe and Avoid Fuel Surcharges.
British Airways does charge hefty fuel surcharges on its own flights through London, but it does offer a great business and first class product that is arguably one of the most comfortable ways to get to Europe as a couple or family, given that there's no more Lufthansa first class award advance availability, and Lufthansa business class seats are not lie flat the way British Airways ones are.
Should I transfer now, or wait for a better transfer bonus?
The 50% AMEX transfer bonus to British Airways is the highest amount that has been offered for AMEX Membership Rewards points-British Airways transfers. If you have lots of Membership Rewards points and could see using them for a redemption in the next year, I would recommend transferring enough for your potential redemption. I personally am transferring all my Membership Rewards points and even doing a points advance, because I have a specific redemption in mind that I also plan to pair with the Travel Together Companion Ticket I earned last year.
Will Delta run a Membership Rewards points transfer bonus soon?
I certainly have no crystal ball, but rumor has it that Delta will be offering fewer Membership Rewards bonus transfer opportunities, and that this is part of its overall strategy to make its reward program more revenue-based rather than miles-based. So while there may be an AMEX-Delta transfer bonus later this year, don't count on it being as lucrative as past promotions.
How does the 50% transfer work?
The 50% transfer is already built into the AMEX Membership Rewards transfer tool, so you'll automatically receive the bonus if transferring the points yourself. Go to the AMEX Membership Rewards portal, then selec “Use points” >> “Airlines” >> “British Airways” and follow the instructions. You can transfer in increments of 1000 points.
What if I have pending Membership Rewards points?
If you have pending Membership Rewards points and want to transfer them, call Membership Rewards at 800-297-3276 (or 800-297-1300 if you have a Platinum card) and ask the representative for a points advance. When points are pending, they are treated like a points advance.
Can I get an AMEX Membership Rewards points advance?
Yes, as long as your AMEX account has been open and in good standing for 6 months or more. Platinum and Centurion members may advance 60,000 Membership Rewards points; other members may advance 15,000 Membership Rewards points. See AMEX Points Advance Tips
I just got a new AMEX card. Can I advance the bonus points?
Unfortunately, no. I had this question myself, after my husband got 75,000 bonus points for the AMEX Premier Rewards Gold Card. Even if he had quickly met the spend requirements and paid off the balance, the AMEX rep informed us that it would take several weeks for the bonus points to post, and, unlike pending points, they can't be accelerated. Also, as noted above, you typically need to have had the account 6 months or more in order to do a points advance.
What happens if I don't earn all the Membership Rewards points back within one year?
If you don't earn back all the points within one year of your points advance, you'll be charged the purchase points rate that was in effect as of the date you received your points advance. Currently, for U.S. members, this is $25 per 1000 points, or 2.5 cents per point.
I want to do a points advance but am not sure I'll keep my current AMEX card due to the high annual fee. How can I earn the points back quickly?
You can get 10,000 AMEX points for signing up for Extended Payment. See our post 10,000 AMEX Bonus Points for Enrolling in Extended Payment.
Also make sure to take advantage of bonus categories to earn back points quickly. For the Premier Rewards Gold card, you receive 3x points for airfare purchases and 2x points for grocery and gas purchases, so make sure to put these types of purchases on your card to earn back the points faster.
I don't have Membership Rewards points. How else can I earn a lot of British Airways miles?
Apply for the British Airways Visa: you'll get up to 100,000 Avios. Of those, you'll get 50,000 Avios after your first use of the card, and the other 50,000 if you spend a total of $20,000 in the first 12 months. Even if you just get the 50K points after first use, that's enough for a business class roundtrip between LA and Hawaii, or Boston to Dublin, or 2 roundtrips if you fly coach. Or use them for short flights in North or South America, intra-Asia, intra-Australia, etc.
Since Ultimate Rewards points transfer 1:1 to British Airways, you can also get the Ink Bold Business Card and use its 5x bonus on office supply store spend to rack up plenty of Ultimate Rewards points, especially if you take advantage of the current 5x Staples bonus (also expires today, May 31!) through the Ultimate Rewards Mall. See Get Over 7X Points Everywhere with the Ink Bold and Staples. This is a better deal in fact, to earn Avios points, although if you already have a ton of unused Membership Rewards points I do think it makes sense to transfer a good chunk of them with the 50% bonus, given the relatively poor other redemption alternatives for Membership Rewards points.
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