More on the 50% Membership Rewards Transfer Bonus to British Airways

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I posted earlier today that I literally did a happy dance when I saw that a 50% transfer bonus had been launched from American Express Membership Rewards to British Airways, and I really did.  In my office….by myself.  There have been lots of posts today in the miles and points blogosphere about the transfer bonus and how to maximize some of the best uses for Avios points, so I will summarize a few of those ways here, and share how I just redeemed some Avios points for a trip you may want to take as well.

Good Redemption Options with Avios:

  • Short domestic trips within the US on American Airlines: This is how my family primarily takes advantage of the Avios program.  Since the chart is distance based, this works best for cities that aren’t too far apart and that involve flying to or from an American Airlines hub.  Some examples are Chicago – Las Vegas for 10,000 Avios each way (or 6,667 Membership Reward points), Houston – Miami for 7,500 Avios each way (or 5,000 Membership Reward points), or Los Angeles to Hawaii for 12,500 Avios each way (or 8333 Membership Reward points).  Since there is no additional fee to book to close the booking date, this can be great for last minute travel.
  • Flying from the US to Canada, the Caribbean, and other “close” destinations:Some examples are JFK – Montreal for 4,500 Avios each way (or 3,000 Membership Reward points), Dallas – Montego Bay for 10,000 Avios each way (or 6667 Membership Reward points), or I also really like Lucky’s idea of flying roundtrip on Cathay Pacific in Business class from JFK to Vancouver for 34,000 Membership Reward points.
  • Flying on American or LAN from the US to South America:  One example is Miami – Lima for 12,500 Avios each way (or 8333 Membership Reward points).  That same flight can be had in business class for 25,000 Avios (or 16,666 Membership Reward points) each way.

Keep in mind, you have to transfer MR points in multiples of 1,000, so you can’t actually transfer 16,666 points for one award.

Poor Redemption Options with Avios:

  • Flights with hefty fuel surcharges.  This can be tricky as I don’t know of any “one stop shop” that lists all of these out, but in general, read this very helpful post about fuel surcharges from View From the Wing.
  • Long flights.  Since the chart is distance based, in general the most value isn’t to be found with very long flights.  You can likely do better on another airline’s award chart.
  • Shorter flights with many connections.  Since the total number of Avios required is based on each segment, then you have to price out awards based on each individual flight.  So, if you are flying on multiple segments, the number of Avios required will increase.

How to Use Avios on American Airlines:

  • Go to the American Airlines website and see if there is award availability at the Saver level.  The flight must be available at the lowest level for that class of service on American to book with Avios.
  • Go to the British Airways website and select “book your trip with Avios”.  You do have to have an Executive Club account and sign-in in order to search for award flights.  Once you search for a flight that you intend to from AA on, you will have to select “Include Partners”.

  • The availability should then match what you saw on AA, but the BA website can sometimes be a bit crazy, so if you aren’t seeing what you know AA says is available at the lowest level, then call BA and book over the phone.  Tell them the website was not functioning to try to avoid the phone booking fee.

The booking I just made using Avios was for my husband to go to Chicago the weekend of the Chicago Seminars.  From Houston to Chicago it was only 15,000 Avios roundtrip – that comes to just 10,000 Membership Rewards points for a roundtrip flight.  I mention this because, depending on where you live, it may be a smart play to use some Membership Reward points to attend the Chicago Seminars in October.  Even if the roundtrip flight from Houston to Chicago was only around $250, that is still a 2.5 cents value per Membership Reward point, and that is a pretty solid deal in my book.

Will you be taking advantage of this transfer promo?  What is your favorite use of the new Avios award chart?

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  1. i love avois.. my favorite is 9000 avois Roundtrip from LAX-LAS and booking flights for friends from MCO-MIA at 9000 avois when the cost on AA is 25,000 roundtrip !

  2. Love this promo. Avios and the previous 30% bonus worked out great for us for recent LGA-YUL/YYZ short-notice trips that would’ve cost over $1,200 each. Even ATL-YYZ was only 18k R/T through Chicago for a funeral last month, esp. when Delta wanted 40k.

    However, I’m kinda bummed that the MIA-Caribbean flights have such high taxes & fees, over $100 to Jamaica, Cayman or Turks & Caicos.

  3. Add to the good list using Chase 2 for 1 vouchers on BA metal. I’m flying 4 people SFO-LHR-FCO-SFO (last leg transiting in LHR, obviously) next month in C for a total of 240000 Avios plus 2 chase vouchers plus $600 (the stop in London on the way out rather than the way back avoids the worst excesses of UK passenger duty). Even requiring $60k of credit card spend over 2 years (which i realize wont be for everyone), that is a pretty good deal.

  4. What is the change or cancellation fee on awards booked using Avios? I’d love to make bookings I think I will do but am not 100% sure.

  5. I haven’t collected Avios points and this might be a good way to take advantage of MR points before i close that account. I have two small kids and have heard you can create a family account with Avios. However, I read from other posters that they couldn’t book a trip from the family account for their children under the age of 18? Mommy Points, what’s your experience with this? To which Avios account should I transfer points to? only the adults in the family? or all members? Also, I want to save Avios points for future traveling in 2013 to go from NYC area to Disney. It seems like this might be a good deal for that. Thanks!

  6. @Mariana: I’m not familiar with the Avios family account, but I’ve booked flights for myself and other people using my own single Avios account. I recently booked two trips for 1 sister, and one for another. I didn’t even fly with them. They had no problems getting on any of the flights because the tickets were issued in their names.

  7. @Jamison, I love it too – some great short haul deals.

    @Raj, I have noticed the high fee/taxes for some of the Caribbean trips as well.

    @Adam, the two for one Chase BA deal can still be really good if you can handle the spending required to get it.

    @flyer, back in November I was able to cancel online and just lose the minimal taxes I had paid to book. You can read about that here: http://mommypoints.boardingarea.com/2011/11/16/the-new-british-airways-frequent-flyer-program-avios-is-fantastic-for-some-families/ However, I am not sure it sill works that way or not. Here is the official change fee chart: http://www.britishairways.com/travel/ecservicefeestbl/public/en_uk

    @Mariana, I personally don’t do the household account because then you can’t book for others outside of the named persons in the family account. Also, my daughter isn’t earning any miles on BA, so she doesn’t really need an Executive Club account. A household account is the only way to get an EC account for a person under 18, so if you anticipate your children earning BA miles, then it is a good idea.

    For now, you can just transfer your MR points to BA miles in the account of an adult. You can still use the to book tickets for the children without them having EC accounts. Hope that helps!

    @Raj B, thanks for sharing. That is my experience as well. You lose that ability if you have a Household Account.

    @BunMama, correct, you can book for all members of your household if you have a household account….you just can’t book for a person not on your household account.

  8. Do you think this offer is a good enough incentive for a single, middle class 20-something to ask for a Platinum card referral or apply for the Mercedes-Benz card and shell out almost $500 for 50,000 points + Avios bonus? I would probably cancel the card after the first year due to the hefty annual fee.

    • @Joel, I think it is absolutely worth it given that in 2012 and 2013 you can a $200 airline credit each year, for a total of $400. On some airlines that can unofficially be used to purchase gift cards for travel. So, that gets you $400 back right there. You then get 50,000 points, which could turn into 75,000 Avios if you wanted them to. Plus, you get lounge access, and other benefits. I think it is a no-brainer the first year. Of course, if the annual fee is too steep regardless, you could to the PRG to get some points fee-free. The Plat is a very solid deal in my opinion though.

  9. I’m new to this site but pretty savvy about frequent flier manipulations. I have been trying to find a way to get 50,000 MR points for a new or upgraded AMEX card. I can’t find a currently valid verifiable deal over 25,000. Any ideas? Regarding the BA fees and surcharges, if you are leaving Europe a connection through London vs. originating in London will often lower surcharges by 40-50%. Connecting or originating in Madrid on Iberia lowers fees, too. Breaking up the inbound trip in NYC helps, too.

  10. One more question: Does the Platinum card $200 reimbursement for airline fees apply to the fuel surcharge fee on a BA Avios award ticket?

    • @Steve, if you get someone to refer you for 50K that should be a trustworthy way, the MB version is also a safe way to go for 50K. The eligible airlines for the $200 are:
      AirTran
      Alaska Airlines
      American Airlines
      Delta Airlines
      Frontier Airlines
      Hawaiian Airlines
      JetBlue Airways
      Spirit Airlines
      Southwest Airlines
      United/Continental Airlines
      US Airways

      So, won’t work with BA. You have to pick one of the above and then stick with that for the calendar year.

  11. I guess BA’s system isn’t loading AA’s schedule? Ive searched for flights and can’t find any within the US and just read they were having issues? Ive never used BA or their partners for flights, but with the bonus transfer it seems like a great deal.. if I could find some flights!

  12. MP, you say ” I personally don’t do the household account because then you can’t book for others outside of the named persons in the family account” is this just online? can you book for others by calling on the phone? ie, will they let you book for others using this account? I was wondering about that, as I signed up for a household account (just me and hubby, but then noticed that I can’t book our kids.) Can you undo a household account?

  13. @Mommypoints, Thanks. I’ll probably do the MB deal. There is a link on Flyertalk for the referral bonus but I can’t be sure whether the deal is still active. There are posts that the application had to be in by 2-29 even though the application will still come up and allow you to ally. On the MB deal, you get everything that the Platinum Card usually gets? It doesn’t list out the $200 or Priority Pass benefit in the write-up.

  14. Avios worked out for many people in an AA hub, but for me in MCO, my flights on AA have gone up 50% or more using Avios, so no, I won’t be taking advantage of Amex promotion.

  15. I just saw on the Travelsort site that the T and C for the MR to BA 50% bonus indicate your MR account needs to have been open 6 months. Looks like it might not work for my wife then, since her PRG Amex was opened at end of February. Those readers opening a new MR Amex card for this promo might want to be aware that they may not be able to do this promo unless they’ve had MR points already.

    • @BothofUs2, interesting. Is there a link to those terms? The only terms I have seen so far are these: Receive a 50% bonus when you transfer Membership Rewards points into Executive Club through May 31, 2012. For the period of the promotion you will receive 1,500 Avios when you transfer 1,000 Membership Rewards points into your Executive Club account! You may use Avios points in your Executive Club account to book a flight on British Airways or one of its oneworld alliance partners.

    • @BothofUs2, I know your account has to be 6 months old to get a points advance, which are the next couple items she addresses, so i wonder if it is in reference to the advance and not the bonus. I just don’t see any restriction like that on the Amex site regarding the 50%. Do you see the 50% bonus hard coded into your wife’s account? If so, then I am pretty certain it would work. Let me know and thanks.

  16. @mommypoints I think you’re right on this – I poked around the MR site, and took another look at the Travelsort site. It looks like it falls under the “acct must be 6 months old to get a points advance.” I misread the Travelsort website as it looked to be formatted oddly, which is why I interpreted it different. Thanks for the help, this is better news now as we should be able to transfer some MR points to BA(once they post-we’ve met the spend but are waiting for them to show up on the account). As always, thanks for your blog and help navigating these sometimes confusing rules and restrictions!

  17. Is it true that your AMEX account has to be at least 6 months before you can get the 50% transfer bonus to BA? Meaning, no bonus if you sign up now?

    • @Joel, I have not seen those terms anywhere on the Amex site nor have I heard any reports from people with new accounts who are having trouble, so I do not believe that to be the case.

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