Maximizing the 40% Membership Rewards Transfer Bonus to British Airways

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Today we have fantastic news from the American Express Membership Rewards program as a transfer bonus to British Airways has (finally) returned, and it’s a good one!  It has been a year since we have seen a transfer bonus to British Airways and a couple of years since we saw a really lucrative transfer bonus to British Airways.

From now until January 31, 2015, you can get an automatic 40% transfer bonus when moving points from the Membership Rewards program to the British Airways Avios program!  This means that 1,000 Membership Reward points will get you 1,400 British Airways Avios.

British Airways Transfer Bonus

The last time the bonus got in the neighborhood of 40% (actually at a peak of 50%) I speculatively transferred Membership Reward points to British Airways and I have not regretted that decision one bit.  In fact, I’m really wishing my Membership Rewards balance was a bit healthier than it is right now so I could go big on this promotion again!

If you know you have a near-term need and use for British Airways Avios then obviously you will want to take advantage of this transfer bonus, but even if you don’t have a near-term use I personally still think this one is worth considering if you are familiar with maximizing the value of Avios.  Be aware that the intuitive use of British Airways Avios to fly British Airways to Europe is actually not necessarily a good idea due to fuel surcharges that run hundreds of dollars per ticket, but there are other uses that don’t involve flying British Airways.

Here are some questions and answer that may help you decide if this transfer bonus makes sense for your family.

I’m not flying to Europe or on British Airways, so why should I care about a 40% transfer bonus to British Airways?

One of the best ways to use British Airways Avios is on short flights within the US, Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean that are operated by Alaska, US Airways, or American Airlines. Those are all partners of British Airways. Avios uses a distance-based chart, so short and nonstop flights between AA/US/Alaska served cities can be a great deal.

For example, it costs just 15,000 Avios round trip to fly from Houston to Chicago and back on American Airlines. That would cost me 25,000 American AAdvantage miles if I booked directly with American Airlines. To make the math even sweeter, with the current 40% transfer bonus that comes out to just 11,000 Membership Rewards points for a round trip that could otherwise cost 25,000 miles.

Deals like this one are what makes traveling on points possible for the average family that doesn’t have access to an unlimited stream of points.

So do I book with US, American or Alaska and tell them I want to use British Airways points?

No, you have to book via British Airways. First try their website, but sometimes it is buggy and you need to call in. Give the website a few shots before giving up on it though – it is just a little temperamental at times. Calling in to British Airways can be a royal pain, so be ready for a hefty wait.  You can also search for availability on the American Airlines website at the “Milesaver Level”, but you will actually book with British Airways using British Airways Avios for flights operated by their partners American, Alaska, etc.  Sometimes certain flights are more favorably priced in miles/points using one award chart as opposed to another. In this case, short and nonstop flights are priced more favorably on the British Airways chart vs the American, US, or Alaska charts.

How do I find out how many points it will cost me?

You can price out a mock trip on the British Airways site to find out for sure. I personally like to use The Wandering Aramean’s Avios calculator to get an idea of how many points will be required. Do keep in mind that Avios price by segment, so if I flew from Houston – Dallas – Chicago on American it will cost more points than if I fly nonstop from Houston – Chicago. This means you need to do a little homework to be familiar of the routes offered by partners and choose the nonstop option whenever possible. Short one-way flights under 650 miles such as New York to Montreal start at 4,500 Avios each way.  With this 40% transfer bonus that means that flights start at just over 3,000 Membership Reward points each!

1 – 650 miles: 4,500 Avios

651 – 1,151 miles: 7,500 Avios

1,152 – 2,000 miles: 10,000 Avios

2,001 – 3,000 miles: 12,500 Avios

3,001 – 4,000 miles: 20,000 Avios

4,001 – 5,500 miles: 25,000 Avios

5,501 – 6,500 miles: 30,000 Avios

Flights that code as business class cost 2x those amounts and flights that code as first class cost 3x those amounts.

Are there fees?

For these type of domestic and North American flights I am talking about, the fees are very minimal – they are just the taxes that are normally charged on award flights. My Houston to Chicago round trip on American would ring in at 15,000 Avios and $11.20 in taxes. If you use your Avios to actually fly on British Airways you will be paying hundreds in fees. In most cases it does not make sense to do that.

How do I get Membership Reward points?

You can get Membership Reward points via personal or business Amex Membership Rewards earning cards.  Some of my favorites include The Amex EveryDaySM Preferred Credit Card from American Express and Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz.

What are some other good uses of Avios?

I have a post here that outlines some of my favorite uses of Avios including 25,000 round trip from the West Coast or even Phoenix to Hawaii, 25,000 round rip from the Boston to Ireland, and more. There are some tremendous deals lurking in the distance-based Avios award chart.

Is 40% a good transfer bonus amount?

It has been a year since we saw a transfer bonus to British Airways and that one was just 20%.  It has been a couple years since we have seen a bonus at this level.  The highest we have ever seen was 50%, but that was several years ago.  None of that predicts the future, but I think 40% is a very good transfer bonus amount.

Let me know if you have any additional questions. Don’t let the name “British Airways” scare you off from this – this process is actually pretty simple and is very useful for those of us in the US who can fly Alaska, US Airways, and American flights.

If you are interested, here are a couple of other posts about using Avios that may be of use.

How to Book American Airlines Flight with Avios

Using British Airways Avios to Book Aer Lingus Flights (Boston – Dublin starting at 12,500 points)

Will you be jumping in on the transfer bonus before January 31, 2015?

Thanks to View from the Wing for sharing news of this transfer bonus.

Comments

  1. A couple of things to mention might be that if someone wanted to look at the Avios website to get a feel for things, they can do so with an empty account. Also, how long it takes for points to transfer.

  2. Same here, need to close Platinum next month. We are planning Australia for summer 2016 (4 people in business or first) and currently have AA miles (about 350k + 100k BA) we wanted to use. So a few questions 1) what partners of AA or BA can we use to get to Australia? 2)since August isn’t high season is there likely to be good award availability 3)can we use a combination of BA and AA miles for awards. TIA!

    • Kadence, Australia for four in business or first on the same flight is very, very, very, very, very, very tough. In OneWorld it is even tougher than in the other alliances based on my searches. I don’t want to contribute to false hope on this one. The best availability I see with AA miles is often Hawaiian, but that product is not good at all and won’t help you with BA points. My best advice for this particular award is going to be to work with an award booking service and say a few prayers to mileage gods. Nothing is impossible, but this one will be tough.

  3. Just signed up for Avios and transferred over 40,000 Membership Reward points into Avios. Showed up immediately in my new Avios account. Painless, took about 5 minutes in total.

  4. The problem with using Avios points for AA and US travel is that availability isn’t very good these days. Indeed, I would say this redemption option is really suitable only for intermediate to expert frequent flyers: novices will be confused and frustrated. Everyone thinking of transferring points to Avios should first look at award availability (AA.com is often easier than BA.com) to see what is actually plausible. I’d guesstimate that only about 5% of AA flights are actually now available for BA redemptions.

  5. Don’t do it for Alaska Airline flights!!

    – terrible availability: AA availability on AS does not match BA, nothing available on any dates 12 months to weeks out.

    – bad reservationoptions: no web booking for AS, long long hold times, reps only search specific days asked instead of window for AS based on destination.

    All in points in Avios for AS flights = expired unused points!

  6. Chris —

    Is this something new with AS? Over the years, but not recently, I’ve made several Avios bookings on AS. AS award inventory has always been significantly better than AA availability, especially west of the Mississippi. And BA could always book me whatever displayed on AA.com. Is it just a rez agent problem? I’ve sometimes had to be pretty insistent with their agents if they couldn’t pull up a flight (like a coding problem didn’t recognize the city). But they’ve always been able to “find” what they should have available.

  7. Hi Summer, I need your expert opinion. We live in Fl so we are captives of AA. I have 100,00 AX points. We only take 1 or 2 major trips a year and we don’t go to the carribean. Considering AA availibilty issues, are we better off keeping AX points?mj

  8. I was able to book my son a ticket to an internship interview that came up last minute. As it was a short notice booking, the ticket was pricing a little over $600 r/t. I used 4500 Avios each way and paid $11.20 total for the same seat that was pricing over $600 on US Air.

  9. I was thrilled to see this bonus! Because we live in the NW, I use Avios a lot to book AS flights. One-way short hop flights that would normally cost 7500-12500 AS Miles are only 4500 Avios. I especially love that I can fly my kids and grandkids around so inexpensively! Having to call BA is kind of a pain, but well worth it in my opinion. More popular flights (Aer Lingus to Dublin, or Alaska Air to Hawaii) take planning ahead, but I generally find lots of availability for the shorter flights even close in. Generally, if the fare is still available for the lowest possible miles on alaskaair.com, there will be availability with BA.

  10. @mommypoints, You mentioned earlier you love MR to Avios to Delta, how does the Avios to Delta work, I have 75k MR and I want to use them for Delta Flights to europe this summer, ready to transfer to Avios if i can then somehow use them on Delta. (FYI Delta is 30K plus $5.60 one way to London or Paris currently) thats what I need, the one way to Europe. Thanks for you help.

  11. @mommypoints,

    Help, I understand the obvious benefits of the 40% transfer, I have 75K MR to transfer. My goal is to use Delta for two one way tickets to Europe that cost 30K each on Delta Awards website. How do i use Avios for Delta Awards? Seems to be a way but I cannot figure it out. Thanks
    J

    • Jesse, you can use Membership Reward points for Delta, but you can’t use Avios for Delta flights. You can use Alaska Airlines miles for Delta operated flights, and you can use Avios for Alaska Airlines operated flights, but not Avios for Delta. 😉

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