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Probably like many of you, over the last few years I have probably used the majority of my Amex Membership Rewards points earned from cards via the British Airways Avios program. I’ve done this even though I very rarely fly British Airways, and have never flown them on a long haul flight. I use their Avios points primarily to fly partners such as American Airlines and Alaska Airlines for domestic and close-in international flights (such as to the Caribbean). Read this post for more on how that works if you are new to that concept. However, in just a couple of weeks the rate at which you can use your Membership Reward points to fly British Airways or their partners is going to get a bit worse.
And this is after the changes to the British Airways Avios chart that already kicked in earlier this year…
As I mentioned here, effective October 1st, the transfer ratio from Membership Rewards program to the British Airways Avios program will be decreasing from a 1,000: 1,000 ratio to 250: 200 (aka 1,000: 800). This means that when you transfer 1,000 Membership Reward points you will be given just 800 Avios, instead of the 1,000 you would be awarded currently.
In other words, to take advantage of the shortest haul economy awards on the British Airways award chart that go for 4,500 points for flights up to 650 miles in distance (think Dallas – Denver or New York – Montreal), you will have to spend 5,400 Membership Reward points in the transfer instead of the current 4,500 points via the 1:1 transfer ratio. That isn’t a big change by itself if you just need a flight for one, but turn that into round trips flights for a family of four, and even for the shortest awards that is an increase of 7,200 points needed from the Membership Rewards program. Unless you are sitting on a ton of points, that is a noticeable increase.
That increase stinks, but the small consolation is that there is still hope that at times the transfer ratio may be better thanks to periodic transfer bonuses that the Amex Membership Reward programs has historically had to programs such as the British Airways. I have seen transfer bonuses as high as 50% from Membership Rewards to British Airways, but the bonuses are unpredictable and of course never guaranteed to continue in the future.
I don’t necessarily recommend a speculative transfer to British Airways ahead of the October 1st change since the huge value from transferable points such as Membership Rewards comes from the many options you have on how to redeem them, but I also don’t recommend accidentally going past that date and needing to spend more points to book an award that you already have on your to-do list.
If you are looking for alternate ways to earn Avios going forward, keep in mind that the Ultimate Rewards program still has British Airways as a 1:1 transfer partner from their cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.
This October 1st impending change isn’t new information, but I think it is worth a reminder since it will impact the way many of us like to use your Membership Rewards points.
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.