The Return of Membership Rewards Transfer Bonuses

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I’m very excited to share the news that two American Express Membership Reward transfer bonuses are currently available.  I admit I am way more excited about one of the transfer bonuses than the other, but transfer bonuses are always better than no transfer bonuses.  Currently both British Airways and Virgin American are offering bonuses when you transfer American Express Membership Reward points to those respective airlines.  For me, transfer bonuses are the single most valuable aspect of the Membership Rewards program.  They have lost some transfer partners and (temporarily) lost their online shopping mall, but transfer bonuses are what keep me loyal to my Membership Rewards earning card.  For example, if you use an AMEX Premier Rewards Gold Card to purchase airfare at 3x points, and then transfer the points during a promotion like the current 40% BA transfer then you are effectively earning 4.2 points per dollar on those purchases (and if you can purchase your airfare with that card via Travelocity in the Ultimate Rewards portal then you are earning an additional 2x UR points).  That’s a pretty great return!

Here are the details on the two currently available Membership Rewards transfer bonuses:

British Airways:

Through September 27th there is a 40% transfer bonus on all MR points transferred to the British Airways Avios program.  This 40% bonus is already coded into the system, so it will happen automatically when you transfer points.  Points normally transfer 1,000:1,000 from Membership Rewards to British Airways, but right now they transfer at a rate of 1,000:1,400

I am a huge fan of the British Airways program for short flights to/from the US, Caribbean, Canada, and a few other strategic uses.  Often my recommendation is to use them to fly on American Airlines or Alaska Airlines.  Most of the time, I don’t actually recommend using them to fly on British Airways as you can get way more value for your points elsewhere.  You can read more about my favorite uses of Avios in this post.  Since the award chart is distance based, I typically use Avios for short flights that would be expensive for me to purchase; I usually get at least 2-3 cents in value per Avios point.

Here’s a quick real-life example.  I recently used Avios for a redemption for my husband from Houston to Chicago.  The selling price for the flight was $406 round trip.  The price in Avios was 15,000 Avios round trip for direct flights.  That means that I got a 2.7 cents per point value from my Avios.  When you take into account that I had obtained those Avios by jumping on the previous Membership Rewards transfer bonus, then the reality is that I was really getting 4.05 cents per point for my Membership Reward points (I had transferred during a 50% bonus).  That is a very good return per point – especially considering it was for a domestic economy ticket that I was going to have to purchase one way or another.

A 40% transfer bonus is pretty good, but there was a 50% transfer bonus earlier in the year, so just take that into account when deciding if you want to transfer points.  I often transfer points to Avios speculatively since I have so many valuable and practical uses for them, but that decision is not right for every family.  Once you transfer the points from MR you lose their flexibility, so the general advice is to not transfer until you have a specific redemption in mind.  Thanks to View From the Wing for sharing this news!

Virgin America Elevate:

Through September 2nd there is a 30% transfer bonus for all Membership Reward points transferred to the Virgin America program.  The normal transfer rate is 2:1.  That means that you normally lose 50% in the conversion.  With the 30% transfer bonus, you receive 130 Virgin America Elevate points when you transfer 200 Membership Reward points.  That is better than the normal rate, but it still isn’t very impressive to me, especially since Virgin America points aren’t typically worth very much per point.  Check out The Points Guy’s post on this transfer for more info!

I would love if Delta introduced a transfer bonus since they were very active on the transfer bonus scene last year, but have been very quiet this year.  Still, having these two transfer bonuses available helps reinforce my favorite component of the Membership Rewards program.  Will you be taking advantage of either of these transfer bonuses?


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  1. Yes, I think I’ll be taking advantage of it, even though I’d be happier with a 50% than 40%. We just flew to Aruba as a family this month all on Avios points from when we got the British Airways cards — we flew on American, and it went very smoothly. Thanks for the good news!

  2. Small typo “British Airways, but right now they transfer at a rate of 1,000:1,4000” should be “1,000:1,400” (extra “0”)

  3. Thank you for the heads up. I have two questions:
    1) you mentioned we can use Amex through UR portal to shop. Is it true for all the shopping portals? I always thought I have to use the chase card when shopping through UR portal.
    2) I’m thinking to transfer out Amex points out before renew comes, thinking either BA or Delta. How do you value them, or you have any other suggestions?

    Thank you very much.

  4. What I want to know is when r they having a bonus w/delta. Been waiting for one so we can go to s. Asia w/korean but it’s been almost a yr since delta’s last promo. Unfortunately, I heard delta started to charge yq on korean, can uconfirm that? Guess I missed the boat.

  5. @CU, glad it went smoothly. Did you get priority boarding/free bags? I know that was working in the past, but not sure if that (unintentional) benefit is still going or not.
    @Bob, oops! Thanks! Perhaps that was wishful thinking. 😉
    @Jerry, you do not have to use a Chase card. I have read a few more reports in recent history of folks having a little bit of trouble with that, but overall it has always worked just fine for me. Your biggest risk is that if the points don’t automatically post as normal you will have a much harder time getting it manually corrected if you didn’t have a Chase card.

    Valuation is different for everyone, but I virtually never personally use Delta as it isn’t convenient for me and their domestic redemptions are hard to get at the low levels. I like BA much better, but there are some good Delta uses, so it depends what your travel goals are.

    @Brian, I will probably do the same thing. I am also good for a while, but you just never know if/when the next transfer bonus will come along.

    @Valerie, this is a long dry spell for a Delta transfer bonus. Hopefully it is just a longer than normal dry spell and not a permanent drought. Here is the most recent info I have read about fuel surcharges on Korean:

  6. Quick newbie question. I just got my 40k points for my Chase Sapphire card. I plan to convert them to Hyatt points. Do they ever have promotions like this? Should I hold off on transferring them over? Thanks!

  7. @LauraS, I wish! This is the one area where MR has UR beat. There have not been any UR transfer bonuses (nor have I heard any rumors that they may start any time soon – or ever). I would just transfer them when you need to use them.

  8. Hi,
    Is there a difference between Virgin America and Virgin Atlantic? I will be flying Virgin Atlantic in 2014 and may be thinking of transferring my MR points to Virgin America for use on Virgin Atlantic.
    Thank you for all you do!!

  9. Thank you so much for all your helpful info. I have been trying to understand BA avios for a while now and have been kinda afraid of them for some reason. I did not get the BA credit card when the bonus was so high because I did not know if it would really be as great for us as for some others. We live on the East Coast (South Carolina) and most of our flights are domestic. Now that the bonus is available through MR, I wonder if BA could work for me. If I find an AA flight and book it using avios (after I transfer points from MR or Ultimate rewards), will I pay for my bags? I have two American Airline credit cards but no British Airlines credit card. We have a good bit of MR points after the last 75000 signup but I wouldn’t want to jump into something that I am unsure about. Thanks for any information.

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