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I’m very happy to share the news that a transfer bonus from the Amex Membership Rewards program to the British Airways program has returned from now through June 7th. You will get a 35% bonus on Membership Rewards points transferred to British Airways during that time. That means that if you wanted to transfer 10,000 MR points, they would become 13,500 Avios points. This is big news not just for those who use the points to fly on British Airways, but also for those of you who use Avios to fly on BA partners, like American Airlines. In fact, that is one of the very best uses. I know some of you are BA pros and don’t need to read another word other than that the transfer bonus has returned, but I also know that many of you aren’t as familiar with how to leverage this for great deals on American Airlines and other partner flights, so here are some FAQs I wrote that may help those who aren’t as familiar with this method of using points.
I’m not flying to Europe or on British Airways anytime soon, so why should I care about a 35% 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 or American Airlines. Those are both partners of British Airways. Avios uses a distance-based chart, so short and direct flights between AA/Alaska served cities can be a great deal. For example, it costs me just 15,000 Avios round trip to fly from Houston to Chicago and back on American Airlines. That would cost me 25,000 AA miles if I booked directly with American. To make the math even sweeter, with the current 35% transfer bonus that comes out to just over 11,000 Membership Rewards points for a roundtrip that could otherwise cost 25,000 miles. Deals like this 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 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. 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 on their partners American, Alaska, etc. It’s basically the same as if you booked a US Airways operated flight on United.com using United miles. It’s just taking advantages of alliances and partners. 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 BA chart vs the AA chart.
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 AA and Alaska and choose the nonstop option whenever possible. Short one-way flights such as New York to Montreal start at 4,500 Avios each way.
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. My Houston to Chicago round trip on American would ring in at 15,000 Avios and $5.00 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. Right now the best public business card offer that earns MR points is for the The Enhanced Business Gold Rewards Card® from American Express OPEN, and the best personal card offers are either the Mercedes Benz Platinum card or the Amex Premier Rewards Gold card (depending on your tolerance for an annual fee). If you applied right now and could meet the minimum spending requirements very quickly, you would probably have your points deposited in time to take advantage of this offer, but there are no guarantees.
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 RT from the West Coast to Hawaii, 25,000 RT from the Boston to Ireland, and more. There are some tremendous deals lurking in the Avios award chart.
Is 35% a good transfer bonus amount?
About a year ago there was a 50% transfer bonus to British Airways, so obviously that one was higher, but 35% is still pretty good. The last transfer bonus from Membership Rewards to BA ended in January 2013, and it was for 30%. It wouldn’t shock me if we saw another transfer bonus later this year (if the pattern holds), but your guess is as good as mine as to whether it would be a little lower or a little higher.
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 and American flights.
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