Valid through January 31, 2014:
As reported by Miles4More, American Express is once again offering a great transfer bonus from their US Membership Rewards program to British Airways. Through January 31, Amex is offering a 40% transfer bonus to British Airways Avios!
Normally I’d recommend keeping Membership Rewards in your account until you have a concrete plan for how to use them, but in this case there’s a strong argument to be made to do the transfer prospectively since British Airways points are extremely valuable for certain redemptions. See “Big Wins”.
Of course, you should investigate beforehand to make sure that you’ll be able to use those Avios points effectively. With this transfer bonus, it would be reasonable to look not just at the usual British Airways sweet spots (e.g. short, direct economy flights), but also to other options. For example, one way in business class on Cathay Pacific from Chicago to Hong Kong would cost 70,000 Avios. That would require only 50,000 Membership Rewards points:
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FYI For those of you who want to fly with a lap child internationally, consider this transfer as BA only charges 10% of the fare in avoids for the lap child. Most other programs charge 10% of the cash fare or more (Cahtay 25% cash fare in business!).
I’m torn about this transfer, not sure whether to transfer to ANA or BA with the bonus. Look into the sweet spots in the ANA chart before they change in a few months. Even at a 40% bonus, I’m not sure avios beat a non-bonused ANA transfer for my particular use.
Sounds like a tempting offer since I can find no better use for my 85k Amex Membership rewards points. Is it a good idea to transfer them to BA given the surcharges and availability? I frequently travel from SEA to BOM (Mumbai India).
For long distance flights like that, BA might not be your best option since BA’s award chart is distance based
@phillip many people agree should only transfer the number of MR points you think you can realistically redeem in the next 6 months or so. The longer the points sit in your BA account the greater the chance they will be devalued.
@rj is correct that you should test some redemptions before transferring but wrong to to include all international redemptions as bad value and only to redeem on AA domestic. I have gotten very good value out of inter-Africa and Asia redemptions with low fees. RJ probably meant to say transatlantic and transpacific redemptions primarily on BA flights.
@Dave what inter-Africa flights are you referring to? I think BA has one flight that connects within Africa, and I don’t think there are any other partners with significant African routes.
I should add that redemptions on Air Berlin (if you can find them) have reasonable surcharges and avoid the LHR APD.
JAL transpacific redemption surcharges are not as bad, but still high – e.g. SFO-Tokyo is about $315 for an economy class ticket that can be purchased on sale for $700-$900.
Inter-Japan redemptions on JAL are a good value, very low surcharges, and very good availability.
@Dave, when you say the points could get “devalued”, what would devalue them? If they change the program and start charging more for flights?
Thanks guys for your opinions, really helpful.
Beware – only transfer if you are going to redeem on AA domestic. BA charges ridiculous “fuel” surcharges (sometimes as high as 70% of actual purchased fares, if there is a fare sale ongoing) for international redemptions, EVEN on AA flights. Almost all international flights involve connections in the UK, which also levies very high passenger fees (“APD”).
Surcharges on BA award travel on Cathay Pacific are reasonable, but finding more than 1 seat (esp. in business or first class) on any given CX flight is extremely rare.
Test out you itineraries first on BA.com before transferring anything.
One more question, opinions welcomed… Would you guys transfer all your amex points on this offer (I checked and I have 323,000) or would you just transfer some of them? I live in Florida (near orlando) and it seems we have lots of options to use Avios points… to date I have never used a frequent flyer mile for anything so this is all new to me. We are looking at taking a repositioning cruise and it is only 50k avios to get back to FL from San Diego for our family of 4 which seems pretty awesome to me…. Thanks!
I would only transfer the number you think you would reasonably use in the next year or so. Otherwise you’ll lock yourself into flying only OneWorld and other BA partner airlines.
Can you give some examples of what else you have done with MR points or where else we should be looking to get quality redemptions of them?
Wow, thank god I held off transferring. On Saturday I was about to book a flight that was going to cost 150,000 Avios for two round trip tickets. Decided to wait a little bit. Glad I did. this will save me almost 45,000 MR.
I have 320,000 points with my Amex; really considering transferring these over to BA; how long would we have before they expire? Also can you renew or extend the expiration if you transfer more later? Thank you!
They would expire in 36 months, but only if you had no account activity whatsoever. As long as you earn or spend Avios in any way, you’ll keep resetting the clock. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend dumping all 320K MR points into BA though! That would lock you into OneWorld flights (and a few non-Oneworld partners).
Our kids will get their first flying experience this upcoming spring break. We reserved seats for 6 (2 adults, 4 kids) for ORD-CLT Saturday-Saturday. I know when I looked there were dates with 6 tickets to DC and Philadelphia, but not to NYC. Boston was in the next mileage bracket, so I did not look too closely there.
@Alex – you can search some test dates you are interested in at ba.com to see availability – make sure you chose “book with avios.” Also be aware there are surcharges which many consider excessive.
same question but only need two awards on any given flight international only flights
See my answer below. Keep in mind a few things for international flights: forget about any overseas flights that involve actually flying on British Airways itself. They charge outrageous fuel surcharges. Instead, your best bet is to look to low or no fuel surcharge carriers that partner with BA such as Air Berlin or Aer Lingus.
You are in the same boat as my family and I.
I just spent a few hours looking for reward flights from Detroit to Florida using Avios.
“Patience and Flexibility” is what is needed.
Patience – it takes awhile to find what you are looking for.
Flexibility – you might have stopovers, you might have to split up the family for a flight, you might not fly into the exact airport you want.
Also consider something as simple as flying into Ft. Lauderdale rather than Miami – from Detroit they are different Avios amounts!
By the way…We have no specific travel awards planned in the foreseeable future…any feedback is appreciated…
For a family of 4, and with 2 parent BA frequent flier accounts, how easy is it to obtain a rewards flight with British Airways? Between my wife and I, we have several hundred thousand Membership Reward points, but would like to be able to pull the trigger at this great opportunity… If it’s a hassle to get 4 award tickets on a flight, I’ll pass…Question is for travel within the US and also international (avoiding London at all costs)… Thanks so much!
That’s a really hard question to answer because it will depend on what route you want to fly, what time of year, how much flexibility you have, etc. Within the US, availability will be the same as saver level availability on AA, US Airways, and/or Alaska Airlines. That is to say, sometimes good, sometimes not. I like dave’s suggestion: check some dates and routes to see what availability looks like. For AA / US Airways it’s actually easier to check on aa.com (look only for Saver awards), but keep in mind that the award price will be different when you book the same flights through ba.com.