Friday, March 16, 2012

50% Transfer Bonus From American Express Membership Rewards To British Airways Executive Club

This is the first great transfer bonus opportunity of the year. A few days ago, I posted about the US Airways 50% transfer bonus from hotel partners. However, the only partner worth transferring from was Starwood Preferred Guest... and even then, it made very little sense to trade in valuable Starpoints for Dividend Miles, despite the significant bonus.

In my opinion, the best value for Membership Rewards points is the airline miles transfer program, and the best time to do a transfer is when they run a promotion such as this one. From now until May 31, 2012, earn a 50% bonus when you transfer points from Membership Rewards to British Airways. There is no need to register, and you can transfer as many times as you like before the promotion ends. The smallest increment you can transfer is 1,000 points.

As you may already know, British Airways massively devalued their award chart last November, and I documented the aftermath in great detail here. However, despite the huge increase in Avios points required for long-haul flights, there is a silver lining to be found in short hops all around the world, especially when they involve partner airlines that don't tack on a fuel surcharge.

The highest yields can be found on popular tourist routes that are typically short in distance but high in cost. For example, the San Francisco to Los Cabos route is quite popular, and Alaska Airlines can charge upwards of $500 or more for this three-hour flight. However, only 20,000 Avios points are needed to book a round-trip award ticket, while using other frequent flyer programs typically will run you 35,000 miles. Likewise, flying Los Angeles to Honolulu on American Airlines costs only 25,000 Avios points. Even shorter flights such as San Francisco to Los Angeles, New York to Toronto, Miami to Cancun, Lima to Cusco, all only cost 9,000 Avios points round-trip! Read my previous post to find out how to price out specific award itineraries on the British Airways website.

If you have a large stash of Membership Rewards points just waiting to be used, I would highly recommend converting at least some into Avios points before May 31, 2012. Although others may disagree, I would do the transfer even if you don't have any award travel planned. Typically, transfer bonuses don't get any better or simpler than this. Membership Rewards did run another promotion last year where you could effectively earn a 67% bonus on Delta Skymiles transfers, but it turned out to be a logistical nightmare, and people had to wait months before they actually received the bonus points in the form of a rebate certificate. Plus, I have not seen any transfer bonuses higher than 50% for Membership Rewards to British Airways.

I don't doubt that another 50% transfer bonus promotion will occur sometime in the future, but I say take advantage of the offer now, and make use of those Avios points for high-value redemptions before another devaluation comes!


  1. Hi Milesglu,

    This 50% bonus transfer sounds like an awesome deal; however, I only fly to certain destinations (mostly between SFO (or SJC) and LAX). I was immediately going to take advantage of this promo but upon me looking at the available "points awards" seats, there are like hardly any available. I chose a few random one-way dates from SFO to LAX to search for (e.g. June 10 2012, Oct 28, 2012, Nov 12, 2012). I have yet to find a date that has an available ticket on the day I want. After getting the "sorry, no reward seats available message", if I thereafter click on "search 7 days later" or "search 7 days before" , it will output available flights there are like a FEW days after or before my ideal date, implying that there are very very few reward seats even available. Therefore, although the 50% bonus transfer sounds awesome, the availability of flights (at least for my particular desired segment of SFO/SJC to LAX) seems hard to obtain unless I'm extremely flexible on my flight dates. Is this just not a popular segment or are reward tickets really that hard to obtain?


    1. Hi Kevin, there seems to be a strange issue lately with the BA award availability not matching the AA MileSAAver inventory. Since the only BA partners that operate the SFO/SJC-LAX route are American or Alaska Airlines, you can actually search for the award space directly on their websites. AA's website is much more user-friendly, and is showing plenty of MileSAAver award space on virtually all days in the fall, so it's a bit of a mystery why BA can't see it. What I would do is call up BA and ask the agents directly about an award flight that you can see on the AA website. The inventories have historically matched up... but lately even the agents can't seem to find them. I certainly hope BA isn't blocking them on purpose, but it would be a very disturbing trend if that is the case. By the way, if the agents are able to book the flights for you, request to have the phone booking fee waived since it is clearly a bug with the website then.