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Amazing Deal: 50% Bonus on American Express to British Airways Point Transfers

by on June 1, 2011 · 67 comments

in American Express, British Airways

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Until July 31, 2011, you can get a 50% bonus when you transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to British Airways. This is the best transfer bonus they’ve run in the short 2 year period BA has been a part of Membership Rewards. Most recently, they ran a 40% bonus, which I thought was pretty generous – 50% is even better if you know how to use British Airways miles properly. Another thing to note is that you don’t pay any excise fees on the transfer to BA, unlike the fees you get hit with when transferring Amex points to US carriers like Delta and Continental. However, you should be aware that BA charges hefty fuel surcharges on some flights, which I’ll outline below.

No registration is needed for this bonus because the bonus is hard-coded into the membershiperwards.com transfer portal (Use points -> Travel -> Airlines). However, the T&C state only one bonus per cardmember allowed, however last time they ran the 40% bonus I made several transfers and received the bonus on each, which is what I bet will happen this time as well.

T&C
“Get 50% more BA Miles when you transfer Membership Rewards points to your British Airways Executive Club account now through 7/31/11. Bonus Miles will be awarded with the original transfer. One bonus per Cardmember. Taxes, fees, charges & surcharges, including airline surcharges, apply. Visit ba.com for more details.”

If you haven’t done so already, take some time and read my series on British Airways miles. I cover most of the tips and tricks involved with maximizing British Airways award redemptions. General tipsPost 1 – Booking BA Awards, Post 2 – Booking Partner Awards, Post 3 – Oneworld Alliance, Post 4 – Taxes and Fees, Post 5 – Household Accounts, Post 6 – Companion Ticket, Post 7 – Using ExpertFlyer for Partner Award Availability, Post 8 – The Art of the Stopover, Post 9 – Leveraging Miles and Cash Redemptions, and Post 10 - Using Qantas.com to Find Oneworld Award Availability.

Key takeaways:
1) Don’t redeem awards on British Airways flights (high fees, $500-$1,300 per ticket)
2) Don’t redeem award trips to Europe (high fees, think $400+ per ticket, even on Oneworld partners)
3) The cheapest awards are domestic American Airlines awards, which come with $2.50 in fees per leg and only 25,000 roundtrip for coach, 50,000 for business and 75,000 for first. Also cheap are South American awards, which are usually $60ish per roundtrip – even for business class.
4) BA allows unlimited stopovers on awards, so add in multiple stops to maximize the value of your award.
5) BA has four separate award charts and when you mix more than one carrier on an award, expect to pay exponentially more. Keep itineraries to one carrier! British Airways Flights, BA + 1 partner, single Oneworld partner and multiple Oneworld partners.
6) BA Cash and Miles redemptions can be an amazing value – especially on coach awards.
7) BA allows one-way awards, even on Oneworld partners
8 ) You can use BA miles for awards not only on BA, but American, Cathay, Qantas, FinnAir, Iberia, Japan Airlines, Lan, Malev, Mexicana, Royal Jordanian, S7, Alaska, Aer Lingus and Kingfisher.
9) BA.com is quirky and will automatically try to route you through London, so use Qantas.com, AA.com or Expertflyer.com to search for partner award availability.
10) Some of the best redemptions are 40,000 mile coach awards to South America, including Buenos Aires/Brazil. That means only 27,000 Amex points will get you a roundtrip coach ticket and you can include multiple stopovers! AND you can even use less points if you use the cash and miles option. The same trip is 80,000 miles or 58,000 Amex points. Another one of my favorite redemptions is 100,000 mile (67,000 Amex points) to Asia in Cathay Pacific business class.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Michael

    So with all of these great MR bonuses, why do most people still consider SPG to be the best card? Seems to me membership rewards cards offer the best bang for the buck when these deals appear.

  • The Points Guy

    @Michael- These huge bonuses are generally a new thing (in the past we mostly say 10-20% promos). That being said, I think the SPG card has fallen in popularity, mostly because it can take WEEKS to transfer points, which highly marginalizes its utility, in my opinion. If they made the transfers instant, like Membership Rewards, I think it would be a much stronger competitor.

    However, the main benefit SPG has over Membership Rewards is the value in hotel redemptions, including Cash and Points. Membership Rewards to Hotel program transfers are generally a terrible value- for example its a 3:1 ratio to Starwood.

  • maksimk

    Just wanted to say a big thanks for the great content of you blog. I’ve been reading now for a few weeks and really appreciate the clearly written, concise and interesting explanations. Quick question about this 50% bonus when one transfers MR to BA – what does it mean that “Taxes, fees, charges & surcharges, including airline surcharges, apply”? There is a fee/tax/surcharge to pay for the actual transfer of points or is it that we will have to pay taxes/fees/charges once we book a flight using these BA miles? Thanks.

  • The Points Guy

    @maksimk- thanks for the compliments! Hope you stick around longer- lots more good content on the way.
    As for your question, there is no fee to transfer Amex points to BA (like there is when you transfer Amex points to US programs like Delta and Continental). I updated the post with that information. The only fees you need to worry about are the ones BA charges on awards. If you follow my posts, you’ll know that they only charge crazy fees on BA flights and European awards. Let me know if you have any other questions.

  • http://www.benkrull.com/ Ben

    Any good Amex cards for MR rewards out right now to take advantage of this?

  • Dave

    Another great promo from Amex and as always, I see it here on The Points Guy first.

    @Ben, I see a link to the Plat above: 25K for signing up and spending $1000 in 3 months. Be certain to sign up here so Brian can keep doing what he’s doing for all of us.

  • Ed

    “Strategy question”…I’ve got 100K Amex points (maybe 50K more if my “Columbia Graduate” Amex Gold offer is honored) and 60K BA. Would you suggest I cash out the BA points, even if I have no immediate need?

  • Ed

    Sorry, I meant to write “cash out my Amex points for BA”

  • james

    @Ed – A few arguments for not converting yet –
    1)Keeping your points in Membership rewards offers you great flexibility for when you do need to travel.
    2) We seem to be in a period of ever increasing bonuses. Who’s to say after July 31 that there won’t be a 100% Continental bonus (*crosses fingers*)?
    3) A devaluation can occur in any given program at any given time. If BA changes their award charts, another airline may suddenly become the best for your travel needs.

  • tassojunior

    Personally I’d wait until about 6/31 to see if better bonuses pop up. I strongly think US will replace CO as MR’s *A airline and US does some big bonuses. Plus US has good routes to Europe with no surcharges, has excellent off-peak rewards, and if you have the US cc you get additional 5K off rewards.

    Many of us already have 100K BA miles from Chase and most are using them for domestic AA travel (tho LAN rewards are great if you’re in a LAN gateway).

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  • Steve

    Fantastic and information website.

    I’m looking at taking my family to Russia next summer. With the credit card bonuses, we should have about 175,000 BA miles by the end of the year along with roughly 125,000 in MR. Which airline would you recommend using for this sort of trip?

  • The Points Guy

    @Ben- Platinum has the 25k bonus and you can probably call and get that bumped up to a higher amount, like people have reported doing here: http://thepointsguy.com/2011/05/it-never-hurts-to-ask-possible-50000-point-payday-for-amex-platinum-cardholders/
    I also know people who have gotten the Premier Rewards with 15k bonus and fee waived (my main banner) and then calling to get 75k total points because there is a similar targeted promo running

    @Ed- I agree that waiting until the end of the promo period makes the most sense. Amex points are valuable because of their flexibility. Who knows what will happen- if Aeroplan had a 50% bonus as well, I’d hop on that in a heartbeat.

    @Tasso- interesting thoughts on US becoming a partner- they were in the past, so I wouldn’t be totally shocked to see them back

    @Steve- depends on where you are based. Your options are British Airways, Iberia or Finn Air. Just remember- you have to fly only one carrier to get there, so if you aren’t in a Finn Air or Iberia gateway city, you should just focus on BA.

  • Steve

    I’m in Boston. Sorry about neglecting that piece of info.

  • Luis T.

    I’m *almost* regretting transferring to Delta, then again, I’m shooting for the 2-for-1 card on the BA card w/ 30k spend, so even though it might be a lot in taxes, a first class award to Europe is something I have yet to experience and looking forward to!

  • yadu

    Points Guy,

    Your articles are very good. Great work and keep it up. I still remember the days when there was big hoopla over you on FT when you offered your service at very low rate and lot of critical comments. But you must have definitely busted all myths of critics.
    Keep it up and hope you reap dividends for your efforts.

  • Tim

    Brian,

    With BA seemingly handing out “free” miles left right and centre with the 100k Chase card and now 50% bonus on MR rewards – it almost feels like they are getting ready to up levels on their reward chart.

    You know, get everyone flush with miles so when redemption rates go up, people don’t feel so cheated

  • EvanInDenver

    Will this work the same for my Amex Blue Sky? I got a 30k (Four $100 credits = $400). Could I trade these for 45k BA Miles?

  • Ed

    @james and @tpg, thanks for the feedback. I’ll wait until the last minute before/if I do a transfer!

  • andrew

    @luis, what is the 2-for-1 card?

  • HoKo

    @andrew I believe Luis misspoke, he is referring to the Chase BA card that gives you a free companion pass when you hit 30k in annual spending

  • MarkJ

    I am giving this offer careful consideration.

    In 2009 I got the Chase British Airways Card with the 100,000 mile sign up bonus. In 2010 I spent $40,000 on the card which netted 50,000 miles and the 2 for 1 certificate.

    I just took my girlfriend to Europe in British Airways First Class. The two tickets had a $20,000 retail value and we had fun. We sat in the Concorde Room at JFK waiting for our flight and Mick Jagger came in and sat down. How British is that! The “New” first class on our 777 was great and I enjoyed the pajamas. The only downside is not all of the planes are refurbished yet and we had “old” first class on the way home…a major bummer [the flight attendant told me they have an aggressive schedule to convert the rest of the planes].

    Anyway…I have keep the BA Chase VISA as my core VISA/Mastercard spend card and it works well overseas as there is no foreign exchange fee. My goal is to spend $30,000 this year to get another certificate and hopefully find a way to generate a lot of BA miles to go again.

    Given the kindness of AMEX giving me large bonuses for both the Gold and Platinum cards I now have a lot of Membership Rewards points. I am thinking of transferring 87,000 MR points to BA. With the bonus and what I will generate with spend on the card by the end of the year I will have 180,000 BA miles and a 2 for 1 certificate. This will make for a nice trip for two in 2011 to Italy in first class or business class to South Africa if I am reading the award chart correctly.

    The risk seems to be if they change the mileage levels on the award chart.

    Am I thinking clearly?

  • thrashsoundly

    RE #2: I just read on Lucky’s site that he recently booked a business CX award to Asia with BA miles for about $400 with taxes/fees. What is your experience with general magnitude of fees on a CX award to Asia, and how does that compare to an award like AY to Helsinki and continental Europe 1 (Both options are 100K BA miles in business)? In the case of AY, you’d be avoiding the hefty surcharges and fees by not flying on BA or flying into Britian.

  • Will

    Brian,

    Re: your advice on not using BA miles to go to Europe. My intention was to use the miles (100,000) for a round trip business class fare to Paris but I was aware of the fee surcharge etc and willing to accept it? Is there a better airline to use to go to Europe? Thanks.

  • The Points Guy

    @Mark- I agree with your assessment of BA NEw First- I flew it last summer and absolutely loved it. I also saw Madonna in the Concord room and flew in the seat behind her. http://thepointsguy.com/2010/06/british-air-first-class-experience-and-encounters-with-madonna-june-9-jfk-lhr/
    http://thepointsguy.com/2010/06/review-british-airways-new-first-class/

    Correct- Italy in first of S Africa in biz on BA would be 180k

    If you are okay with the fees and you like the product and will have the Travel Together ticket, then I say go for it.

  • The Points Guy

    @Tim- any airline can change their award chart at any time. I don’t think BA will do it, because I think they are making a good amount of money on their awards and since they have so many new customers, I can’t see them making everyone angry, though I have been surprised before

    @thrashsoundly- check out this post for screen shots of sample fees on awards, including Cathay http://thepointsguy.com/2011/04/how-to-use-british-airways-miles-post-4-spotlight-on-taxes-and-fees/

    @Will- I personally like BA’s business and first class products, so I don’t mind shelling out $500+ for a roundtrip- and theres generally great availability. If you have Amex points, you may want to consider transferring to Delta at the 40% bonus and flying air france nonstop- fees will be less than half of BA and you avoid connecting in London (and can fly multiple partners)

  • Garrett

    TPG:
    Can BA miles be transferred to an American AAdvantage account? (I would be somewhat surprised if No, since they are oneworld partners.)

  • Anoop Kansupada

    “The same trip is 80,000 miles or 58,000 Amex points. Another one of my favorite redemptions is 100,000 mile (67,000 Amex points) to Asia in Cathay Pacific business class.”

    Whats the best way to go about booking a Cathay Pacific ticket with British Airways miles? I have a cousin’s wedding in India on November 29th and I am finding it impossible to book a rewards ticket from the Philadelphia area without spending a huge amount of money or using a great amount of miles.

  • ron

    You can transfer from SPG to BA using this as well and get the 50% bump, yes? Does it make sense to go ahead and take advantage of this transfer while it’s going on or just keep the points in my SPG account?

  • http://www.amex-community.com/ Amex

    wow….50% bonus awesome
    i really need rewards for airways
    u r awesome

  • Mary

    I have AMEX points; husband has the BA card and FF number. Can I transfer miles to him under this promotion or do I need to set up my own FF and we combine miles later? Thanks. Appreciate the fantastic service and commentary. Enjoy your new day job!!!

  • The Points Guy

    @Garrett- You cannot transfer frequent flyer miles to other airlines programs, but you can book AA awards using your BA miles.

    @Anoop, if you want to book Cathay Pacific without using a huge amount of miles, you’d need to leave from a Cathay gateway like New York, Chicago, Toronto, Los Angeles, San Fran or Vancouver. However, when you enter in NY-India using ba.com, it’ll automatically try routing you through London, so you’ll have to call and ask them to route you through Hong Kong on Cathay. Before calling you should search Gateway-Hong Kong for availability and write down the days that have space and then Hong Kong-India and write down the days that have space and then call and tell them you konw which days have availability and ask them to book it.

    @Ron- you cannot transfer from SPG and get this bonus- this is only for American Express Membership Rewards points transfers. SPG will give you their regular 25% bonus when you transfer in 20,000 point blocks.

    @Mary- yes- you can transfer from your Amex to his BA and vice versa. You can also create a BA household account, which I wrote about here- there are some unique benefits to doing. Thanks for the compliments! http://thepointsguy.com/2011/04/how-to-use-british-airways-miles-post-5-using-household-accounts-to-your-advantage/

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  • http://youtube.com/inferno10 inferno10

    So with BA running this 50% bonus and Delta running a 25% bonus, I’m wondering where I should transfer my remaining 40k MR points. I transferred 60k to DL when they offered the 50% + 25k MQM bonus offer, so I have 90k miles and FO status. I’m not much of a frequent flyer, but I plan to take several domestic and an international trip (not sure where though) next year. Should I transfer my remaining points to BA for a total of 80k BA miles, transfer the remaining points to DL for a total of 140k DL miles, or wait for something better?

    Love your blog! Hope you enjoy Japan! I went last year for vacation and loved it.

  • kevin in cape town

    hey points guy, love your blog! any advice for the best partner airlines to fly out of south africa using BA miles? Looking for the best use of BA miles to fly business class from south africa to usa next year.

    thanks for your help!

  • Unsure where to park ‘em

    Debating where to park my MR points… BA or CO? This promotion has got me all confused as to where to go with them.

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  • Consta

    Is there a way to transfer to BA with 50% bonus and then convert BA points to SPG or other program? This would make sense for an avid Starwood Preferred Guest points collector :)

  • Motty

    Is this better than the 50% + 25K MQM bonus from Delta?

    Thanks

  • Zack

    Hi — I am planning on transferring 240,000 MR points to BA miles. Hence, I will have 360,000 BA miles. Additionally, I have 150,000 AA miles in my account

    I am planning a dream trip somewhere exotic (perhaps Australia/NZ – Qantas or other Cathay Pecific Destinations?, maybe Bora Bora?, maybe somehwere in South America? or perhaps multiple destinations (with stopovers) —- as you can see I am flexible on my destination as I believe the journey will be as exciting…

    Can anyone help me understand how best can I combine and use 360,000 BA miles + 150,000 AA miles to make a dream trip happen? I would like to travel Business or First especially on long haul flights from the US and am planning the trip sometime summer/fall of 2012 .

    Thanks

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  • Naman

    Hi Brian – I’m a newbie to this. I’m planning a Washington (IAD) – London roundtrip. I currently have 100k miles with Amex MR. I am not sure what is the best way forward to book tickets. I can get 1.5 miles per Amex MR point, but if I book my trip through BA.com I will incur high surcharge and fuel costs. Can you please recommend what would be the best strategy to book a roundtrip flight from IAD – London using miles and least surcharge and fuel costs? I appreciate your help in advance!

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  • Dayan_zzz

    Using BA miles to book through AA,
    who do I contact to book?

    BA miles are as good as AA miles, correct?
    so if AA miles required 70k for international travel from us to far east, is that 70k in BA miles too?

    Thanks in advance!

  • http://twitter.com/wangyun Yun

    I went to that link and didn’t see a section to transfer miles. Here is what I see after going through ‘Use Points->Travel->airlines”

  • Anonymous

    You have a Blue card which is Membership Rewards Express. You need to get a Platinum/Premier Rewards/Gold/Green card to get points that can be transferred. Right now they are offering 15k for the Premier Rewards gold and first year fee of $175 waived http://www.thepointsguy.com/go/premierrewards
    Once you have that card, all of your Express points will become valuable Membership Rewards points that can be transferred to airlines. Make sure you log out of your Amex account when applying.

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  • Ann

    I am travelling to Accra from lax and want to use my ba points, I also have AMEX points that I need to transfer to BA to be able to use it for business class for two of us. I called today trying to book american airlines operated my ba to get lower taxes but she said it could not be done. I have not transferred my miles yet, what do you suggest I do? I am also hoping for bonus points to transfer with amex since I miss the July 31 deadline, do you think they will be another special soon

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  • dov

    hi,
    i have 650,000 miles on british and 3 redemable companion tickets 2 of which have to be used by march of 2012. I want to fly from Phoenix to Tel-aviv on business. I need 4 seats but have the companion tickets any thoughts on how to best do it maybe using part cash or buy and upgrade. THX

  • Anonymous

    My wife and I take two miles international first or business class trips from the west coast yearly. (Fun) We collect AA miles on their card. Would be do better upgrading to the plantinum Amex card. Our Gateway is Portland Oregon and love to travel for fun.

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