Maximizing British Airways Avios: 30% Amex Transfer Bonus

by on November 28, 2011 · 49 comments

in American Express, British Airways

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American Express Membership Rewards is offering a 30% bonus on transfers to British Airways Avios points from now until January 31, 2012. The bonus is hard coded into the transfer ratio, so 1,000 Amex points = 1,300 Avios points and they transfer instantly. And remember, you can transfer Amex points to anyone else, so this might be a good time to top up your family or friends’ accounts to get them to levels needed for awards. Amex will even let you advance points for free as long as you earn them back within a year – 15,000 for Premier Rewards Gold/ Gold/ Green and up to 60,000 points for Platinum. Remember, you can also set up a Household Account to pool your Avios points, which makes the logistics of booking travel amongst several accounts much easier.

30% Bonus- it's hardcoded and it transfers instantly

Before you scoff and write off Avios (which people are calling Adios), hear me out – the program isn’t as bad as it may have gotten credit for recently. Now before you call me a traitor since I pretty much slammed British Airways for the launch of Avios (from lack of communication to the butchering of some of my favorite awards), I’m still going to use Avios points because frankly there is value to be had. To me, not using Avios points would be a prime example of cutting off my nose to spite my face – the only one losing out would be me.

Avios is a valuable program for:
1) Last minute redemptions: British Airways does not charge last minute award ticketing fees like American, which levies a hefty $75 fee for any awards booked less than 21 days in advance.
2) Short/medium haul flights: The new Avios program may penalize you for making multiple connections or going long distances, but one-way flights now start at only 4,500 points – pretty incredible, since many short-haul flights cost an arm and a leg – especially for last minute travel.
3) Transfer bonuses from Amex: Frankly a 30% bonus is pretty significant (though not as lucrative as past 40% and 50% bonuses). To me, these bonuses take the sting out of the Avios devaluation, though not completely.

Before you transfer, figure out if Avios will indeed make sense for your award redemption. While no official Avios award chart exists, here is one they released for Iberia flyers and I’m pretty sure these distance bands apply to all other Avios redemptions. (I edited the chart to take out obscure Iberia references. To calculate how much is needed for First class, just multiply coach by 3.)

Avios Award Chart

You can also use this calculator to figure out how much your trip will cost in Avios points. Note: You must price each leg of your itinerary individually. So for example, you can’t enter Toronto to Lima. You’d have to do Toronto to JFK, JFK to Lima and add them together. Annoying, I know.

Some examples of valuable Avios redemptions vs. using American Airlines miles for the same trips.

1) Last minute one-way trip JFK to Miami.
Avios: 7,500 points and $2.50

AAdvantage: 12,500 miles and $77.50

Paid Fare: $199.70. You’d be getting 2.6 cents per Avios or 3.4 cents per Amex points since you’d only need 5,770 with the 30% transfer bonus. Not bad for a domestic coach redemption!

2) Last minute Los Angeles to Honolulu
Avios: 12,500 points and $10.70
AAdvantage: 17,500 (off-peak rate. Normally US to Hawaii is 22,500 one way) and $77.50.

Paid fare: $1,424.32 (no discounted coach fares were left, only flexible). You’d be getting 11.3 cents per Avios or 14.7 cents per Amex points since you’d only need 9,616 with the 30% transfer bonus. Now we’re talking!

3) Last minute Miami to St. Kitts in economy.
Avios: 10,000 points and $33.80.

AAdvantage: 17,500 miles and $92.50

Paid fare: $408.30. You’d be getting 3.8 cents per Avios or 4.9 cents per Amex points since you’d only need 7,693 with the 30% transfer bonus.

These are just a couple random examples and I didn’t take into account the fact that you don’t earn miles on award tickets or that most people don’t buy one-way last-minute fares. It’s merely meant to show that using Avios can indeed make a lot of sense – especially if your travel is non-stop, last-minute and short/medium-haul. So if you’ve been mad at British Airways and sworn them off – it might make sense to at least test out some redemptions and decide whether the 30% transfer bonus makes sense for you.

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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  • Elena

    I just fired off an email to American Express about how displeased I am about transferring most of my miles to British Airways at a 40% bonus (earlier this year), which is now technically valued at a transfer rate of 1:1 since Cathay Pacific was devalued. I will let you know if there is any success.

  • Frugaltravellawyer

    Great post! Yes, I will be missing all the free stops from the old program, but Avios does have some gems.

  • Anonymous

    The fuel surcharge is fairly aggressive — for instance, you have to pay at a minimum, over $900 to fly SFO to LHR first class using Avios, no matter how many Avios you throw at the problem. That’s unfortunate and annoying.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed..thats why I’d never recommend using Avios points to go to Europe or Africa

  • hmaia

    Can I do multiple transfers until January, 31st?

  • hmaia

    Can I do multiple transfers until January, 31st?

  • Anonymous

    You should be able to. I have in the past with these promos with no issue, even though sometimes they say “first time transfer bonus only”

  • PJ

    I have been a believer; TPE HKG 4.5K ICH -NRT 7.5K JFK-Halifax 4.5 K with reasonable fuel surcharge and tax not to mention to get on LAX NYC express on AMerican
    My MR points are saved :)
    Depending on your travelling pattern the 50K BA by chase is again a darling

  • michael

    Its always great to be diversified, I have gained at least 100k in mine and Gf’s account across four different airlines (3 different alliances). I now have the ability to be flexible and work each alliance for the best award redemption. All these changes with programs just means we need to adopt to the new charts.

  • Brian Lockhart

    The cash and points option in your last example is pretty lucrative as well! I don’t get how they determine it though, sometimes you are buying points for near 1cents a piece, and other times significantly more (usually when you up class of service).

  • pcp

    For those that don’t can also just logon to and look at reward availability..any Miles sAAver award is available to BA to book as an award flight (if you don’t see it on BA’s side, just call them). This tip saved me many times to quickly check out award availability. I’m very happy about this BA change…those who diversify their miles/points welcome this change.

  • andy

    You mean Business/First MilesSAAver is also bookable through BA? I only used BA on AA domestic economy tickets which requires 12,500 AA miles. Not sure business/first which require 25,000 miles are open to BA as well.

  • Ken

    I would wait for at least a 50% bonus – IMO 30% is unacceptable considering the devaluation of miles/points with the new program!

  • Tom

    Is 3.8 cents per Avios a good use for international travel on Cathay Pacific? Is that a good return?

  • PJ

    you bet HKG-TPE on Cathay Pacific and compare that to cash alternative :) wow

  • PJ

    would love to see any 5)% bonus.. but i cut some MR out by Jan 31 tinot Avios ; my family is still long 300K plus
    and LAX EWR is my main route to travel on ; the 21 days booking restrictio is NOT there sweet.. getting same priviledge as other CO ONEPASS Platinum member.

  • PJ

    why dont you just get on and book to see yourself:( i bet 25K for bunisee is certainly there 12.5K for LAST class LAX EWR makes me a happy old man :)

  • PJ

    to be more precise: 9K for round trip TPE HKG and virtually no blockout dates since it is a very popular route $80 dollars for fuel and tax versus 480 ofr cash buy on expedia..

    similar awesome redemptions are abundant…

  • BWS

    Is it possible to transfer Amex MR points member to member?

  • andy

    I couldn’t see AA business/first 25k tickets on BA-only shows AA 12.5k tickets. If it could booked by phone, need extra booking fee.

  • PJ

    no; i am positive about it; even you are a authorizer in account X you can not trasnfer MR into your own account ( in my case , I have Platinum Gold ( why? too guilty not to pay annual fees) . However once you are an authorized user on account X, then you can transfer points out of account X into you own Avios program away.. silly or not ? up to how you feel it. Sappphire Preferred is well ahead of it: my family memebers or even friends or anybody on this planet can transfer points into my Shpphire Preferred. and TPG can trasnfer 5000 points into my daughter’s Platinum CO ONEPASS account on my request for winning ” what credit cards in your wallet.” contest.. simply put, the mighty Chase is putting out a great program.. however if you need to get avios points this is a great chance even at just 30 % bonus.. I would not expect Chase will let you trasnfer Sapphire Preferred Ultimate Rewards to Avios with 30 % bonus. Would love to be proved wrong :)

  • PJ

    be nimble be diversified:) well said

  • X712xdamx

    To be honest – it took me 10 minutes of searching around distances on GCM with the Iberia chart the day the new program announced to realize that while some cool redemptions were now gone, some new cool ones emerged. While you, and other bloggers were slamming the program right and left – I was getting deals!!

  • Tom

    What about HKG-DPS for 25k for business class (one way) or 17.5k MR? Is that a waste of miles?

  • Anonymous

    “While no official Avios award chart exists”

    Then what’s this?

    I have gotten some help in this thread & would appreciate any corrections or added info:

    its about using all my 77K Amex MR points on a single multi-stop Jan 2012 itinerary of up to 20K miles
    via 77K MR pts –> 100,100 Avios pts
    MIA – C.A. – S.A. – M.E. – MIA (about 4 nights per stop)
    since I am flexible on stops & dates, how do I easily find all available award segments
    so I can construct possible itinerary & present to Avios agent…?

  • AS

    If they would base the miles required on the total distance and not the distance in each segment, I would have no complaints. But this per segment charge is really discriminating against those who don’t live in a OW hub! Ludicrous

  • purplnurpl

    how about a post on maximizing ba awards with the companion ticket? this limits you to only ba metal.

  • Flyerdad

    TPG: I see that people are touting the virtues of short haul flights (some folks have said they were able to book SFO-LAS for 9000 round trip), but how can you book that through the BA search engine? Maybe a full post rather than a quick response . . .

  • Deuce

    I would like to see how SFO-LAS can be booked for 9000 points as well

  • Anonymous
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  • Lintibbs926

    I am also curious with this new program how to use my companion ticket with BA. Has anyone found a good deal to use a companion ticket? I am open to traveling anywhere. Also are there any US airports that allow you to travel on BA to somewhere other than the UK? I want to aviod the large fees. I am fine flying out of any city in the US. I can use other points for a domestic flight. My hub is PHX, which does not allow many choices.

    Thank you for your help. It is greatly appreciated!

  • Anonymous

    Unfortunately, there is no avoiding BA/London and high fees when using the Travel Together ticket.

  • Anonymous
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  • John

    Wish I had seen this earlier. Would have taken 35% fewer miles had I used Avios versus Asia Miles for a recent family award trip.

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  • Ckgillen

    TPG: Thank you for all your great info and tips. I took advantage of the BA Chase sign up bonus for my wife and I. We are currently planning a trip to Mexico. Is it possible to book award travel on Alaskan Air through Avios? We are flying from LAX to ZIH. Thx!

  • Mbwnew

    I have 125,000 Avios Points and a fee companion voucher. In December, I tried to book a frequent flyer ticket to Europe. There was nothing available at any point rate until October and then there were only a few days availble in Oct 2012. Unless anyone else has other experience, I would avoid BA. Did I mention that the fees and taxes for an award flight to Europe are over $500?

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  • Realdjko

    Avios points are great for Japan domestic flights by JAL, a oneworld partner! These flights are expensive (specially with the current exchange rate) and lots of short hauls.

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