There are just over two weeks left of the current 50% transfer bonus of American Express Membership Rewards points to British Airways Avios (the last day to transfer is May 31, 2012). Avios points aren’t the most valuable points out there because of the high fuel surcharges on most flights to Europe and Australia, but they can also be incredibly valuable for certain awards, like short and mid-haul flights and partner awards, and upgrading from Premium Economy to Business class.
So what if you don’t have enough American Express Membership Rewards points to take advantage of the promo now, but you really want to take advantage of the 50% transfer bonus, which may not come back again anytime soon? You have two little advertised options from American Express:
1) Advance yourself points for free. Amex will advance you 15,000 points beyond your current balance if you are a Green/ Gold/ Premier Rewards Gold cardholder, and 60,0000 for those with the Platinum and Centurion (invite only) cards. For those mathematically challenged, a 15k advance equates to 22,500 Avios, and 60,000 is 90,000 Avios.
Corporate cards are not eligible for point advances. You must be a cardmember for at least 6 months and have all accounts in good standing. The advance is free, but you must earn back the points within one year of the advance, or else Amex will charge you 2.5 cents per point on the remainder. All points earned count towards repaying the advance – so any future sign-up bonuses (like the current 50,000 for the Mercedes-Benz Platinum and 25,000 for Platinum, Business Platinum and Premier Rewards Gold) will all count. So if you need those points now and don’t have time to wait to hit the spend requirements and wait for the points to post, you can advance yourself points and then repay the advance once the sign-up bonus credits to your account. This also goes for any spend bonuses, like 4x points per dollar when you book airfare through Amex Travel.
2) Purchase Membership Rewards points at 2.5 cents apiece. With the 50% Avios bonus, it’s the same as purchasing Avios at 1.67 cents a piece and if you redeem them the right way, you can easily get double/triple or more in value out of your Avios. You can only purchase points if you don’t have enough in your account for the transfer and there is a limit of 500,000 purchased per calendar year.
You can also call to have Amex credit your account with any pending points. After you earn points, Amex puts them in the pending status for about a month, but as long as your account is in good standing, they should be able to credit them to your account for use so you don’t have to buy or advance additional points.
Additionally, if you’ve forfeited any points in the past you can reinstate each month’s forfeited points for $29. I would only recommend doing this if you forfeited over 1,160 points (which would make the re-purchase price 2.5 cents a piece or less since you can buy them directly from Amex for 2.5 cents).
I’m not recommending these options for all people – hopefully you have enough points stacked up for the awards you need. However, you shouldn’t take the 50% transfer bonus for granted since Amex is very fickle with transfer bonuses (the fact that there hasn’t been a strong Delta transfer bonus this year is still making me scratch my head since there were so many last year). However, any Amex cardholder should understand these options if their balances are sufficient for their award needs and if you can get more than 1.67 cents per value per Avios, then it could make a lot of sense to leverage the advance and purchase options so do the math and make the decision that works for you!