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Earlier this week I wrote about the differences between the US and Canadian versions of the American Express Membership Rewards programs and in general, the US version is more generous when it comes to standard transfer ratios and transfer bonuses. There are only two airline transfer partners at the 1:1 ratio: Air Canada Aeroplan and British Airways Executive Club.
Amex just announced a 50% transfer bonus to British Airways until May 31, 2012. The fundamentals of this deal are the same as when I covered it for the US program, but I think it general this might make even more sense for those with Canadian points because there are less alternative options to consider. Whenever you transfer points, you risk losing out on future bonuses, but since they are relatively rare and the transfer options so limited, I’d really consider taking advantage of this transfer bonus if I had Canadian Amex points.
You should check out my full post on the mechanics of the British Airways 50% bonus, but basically Avios are great for:
1) Short haul flights (A Toronto to New York roundtrip is only 9,000 Avios roundtrip)
2) Medium-Long Haul flights on British Airways partners to anywhere but Europe and Australia (to avoid high taxes/fees)
3) Aer Lingus flights to Dublin, especially from Boston
4) Upgrades from paid Premium Economy to Business class
5) Last minute awards because British Airways doesn’t levy last minute booking fees
British Airways does have major downsides, primarily the huge fees on awards to Europe and anywhere beyond where British Airways flies, but value can be had. They do allow one-way awards for half the price of a roundtrip and their online booking engine, though buggy, does pull a good portion of their partners.
For North America to Europe awards, I’d transfer my points to Aeroplan without a bonus vs. British Airways with the 50%. Aeroplan does impose fuel surcharges, but nothing to the extent of British Airways (think $850 for a business class flight).
Aeroplan also has short-haul awards and more availability on the Canada to US routes – with Avios you need to stick to American Airlines or Alaska Air.
However, for Asia Avios can be used for Cathay Pacific redemptions and they generally have great availability from Toronto and Vancouver to Hong Kong. Toronto is 70,000 roundtrip (47,000 Amex with this promo) for economy, 140,000 for business (94,000 points with this promo) and 210,000 (140,000 with this promo) for First Class, which is a great product. Those rates for Vancouver- Hong Kong are slightly less because Avios is based on distance and Vancouver is within a closer band to Hong Kong: 60,000/120.000/180,000 for coach/business/first.
To calculate how many Avios you need for a route, use the calculator for each leg of your trip. British Airways prices segments a la carte, so if you wanted to fly to Bali via Hong Kong from Toronto you’d price Toronto to Hong Kong plus Hong Kong to Bali.
If you are in the market for a Canadian Amex, check out this post on the different options for Canadian points collectors.