Reminder: Amex British Airways 50% Transfer Bonus Ends Tomorrow May 31, 2012!

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There haven’t been a huge amount of great transfer bonuses through American Express Membership Rewards lately (and none so far from Chase Ultimate Rewards!). The one exception is the current 50% transfer bonus to British Airways Avios, which ends this Thursday, May 31.

You can transfer your points from this page on the Membership Rewards site. The bonus is hard coded into the transfer ratio, so 1,000 Amex points = 1,500 Avios points and they transfer instantly. If you need a British Airways account, you can get one for free here. I know a lot of people (and sometimes even I do!) talk about the negative aspects of the changeover from BA’s old mileage program to Avios, but there are actually a lot of ways to get huge value out of your Avios points, and this is one of them.

The Amex-BA transfer page. As you can see, the 50% bonus is hard-coded into the transfer, so 1,000 Amex points = 1,500 BA Avios instantly.

Remember, you can also transfer Amex points to anyone else (simply log in to your membershiprewards.com account -> Points Summary -> Scroll to bottom right where you see accounts, scroll to bottom and select “Link additional accounts”), 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. 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.

Before you transfer, figure out if Avios will indeed make sense for your award redemption. Since Avios awards are distance-based, personally, I like the low miles required for short- and medium-haul redemptions. While fees are high on flights to Europe and Australia, they are nominal if you redeem on partners like American and LAN for travel within the Americas and even Cathay flights to Asia aren’t too bad. 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.

To book partner awards just go to britishairways.com -> log in with your password -> Executive Club -> Spending Avios -> Book flights with Avios. When searching for partners it’ll prompt you to pull in partner availability after it tries to search initially for BA flights. Also, complex awards and stopovers in cities other than London generally need to be booked over the phone at 1-800-452-1201.

Now for an important question: If you don’t have a specific award in mind that you want to use Avios points for should you speculatively transfer points to British Airways? The answer, as usual, totally depends on what you want out of your Amex points. If you are planning to take your family to Europe in coach I’d advise against British Airways because of the huge fuel surcharges and fees. If you are trying to get your family from Philadelphia to Miami in coach on American Airlines, like Danielle recently did with her Avios to get her family down to Florida for her cruise, I say go for it and strike hard with this promo. However, do your research and as always, feel free to comment here for advice.

Another big question is: Will Delta have a good transfer bonus soon? And the answer is: I have no idea. I hope so, but I have no inside information to share and frankly I’ve been surprised/disappointed at the lack of Amex/Delta bonuses this year.

To learn more about what you can do with your Avios once you’ve transferred those Membership Rewards points and scored the 50% bonus, you can check out the series I recently did on Maximizing Avios when the Chase BA Visa 100k bonus came out back in April. The posts in the series include: Master FAQ Post on British Airways 100,000 Mile Offer, Spotlight on Taxes and Fees, Distance-Based Awards, Travel Together Companion Ticket, Household Accounts, Using Avios to Upgrade Paid Tickets and the Avios and Cash Option. Update: The current sign-up bonus offer for the British Airways Visa is 50,000 Avios. 25,000 upon first use, and another 25,000 when you spend $2,500 within 90 days.

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