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Update: The offer mentioned below for the British Airways Visa has changed. View the current offer here.
Today American Express Membership Rewards will start offering a 40% bonus on transfers to British Airways Avios points until September 27, 2012. The bonus will be hard-coded into the transfer ratio, so 1,000 Amex points = 1,400 Avios points and they transfer instantly and there is no fee to transfer points to British Airways.
While this isn’t as lucrative as the most recent Amex 50% transfer bonus to Avios back in May that was an amazing deal, this is still something to consider if you are thinking about redeeming your Avios for travel on British Airways or any of its partners like American Airlines, LAN and Cathay Pacific. If you need a British Airways account, you can get one for free here.
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. 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.
British Airways awards are distance-based according to the zones above, so be sure to calculate how many Avios you’ll need for your redemption here.
Before you transfer, figure out if Avios will indeed make sense for your award redemption. As you know, the British Airways Executive Club mileage program changed dramatically last November when it switched over to Avios, but I’ve since written a series on Maximizing British Airways Avios that will help you make the most of your points. The posts in my series include: Master FAQ Post on British Airways 100,000 Mile Offer, Distance-Based Awards, Spotlight on Taxes and Fees, Travel Together Companion Ticket, Household Accounts, Using Avios to Upgrade Paid Tickets, The Avios and Cash Option, Save Money on Fuel Surcharges by Transferring British Airways Avios to Iberia, Using Avios For Non-Flight Redemptions.
Overall, if you work this promotion appropriately, you can get some great values out of your American Express Membership Rewards points. If you’re thinking of speculatively transferring points to BA in anticipating of wanting to redeem an award in the future, I’d just counsel you to consider what kind of award you want and whether it makes sense on the value scale.
For instance, if you’re just trying to get your family to Europe in economy, I wouldn’t advise transferring your points to Avios since BA charges huge taxes and fuel surcharges and you’ll wind up paying hundreds of dollars per ticket. However, if you’re trying to get everyone from Chicago down to Orlando in coach, because of the distance-based Avios formula, you could get each person down there for 15,000 miles roundtrip. A great value.
Or let’s say you wanted to fly roundtrip from New York JFK-Hong Kong in Cathay Pacific first class. That trip would normally cost you 210,000 Avios (and hence 210,000 American Express points at the 1:1 transfer ratio), but if you used this transfer bonus, it would only cost you 150,000 Membership Rewards points – saving you 60,000 points, and giving your points an individual value of about 7-11 cents each since those tickets are usually in the $10,000-$16,000 range.
If you are in the market for a new Amex card that is part of the Membership Rewards program, the top cards are listed below. Before you apply for any card, make sure you are logged out of your Amex account or open these links from a new browser or else it may erroneously say the promotions are no longer valid:
Mercedes-Benz Platinum: 50,000 points when you spend $1,000 within 3 months. $475 annual fee.
Business Platinum: 40,000 points when you spend $5,000 within 3 months. $450 annual fee.
Premier Rewards Gold: 25,000 points when you spend $2,000 within 3 months. $175 annual fee, waived the first year. Detailed review.
Platinum: 40,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. $450 annual fee. Detailed review.