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Update: The current offer for the British Airways Visa is 50,000 Avios when you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months.
TPG reader Nachama asks:
“I have a question about the Oneworld Alliance. I think I’ve mastered the Star Alliance, but haven’t spent a lot of time banking Oneworld points. Who should I make my primary Oneworld carrier – British Airways or American Airlines? I’ll occasionally fly AA domestically, but I’m expecting to have a bunch of Amex points thanks to a corporate Amex card and obviously, those transfer to British Airways and not AA. When I fly AA, should I be booking my AA points with British Airways?”
In general, I think American AAdvantage miles are more valuable than British Airways Avios, however the key factor here is that you can easily top up your British Airways Avios with Amex transfers (often at 40% or 50% bonuses), so do you want to put all of your eggs in one basket with British Airways or diversify with American?
It really depends on how much flying is “occasional” and what you want to redeem your miles for. If your ultimate goal is awards to Europe or Australia (or Asia on JAL), then I’d say steer clear of British Airways because those award tickets (except on Air Berlin and Aer Lingus) come with huge fees. However, if you want to redeem for North America awards or flights to South America, British Airways is a better bet since their awards are distance-based and short/medium-haul flights usually come to less Avios than American. Additionally British Airways doesn’t charge a last minute award booking fee (vs $75 on American for awards ticketed within 21 days of departure), so it’s all around probably smarter to just consolidate and bank everything to British Airways than try to build up a small balance with American. Another good thing is that even the cheapest AA coach fares earn 100% miles with British Airways, so you won’t have to worry about only getting a fraction of the miles, which often happens when you credit partner airline miles to a frequent flyer program.
If you end up flying AA more (especially with their double EQM/ point promotion) and get within elite status range, you may want to rethink your strategy. However, if it truly is occasional, I’d probably just simplify things and accrue all of your Oneworld flying to British Airways. There are a lot of other positives (cheap Avios upgrades on British Airways flights, decent hotel redemptions and household accounts) and negatives (no changes to awards 1 day prior to departure and buggy website) to using Avios, but once you get the hang of it, you can extract great value out of your Avios. I’d highly recommend reading through my most recent Maximizing British Airways series so you know how to maximizing your Avios!
Spotlight on Taxes and Fees, Distance-Based Awards, Travel Together Companion Ticket, 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.