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TPG reader Ann asks:
“Can British Airways Avios points be transferred to American Airlines AAdvantage miles since the airliens are code share partners? Or the reverse?
For example, if one opens the BA card, could those bonus miles earned then be transferred to AA at any time? Or could an existing small AA balance be sent to the BA account?”
In short, no, you generally cannot transfer miles from one airline frequent flyer program into another- even if they are alliance or codeshare partners. You can, however, redeem British Airways Avios for American Airlines flights, but you are limited to award flights that American makes available to their partners, which is generally most MileSAAver awards. See this post for redeeming British Airways Avios for partner flights (and avoiding their notoriously huge fees).
Exceptions to the Rule
Frequent flyer programs will allow you to transfer points between airline programs when airlines merge. For example, you can currently move points between AirTran and Southwest’s old Rapid Rewards program until the AirTran program no longer continues to exist (probably later in 2013).
British Airways allows you to transfer points to their subsidiary Iberia Plus program, which can save you a boatload on fees. Read this post for more info on that process.
Points.com will also let you transfer points between programs, but in my experience, the ratios are horrible – you are essentially losing 60% or more of the value of your points by moving them from one account to another. Instead of going this route, I’d recommend boosting you account balances by leveraging transferable points programs.
American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest points all transfer to British Airways at base 1:1 transfer ratios. American miles are harder to come by, but Starwood Preferred Guest points transfer at a 1:1 base ratio with a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points transferred.