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As a reminder, the 35% transfer bonus from American Express Membership Rewards to British Airways Avios ends this Friday, June 7, 2013, so if you were planning to make a transfer, but haven’t already taken advantage of it, you should do so soon. While not quite as generous as recent transfer bonuses of 40% and even 50%, it beats the most recent transfer bonus of 30% from back in December – it seems like Amex and British Airways are trying to find a sweet spot for transfer bonuses.
Before you transfer, figure out if Avios will make sense for your award redemption. Here’s a video where I discuss your options and weigh the pros and cons, and then read on below for links to detailed posts where I discuss the ins and outs of British Airways Avios and how to maximize them:
When it comes to transferring your Amex points to British Airways, there’s no one right answer here. I wish I had a crystal ball that would tell me what future Amex bonuses there would be, but I don’t. Amex has really slowed down on their transfer bonuses this year. We used to see 50% to British Airways and 67% to Delta a couple years ago, but these bonuses have really died off. I think 35% is pretty good especially if you have a ton of Amex points and are looking for some way to redeem them.
I remember when Delta had their last transfer bonus of 43% (it was actually a 30% transfer rebate) back in November of 2011 and a lot of people thought it wasn’t that great and were going to hold off in the hopes of a more lucrative transfer bonus at some point in the future, but Delta and Amex haven’t offered one since then, so for all we know, even thought I highly doubt it, this could be the last BA transfer bonus. You just never know.
When it comes to using, British Airways Avios, there are several options. I’ve written a ton of posts in my series of 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.
I personally love Avios. I just redeemed for a trip this summer on Aer Lingus Business Class JFK-Dublin with a bunch of friends for only 40,000 Avios and $30 in taxes one-way for business class. Also by redeeming on Oneworld partner airline Air Berlin, you can save hundreds of dollars in fees and surcharges when flying to Europe. While British Airways does have high fees on their award tickets that transit through London, the airline generally has pretty good award availability, especially in their premium cabins.
British Airways first class isn’t the best product in the world, but overall it is pretty nice. When you fly it, you get access to the Concorde Room in its lounges, and I have even flown with Madonna up front.
You can also redeem Avios for awards on American. In general they do get the same MileSAAver availability as American, but if you don’t see it online, give BA a call, and they should waive the phone booking fee if you explain to them that you were trying to book online, and it wasn’t available. They don’t charge last-minute booking fees like many other airlines do, and they only charge a $40 cancellation fee to get your miles back if you cancel an award, which is lot cheaper than some of the others which charge $150 change fees.
Until June 30, 2013, 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 cardholders.
Also keep in mind that Avios expire and will be removed from your account if you don’t earn, redeem, purchase or share at least one Avios every 36 months, so an Amex transfer is a good way to reset the expiration clock if you haven’t had any account activity in a while.
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.
Overall, British Airways isn’t the best program in the world for everyone, and their fuel surcharges can be annoying, but they do have some good perks like their household account option where you can pool multiple accounts. If you have a ton of Amex points and have nothing else in mind, I would at least way the pros and cons and make the decision for yourself.