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TPG reader Kathryn tweeted me to ask about Amex transfer bonuses:

@thepointsguy – “Where have all the Amex Membership Rewards transfer bonuses gone?”

There’s a famous song by the esteemed singer/songwriter Paula Cole called “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone,” and that’s the inspiration for your question today, Kathryn. It’s a great one!

American Express used to be known for lucrative transfer bonuses to Delta and even Starwood, but lately things have really dried up. The best we’ve seen recently was a 40% transfer to British Airways back in December of 2014. Before that, we had seen up to 50%.

The most recent Amex transfer bonus was an extra 25% to Virgin Atlantic back in April, but there wasn’t much value to be had there because Virgin Atlantic adds such high taxes and fees on its awards (although there are some sweet spots). Amex recently announced that the regular transfer ratio for British Airways is going to go down, so you’ll get less than one Avios point for every Amex point. I don’t suspect there will be many BA transfer bonuses in the future.

Other past transfer bonuses have included the following:

  • Aeroplan — 25% (2010)
  • Flying Blue Air France/KLM — 25% (2012)
  • British Airways — 30%, 40%, 50%
  • Delta — 40% rebate as well as a 30% bonus, both back in 2011
  • Jetblue — 30% (2012)
  • Starwood — 50% (2012), 25% (2011)
  • Virgin America — 30% (2012), 35% (2015)
  • Virgin Atlantic — 20%, 25%, 35% (2010-2015)
Chris Parypa Photography / Shutterstock.com
Amex may be favoring transfer bonuses to Virgin America. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Unfortunately, I think Amex is going to be focusing on transfer bonuses to Virgin America going forward, which is a bit of a snoozefest for me. Luckily, Citi has been upping its game with transfer bonuses of 25% to Etihad (April), Virgin Atlantic (June) and Hilton (2014), but there hasn’t been anything super-juicy yet.

In general, I wouldn’t count on transfer bonuses to boost your loyalty accounts; instead, work on maximizing every single dollar to earn points through spending. For example, take advantage of 3x points on travel with the Citi ThankYou Premier Card, or use the American Express Premier Rewards Gold to earn 3x points on airfare (or 4x if you book through Amex Travel). Be sure to maximize quarterly bonus categories like those on the Chase Freedom card.

The earning side is where it’s at, because I don’t think many lucrative transfer bonuses are coming our way. However, I’d love to be proven wrong!

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

With some great bonus categories and an annual fee that’s waived for the first year, the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card has a lot going for it. If you don’t have PRG, now’s as good a time as any to add it to your wallet, as Amex added some great new benefits several months back.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Receive 25,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • 3X points for flights booked directly with airlines. 2X points at US restaurants, US gas stations, and US supermarkets. 1X points on other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.
  • No matter where you're traveling, when you use your Premier Rewards Gold Card there are no foreign transaction fees from American Express.
  • $100 Airline Fee Credit. Up to $100 a year in baggage fees and more at one airline.
  • Get a $75 hotel credit on qualifying charges, plus a room upgrade upon arrival, if available with The Hotel Collection at americanexpress.com/hc. Terms apply.
  • There is a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $195.
  • Terms and limitations apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Annual Fee
Introductory annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $195.
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.