Sunday Reader Question: Using American and British Airways Miles Together for Awards

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TPG reader Andy writes:

“I have about 105,000 American AAdvantage miles and I am about to also get my 50,000 Chase points from the Sapphire Preferred sign-up bonus. However, Ultimate Rewards points don’t transfer to AA, but they do with Oneworld partner British Airways.

I am wondering if there is a way I could parlay both points for a trip from Austin to London then Barcelona back to Austin.

Whats your thoughts on AA working with BA to combine point totals since they are partners?”

While American and British Airways are partners, you can’t physically transfer one bank of miles into the other to consolidate account. However, the good news is that AA and British Airways both allow one-way awards, so you can definitely use them in tandem to book awards when you don’t have enough miles in either program for a roundtrip. The bad news is that British Airways charges crazy fuel surcharges for award tickets from the US to Europe (and vice versa), so expect to pay $300-$700 each way per ticket in taxes and fees. AA also levies these fees on BA partner flights, but not on other Oneworld partners. You should also know that right now it makes a lot more sense to transfer Amex Membership Rewards to British Airways at a 50% bonus than it does to do Chase to BA at no-bonus.

Even though they can be used in tandem, each program has its different rules when it comes to booking awards, so here are some key considerations to take into account when planning your trip:
1) AA allows stopovers at the US departure and arrival gateway, so if you wanted to build in a stopover in NYC on your way to London, I’d recommend booking the outbound segment with AA miles and then the return using BA miles.
2) British Airways prices each segment individually. So you’ll want to minimize the number of connections on the portion of the trip that is ticketed with BA miles, so you’ll likely want to use BA miles on the outbound since you stop in London and can do that in 1 stop from Austin.
3) British Airways charges $90 to make any changes or cancel an award, and AA charges $150 to cancel a trip, but allows free changes as long as the origin and destination stay the same–though you can change the routing between them. I’d use AA miles for the portion of the trip that has the highest likelihood of date change (for example if you think you will want to extend your trip while you are in Europe, I’d recommend booking that portion of the trip with the AA miles).
4) American allows you to hold award tickets for 5 days – British Airways requires instant ticketing. If you are trying to book multiple tickets using both BA and AA, I’d recommend holding the AA tickets first, then ticketing BA, then ticketing the held AA tickets – that way inventory doesn’t evaporate before you can finalize everything.
5) AA has MileSaaver and AAnytime awards. Only MileSaaver awards can be booked using BA miles, however all BA awards can be booked using AA miles at the partner award levels.

There are many other differences, but hopefully these tips help you start thinking about the best way to maximize your points for your trip to Europe. Safe travels!

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