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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 Premier Card, or use the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express 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.

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