25% Bonus When Transferring Membership Rewards to Alitalia
Over the weekend, American Express Membership Rewards launched a new transfer bonus to Italy's flag carrier, Alitalia. Now through October 31, for every 1,000 Amex MR you transfer to Alitalia, you'll receive 1,250 miles — rather than the standard 1,000 miles.
You're free to transfer as many Membership Rewards points as you wish. Terms and conditions note that transfers are typically immediate but may take up to 48 hours. In our testing, we found miles didn't post immediately, but Amex MR did transfer to Alitalia within 24 hours.
TPG doesn't have a valuation of Alitalia's miles. So, let's look at some possible uses to see if you might want to take advantage of this transfer bonus.
1. Award Flights — this is the best option for using Alitalia miles. On Alitalia, award prices between the continental US and Italy start at just 50,000 miles round-trip in economy and 80,000 round-trip in business. With this Amex MR transfer bonus, that means you can get a round-trip to Italy in business class for just 64,000 Amex Membership Rewards.
There's a catch: Alitalia does charge fuel surcharges on award tickets, and these surcharges can be rather high. For a business-class award between New York's JFK and Rome (FCO), the fuel surcharges alone are going to run $856 round-trip. However, if you can afford to pay this out of pocket, you can get a solid redemption. Even with the cheapest business class fares over the next six months, you'd get at least 2.4 cents of value per Amex Membership Reward point if you're able to redeem for these flights.
There are also some hidden gems using Alitalia miles on partners — especially those that don't apply fuel surcharges. One restriction is that partner flights must be booked as round-trips. To explore these options, check out the SkyTeam award chart (caution: PDF link), Etihad partners and other partner airlines.
2. Cash & Miles — this option allows you to reduce the cost of a flight booking. But, it's a waste of points at just €0.005 (0.56 USD cents) of value per Alitalia mile.
3. Upgrades — Unlike award flights, you're able to use miles to upgrade leg-by-leg. The upgrade chart on Alitalia's website (caution: PDF link) shows the following upgrade costs for flights to/from the United States:
- 35,000 miles per leg from economy to business (booking code K, V, T)
- 25,000 miles per leg from economy to business (booking code Y, B, M, H)
- 25,000 miles per leg from premium economy to business
Note that Alitalia's cheapest economy options aren't upgradeable. Instead of paying $966 round-trip for the cheapest economy ticket from New York's JFK to Rome (FCO), you'd have to shell out $1,846 round-trip just to redeem 70,000 miles (56,000 Amex points) to upgrade from economy to business. To upgrade from premium economy to business class, you'd have to pay $1,976 round-trip for an upgradeable premium economy fare plus 50,000 Alitalia miles (40,000 Amex points).
Considering paid business-class fares are just $2,517 for the same example dates, neither option provides a good redemption value for your Amex Membership Rewards. Even after the 25% transfer bonus, an upgrade from premium economy would net you just 1.2 cents per Amex MR and an upgrade from regular economy would net you less than 1.4 cents per Amex MR. You might get a better redemption if there's upgrade availability on dates with higher fares.
Just note that Alitalia's current award chart expires October 14, 2016. That's just 11 days from now. If you're interested in utilizing the current award chart, make sure to book your Alitalia award flight before this date — just in case the current chart isn't renewed on October 15. If you aren't finding much value in Alitalia's program now, perhaps something will change for the better on October 15.
If you're looking for a business-class award flight to Italy — and don't mind paying hefty fuel surcharges — utilizing this transfer bonus could be worthwhile. Just make sure to look into Alitalia award availability and cash fares for your dates first to see if booking with Alitalia makes sense for your situation.
H/T: Frequent Miler