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Transfer bonuses are a holy grail of the miles and points world, as they take the points you have and turn them into even more points in another program. While they are never guaranteed, over the past decade we’ve grown accustomed to American Express Membership Rewards transfer bonuses to British Airways Executive Club happening at least once a year. With its distance-based award chart and sweet-spot redemptions on airlines such as American Airlines and Alaska, British Airways is a popular Membership Rewards transfer partner for travel within the US and beyond — even after it removed the beloved 4,500 one-way Avios awards within the US in 2016. But now it’s not just Amex card holders who can benefit from a transfer bonus, since Chase Ultimate Rewards recently released its first-ever transfer bonus — to none other than the British Airways program.
Unlocking outsized value on usually expensive short- to medium-haul flights using British Airways Avios, such as flying on American Airlines from the West Coast to Hawaii for 12,500 Avios each way or from the East Coast to an exotic Caribbean destination for 7,500 Avios each way, is a solid redemption.
With the announcement last month that Chase would launch a 30% bonus points transfer to British Airways on a base 1:1 transfer rate, our aforementioned one-way flight at 12,500 Avios to Hawaii from the West Coast would now cost only 9,616 Avios, not bad at all for a visit to the Aloha State. With the impending British Airways partner award chart changes on May 30, we’re crunching the numbers to see just how good this current 30% transfer bonus might be.
To give some perspective to the current point transfer opportunity, we dove into a bit of historical data with British Airways transfer bonuses dating back to 2010. Since this is the first Chase transfer bonus, the previous examples are all from the US-based Amex Membership Rewards program:
Here’s what we discovered:
- From fall 2010 to the spring of 2015, there were 10 transfer bonus offers from Amex to BA ranging from 30–50% at a 1:1 ratio, with 60% of those bonuses offering more than Chase’s initial 30% bonus offer. This was a real heyday for short-haul trips since you could still book 4,500 one-way Avios awards even within the United States.
- Between fall 2015 and summer 2017, the transfer rate from Amex to British Airways was reduced from 1:1 to 250:200. During that time, the lone bonus offer from Amex to BA was 50%, which meant if you transferred 10,000 Amex Membership Rewards points to British Airways Executive Club, you got 12,000 Avios in return. That works out to be just a 20% bonus by current standards.
- In summer 2017, the transfer rate increased back to 1:1 and since then, the highest transfer bonus offer we’ve seen was the most recent, when Amex offered a 40% bonus to transfer Membership Reward points to Avios in the fall of 2018.
So, how does this new 30% transfer bonus from Chase to British Airways rank? Comparatively speaking, Chase’s introductory transfer bonus to British Airways stands in the 38th percentile of all-time transfer bonuses offered by American Express to British Airways (and TPG values Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards equally), making it somewhat below average as transfer bonuses go.
However, even though the transfer bonus isn’t an all-time “best of,” there are a couple of very strong reasons to consider making a transfer. First, while TPG values Amex and Chase points at the same 2 cents per point, you may personally have access to more Ultimate Rewards points than Amex points since they accumulate pretty quickly at 3 points per dollar on travel and dining with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, 5% cash back (5 points per dollar) on quarterly bonus categories with the Chase Freedom (up to $1,500 each quarter you activate) or potentially even 3% cash back (3 points per dollar) on virtually everything for the first year with the Chase Freedom Unlimited (up to the first $20,000 spent; then an unlimited 1.5% cash back).
Secondly, there’s the reality that the British Airways partner award chart is changing on May 30. While we are pretty sure we have a handle on the coming changes, British Airways hasn’t confirmed precisely what will happen on that date — other than informing that partner flights will get pricier.
As an example of what we anticipate happening, partner award flights in the US up to 1,151 flown miles are expected to increase from the current 7,500 Avios cost to 9,000 Avios. With the current transfer bonus, that is the equivalent of just 5,770 transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards points to fly from say Dallas to Orlando or Miami to New York City. However, if you wait to transfer and book until after mid-June with the transfer bonus is over and the new award chart is in place, the same flights will cost you 9,000 transferred Chase points. In other words, pay less now, or pay more later.
(Here’s some great examples of how to fly your family for less this summer using the Chase British Airways 30% transfer bonus.)
It’s a great sign that Chase is offering transfer bonuses to the British Airways Executive Club. The initial 30% transfer offer by Chase, although not the highest historically speaking across programs, still presents a great value when using Avios to book short- to medium-haul partner awards. Despite an upcoming British Airways Executive Club partner award chart change, the hope is that Amex, and now Chase, continue to offer more competitive bonus transfer offers to customers moving forward and there are some compelling reasons to transfer now to lock in some awards before the price goes up.
Featured photo by BEN STANSALL/Contributor / Getty Images.
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