Skip to content

Maximize Amex Transfer Bonus for Solid Award Redemptions to Asia and Europe

March 06, 2019
5 min read
Maximize Amex Transfer Bonus for Solid Award Redemptions to Asia and Europe
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

When you think of American Express Membership Rewards transfer partners, you're likely to think about British Airways Avios, Delta SkyMiles, Etihad Guest or Singapore KrisFlyer. With a transfer bonus that just popped up, you might want to get to know Cathay Pacific's Asia Miles program a little better.

American Express and Asia Miles are teaming up to offer a targeted transfer bonus when transferring Membership Rewards points to Asia Miles. It seems that 30% is the maximum targeted bonus, although some card members are being targeted for 10% or 20%.

I was one of the lucky ones that was targeted for a 30% bonus:

Sign up for our daily newsletter
Image retrieved on March 4, 2019.
Image retrieved on March 4, 2019.

Before you log in to check your offer, we have a warning: Once you view this transfer bonus, it may not appear again. This happened to me. I logged in Monday to see the 30% bonus in the screenshot above. However, when I logged back in Tuesday to check if it was still available, there was no bonus showing:

Image retrieved on March 5, 2019.

With that caution out of the way, let's explain why you might want to give Asia Miles a closer look because of this transfer bonus. Asia Miles has a mileage-based redemption program that bases the award price on the distance of the flight. For example, here's the Asia Miles award chart for flights operated by Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon:

That's a bunch to take in, so let break it down for routes to/from the US while factoring in the 30% transfer bonus and the requirement to transfer Membership Rewards points in increments of 1,000:

RoutePremium EconomyBusinessFirst
To/From HKGAsia MilesAmex MR pointsAsia MilesAmex MR pointsAsia MilesAmex MR points
Los Angeles45,00035,00070,00054,000110,00085,000
San Francisco45,00035,00070,00054,000110,00085,000
Boston60,00047,00085,00066,000125,00097,000
Chicago60,00047,00085,00066,000125,00097,000
New York60,00047,00085,00066,000125,00097,000

For an idea of how those prices compare, American Airlines AAdvantage program is going to charge 70,000 miles each way in business class or 110,000 miles each way in first class. With the transfer bonus, Asia Miles is notably better.

That said, if you have the ability to generate Alaska Mileage Plan miles, that airline requires just 50,000 miles one-way in business class or 70,000 miles one-way in first class. And Alaska allows a free stopover even on one-way awards.

For flights on non-Cathay Pacific flights, Asia Miles has a different distance-based award chart:

There's plenty of potential in there for huge multi-stop itineraries, utilizing stopovers and open-jaws that Asia Miles allows on its partner awards.

For example, you can use ta 30% transfer bonus to transfer just 39,000 Membership Rewards points to get 50,700 Asia Miles, then book an award flight to London on British Airways with much lower fuel surcharges than British Airways to American Airlines would charge for the same flight. Here's one example that TPG's Richard Kerr highlighted recently:

This one-way award is available for:

  • 50,000 Cathay Pacific Asia Miles -- just 39,000 Membership Rewards points with a 30% transfer bonus -- and US$341 in surcharges
  • 57,500 American Airlines AAdvantage miles plus $581 in surcharges
  • 62,500 British Airways Avios plus $581 in surcharges

Another example of how Asia Miles can outperform partner airlines is British Airways' fascinating all-business class A318 flight between New York City and London City -- which TPG's Zach Honig reviewed. An award flight on this AvGeek dream will cost you:

  • 50,000 Cathay Pacific Asia Miles -- just 39,000 Membership Rewards points with a 30% transfer bonus -- and US$304 in surcharges
  • 50,000 British Airways Avios plus $582 in surcharges
  • 57,500 American Airlines AAdvantage miles plus $582 in surcharges

H/T: One Mile At A Time