Fly for less: 5 ways you can maximize the current transfer bonuses to Avios

Sep 2, 2021

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British Airways Avios have long been one of my favorite airline currencies. They’re exceptionally easy to earn and have a slew of great redemptions — even for U.S.-based flyers.

Right now, you have two options to fly for fewer points than usual. First, you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to British Airways Avios with a 30% transfer bonus through Sept. 26, 2021. You can also transfer American Express Membership Rewards to British Airways with a 40% bonus until Sept. 30.

This makes British Airways’ best redemptions even more affordable if you’re transferring points from Chase or Amex.

With the bonus, you can book domestic tickets within the U.S. for as low as 6,000 Ultimate Rewards points transferred to Avios. Or, you can fly to Europe for as few as 10,000 Ultimate Rewards points.

Here are five of the best ways to maximize the Avios transfer bonus for flights around the world. Remember, points transfer in increments of 1,000, so you may need to transfer slightly more points than required for an award. This is reflected throughout the article.

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In This Post

Book cheap cross-border and domestic flights

Montreal city hall with Canada and Quebec flags
Use the Avios transfer bonus to book flights to a recently reopened Canada. (Photo by Massimiliano Pieraccini / Shutterstock.com)

One of the best ways to use Avios in the U.S. is to book flights with American and Alaska Airlines. BA’s distance-based award chart makes short- and mid-haul domestic flights relatively cheap, often beating out the AAdvantage award chart.

Flights within North America start as low as 7,500 Avios — 6,000 Chase or Amex points with transfer bonus — for economy flights under 650 miles. Then, flights between 651 and 1,151 miles cost just 7,000 Chase or Amex points with the bonus.

Of course, this deal applies to expensive short-haul flights from the U.S. to Canada and Mexico. For example, nonstop American flights from Charlotte (CLT) to Montreal (YUL) cost well over $400 on many dates this October.

CLT to YUL itinerary on American Airlines' website
(Screenshot courtesy of aa.com)

Or, you can use 18,000 Avios — 13,000 Amex points or 14,000 Chase points during the transfer bonus — and $60.38 to book the same round-trip ticket. This yields at least 2.6 cents per point in value when you factor in the transfer bonus.

CLT to YUL round-trip award itinerary on British Airways' website
(Screenshot courtesy of britishairways.com)

Keep this in mind if you’re planning to take a domestic trip or visit a reopened Canada or Mexico. It’s especially useful on peak dates when travel is expensive, like Thanksgiving and the winter holidays. Just remember that saver award space has to be available to book with Avios.

Related: 6 award chart ‘sweet spots’ that will save you money on domestic flights

Fly to Europe in Iberia business class

Iberia A350 business class cabin
Iberia’s Airbus A350 business class cabin. (Photo by Christian Kramer/The Points Guy)

Another excellent way to redeem Avios is booking off-peak Iberia flights from the U.S. to Madrid (MAD).

These flights cost 34,000 Avios one-way in business class on off-peak dates, or just 27,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points transferred to British Airways or 25,000 Amex points transferred to Iberia. This pricing is valid on flights from Boston (BOS), Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) and New York-JFK.

Onboard you’ll find a solid business class cabin with lie-flat seats and premium dining. It’s a great way to spend the short flight from the East Coast or Midwest to Spain, and you can continue your journey on a connecting flight out of Madrid for marginally more Avios.

The process of actually booking this ticket is a bit convoluted, though. You need to transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to BA Avios — not Iberia Plus — to get the% bonus. Then, transfer your BA Avios to Iberia Avios and book the award on Iberia’s website. There are some requirements to be eligible to make that double transfer.

With the Amex bonus, you could transfer directly to Iberia with the 40% bonus, making that a little more straightforward.

Note that the European Union recommended its member countries restrict nonessential travelers from the U.S. in August. That said, EU member countries make their own border rules and many may choose to continue to admit Americans. This happened earlier in the coronavirus pandemic too — France, Iceland and others reopened borders before the EU.

Regardless, keep your eye on the news if you’re booking trip this fall.

Related: From international business class to domestic hops: 6 of the best Chase Ultimate Rewards sweet spots

West Coast to Hawaii for 10,000 points

Escape to Hawaii for as little as 10,000 Chase points. (Photo by Clint Henderson / The Points Guy)

Planning a 2022 trip to Hawaii? Those based on the West Coast can use British Airway’s distance-based award chart to book one-way flights to Hawaii for 13,000 Avios in economy — just 10,000 Chase or Amex points with the transfer bonus. You can book these flights on both American and Alaska on the BA website.

LAX to HNL American award on British Airways' website
(Screenshot courtesy of britishairways.com)

The trick is to keep your flights between 2,001 and 3,000 miles to get this pricing. Thankfully, this includes most flights from the West Coast to Hawaii, including from Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO)Seattle (SEA) and others.

Related: The best ways to get to Hawaii using points and miles

South and Central America with American

Fly American business class to South America with Avios. (Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy.)

American Airlines has long offered the most service to Central and South American of the major U.S. airlines. It serves nearly every major city in the two regions, with most service from its Dallas (DFW) and Miami (MIA) hubs.

Short- and mid-haul flights from these regions can be an excellent deal when combined with the transfer bonus, and can be booked for as little as 11,000 Avios in economy or 22,000 in business class. This drops to just 8,000/9,000 and 16,000/17,000 Amex and Chase points, respectively, with the current transfer bonus.

MIA to MDE American award ticket on British Airways' website
(Screenshot courtesy of britishairways.com)

Some interesting routes in this price range include Miami to Bogota (BOG), San Jose (SJO), Panama City (PTY) and Medellin (MDE). Longer routes will cost marginally more Avios depending on where they fall on the BA partner award chart.

Remember, some routes to South and Central America are operated by wide-body jets with lie-flat business class seats.

Related: Every American Airlines premium seat ranked from best to worst

Aer Lingus flights to Dublin

Visit Ireland’s famous pubs with your Avios. (Photo by T.Slack / Shutterstock.com)

Aer Lingus is a Dublin-based airline and the flag carrier of Ireland. You can use the Irish carrier to visit Ireland or continue elsewhere in Europe on a connecting flight.

Further, Aer Lingus is owned by the same company as British Airways, so you’re not subject to the partner award chart. You can leverage this to score excellent deals on off-peak tickets.

For example, Boston, Chicago, Hartford (BDL), Minneapolis (MSP), Newark (EWR), New York-JFK, Philadelphia (PHL) or Washington-Dulles (IAD) to Dublin (DUB) cost 13,000 and 50,000 Avios in economy and business class, respectively. This translates to just 10,000 and 39,000 Ultimate Rewards or 10,000 and 36,000 Membership Rewards points.

Aer Lingus business class seat
Aer Lingus business class. (Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy)

Unfortunately, you can’t find Aer Lingus award space on BA’s website. Instead, find award space on United.com to get a good gauge on availability and call BA to book the award. Make sure to find and confirm award space before you transfer your Ultimate Rewards to Avios.

Like Spain, Ireland is a member of the EU but hasn’t yet changed its border policy.

Related: Three versions of Avios: When to use Aer Lingus, Iberia and British Airways

Bottom line

These 30% and 40% transfer bonuses open up some excellent redemption opportunities for Chase and Amex cardholders, especially if you’re headed to Europe or around the U.S. on partner airlines. Take a look at your upcoming travel plans and see if it makes sense for you to transfer Ultimate Rewards or Membership Rewards to Avios during this promo.

Feature photo by EQRoy / Shutterstock.com

 

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