Fly for less: 6 ways you can maximize the current Amex transfer bonus to Avios
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 can book Avios awards at a discount with a 40% transfer bonus from American Express Membership Rewards to British Airways Executive Club. This means points transfer at a 1:1.4 transfer ratio, giving you a nice discount on Avios award tickets.
With the bonus, you can book domestic tickets within the U.S. for as low as 6,000 Amex points transferred to Avios. Or, you can fly from the East Coast to Ireland for as few as 10,000 Amex points.
Here are six 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.
Get the latest points, miles and travel news by signing up for TPG’s free daily newsletter.
Book Qatar Airways' famous Qsuite business class
British Airways recently lowered the cost of Qatar Airways awards booked with Avios. Coupled with the 40% Amex transfer bonus, you can leverage this to get an excellent deal on flights from the U.S. to the Middle East in Qatar Airways' famous Qsuite, one of the world's best business-class seats.
All Qatar Airways flights from the U.S. — everywhere from New York to Los Angeles — to Doha, Qatar, price at just 70,000 Avios one-way in business class with roughly $100 in taxes and fees. During the transfer bonus, you can transfer just 50,000 Amex points to British Airways to book this award, making it one of the best ways to book this business-class product with points and miles.
Related: Close to perfect: Qatar Qsuite on a 777-300ER from Doha to New York
Book cheap cross-border and domestic flights
One of the best ways to use Avios in the U.S. is to book flights with American Airlines 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 Amex points with the transfer bonus — for economy flights under 650 miles. Then, flights between 651 and 1,151 miles cost just 7,000 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, a nonstop American flight from Charlotte to Toronto costs roughly $250 on many dates this September.
Or, you can use 7,500 Avios — just 6,000 Amex points during the transfer bonus — and $5.60 to book the same one-way ticket. This yields at least 4.07 cents per point in value when you factor in the transfer bonus.
Keep this in mind if you’re planning to take a domestic trip or visit 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
Another excellent way to redeem Avios is booking off-peak Iberia flights from the U.S. to Madrid.
These flights cost 34,000 Avios one-way in business class on off-peak dates, or just 25,000 Amex points transferred to Iberia. This pricing is valid on flights from Boston Logan International Airport (BOS), Chicago's O’Hare International Airport (ORD) and New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) .
On board, 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 Amex Membership Rewards points to BA Avios — not Iberia Avios — to get the 40% 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.
Related: Sweet Spot Sunday: Fly business class to Europe from 34,000 Avios each way
West Coast to Hawaii for 10,000 points
Planning a trip to Hawaii? Those based on the West Coast can use British Airways' distance-based award chart to book one-way flights to Hawaii for 13,000 Avios in economy — just 10,000 Amex points with the transfer bonus. You can book these flights on both American and Alaska on the BA website.
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, San Francisco and Seattle.
Related: The best ways to get to Hawaii using points and miles
South and Central America with American
Of the major U.S. airlines, American Airlines has long offered the most service to Central and South America. It serves nearly every major city in the two regions, with most service from its Dallas and Miami 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 and 16,000 Amex points, respectively, with the current transfer bonus.
Some interesting routes in this price range include Miami to Bogota, Colombia; San Jose, Costa Rica; Panama City; and Medellin, Colombia. Longer routes will cost marginally more Avios depending on where they fall on the BA partner award chart.
Related: Every American Airlines premium seat ranked from best to worst
Aer Lingus flights to Dublin
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, a flight from Boston, Chicago, Hartford, Minneapolis, Newark, New York City, Philadelphia or Washington, D.C., to Dublin costs 13,000 and 50,000 Avios in economy and business class, respectively. This translates to just 10,000 Amex points in economy and 36,000 in business class with the transfer bonus.
Unfortunately, you can’t find Aer Lingus award space on BA’s website. Instead, find award space on United.com and call BA to book the award. Make sure to find and confirm award space before you transfer your Membership Rewards to Avios.
Related: 3 versions of Avios: When to use Aer Lingus, Iberia and British Airways
American Express' 40% transfer bonus to British Airways is a great deal, 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 Membership Rewards to Avios during this promo.
Feature photo of Waikiki Beach by Anna Munoz/Getty Images.