5 ways to travel more for less with newest Amex transfer bonuses
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Earlier this month, American Express launched a record number of transfer bonuses from Membership Rewards and cards such as The Platinum Card® from American Express or American Express® Gold Card to various airlines and hotel partners.
Currently, there are 10 transfer bonuses to various hotel and airline transfer partners, with bonuses ranging from 15% to 40%, depending on the transfer partner. We’ve never seen this many available at once — ever.
Current transfer bonuses include:
- Avios (Aer Lingus, British Airways and Iberia): 40%
- Aeromexico Club Premier: 25%
- Air Canada Aeroplan: 20%
- Air France-KLM Flying Blue: 25%
- Avianca LifeMiles: 15%
- Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles: 25%
- Qantas Frequent Flyer: 20%
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club: 30%
- Hilton Honors: 30%
- Marriott Bonvoy: 30%
This presents a ton of excellent redemption options for flights and, to a lesser extent, hotels. Here, I’ll run you through some of the best ways to maximize these American Express Membership Rewards transfer bonuses before they expire on Sept. 30, 2021, for the airlines and Oct. 31, 2021, for hotels.
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Cheap domestic flights with Avios and LifeMiles
On the American and Alaska side, you can use the 40% Avios transfer bonus to book short-haul domestic flights for as little as 6,000 Amex Membership Rewards points translated to 8,400 Avios.
Under British Airways’ distance-based award chart, flights up to 651 miles in distance cost 7,500 Avios one-way, but if you are starting from zero, you’ll have to transfer 6,000 Membership Rewards as transfers only process in increments of 1,000. Flights between 651 and 1,151 miles cost 9,000 Avios, or 7,000 Avios transferred to 9,800 Avios during this promotion.
Alternatively, you can book super-cheap United domestic award tickets with Avianca LifeMiles. Awards start at 7,500 LifeMiles – or 7,000 Membership Rewards transferred to 8,050 LifeMiles — one-way for an intra-region flight. Plus, you may find cheaper awards on various routes. For example, Newark (EWR) to Pittsburgh (PIT) is only 6,500 LifeMiles, or 6,000 Membership Rewards points with the current bonus.
Longer flights typically cost more miles: for example, you’ll pay 12,500 LifeMiles to fly Los Angeles (LAX) to New York-JFK. This is just 11,000 Membership Rewards points during the transfer bonus.
Play around with your dates and destinations to see which transfer partner is best for your next domestic flight. It could help you save a lot of money for relatively few points.
Business class to Spain for 25,000 points
You can also leverage the 40% transfer bonus to Avios to book Iberia business class to Spain for just 34,000 Iberia Avios from the U.S. Midwest and East Coast on off-peak dates, which is an incredible deal on its own. The bonus lowers this to a mere 25,000 Membership Rewards points transferred to Iberia.
Off-peak dates span most of the year sans peak travel times. You can view a list of peak and off-peak dates on Iberia’s website, and pricing is reflected on the Iberia search engine. Iberia currently prices awards from Boston (BOS), Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) and New York-JFK into this price band, with other awards costing more points.
Transatlantic Delta One for 39,000 points
Delta One suites are one of my favorite ways to get to Europe. I’ve found that the product is consistently better than what’s offered by other “Big 3” airlines like American and United, and stacks up well against many international business class products. Better yet, some suites-equipped Delta jets — namely the A330-900neo — have sliding doors for extra privacy.
The best way to book Delta One awards to Europe is leveraging its partner, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. The program charges just 50,000 Virgin points for a one-way ticket from the U.S. to Europe, which is far less than you’d pay when booking with Delta SkyMiles or other partner currencies like Air France-KLM Flying Blue.
This drops to just 39,000 Membership Rewards points with the current 30% transfer bonus. Better yet, you can book all Delta award tickets right on the Virgin Atlantic website. Just search for your flights and transfer points after you find open award space.
Round the world in business class for 176,000 points
Aeromexico Club Premier offers one of the most flexible round-the-world bookings out there, charging just 224,000 and 352,000 kilometers for an economy or business class round-the-world ticket, respectively.
Aeromexico transfers usually process at a 1:1.6 transfer ratio, but the 25% bonus boosts this to 1:2 ratio. This drops the price of a round-the-world ticket to 112,000 Membership Rewards points in economy and 176,000 in business class. Note that you are, however, responsible for paying taxes and other surcharges.
These tickets can have up to 15 stopovers, must begin and end in the same country and continue east or west for the entire journey. You use these rules to build out some pretty exceptional itineraries just 176,000 Membership Rewards points — here’s an example:
- New York-JFK to Los Angeles (LAX) — Delta One business class
- Los Angeles to Sydney (SYD) — Delta One business class
- Sydney to Shanghai (PVG) — China Eastern business class
- Shanghai to Hong Kong (HKG) — China Eastern business class
- Hong Kong to Amsterdam (AMS) — KLM business class
- Amsterdam to Paris (CDG) — Air France business class
- Paris to Madrid (MAD) — Air Europa business class
- Madrid to Buenos Aires (EZE) — Aerolíneas Argentinas business class
- Buenos Aires to New York-JFK — Aerolíneas Argentinas business class
That said, booking these tickets isn’t exactly easy. You need to find award space using your favorite SkyTeam award search tool or with ExpertFlyer (owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures). Then, you have to call Aeromexico to book your itinerary. We’ve heard of readers having mixed results, so we recommend getting the itinerary figured out over the phone before you transfer your points.
Regardless, this can be a great way to take a huge trip around the world when borders fully reopen after the coronavirus pandemic if you’re willing to put in the effort.
Low-cost Hilton award nights
I rarely recommend transferring Membership Rewards points to Hilton Honors — but mixing this transfer bonus with the right hotels could yield great value.
Membership Rewards points normally transfer to Hilton Honors at a 1:2 transfer ratio, meaning that 10,000 Membership Rewards equals 20,000 Hilton Honors points without the transfer bonus. Right now, you can transfer to Hilton with a 30% bonus, meaning transfers process at a 1:2.6 ratio, so the same 10,000 Membership Rewards transfer yields 26,000 Hilton points through Oct. 31, 2021.
This opens the door to a handful of great redemptions. Remember, Hilton prices all award stays dynamically, so prices change by property and the date of your stay. But, if you can find reasonably priced redemptions at high-cost properties, you can find a good deal.
For example, this one-night weekend stay at the DoubleTree New York Times Square South costs $271.04 after tax in October. Alternatively, you can book for 49,000 Hilton points on the same date, or just 19,000 Membership Rewards points with the 30% bonus. This yields roughly 1.43 cents per point in value — less than TPG’s Amex valuation of 2 cents per point, but a solid deal nevertheless.
Do the math and see if it makes sense for you to transfer Membership Rewards points to Hilton before your next stay. You probably won’t get outsized value on most redemptions, but it can be a good way to save money on your next vacation.
American Express’ latest round of transfer partners creates a number of excellent opportunities for redeeming fewer points for more travel. Here, I showed you a handful of ways that you can do this by combining existing sweet spots with the transfer bonus, in turn giving you an even better deal than normal.
Remember: you have to act quickly to take advantage of these promotions. The airline transfer bonuses end Sept. 30, 2021, while the hotel bonuses end Oct. 31, 2021.
Feature photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy
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