Skip to content

Why you should transfer Amex points to British Airways, not Iberia

Feb. 10, 2020
6 min read
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.

I've been involved in the world of points and miles for nearly two decades now, and my knowledge has expanded greatly over that time. While I consider myself to be an expert with most loyalty program and credit card currencies, every once in a while I stumble. Recently, I made a simple mistake when transferring my hard-earned points to an airline partner, and while everything worked out in the end, it could've been disastrous.

Sign-up for the TPG daily newsletter to get points and miles coverage like this delivered to your inbox.

Here's why, if you're looking to convert your American Express Membership Rewards points to Avios, you should always transfer them to British Airways — even if you ultimately want to use them in the Iberia Plus program.

Background

This story started a couple of weeks ago as my wife and I were planning our yearly international trip for Thanksgiving. We've started letting award availability dictate our ultimate destination, and this year, we noticed that there were two business-class award tickets on our preferred Iberia flight from Miami (MIA) to Madrid (MAD) on Friday Nov. 22.

We explored nearby destinations and ultimately decided on Lyon (LYS). Our first trip to experience France's Christmas markets had been spectacular, so we were excited about the prospect of exploring another part of the country. With the connecting flight in economy, we'd need to redeem 94,000 Avios plus about $220 in taxes and fees — a fantastic rate for a pair of one-way, business-class award tickets from the U.S. to Europe.

(NOTE: I booked my premium-economy award ticket separately. When there are only two business-class seats, they go to my wife and daughter.)

Transferring my points

I had roughly 2,300 Iberia Plus Avios in my account, so I knew I needed to transfer 92,000 credit card points (in increments of 1,000) to make up the difference. Given my love for transferable point currencies, I also had a large stash of points with both Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards, and both currencies transfer to Iberia at a 1:1 ratio. Since I recently added the American Express® Gold Card to my wallet and will be earning a retention bonus on my Platinum Card® from American Express in a month or two, I know I'd be replenishing my Membership Rewards account in the near future. As a result, I decided to liquidate my Amex balance and transfer the remaining points from Chase.

Related: Maximize your wallet with the perfect quartet of Chase cards

In the end, I transferred 63,000 points from Amex and 29,000 points from Chase. I then logged in to my Iberia Plus account, ready to lock in my award tickets.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

There was only one problem. Instead of seeing my expected balance of 94,314 Avios, I only had 31,314. Confused, I logged out and back in. Same story. I started to worry that something had gone wrong with my transfer, but I had double-checked everything, and I couldn't imagine what happened.

Then, it hit me. I had completely forgotten about transfer times. While Chase points transfer to Iberia Plus instantly, our tests showed that Amex transfers could take up to 48 hours to process. And there was nothing I could do. I had initiated the transfer and simply had to wait.

How British Airways could've helped

To make matters worse, there was a way I could've avoided this entirely: by transferring my Amex points to British Airways and then to Iberia. This is because of a feature known as Combine My Avios. Normally this is a way to lower your fuel surcharges on Iberia-operated flights or book award tickets when Iberia would require fewer Avios than BA. However, in this case, I would've been taking advantage of the fact that Amex to British Airways transfers are instantaneous, as are transfers from BA to Iberia.

In order to do this, follow these steps:

  1. Transfer your Amex points to British Airways.
  2. Log in to your BA Executive Club account.
  3. Expand the Manage My account menu at the left, then click on Combine my Avios at the bottom.
  4. Click the Combine my Avios icon, then login to your Iberia Plus account.
  5. Follow the on-screen prompts to finalize your transfer.

Had I done this from the start, I could've had the 94,000 Avios in my Iberia Plus account within seconds of transferring them from Amex. Instead, I was left waiting and hoping that the two business-class award seats wouldn't be taken by the time my points arrived.

Related: Review of Iberia business class

However, just note that your Iberia Plus account must be at least 90 days old, and all of your account information for both programs — including full name and email address — must match in order to use Combine my Avios. Even a middle name or middle initial on one account and not the other could result in a failed transfer.

All's well that ends well

Fortunately, the Iberia Avios showed up roughly 36 hours after initiating the transfer from American Express, and the awards were still available. (Note that Amex doesn't provide confirmation when a transfer is complete, unlike Chase, so I needed to manually check to discover that they had posted.) I quickly booked the tickets for my wife and daughter and let out a big sigh of relief when I received the final confirmation email.

I've utilized the Iberia Plus program several times over the last few years, especially for flights from the U.S. to Spain, but this was my first time transferring in Amex points. Chalk this up to a near miss and a learning experience. The next time I need to book an award ticket through Iberia — especially one with limited inventory — I'll be transferring to British Airways first.

Featured image by Iberia A350 Business Class (Photo by Christian Kramer/The Points Guy)

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more