American Express Membership Rewards offering transfer bonuses to British Airways (20%) and Virgin Atlantic (30%)

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American Express launched some potentially valuable Membership Rewards transfer bonuses today for US based cardmembers. While these aren’t the “good old days” of 50% transfer bonuses to Delta every other month, at least it’s something!

These transfer bonuses are among my favorite things about Membership Rewards accruing American Express Cards (like the American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card, The Platinum Card® from American Express, Mercedes Benz Platinum Card, and The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN), given that a couple of them offer big category bonuses. For example, the Premier Rewards Gold Card offers triple points on airfare purchases, which means $30,000 of spend on airfare earns you 90,000 Membership Rewards points. Factor in an additional transfer bonus and the return on spend can be amazing.

20% transfer bonus to British Airways Executive Club

Through December 31, 2013, American Express is offering a 20% transfer bonus to the British Airways Executive Club. The bonus is hard coded into the transfer ratio, meaning there’s no limit to the number of times you can take advantage of the transfer bonus.

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We’ve definitely seen bigger transfer bonuses before — this year alone we’ve seen a 30% transfer bonus and a 35% transfer bonus, and last year we even saw a 50% transfer bonus. This one isn’t as high as we’ve seen in the past, so it’s probably not a promotion under which I’d speculatively transfer points.

That being said, British Airways Avios can be incredibly valuable. Because they have a distance based award chart, using British Airways Avios tends to be either a great value or a bad value, but rarely a mediocre value.

For example, British Airways charges just 50,000 Avios for roundtrip business class between Boston and Dublin on Aer Lingus. That means through this promotion you’d need to transfer just 42,000 Membership Rewards points to book that.

Similarly, they charge 80,000 Avios for roundtrip travel on Air Berlin between New York and Berlin or Dusseldorf with no fuel surcharges, so to book that you’d need to transfer 67,000 Membership Rewards points.

British Airways Avios are also incredibly useful for shorthaul flights, especially on American and Alaska, given that they partner with both airlines and don’t impose any close in ticketing fees.

For example, they charge just 9,000 Avios for roundtrip economy class for distances of less than 650 miles, which is an incredible value.

So again I probably wouldn’t speculatively transfer points under this promotion given the higher transfer bonuses we’ve seen in the past, though the good news is that the promotion is valid till the end of the year, so you have plenty of time to decide.

30% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Through November 30, 2013, American Express is offering a 30% bonus on the transfer of Membership Rewards points to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. Generally speaking I consider Flying Club miles to be among the least valuable mileage currencies out there, given their somewhat restrictive award rules, high fuel surcharges on a majority of their partners, and not-so-great award rates.

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One good thing about the promotion is that you can convert Virgin Atlantic miles into Hilton HHonors points at a 1:2 ratio, so through this promotion you’ll basically be able to conver Membership Rewards points into Hilton HHonors points at a 1:2.6 ratio. In the past that would have been incredibly useful given how valuable HHonors points used to be, but since the March devaluation they’re not nearly as useful as they used to be. While I’d rather have one Membership Rewards point than 2.6 HHonors points, there are definitely circumstances under which a transfer like this can make sense.

Editorial Note: Neither this post, nor the comments, are provided by the Issuing bank, or any other advertiser. The comments below have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not the bank or advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Comments

  1. Andrew says

    Ben, I’ve never done a membership rewards transfer before, but I’m helping some relatives figure out award travel next year, and there are a few possibilities on BA. How long does it take for the miles to transfer/post in your BA account? I know Chase has always been instantaneous for me, but I don’t want to assume anything.

  2. Greg says

    Andrew,
    I transferred to BA this morning and the Avios showed up instantaneously. This has also been the case in the past. Their disclaimer says 48 hours, but I’ve never waited more than 1 day.

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