Should You Transfer Amex Points To British Airways With 40% Bonus?

As I first wrote about in mid-December, the US American Express Membership Rewards program is offering a 40% bonus on transfers to British Airways Executive Club through January 31, 2015.

British-Airways-Avios-Bonus-1

Since this promotion expires in a few days, I had actually written a post last night about whether I thought it made sense to speculatively transfer points, which I originally scheduled for this morning.

Of course that all kind of changed this morning when British Airways Executive Club announced a pretty substantial award chart devaluation for bookings made as of April 28, 2015.

In light of those changes, should you still transfer points from Amex to British Airways before the transfer bonus expires? Here are my thoughts:

Avios transfer bonuses don’t come along often anymore

Back in the day Amex frequently had transfer bonuses to British Airways, though they haven’t been common lately. The last transfer bonuses from Amex to BA were as follows:

So not only is this the first transfer bonus in a year, but it’s also the best transfer bonus we’ve seen in over two years.

You still have three months to redeem at old levels

Let’s keep in mind the award chart devaluation only kicks in for bookings made as of April 28, 2015. That means you have three more months to redeem Avios at the old levels. In general I’m opposed to speculative points transfers, so there is still value to taking advantage of the bonus now so you can redeem at the old levels.

25,000 Avios for one-way business class between Boston and Dublin is tough to beat!

The single best use of Avios isn’t changing

While it’s hardly an aspirational redemption, there’s no arguing that Avios are invaluable for domestic US redemptions. From my perspective the single biggest “value add” of the program is for shorthaul US redemptions. BA charges:

  • 4,500 Avios for a one-way economy flight of 1-650 miles
  • 7,500 Avios for a one-way economy flight of 651-1,151 miles
  • 10,000 Avios for a one-way economy flight of 1,152-2,000 miles

And those values stay exactly the same. On one hand do I like redeeming miles for domestic economy class? No, it’s not Cathay Pacific or Emirates first class. But it’s really, really practical, especially given the cost of last minute domestic revenue tickets nowadays.

But yes, everything else is getting worse.

British-Airways-747-First-Class
Redeem for British Airways first class before April 28, 2015

Will I transfer Amex points to Avios?

In this case I’m not just giving general advice to others, but this actually applies to me as well. I have literally 460 Avios (yes, like, fewer than a thousand), and a boatload of American Express points.

Avios-Balance

Personally I’ll probably transfer about 100,000 American Express points to British Airways Executive Club. Why?

  • I’m confident the current award chart will apply apply for at least a couple more years, so I don’t think we’ll see a further devaluation anytime soon — their last award chart changes were in September 2011, for what it’s worth
  • I’m not confident we’ll see another 40% transfer bonus in the next year or so; it really makes sense to “stock up” on as many Avios as I think I’ll need in the coming years
  • My need for Avios for domestic last minute trips on Alaska, American, and US Airways won’t go away

Alaska Airlines 737 SeaTac Airport
Avios redemptions on Alaska will continue to be valuable

Bottom line

Will Avios be as valuable post-devaluation as they were pre-devaluation? Absolutely not. But they still have a really unique value proposition for shorthaul award tickets within the US, and I know that will come in handy.

Do you plan on transferring Amex points to British Airways before the transfer bonus ends?

Comments

  1. Only 460? Whoa! What happened to the 40,000 avios you booked the LHR-DOH a350 on that you cancelled? I am guessing those points have not posted back yet?

  2. @Joey

    when you cancel avios award the points post back almost instantly… just log out and back in to your account.
    Ben probably used those for the trip with his mom. 😉

  3. Personally, I’m not as confident as you are about them not devaluing again anytime soon. What I’m reading into this is that IHG wil be spinning the AVIOS scheme off in the near fut ad that will start the long slippery slope back towards the bad old days of AirMiles.

  4. Thx Lantean! Despite being a reader of Lucky’s blog, I rarely fly AA and BA so I’m not familiar with those carriers & their ff programs.

  5. i am in such a dilemma. I do see the value of the short haul redemption rate, which comes in handy for those long weekends when I feel like a last minute trip to the continental Europe. (I live in the UK). So on that front I am reluctant to desert BA. However most of my redemptions are for long haul premium cabins, and I save my companion voucher for that too. The devaluation is literally davestating to me and to my travel plans/patterns. Virgin has better rate (did you know you can redeem LHR-PEK-LHR return in Air China First class for just 75k Virgin miles??), but it doesn’t have the OW reach, plus they are no good for my european trips. AA also now have better redemption rate, but I don’t fly American a lot, it just seems rather inappropriate. What should I do??!

    I still have my companion voucher, but I don’t currently have enough avios to finalise any long haul trip. I will have enough by summer but the rate would be higher then. Though with the companion voucher, the increased rate still works out cheaper than other alternatives. I am thinking of getting as many avios as possible, through credit cards spend etc, then redeem a mega trip with companion voucher, before ditching ship and move to another program altogether. Is this sensible? Irrational? Lucky, I would really appreciate your advice.

    Thx

  6. Lucky

    Do you use avios for short haul flights only at last minute or as a matter of course? Often when I can see avios availability it is also available fairly cheaply for cash (for e.g. 4500 avios for a BOS-JFK leg I need that is also available for $86). Curious what your thought process is in these situations.

  7. Thanks for the update, Lucky. So it’s down to the wire and I’m still not clear on whether I should take advantage of the 40% offer and looking for advice from anyone. Between us, my partner and I have close to a million AX MR miles, and close to 3 million US/AA miles (I know, hoarding is dumb). We are using them almost exclusively for long-haul partner premium cabin travel at the saver level. The problem, however, is that often domestic connecting flights (e.g. to JFK or PHL) are not available from our home airport (ORF). Are these short haul seats easier to find using Avios points, or is the only advantage the lower redemption level?

  8. I think between my partner and I, we’ve got 170K Avios and not a ton of MR rewards (maybe 80K), so I am thinking no. Devaluation sucks though.

  9. I plan on transfering enough for 4 RT SDF to Miami, Avios = 15,000, AA = 25,000 or with the 40% bonus I only use about 11,000 MR,

  10. What’s the Avios redemption rate for AA LAX-hawaii in economy with the new chart? Is it no longer 12,500 Avios each way?

  11. also in @jake’s dilemma… i work for a US airline so domestic travel is never an issue–so i’ve been saving my MR points for a long haul premium class trip with my wife (MLE!). is it worth the spend to transfer to avios? thanks lucky!

  12. Hi Ben,

    Newbie here. Just had my 100k MR posted from Platinum bonus offer. Not sure that I will renew platinum when annual fees are due and I don’t currently have another Amex card to transfer the points to if they aren’t going to be used.

    So should I move all my points to
    Avios? I’m based in Seattle area.
    Plan has always been to take premium to Asia (via Cathay?) & I’m not opposed to going to Ireland:). Just don’t know when I can do the trips.
    I also have about 300k UR points for what’s it’s worth.
    Pls tell me what to do…and I’ll probably do it.

    Thank you,
    Michelle

  13. @ Jake — Hah, that’s a toughie, and there’s probably not a right or wrong answer. Personally I’d probably continue to accrue with BA, simply because they have the global reach and I don’t think Virgin miles are any better, despite the few “sweet spot” redemptions they have.

  14. @ Gaurav — Well I always compare revenue and award ticket costs, but generally I only use Avios for last minute domestic tickets, or tickets in markets that are super expensive. That’s because with top tier elite status with American I get quite a bit of value out of paying for my travel in cash. I get upgrades, bonus miles, etc.

  15. @ Mike — BA has access to the same saver space that AA/US make available. So the only benefit is the lower redemption rates.

  16. @ Michelle — I wouldn’t transfer them if the goal is premium cabin longhaul trips, but for shorthaul travel (especially out of Seattle on Alaska) they’re great…

  17. Hi Ben,

    Thanks for your reply. Just to follow up on that, are SEA-LAX or SEA-SFO (both are 7500 Avios one way) what you consider good shorthaul redemptions? I usually end up paying ~$175 return for those trips.

    Thanks again!

  18. @ Michelle — No, in that case you’re better off paying for the tickets. When I lived in Seattle I often needed to book last minute tickets on Alaska, when they seemed to be prohibitively expensive.

  19. With the devaluation,

    1) What are the best MR transfer options for international long haul ?

    2) How does this impact your view of MR points overall?

  20. Question. When you use Avios to book trip do you get on AA the benefits of being EXP for boarding, seat assignment, etc?

  21. I had 100,000 from the Amex Platinum sign-up as well, and transferred them all to Avios for the 40% bonus. My “exit” plan was always a bonused transfer to Avios followed by mid-con round-trip flights on AA @ 20K. This didn’t change and, I believe, now won’t for a couple of years or so anyway. Plus, we’re not going to see 40% again anytime soon.

    So far so good. The rub is that “saver” space on AA, which is what Avios has access to, is an ever-changing uncertainty.

  22. Thanks Lucky. Tough call isn’t it!! I am kinda stuck with BA until I use my companion voucher, then even after that, if I keep getting the voucher every year, redemptions with BA are still cheaper than other alternatives even after the increase (though the catch is that i will always have to fly on BA metal). Just read your post about Iberia Plus, which throws another spanner into the works. It could be the only good news in all of this, which means I can move my avios on an adhoc basis if there’s a good Transatlantic redemption to be had on IB metal, and I will just get a position flight to MAD using Avios…
    Arrrgghhhh… sometimes i wish i was a train fanatic instead. They must have such a simpler life (not to mention cheaper too!)

  23. @ WhiteShoes — All partner awards price at the peak level, or else that would indeed be a great deal.

  24. Hi Ben,

    Feeling need to try to take advantage of this before devaluation if possible. Having never actually booked a reward ticket or really know how to search for them, can you please tell me at this point if it’s still possible to get BOS-DUB for two people either in business or economy, during non winter months? Or am I dreaming at this point?

    And can I do one way YVR-HKG in business and come back in economy? Would you buy a one way economy (seems pricey) or book economy using points as well?
    Thanks, Michelle

  25. @ Michelle — It should be possible to find Aer Lingus space. You’ll have to call BA to ask about space, though.

    You can indeed do one way in economy and one way in business class on Cathay Pacific. Generally speaking one way international tickets are expensive when paying cash, so I would indeed do the other way in economy as well.

  26. Is there a way to convince Amex to give me my Business Gold bonus points before my second statement closes?

    I recently got the Business Gold card and completed the necessary spend for the 50K bonus in the first billing period. Amex won’t award any of the points until after my second statement closes. Is there any way to talk them into giving me the points so I can get in on the Avios 40% bonus?

  27. I moved 100k of my 460k MR to BA this morn and may move another 100k over. A 40% bump makes the new BA changes easier to swallow. I live near BOS so BOS-DUB is something I book a lot. If the 4.5k short haul redemption was changing I would think twice about the transfer. It’s not changing so I’m confident I did the right thing.

  28. Ended up not transferring anything since I missed the deadline by 7 minutes, lol… Wouldn’t transferred a lot anyway because have enough Avios for shorthaul redemptions for the year — given x4 premium for domestic “first”, those tickets are cheaper when paying cash.

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