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American Express Membership Rewards points are one of the most useful points currencies out there, given how many lucrative airline transfer partners they have.
As I first wrote about in June, unfortunately the transfer ratio from American Express Membership Rewards to British Airways Executive Club will be devalued for transfers as of October 1, 2015. That means you just have a few days left to transfer points at the current ratio.
As of that date, the transfer ratio will be adjusted from 1,000:1,000 to 250:200.
Why is the transfer ratio being devalued?
There’s no way to know for sure, but my guess is that it has to do with British Airways’ co-branded credit card being issued by Chase. Interestingly the earnings rates on the card was devalued earlier in the year as well, from 1.25 Avios per dollar spent to 1.0 Avios per dollar spent.
British Airways is transfer partners with American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest, and only the Amex transfer ratio is being devalued. This is likely because Chase didn’t want American Express having a more lucrative transfer ratio than they did.
But that’s just speculation on my part.
Should you transfer Amex points to BA now?
British Airways Avios are especially useful for shorthaul travel, given that they have a distance based award chart. Avios can be redeemed for travel on American and Alaska, which is great for low cost travel within the US.
The cost for those flights is as follows:
- 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
Anyone in this hobby knows that Avios are valuable for shorthaul travel, so does that mean you should transfer Amex points to BA before the devaluation? Not necessarily.
Keep in mind that in the past we’ve seen limited time transfer bonuses from Amex to British Airways, and in some cases they’re pretty substantial. For context, here are the most recent transfer ratios we’ve seen from Amex to British Airways:
- 40% transfer bonus January 2015
- 20% transfer bonus October 2013
- 35% transfer bonus May 2013
- 30% transfer bonus January 2013
While the transfer bonuses aren’t as frequent as they used to be, they can be quite large in some instances. I wouldn’t be surprised to see similar transfer bonuses offered in the future, in which case we’d see a better than 1:1 transfer ratio at times. But that’s just speculation on my part, and I could certainly be wrong.
Still, it could be months before that happens again.
Amex might still be the best for accruing BA Avios
If you accrue Membership Rewards points for the purpose of transferring to British Airways, should you switch credit cards? Not necessarily, I’d say.
For example, the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card offers 1.5 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent. Even without a transfer bonus, that’s the single best ratio you’ll see for Avios on any card. As a reminder, the card offers:
- 3x points at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x), 2x points at US gas stations, 1x points on other purchases
- Use your card 30 or more times on purchases in a billing period and get 50% more points on those purchases less returns and credits
Furthermore, the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express also offers a fantastic return on everyday spend, which with certain spend profiles might still end up being the best option. Specifically, it offers 3x points for flights booked directly with airlines, 2x points for purchases at US gas stations, US restaurants, and US supermarkets, and then 1x point per dollar spent on everything else.
The transfer ratio from Amex to BA changes on Thursday, October 1, 2015, so you’ll want to transfer points in the next few days if you don’t have many Avios and would get use out of them. My general advice would be to:
- Transfer Membership Rewards points to British Airways for whatever uses you’d have for them in the next six (or so) months
- If you don’t have a short term use, hope for a transfer bonus sometime in the coming months which will end up resulting in a better than 1:1 transfer ratio
Do you plan on transferring Amex points to BA before the transfer ratios change next week?