American Express has two airline transfer partners with a ratio of 1:1 – Aeroplan and Avios. While American Express has not had a transfer bonus to Aeroplan in years, they are currently running a 30% bonus on transfers from Membership Rewards to Avios, the loyalty program of British Airways. American Express in the US runs bonuses of up to 40%, but for Canadians, this is the highest transfer bonus from American Express that we’ve ever seen.
30% Avios Transfer Bonus
The promotion started September 25, and runs until November 25, 2018. The 30% bonus is automatically added on all amounts. The minimum amount is 1,000 Membership Rewards points and in additional increments of 100 points. This converts to 1,300 Avios for the next month and a half. Similarly, 10,000 AMEX points will transfer to 13,000 Avios, and so on. The transfer page only displays the standard rate, but the bonus is listed underneath in the product information box.
This promotion only applies to transfers from standard Membership Rewards Cards. The Cobalt Card, which does not permit transfers to airlines, will not qualify. Other cards like the RBC Avion Visa Infinite and SPG American Express, don’t receive this bonus. Cards that earn Membership Rewards that qualify for this promotion are the following:
- American Express Business Platinum Card: Get up to 60,000 Membership Rewards Points!
- American Express Business Gold Card: Get up to 40,000 Membership Rewards Points!
- American Express Platinum Card: Get up to 60,000 Membership Reward Points!
- American Express Gold Rewards Card: Get up to 30,000 Membership Rewards Points!
Membership Rewards bonus post instantly after completing the minimum spend, so you should be able to take advantage of this even if you apply for a card today. American Express states that the transfer requires a minimum of 5 business days, although I’ve seen transfers finish earlier than that. Avios is an excellent way to redeem your American Express Membership Rewards, and this bonus makes it even better. The last two transfer bonuses that were only 25% ran September 2017 and January 2016.
Avios has a distance-based award chart which calculates pricing on each individual leg. The best use of Avios are on short-haul flights with oneworld partners. Generally, they are a poor value for long-haul redemptions, as they do pass on fuel surcharges which can be very high on British Airways flights. Premium economy flights are 1.5x the price of coach, business class 2-3x, and First Class 4x the price.
In North America, Avios partners with Alaska Airlines and American Airlines. Routes like Vancouver – Los Angeles and Toronto – New York only cost 7,500 points. This can be an exceptional value for last-minute redemptions, as taxes on a redemption can be as low as $5.60. Regardless, you should always consider the price of revenue fares as Canadian departure taxes can exceed $50 even for transborder flights in coach. I value Avios at a minimum of 1.5 cents, so your ticket’s base fare (excluding taxes and fees) should be a minimum of $113.
Oneworld has many fantastic airlines. Redeeming Avios is a great way to fill open-jaws within continents on larger trips. Some routes you can get a high-value redemption on include Lima – Cuzco, Hong Kong – Taipei, and London City – Amsterdam. The sweet spot for short-haul redemptions are routes under 2,000 miles, as business class redemptions cost only 2x the price of economy – at 20,000 Avios on a one-way award. These routes can run upwards of $600 in business class.
My favourite use of Avios are for short-haul business class flights within Australia, which start at only 9,000 points. They have some of the best domestic business class lounges, with made to order coffees, and even a dedicated security checkpoint (not just a dedicated line) for premium passengers at some airports. If you have a Priority Pass from your Platinum Card, you can also get free food from participating restaurants at Sydney and Brisbane airport.
The only exception to long-haul redemptions may be Avios Multi-Carrier Awards, which has generous pricing relative to the standard award chart. Business and First Class redemptions remain 2x and 3x the price of coach, respectively, and allow up to 7 stopovers on your journey. This means you can craft a full-blown RTW trip up to 20,000 miles for just under 155,000 American Express points. I’ve never made one of these redemptions, but they look pretty intriguing.
Note that redemptions on BA.com charge in the home currency of the account address, which can be very interesting.