I sure hope you have some American Express Membership Rewards Points sitting around. You have until 9/17/17 to transfer your Membership Rewards points to British Airways with a 40% bonus! That means 10,000 Amex points convert to 14,000 British Airways Avios. Best of all, the transfer bonus is INSTANT.
How to Maximize
British Airways Avios can be a very powerful currency when you know how to maximize them. Avios are redeemed based on distance tiers, the further in distance the flight, the more Avios you’ll need to redeem.
In North America, you can redeem one-way flights on American Airlines and Alaska Airlines for as few as 7,500 Avios one-way. The only downside is for people who don’t live near a major airport. British Airways charges per segment, so if you have a connection, you will have to redeem points for each leg. Avios redemptions work best for NON-STOP itineraries.
Since both American and Alaska have non-stop flights to Hawaii, you can fly there from the West Coast for just 12,500 Avios one-way. If you factor in a 40% transfer bonus to British Airways, you’d be spending just 8,950 Amex MR points! Read that again.. a one-way to Hawaii from the West Coast for an effective 8,950 points.
Here are the cities with non-stop Hawaii flights with American & Alaska that qualify for the 12,500 Avios redemption one-way:
Los Angeles (LAX)
San Diego (SAN)
San Jose (SJC)
Honolulu – HNL
Kauai – LIH
Maui – OGG
Kona (big island) – KOA
Finding award space
Finding available flights that can be booked with Avios is not as easy as one may think. What you will want to do is head to aa.com and search for your desired dates and destination. You’ll need to be looking for MilesAAver NON-STOP awards with American or Alaska (Alaska flights denoted with an AS before the flight number). You can ignore the 20,000 American Airlines miles required for booking, you are just looking for award space.
Once you’ve found your non-stop American or Alaska sAAver award flight (which can be very tough during peak times), you are are ready to book with British Airways Avios. You can book AA flights directly on British Airways’ site (login or register for free).
Alaska flights will require you to call into BA in order to book, make sure you ask them to waive the phone booking fee. You can read more here about the Avios booking process with British Airways. Your effective total will be 8,950 + $5.60 one-way, what a steal!
Using Avios for Ireland
This is by far one of the best redemptions around – flying on Aer Lingus. East Coast (minus Florida, because the distance is over 4,000 miles) flyers can book a one-way to Dublin or Shannon for just 13,000 Avios during off-peak dates. With the 40% transfer bonus from Amex, you’d be looking at just 9,300 points effective for a one-way to Europe! For West Coast + Florida flyers, you’ll need to redeem 16,250 Avios one-way, making your effective cost 11,610 Amex MR points.
Here are your off-peak dates (roughly 8 months of the year!):
• January 5-April 6
• April 24-June 16 (great time to travel*)
• September 11-December 15
Aer Lingus flies from 10 airports in the US to Dublin, here are the one-way Avios rates during off-peak:
• New York – JFK (Dublin or Shannon*) – 13,000 one-way off-peak – in economy
• Bradley – BDL – 13,000 one-way off-peak – in economy
• Newark – EWR – 13,000 one-way off-peak – in economy
• Boston – BOS – 13,000 one-way off-peak – in economy
• Chicago – ORD – 13,000 one-way off-peak – in economy
• Washington – IAD – 13,000 one-way off-peak – in economy
• Los Angeles – LAX – 16,250 one-way off-peak – in economy
• San Francisco – SFO – 16,250 one-way off-peak – in economy
• Orlando – MCO – 16,250 one-way off-peak – in economy
• Miami – MIA – 16,250 one-way off-peak – in economy
You’ll need to look for award space on United Airlines’ site before involving British Airways. Once on United, search for ‘award travel’, keeping an eye out for flights that are nonstop, require 30k points one-way, and are operated by Aer Lingus.
If you’ve found a flight you like, you can book a one-way or round-trip, you’ll then need to call British Airways to book. (800-247-9297). Make sure to feed the call agent your desired date and flight number. If they try to charge a phone booking fee, kindly remind them that Aer Lingus flights can’t be booked online and they should waive the fee.
Ireland not for you?
One of the biggest mistakes new travelers make is overlooking positioning opportunities. If you don’t want to go to Ireland, that is fine, just get to Europe (Dublin), and then hop around on cheap flights with RyanAir and EasyJet. For effectively 9,300 or 11,610 points one-way to Europe, JUST GET THERE!
Delta, United and American (minus off-peak for AA at 22.5k one-way) all charge 30,000 points one-way from the US to Europe, so for under 12,000 one-way, don’t think twice about getting across the pond with Aer Lingus.
You can fly to Madrid, Nice, Milan, Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, etc, for under $100 extra once you’ve made it to Dublin. Just remember that most flights within Europe have strict baggage allowances so be sure to pack light. You don’t need to bring your kitchen sink with you, it will be there when you get home!
I’d definitely take advantage of this transfer bonus from American Express Membership Rewards to British Airways Avios. If you don’t feel like leaving the lower 48, you can still fly one-way on American or Alaska for 7,500 Avios if the flight is under 1,150 total flight miles. That means Miami to New York or Denver to Seattle, you’d effectively need just 5,360 points for a one-way. That is a killer deal for flights that often cost $100+ one-way.
Total award fees to Ireland will be roughly $130 round-trip when redeeming your Avios for flights with Aer Lingus. For East Coast flyers, you’d be looking at 18,600 points effectively + $130 for a round-trip to Dublin during off-peak. (23,220 for West Coast and Florida flyers)