We’ve got good news for you to begin your Friday with today! American Express Membership Rewards now transfer to British Airways and Iberia Avios at an improved rate of 250:250.
Previously, the transfer rate was 250 Memberships to 200 Avios (1:0.8). Personally I’m quite excited about the change in ratio. I love distance-based Avios for booking short hops that otherwise wouldn’t make sense to redeem miles for, but also for sweetspots like Iberia Business Class between Brazil and Spain that I flew at the end of May for just 42,500 points. Generally though, Avios are better for the aforementioned reason.
Membership Rewards, earned by cards like the Platinum and Business Gold Rewards cards, transfer to 17 different airline loyalty programs and three hotel loyalty programs.
- Delta SkyMiles
- AeroMexico Club Premier
- Air Canada Aeroplan
- Air France Flying Blue
- Alitalia MilleMiglia Club
- ANA Mileage Club
- Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
- British Airways Avios, must be transferred in 250 point increments
- Iberia Avios, must be transferred in 250 point increments
- El Al Matmid Points (1,000 MR = 20 points)
- Emirates Skywards Miles
- Etihad Guest
- Hawaiian Airlines Miles
- JetBlue TrueBlue (250 MR = 200 points), must be transferred in 250 point increments
- Singapore KrisFlyer
- Virgin America Elevate (200 MR = 100 points)
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
- Choice Privileges Points (1,000 MR = 1,000 points)
- Hilton HHonors Points (1,000 MR = 1,500 points)
- SPG Starpoints (1,000 MR = 333 points)
Hopefully JetBlue and Virgin America will take a page out of Avios’ book–then all of Membership Rewards’ useful airline partners would transfer 1:1.
Back in October of 2015, we saw the transfer rate between Membership Rewards and Avios change from 250:250 to 250:200. There was a 50% transfer bonus to BA Avios offered from mid August to mid October of 2016 and another 50% bonus to Iberia Avios offered from mid November through mid December of 2016 that temporarily improved the ratio, but apart from those periods I’m sure there were a lot less transfers.
Fast forward to today and we’re back to the rate we had pre-October 2015, 250:250 🙂
Let’s go over when and why you’d want to collect and redeem Avios–an introduction for newbies and a review for the experienced vets.
There are two major components of British Airways Avios to note.
A) Avios are distance-based.
B) British Airways collects fuel surcharges on Avios awards when flying a partner airline that charges them.
A) Distance-Based Miles
While most major airline miles have region-based award prices, Avios are distance-based. Different equals more valuable when it comes to miles because it opens up different types of high value awards.
- What I mean by region-based: the price of an award is determined by what region you originate and what region your destination is in (coupled with the cabin). Regions are determined by the loyalty program, but are generally the same with some exceptions (i.e. North America, South America, Europe, etc.)
- What I mean by distance-based: the price of an award is determined by the distance of each segment flown, and the cabin you fly in.
B) Fuel Surcharges
British Airways is a member of oneworld Alliance, meaning you can redeem BA Avios on any oneworld partner as well as two non-allied partners (Aer Lingus and Alaska). That doesn’t mean however that you’ll always want to. British Airways collects massive fuel surcharges on most of those partners.
These flights are the exception–you can book them with Avios without fuel surcharges:
- American Airlines flights within the USA, Mexico, Canada, Caribbean, Central, and South America.
- Alaska Airlines flights
- All LATAM international flights
- Some LATAM domestic flights
- Aer Lingus and airberlin flights
- British Airways flights within Europe
- Qantas domestic flights
- S7 flights
In a few words, the way to maximize Avios is by redeeming them on short, direct, economy flights since they’re distance-based miles, flying one of the above airlines to avoid fuel surcharges.
To see what all this means in practice, check out Maximizing Ultimate Rewards: British Airways Avios.
Iberia Avios are also great for Off-Peak Business Class awards to Europe. Learn more in 25% Off Iberia Awards Means 25.5k Points in Business to Europe.
Pro Tip: Combining Region-Based Miles with Avios
Let’s say you want to go to Morocco. It would cost 40k United miles to fly economy or 80k to fly Business, from the United States to Northern Africa, the region that Unified classifies Morocco in. But if you flew to Madrid first (classified by United as Europe) and then used Avios to hop to Morocco, it would only cost 30k/57.5k/70k United miles in economy/United Business/Partner Business, and 4,500 Avios in Iberia economy (it’s only a 1.5 hour flight). You save yourself miles and get to see Madrid as well as Morocco.
British Airways collects fuel surcharges on Iberia, but they are quite reasonable. Madrid to Casablanca, Morocco will only run you $28.97 in out of pocket costs.
Again, flying straight to Morocco from North America would cost 40k United miles in economy or 80k United miles in Business Class.
Read more examples about using BA Avios to cross into other award regions in How to Combine Region-Based Miles with BA Avios to See More and Pay Less.
Transferring Between BA Avios and Iberia Avios Accounts
Perhaps now that the transfer rates have been improved, we won’t see transfer bonuses offered anymore between Membership Rewards and British Airways or Iberia Avios. I hope that’s not the case. If transfer bonuses are offered the same time as last year, then we’d see another around August of this year to BA Avios and another at the end of the year to Iberia Avios.
If there’s ever a transfer bonus offered to one program but not the other, you can always take advantage of it and transfer Avios between your British Airways and Iberia accounts. You just have to consider the following caveats:
- Both your British Airways and Iberia accounts must be at least 90 days old to transfer points freely between the program. Create your Iberia account here if you haven’t already. Create your British Airways account here if you haven’t already.
- Both accounts must have had at least 1 Avios in them at some point. (You could always make a Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards, or SPG points to Avios transfer to get those points, or look for promo offers for enrolling your email address, interacting on social media, etc.)
- Your name, email address, and date of birth must match exactly between British Airways and Iberia accounts.
The transfer rate from Membership Rewards to British Airways Avios and Iberia Avios has improved from 250:200 to 250:250. This opens doors for more and higher value redemptions as there are many more cards that earn Membership Rewards than cards that earn Avios specifically.