One of the best transfer bonuses – and best ways to use Amex Membership Rewards points, period – is ending soon.
Last month, Amex launched a 40% transfer bonus when sending Amex points over to British Airways. And thanks to some outstanding new ways to use British Airways Avios, it's easily one the best transfer bonuses we've ever seen. But it has an expiration date: It ends Sunday, May 15.
That gives you just under a week to come up with a way to put this transfer bonus to use before it disappears … and there are plenty of options. It can unlock one of the cheapest ways to fly to Hawaii using points and miles, in addition to some other cheap domestic award tickets. You can use it to fly to Europe and back using just 25,000 points – or do it in business class for 49,000 points. And thanks to some recent changes with British Airways Avios, it's the cheapest way you'll ever find to score a ride in Qatar Airways Qsuites.
Read our guide on how to transfer Amex points to airline and hotel partners.
No matter how big they are, transfer bonuses like this are great because they're basically free airline miles. And a 40% bonus is outstanding: The norm for most of these bonuses is 20% to 30%. Amex has offered 40% bonuses to British Airways and sister airlines like Iberia a handful of times over the years.
This one is widely available to almost anyone with a Membership Rewards card like the Platinum Card® from American Express or the American Express Gold® Card – your co-branded Delta SkyMiles credit cards from American Express won’t do the trick.
Keep reading for some ideas on how to put it to use before this outstanding transfer bonus ends. Just keep in mind: Even with a hefty bonus, you should never transfer points without a purpose to use them in mind, as these transfers are a one-way street – you can't get them back to your Amex account.
Hawaii and Back for 19K Points
One of the cheapest ways to book flights to Hawaii involves … British Airways?
That’s right: You can book flights to Hawaii with miles from the massive U.K. carrier, using British Airways Avios to fly American Airlines out to the islands.
While American Airlines frequently charges 45,000 AAdvantage miles or more for these flights, you can fly from the West Coast to Hawaii for just 26,000 Avios. Factor in the 40% transfer bonus, and you need just 19,000 Amex points to make it happen.
The trick to getting these ultra-low rates is starting your search in Los Angeles (LAX) or Phoenix (PHX), both of which have nonstop service to the islands. You can also start from other cities like Seattle (SEA), Portland (PDX) San Francisco (SFO), San Jose (SJC), or San Diego (SAN), as Alaska Airlines nonstops to Hawaii are also bookable at these rates.
Read more on the cheapest ways to get to Hawaii using points and miles!
Availability to book these American Airlines flights via British Airways is typically quite solid – especially if you’re looking at least a few months in advance. The same is true of Alaska Airlines.
Roundtrip to Spain for 25K Points
Most airlines charge about 60,000 to 70,000 miles to fly from the U.S. to Europe and back. One airline can get you there and back for half that price.
It’s Iberia, the Spanish flag carrier. Depart from the right cities and at the right time, and you can score round-trip flights straight to Madrid (MAD) for just 34,000 miles plus about $200 in taxes and fees – or just 25,000 Amex points with this transfer bonus. While you won't get a 40% bonus sending Amex points straight to Iberia, there's a workaround to do it.
The laws of airline miles say that you can't transfer miles from one airline to another. But British Airways and Iberia are an exception to that law. So long as both accounts have been open for at least 90 days and remain active, you can transfer Avios between the two airline accounts.
That means you can transfer 25,000 Amex points to your British Airways account, kick them over to Iberia, and then book a roundtrip flight to Madrid like this.
The trick? Iberia’s distance-based award pricing system means you have to start your journey from the East Coast hubs of Boston (BOS), Washington, D.C.-Dulles (IAD) or New York City (JFK). Luckily for Midwesterners, Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) still works at this price, too – despite some recent troubling signs. Departing from other Iberia outposts like Miami (MIA), Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), San Francisco (SFO), or Los Angeles (LAX) will cost you more miles.
You also need to time it right. Iberia uses peak and off-peak pricing, which means getting these cheap flights at 34,000 miles requires traveling during the off-peak season. Luckily, Iberia’s definition of “off-peak” is typically quite generous: It means you can fly at the lowest rates for nearly 2/3 of the year. Mid-June through mid-September are generally considered peak summer season, with some scattered weekends and holidays blocked off, too. Check out Iberia’s full calendar to scope out the dates.
… Or Do it in Business Class for 49K
Flying business class to Europe doesn't get any cheaper than this. In fact, we consider it one of the best deals in points and miles. And with a 40% transfer bonus to British Airways, the best somehow gets even better.
After transferring to British Airways and again over to Iberia, it brings your final tally to just 25,000 points for a one-way Iberia business class flight to Madrid – or 49,000 points roundtrip! That’s a roundtrip flight in business class for less than what almost every other airline would charge you to fly in economy.
Why not fly like this rather than back in economy when you can do it using fewer points?
Read our full review of Iberia business class!
Booking Iberia business class flights follows the same script as the economy example above. Focus on flights from New York City, Boston, Washington DC, and Chicago to Madrid to get the lowest rates. Off-peak travel times are key. Better yet, there’s typically plenty of Iberia business class award availability as far out as March 2023, which makes it easier to score these seats using your points than you'll find with many other airlines.
Need more info? Read our guide to booking Iberia business class!
Book Qsuites for Cheap
We saved the best for last.
Thanks to Qatar Airways' recent adoption of Avios, the floodgates are open to book Qatar's world-leading Qsuite business class seats using Amex points. Factor in this 40% transfer bonus, and you can do it for fewer points than ever.
Check out our full review of Qatar Qsuites!
Here's the easiest route: You could book a simple nonstop from many cities in the U.S. over to Doha (DOH) for just 70,000 British Airways Avios and about $100 in fees. Find the award availability you want, transfer 50,000 Amex points to your BA account, and book it. Done. It doesn't get cheaper or easier than that.
We send Thrifty Traveler Premium members award alerts when they can book the world's best business class using their points, plus cheap cash fares too!
But if you want to take it next level and connect elsewhere – Dubai (DXB) or Muscat (MCT) in the Middle East, Cairo (CAI), or maybe even the Maldives (MLE) or down to Cape Town (CPT) in South Africa – you'll want to turn to Qatar Airways Avios. Just like Iberia, you can combine your Avios balances between British Airways and Qatar. In fact, it's even easier – check out our walkthrough.
And these multi-segment awards wind up being much cheaper by booking through Qatar itself than British Airways, which still charges mileage on a per-segment basis. Booking through Qatar, you could fly in Qsuites to …
- Middle Eastern destinations like Dubai (DXB), Abu Dhabi (AUH) or Muscat (MCT) for 75,000 miles – just 54,000 Amex points after the transfer bonus!
- Other destinations like Amman (AMM) and Cairo (CAI) as well as major Indian cities go up to 80,000 miles each way, or 58,000 Amex points with this bonus.
- Getting to the Seychelles (SEZ) or Maldives (MLE) will run you 85,000 miles each way, which works out to 61,000 Amex points.
- Both Southeast Asia and South Africa typically cost 95,000 miles each way – 68,000 Amex points with the 40% bonus.
Take our advice: Book a flight that connects onward to the Middle East so you can access Qatar's incredible Al Safwa Lounge during your layover. You won't regret it.
Qatar tacks on some decent cash surcharges at about $100 for a simple nonstop to Doha or $200 if you need to make a connection. But that's a price worth paying given you can book these incredible flights using 60,000 Amex points or less.
Transfer bonuses just don't get better than this.
A 40% transfer bonus to any airline is great. Just a few weeks ago, it would have been great news for British Airways. But with new opportunities to redeem British Airways miles in the fold, this is even better.
But make sure you take advantage before this one ends May 15.