American Express Restores One-to-One Transfers to British Airways & Iberia

Chase extended its British Airways partnership two years ago and the very next month American Express announced you’d no longer be able to transfer Membership Rewards points 1:1 into British Airways.

So for the past two years we’ve had 1:0.8 transfers — except for a Membership Rewards transfer bonus last summer and a transfer bonus to Iberia which would then allow you to transfer onward to British Airways.

British Airways First Class

I assumed at the time that the British Airways-Chase deal precluded other card products from having 1:1 earning with BA. However, it may just have been a function of increased cost for the miles since the BA co-brand also reduced earning from 1.25 miles per dollar down to one.

Now the British Airways transfer page shows 1:1 transfers again as the norm with no indication of a bonus. I’ve reached out to American Express for further confirmation that this is intended as an ongoing change. Update: See below — American Express confirms.

Of course, British Airways became a less valuable program than it used to be. And then, once we thought the bloodshed was over, they came back and eliminated 4500 Avios awards for short haul North American itineraries.

So now American Airlines (when you can find any saver space) and Alaska Airlines economy rewards start at 7500 points one-way for flights up to 1150 miles. That’s still useful, of course, and better than American’s new 7500 mile one-way awards on flights under 500 miles.

American Airlines Economy

I find British Airways awards best for short haul awards, including short haul business class, outside the United States. And I love them for upgrading business class stackable sale fares to first class.

I would not make speculative transfers, however, since transfers are instant (so there’s little reason to) and once British Airways parent IAG figures out how to roll up all the Avios programs into one there’s a reasonable chance they devalue again.

Update: Here’s what American Express shares,

• Today, two of Amex’s Membership Rewards airline transfer partners, British Airways and Iberia, are increasing the transfer ratio for their rewards program, Avios. The transfer is increasing from a 5:4 to a 1:1 transfer ratio.
• With this update, Amex’s Membership Rewards program now offers the most 1:1 airline transfer partners – 11 in total.
• Membership Rewards now also offers Card Members the opportunity to transfer points to 21 reward program partners, which is more than any other U.S. credit card rewards program.

(HT: @IadisGr8)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I find that BA points have become basically worthless. Forget about finding AA availability using Avios. I use them mostly for DragonAir flights into China but other than that it’s nearly impossible to find anything of value.

  2. There still some value with BA miles, as Gary noted, short hauls outside the US. I had to piece together an award using different partners and needed a short flight within Japan. The $$ was rather expensive (~$350) but it’s a steal at 4500 BA miles.

  3. Avios are excellent for use in Asia and Australia on Cathay Pacific, Malaysian, and Qantas. And I’ve found plenty of seats for the LATAM flights across the Tasman to/from New Zealand. So not completely worthless (certainly worth less) but more of a niche program for use on some partner airlines.

  4. No doubt when they upped the minimum on short-hauls from 4500 to 7500 in the U.S., that deterred a lot of transfers from AMEX to BA. They devaluing the transfers from 1:1 to 5:4 pretty much eliminated a ton of transfers. So I doubt BA has been getting much business since and maybe requested the 1:1 transfer again…

  5. If the 1:1 ratio is permanent, this is great news… if you can find a short-haul AA award flight, transfer MR points to BA, and immediately make the booking.

    If the 1:1 ratio is temporary, this is worthless… as I wouldn’t speculatively transfer MR to BA now, on the hopes that a desirable AA flight becomes available later.

  6. If you travel outside the US, avios are highly useful. Iberia, Air Berlin, Sri Lankan, Cathay, LAN — there are a ton of times in which one-ways are expensive and the ability to book for 4500 points (even if you absurdly overvalue transferrable points that’s only $90 in value) is very useful

  7. It was 1:1 and Amex used to run 25%, 30% and even 40% bonus on top of that. You can tell how much Amex points devalued…

  8. Worth noting that when AMEX writes “With this update, Amex’s Membership Rewards program now offers the most 1:1 airline transfer partners – 11 in total.” It’s not strictly true.

    It may have the most 1:1 transfers out of the credit card companies but SPG crushes MR when it comes to 1:1 airline transfers.

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