A Hack That Lets You Still Transfer American Express Points to British Airways at Full Value

Chase extended its British Airways partnership back in May and then in June American Express announced you’d no longer be able to transfer Membership Rewards points 1:1 into British Airways October 1. Presumably the British Airways-Chase deal precluded other card products from having 1:1 earning with BA.

It’s a far cry from a year ago when transfers were still 1:1 and American Express ran transfer bonuses on top.

British Airways First Class

Of course, British Airways became a less valuable progam back in April. And then, once we thought the bloodshed was over, they came back and announced that 4500 Avios awards are going away for North American itineraries effective February 2, 2016.

At that time American Airlines and Alaska Airlines economy rewards will start at 7500 points one-way. That’s still useful, of course, though starting March 22 American will offer 7500 mile one-way awards on flights under 500 miles.

American Airlines Economy

All that said, there’s a workaround to still transfer points 1:1 from American Express to British Airways through December 31 if you want to top off a British Airways account with additional Avios.

American Express is offering a 25% bonus on transfers to Iberia Avios through December 31. That makes American Express – Iberia transfers 1:1.

You can transfer points between British Airways and Iberia Avios accounts. Your Iberia Plus account must be 90 days old before you can move points out of it. Your British Airways account must have earned at least 1 point to transfer into it. Provided you already have an Iberia Plus account open you’re able to transfer in time to still issue 4500 point one-way awards in the US before that option disappears February 2.

For the transfer to success the name, email address and date of birth should be identical in your British Airways and Iberia accounts. I’ve had more success with the ‘combine my avios’ option on the Iberia website than at BA.com.

Points in Iberia accounts can be useful in their own right.

  • With the Iberia award chart for 8 months of the year — during ‘off peak’ travel dates — Boston/New York – Madrid roundtrips cost 68,000 points in business class and Chicago/Los Angeles/Miami-Madrid roundtrips cost 85,000 points in business class. (You can book Iberia awards one-way at half the cost of roundtrip, partner awards are roundtrip only.)

  • Iberia doesn’t add significant fuel surcharges onto awards on their own flights.

  • Once British Airways increases the price of one-way awards on American short-haul flights, booking a roundtrip that’s under 500 miles each way will cost 12,000 Iberia Avios vs. 15,000 British Airways or American points.

But if you do have American Express points, and you want them in your British Airways account, moving them to Iberia first may be your answer.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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 do not think it is possible to redeem Iberia Avios for Alaska flights using the Iberia award chart, because Alaska and Iberia are not partners. I’d love to be wrong on that, though!

  2. Gary: Do you think collecting Avios is worth the hassle? I spent 194,000 Avios miles for 2 biz seats (ha!) FCO-London, and then, as a placeholder, F from London to Denver one month ago. I live in PDX. A day after the booking, United cancelled its evening flight DEN-PDX so I’ve been looking for 2 F class seats in early October 2016 to in order of preference: SEA/SFO/LAX/YVR/San Diego/SJC/PHX/LAS/ORD and it’s impossible to get 2 F seats to any of them. Reluctantly booked a hotel room at the new Starwood Denver airport hotel but would love to sleep in my own bed….and BA is making it impossible to do so. I’m thinking of going w/Alaska and United for my SPG and Chase points—though UAL stinks on long haul international….aargh.
    So…sorry for all that detail but the bottom line question is: should I stop collecting Avios? Thanks!

  3. @bigbirdwithsilverwings – worth it collecting Avios? The answer to that question is always, “at what margin?” Would you collect them if they were free? Sure! Instead of the same number of American or United or Chase or Amex points? Definitely not. So collecting them when they are low cost and don’t trade off with more valuable earnings. But it’s no longer a particularly great program in my view — the 2011 changes followed by the April 2015 changes and now the February 2016 changes hurt pretty badly.

  4. You might want to mention/warn readers that if you have a BAEC household account you cannot transfer directly Avios between Iberia and BA (either by pushing or pulling). You need to go through avios.com (which requires a UK or South African(?)) mailing address.

  5. @bigbirdwithsilverwings, how much Avios continue to work for you really depends on what you will be doing with them. I just booked a DFW-CUN round trip for 15k Avios. Travel to the northern parts of Latin America and the Caribbean out of DFW or MIA will continue to be an excellent deal with Avios. Those rates mostly aren’t changing and/or remain very cheap. On the other hand, many people’s travel patterns won’t fit well with the new Avios landscape. I will have little use for them on strictly domestic itineraries.This used to be my regular transfer with MR points, but I will be taking a good, close look at other options going forward.

  6. I was waiting for some way to transfer at full value to British Airways with my 75K points on Amex Gold. Great timing, thanks for the tip Gary!

  7. I was surprised by a 25% bonus when transferring to Iberia. I moved over 90K Avios to British airways from Iberia from an original 75K Avios. Thanks gain Gary, outstanding!

  8. BAEC = British Airways Executive Club

    Household account is a feature of BAEC that allows you to combine the points of people who live at the same physical address. For example wife, son and I have a BAEC household account which allows us to combine our points balances for awards. This is an unusual feature of BAEC however it also introduces limitations to the account of which is direct transfers between Iberia as outlined above. If you have a household account (and you have to specifically create it so you should know you have one) then you will need to take the extra step of going through Avios.com.

  9. I transferred 51k MRP to Iberia and much to my surprise received two deposits in my Iberia account totaling 63,750 miles.

    51k – Transferring Your American Express Membership Rewards Avios


    12.75k – Promotion 25% Transfer Mrb Amex Avios

    I hope there won’t be a claw back…

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