Things to think about with the 20%-30% Amex to BA / Virgin / Carlson conversion bonus

If you are opted in to receive junk email from American Express, charge card holders should have had an email yesterday offering them a conversion bonus if they moved their Membership Rewards points into airline miles.

(This comes hot on the heels of the British Airways ‘25% bonus for converting your hotel points to Avios’ bonus I wrote about yesterday)

There seem to be three versions of the email.  Amex Gold cardholders were offered 20% to BA and Virgin, Amex Platinum cardholders were offered 25% and Centurion cardholders 30%.  Everyone was offered a 25% bonus to hotel scheme Club Carlson (Radisson, Park Inn).  For the purposes of this article, I use 25%.

This is far cry from the 40% and even 100% bonuses seen in the past.  I am in two minds as to whether I should bite.

Amex thumbnail

Things to think about 1:

The first thing to remember is that the bonus miles generally post in arrears.   If you are thinking of doing a transfer and then using the miles next week, don’t.  Whilst your base Avios will go across quickly, the small print says that the 25% bonus for Avios will be credited by 30th November.  That is two whole months after the offer ends on 30th September.  (The Virgin and Carlson bonuses are due to post by 11th October, which is substantially better.)

Things to think about 2:

Do not rush to open an account with Virgin Flying Club (assuming you don’t already have one) just because you are offered a 25% bonus.   Before I opened an account and made a transfer to them, I would want to know:

  • how many miles are needed (vs BA) for places I want to visit
  • how their fuel surcharges compare (in Economy, Virgin should be £100-ish cheaper)
  • how difficult it is to get multiple seats on the same flight for a family
  • what their policy is on change fees, cancellation penalties etc

Things to think about 3:

Remember that Virgin Flying Club is a Hilton HHonors partner and lets you transfer INTO Hilton – see here.

The usual transfer rate is 1:2, which is the same as the usual Amex transfer rate.  However, because of the Virgin transfer bonus, you are 25% better off converting to Hilton HHonors points via Virgin Flying Club than you are converting directly from Amex to Hilton.

Since Hilton HHonors was devalued in February, transfers to Hilton are a lot less attractive.  I now tend to value a Hilton point at 0.3p, so 1 Amex point would get you 0.6p of Hilton stay plus 25%, so 0.75p.  This is not the worst use of Amex points, though.

If you are willing to redeem for ‘cash and points’ rewards at Hilton, you can get 0.5p per point as I wrote here.  With the bonus, that is 1.25p per Amex point, which is an excellent result.  However, ‘cash and points’ rooms are obviously not free and you may prefer a 100% points redemption even at the lower value per point.  ‘Cash and points’ rooms are also capacity controlled – there is no guarantee a hotel will offer it.

(Virgin also lets you transfer to IHG Rewards ClubHowever, the rate is so poor at 1:1 that, even with a 25% bonus, it does not come close to being a good deal.)

Things to think about 4:

Club Carlson is one of the best uses of Amex points, as I wrote here.  Because of the generous 1:3 conversion ratio, and the fact that redemptions are capped at 50,000 for standard rooms, you only need 17,000 Amex points for their best properties.  In London, you can get real bargains this way.

With the 25% bonus, it is an even better deal.  You would easily be getting over 1p of value per Membership Rewards point, probably over 1.25p.

The only downside is the risk of a Club Carlson devaluation.  They recently massacred their ‘points to airline miles’ conversion rates with no notice.  And, given the generous Club Carlson earnings rate (20 points per $1 spent in their hotels), it is possible they may raise the 50,000 points per night cap soon.

To avoid disappointment, only do a Club Carlson conversion if you have relatively short term plans to book a room.

This post discusses the best Club Carlson redemptions in the world, if you want some ideas.  I am tempted by this one myself, as I often end up putting friends and family in London hotels ….

Things to think about 5:

Finally, remember that you can buy up to 10,000 Amex Membership Rewards points per year for 1.5p each.

This might be worth it, depending on how you value an Avios.  With the 20% bonus, you’d be getting 12,000 Avios for £150, or 1.25p each.  I am not a buyer at that price, but you might be.  It depends on how you plan to redeem them.  Full details here.

So ….

This might be a good deal for you.  And it might not.  Think it through first.  You have a few weeks to decide.

(Want to earn more Avios? Click here to see our latest articles on earning and spending your points and click here to see our list of current Avios promotions.)

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Comments

  1. Rob, what is yor gut insticts…go for this or sit tight in hope of another 40% bonus? One factor might be an end of year BA redemption sale. Sitting tight on this and tesco conversion bonus might leave some of us short for any such sale.

  2. Not Amex card related, but I just got an email from VS :
    As a Flying Club member who has already earned miles with Tesco Clubcard, you’re about to enjoy some great rewards. Between 4 September and 31 October 2013, any Clubcard points converted into miles will have a generous 30% bonus.

    Not as good as previous offer, but for those who want to transfer from MR to VS and have many club card points, may consider this a better way?

    This is the 2nd time of the year that we are seeing bonus offer for converting Clubcard points to VS, I was wondering if a bonus offer for converting Clubcard points to BA might be coming soon?

    • What's the Point says:

      Just got the same email ref 30% Tesco conversion to VS.
      Its points conversion season all at once!
      Will have to have a good think about all the options over the weekend.

    • Yeah, I got the same email this afternoon.

      If I’ve interpreted the Tesco cliubcard website correctly the current ‘accounting period’ ends 19th October, which should mean auto conversions for this period will attract the bonus.

      • Looking at the T&C, it seems to suggest there will also be a one time 1000 miles bonus offer if you select auto opt in.

    • Daniel Harris says:

      Is this targeted? It’s what I’ve been waiting for.

  3. I emailed amex today and got a responce saying i would get a 30% bonus (i have a gold card). Another email followed straight after. It was an apology, saying that the correct offer was 20%. All i had to do was register my exec account and reply to the email and i would be added to the offer. I have responded, asking if the will give me 30% bonus like they first said but i’m not holding my breath! I would still take the 20% though as I was going to close the account anyway.

  4. Re: the Carlson transfers..can you book anything except standard rooms on redemptions? I was trying and couldn’t seem to get any. Would be great if so (want to upgrade to an apartment in Dubrovnik…)

    • Sometimes you can pay 75,000 and get a ‘business’ room.

      If you want an apartment, your best bet is to email the hotel and ask them what they would charge for an upgrade (in cash or points) if you booked a standard room on points. You can often negotiate something.

  5. On FlyerTalk some guys were saying they value HHonors at 0.009p per point, which seems incredibly low doesn’t it?

    • Some decimal points in the wrong place! My 0.3p is based off, say, 80000 points for a £250 room in New York or London. If you regularly redeem elsewhere, your valuation may be different.

  6. I also didn’t get an email, so I asked:

    “We have just started sending communications of this campaign to our Cardmembers where they receive 20% bonus Avios on the first transfer of Membership Rewards points to their linked British Airways Executive Club account between 3rd September and 30th September, 2013.

    You will be happy to know that I have gone ahead and immediately enrolled your Gold Card in this Membership Rewards campaign. Please note that the minimum transfer required is of 1,000 points (increments of 500 points) into Avios and you will be credited your 20% bonus Avios by 30th November, 2013, if not earlier.”

  7. I asked as well. Here is the reply: “These offers were designed and sent considering travel spends and Membership Rewards redemption patterns on Card accounts. I understand you were looking for this offer but it seems that the criteria required didn’t meet your spending pattern.

    I acknowledge that you wish to avail benefit of this offer but believe me our marketing department continuously reviews Card account and I am sure a better offer must be on its way soon.

    The moment an offer is available on your Card account, we will notify you accordingly via email.

    • Just got the same email, very annoyed.

      • Just spoke to Amex who said they would look into it. I pointed out that my spending pattern could be changed and everything could go through my MBNA Amex.

  8. Does anybody know if it is possible to convert MR points to avios if the address of my Amex card (UK) and my BA avios (Europe) is different?
    If I would change my avios address to my UK address would the recent 15K / 30K avios promotion for Ex Europe account holders still be credited (I have already registered for this promotion but I don’t want to miss the points for having changed my address to benefit from the current promotion

  9. I just had a very intereting reply from amex when. I asked whether my partner would qualify for the 20% bonus on her gold card account.

    “Dear Miss …,,,,,,,

    Thank you for writing in.

    I would like to share that the offer was designed and sent considering travel spend and Membership Rewards redemption patterns on Card accounts. I understand you were looking for this offer but it seems that the criteria required did not meet your spending pattern.

    I acknowledge that you wish to avail benefit of this offer but believe me our marketing department continuously reviews Card accounts and I am sure a better offer must be on its way soon.

    …….”

  10. Speedbird_abz says:

    Oh well, I don’t qualify either – looks like it’s because I already convert my points to BA reading this?
    Has this guy got the wrong end of the stick and taken it that only people new to converting to BA qualify?
    …….

    I am sorry to know that you didn’t receive the promotional offer.

    The Promotional offers are designed in a few months in advance and I notice that you have started transferring your Points to BA recently. This most likely would be a reason that your account was not reviewed for the offer.

    I acknowledge that you wish to avail benefit of this offer but believe me our marketing department continuously reviews Card account and I am sure a better offer must be on its way soon.

    The moment an offer is available on your Card account, we will notify you accordingly (via mail / email).

    In the meantime, you would be interested in knowing that we have some special discounts and offers for you. In order to explore the entire catalogue and to take advantage of these offers, you can visit the below-mentioned link:

    We thank you for your valued custom.

    • No, he has got the wrong end of the stick. After all, Amex would be wasting its time emailing people who had never shown any interest in airline miles with a transfer bonus ….

    • I got the same reply…..

      • FirstFlyer says:

        Me too… very annoyed as just passed 2k spend for 20k points and have total of about 35k to change up.

        • Just give them a call and state you aren’t happy – have 90k now myself and I want to trade in 40k if possible.

  11. pazza2000 says:

    I was told ‘not welcome’ also when enquiring about this promo…

    I am sorry to inform you that you didn’t receive the promotional offer.
    Please know that these offers were designed and sent considering travel spend and Membership Rewards redemption patterns on Card accounts. I understand you were looking for this offer but it seems that the criteria required didn’t meet your spending pattern.
    I acknowledge that you wish to avail benefit of this offer but believe me our marketing department continuously reviews Card account and I am sure a better offer must be on its way soon.
    The moment an offer is available on your Card account, we will notify you accordingly (via mail / email). In the meantime, you would be interested in knowing that we have some special discounts and offers for you. In order to explore the entire catalogue and to take advantage of these offers, you can visit the below-mentioned link:

    http://offers.amexnetwork.com/selects/uk?issuerName=uk_pocdefault&cid=selects-uk-en-gb-networkq

    If I can be of any other assistance on your account, please email us.
    We appreciate your selection of American Express since 2008 and consider it our privilege to be of service”

  12. I received the following (rather confusing) reply so it seems I have to reply and they’ll enrol me. Strange that we’re all receiving different responses. I’d have thought there would be a stock e-mail. Anyway, here’s the reply I received:

    Kindly note that we have just started sending communications of this campaign to the Cardmembers. Please do not worry as you are also eligible for this campaign.

    The bonus points offered are different on different Card products. You are eligible for the following bonus points:

    1. 20% bonus Avios on the first transfer of your Membership Rewards points to your British Airways Executive Club account from 3rd September to 30th September. Minimum transfer is of 1,000 points (increments of 500 points) into Avios and bonus Avios will be credited by 30th November.

    2. 20% more Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles on the first transfer of your Membership Rewards points from 3rd September to 30th September. Minimum transfer is of 1,000 points (increments of 500 points) into Flying Club miles and bonus miles will be credited by 11th October.

    3. 25% bonus Gold Points on the first transfer of your Membership Rewards points to your Club Carlson account from 3rd September to 30th September. Minimum transfer of 3 points (increments of 3 points) into Gold Points and bonus Gold points will be credited by 11th October.

    I will help you in enrolling your account in this campaign via this email. I request you to respond to this email with partner account numbers (British Airways Executive Club account, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club and Club Carlson account) or any of these you wish to transfer the points to so that I can enrol your account in this campaign.

    I request you to follow the steps below in order to register your partner accounts:

    – Pleas login to your online account.
    – Please click on “Browse and redeem rewards online. Your Membership Rewards points balance is”.
    – Click on the ‘Redeem Points’ link on the top.
    – On the right hand side of the page, there is an option of ‘Quick Links’.
    – Click on the sub topic ‘Transfer your points to our Frequent Transfer Partners’.
    – Click on the drop down for the available partners and choose the Partner you want to register and click continue to register.

    You will then be able to transfer rewards points to your linked partner account to become eligible for these bonus points.

    I look forward to your response.

    • Hi IGraham, can I ask what the email address was that you used please, as I can see one on the MR page, thxs

    • Sorry ignore that , Ive found it,
      Ive only used the phone B4
      cheers

  13. So, to resume:

    1) only people who got the email are 100% sure to receive the bonus
    2)the “first transfer” applies to the promotional period only, this means that if I transferred 1000MR to BA in January, I will get the bonus
    3) I am allowed to split (ie 100k MR) and receive the bonus on both if I convert 50k to each BA and Virgin, so to top up two different accounts

    do you agree with this?

    • No – the promotional period ends 30th September, so 2) is wrong (unless you meant to write September)

      1) and 3) are correct.

  14. I meant that I have already sent some MR to BA in January 2013

  15. Speedbird_abz says:

    Oh well, finally sorted – glad they feel “I deserve it”!!

    I am sorry for the inconvenience caused.

    I was about to email you myself. I spoke to my manager as I feel that you deserve to be enrolled for the offer as you have been transferring your points to British Airways.

    I have manually registered you for the offer and if you transfer your points to BA, you will receive 20% bonus Avios. This will only be valid for the first transfer that you make now. The offer expires on 30th November, 2013.

    Please wait for a few days before you make the transfer as we will need to enrol your account manually for this offer.

    If there is anything else that I can help you with regarding your American Express Card, do let me know. I will be happy to assist you!

    Sincerely,

  16. What's the Point says:

    I have converted all my AMEX MR points into Avios as I am about to cancel it to avoid the £125 yearly charge. So probably won’t have the AMEX Gold Card before the bonus points are due.
    Does anyone have experience of getting bonus points posted to the airline even though you don’t have the AMEX Gold Card anymore?

    • What’s the point, why don’t you wait till the points are posted and THEN cancel the card? you will get a prorata refund therefore it would cost approx £11 more if you keep it one month more. it obviously depend when the card anniversary year is.