Should you convert Clubcard, Amex, Heathrow, HSBC points to Avios on receipt?

This article is another of the ‘how to’ pieces we have been running over August for the benefit of newer readers, although hopefully everyone will get some value from them.

A regular email question I receive from readers is about ‘convertible’ points.  There is a psychological desire to move, say, your Tesco Clubcard points to Avios as soon as you receive them, perhaps because you like to see your Avios balance increasing.

This is not a logical approach.  This is how I see it:

In general, you should value ‘convertible’ points more highly than a point which has no other use.  It is therefore worth choosing ‘convertible’ points when given the choice, and you should keep your points unconverted for as long as possible.

There are a number of ‘convertible’ currencies you will come across.

The main ones are American Express Membership Rewards points and Tesco Clubcard points.

Heathrow Rewards points, HSBC Premier MasterCard points and most hotel scheme points are also, to a lesser or greater extent, convertible.

Membership Rewards

This is the key point I want to make:  if you have 1 American Express Membership Rewards point, it has more value than 1 Avios point even though the former converts into the latter.

There are various reasons for this:

An Amex point will hold its value better.   If you transfer them to Avios and Avios devalues, you have lost out – you can’t convert them back.  Keeping them as Amex points means that you have alternative options.

American Express or British Airways may decide to run a conversion bonus at some point for moving your points across to Avios.  If this happened, 1 Amex point would be worth more than 1 Avios.  (The possibility of a conversion bonus is why I NEVER recommend auto-converting Tesco points to Avios, even if you are 100% sure that is what you will spend them on.)  Whilst I admit that Amex and Clubcard bonuses are thin on the ground, Heathrow Rewards and HSBC Premier HAVE been running them.

Amex may run a great promotion with another partner which allows you to get far more value from a point than you would get from 1 Avios.

Your personal priorities may change, and you may decide that you would prefer to redeem your Amex points for something else other than Avios.  By not converting, you retain the flexibility.  In 12-18 months, for example, you will be able to redeem Virgin Flying Club miles for Air France and KLM flights which may make it more relevant for you.

I have written on HFP before that I do not convert my Tesco Clubcard points into Avios.  For the last three years I have used them for Safestore as we have some furniture with them and Safestore accepted Clubcard vouchers at 3 x face value.  That deal has just ended but you can now redeem for Uber credit at 3 x face value.  My choice is therefore to use 100 Clubcard points for either £3 off my Safestore / Uber bill or receive 240 Avios.  If I took Avios I would be valuing them at 1.25p each – and I don’t.

There is another reason why keeping Amex and Tesco points in their ‘original’ form as long as possible makes sense.  Both convert to Avios points within 24 hours of a transfer being initiated.  If a reward seat opened up and I didn’t have enough Avios, I would be confident enough to assume that the seat would still be there tomorrow morning when I could have converted points across.

Some American Express transfers are INSTANT – Virgin, Delta and Emirates – as long as you have already linked your accounts.  There is absolutely no reason whatsoever, except for a conversion bonus, why you should move points to those airlines before you need them.

Transfer timing is one reason why you may want to move across hotel points before you need them.  The last time I moved some Starwood points to an airline (Lufthansa) it took 28 days!  I was lucky that the redemption I wanted was still available.  You shouldn’t rely on a hotel scheme moving your points across to British Airways in a hurry.  If you will be totally reliant on a hotel transfer to make a redemption you have planned, you may want to move them in advance.

In general, however, if you want to maximise the value of your points then you want to maximise their flexibility.  For ‘convertible’ currencies, this means keeping them in their original form as long as possible.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

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Comments

  1. apologies if duplicate!

    worth mentioning that not all of us would cost those Tesco—> Avios points @ 1.25p – for the simple reason that the comparative value if we were to use an alternative does not exist for us

    I will never use Safestore or Uber/ Ubereats

    the closest I’d get to 1.25p would be Eurotunnel, where the 3x is genuine – however, we haven’t used Eurotunnel in 3 years and have no plans to do so in the near future (it’s cheaper/ easier to fly out to the place in the sun!) – so that comparative disappears

    all the other Tesco 3x options appear to be exaggerated value

    therefore if you are a typical Tesco—> Avios default converter (though please don’t use auto-conversion, that’s for idiots 🙂 ) – don’t feel bad – you are not ‘paying’ 1.25p/ point

    I’d suggest the real value I can get is 2x on (say) pizzas

    @ 2x the sum would be choosing between £2 off pizzas or getting 160 Avio

    = you are ‘paying’ 0.8p

  2. Trinovant says:

    But if you need to close your Amex Account, what’s your best option. I’m currently considering Starwood as a place to store my MR benefit, while retaining some (albeit lesser) flexibility while not taking a massive value hit if I subsequently convert to avios or Travel Package.

    • Not a bad idea. Going to Virgin would also give you Hilton and IHG as fall back, but at weak rates.

      • I don’t suppose there’s been any chatter of Virgin joining SkyTeam, to give redemption optiobns beyond Delta, Air France and KLM?

        • No, nothing. Now that Delta and KLM AF have 80% of the shares, however, they can force it through if they want it to happen.

    • This is something I would potentially be looking to do when it comes to closing down platinum card for a churn.

      Seems this isn’t worthwhile though if you end up transferring into Avios as the effective transfer rate is halved. (ie 2MR;1SPG -> 1SPG:1Avios)

      • There is a 5000 bonus if you convert 20000 SPGs. Plus there is sometimes 35% bonus converting hotel points to Avios. Therefore 40000 MRs could get you 33750 Avios. So still worse off but not as bad as half the value.

        • If you got all of your SPGs / Marriott from Amex MR (worst case scenario), your 180k MRs would get 90k SPGs / 270k Marriott = a Marriott travel package. When running one of the bonuses, say a 35% bonus, this would produce 162k avios and a week in a Cat 5 Marriott – the latter has got to be worth giving up 18k avios for. This is worst case scenario as most people would earn SPGs via other means and it keeps the points pluripotent.

        • …is what I’ll be doing as well!

  3. Same day transfer from Clubcard has me worried – I apparently transferred 54,000 Avios from Clubcard (clubcard.com says it happened at the start of August) but I still haven’t seen them in either of my Avios.com account or BAEC (I provided BAEC details) – should I be concerned at this point?

    • Yes, a definite phone call.

    • Ba-Flyer says:

      Same thing happened to me – a duplicate account had been created, which had to be merged with my original. This happens if your address details with Avios and Tesco are not 100% identical. If one has ‘Road’ but the other has ‘Rd’ they don’t match.

  4. Hi Rob,
    Does this advice hold true if you are on the ‘grandfathered’ Avios / Tesco club card rate?
    I am nervous about changing it in case I lose the enhanced rate!
    Many thanks

    • I’m the same, would be good to know your 800 rate remains protected.

    • Pretty sure you would get notification if the ‘enhanced’ rate was to go away – although you need to take your own view on this.

    • 250 CC pts gets you 750 Virgin miles at the moment. Could be worth considering if you’re Avios rich

  5. FIRSTclstraveller says:

    Sometimes I have seen (mainly courtesy of HFP) that HSBC have run a bonus for transferring their points to Avios. Have seen this for a while though? My wife is sat on 9,000 points.

  6. I’m due a refund on to my Amex of about 2k in about 6 weeks, will this result in a reduction in MR points? I’m due to stop using the Amex shortly after (but will keep the card open while the balance is paid off – it’s the Amex Gold interest free card which Rob can’t promote), so in this circumstance I think converting the MR points is the best option.

    • Yes, this is a big reason to convert, you will have a negative Amex balance which will need to be ‘repaid’ from new purchases. Obviously this ‘debt’ is wiped out when the card is cancelled but you’d be better off having a zero balance rather than points to be taken!
      If you’re cancelling the card then you’d be emptying it anyway though I guess.

      Has anyone had any luck negotiating with Amex in this scenario? Basically something along the lines of ‘I’ll keep my account open if you reset the balance to zero’?

    • Yes, points get deducted. Best to get back to a positive balance before cancelling. People will tell you that they cancelled with negative balances and had no issues going forward but I wouldn’t feel happy with it, personally.

      • Thanks – I will be putting through some spend on the card after the refund goes through but not as much as 2k, (and then keeping card open till May 18 to take advantage of its interest free period and slightly reducing the balance).

        I’m not that fussed about losing points as this has been the wedding / honeymoon spending card so the 18 months interest free has been just as important as the MR points, but it makes sense to convert as much as I can.

  7. I have two Amex cards (Platinum charge card and platinum credit card). Is there any way to combine the MR from both cards?

    Its just that I want to cancel the latter and would prefer to move the MR on it to the charge card MR account rather than be forced to transfer to a 3rd party scheme.

    • I’ve done this twice before.

      On one occasion amex ‘moved’ the points to the desired card (not a huge amount mind) while still leaving that number on the card k was due to close. This was done by secure messaging.

      More recently they ‘merged’ the accounts. This had to be done by phone. Chat couldn’t do it.

  8. OT but Virgin: anyone know if there is/will be a sign up bonus for virgin flying club soon again (I seem to remember 3k free miles for joining last autumn)?

    • That 3k one was via the Virgin Red app. Quite a few HFP readers seem to have that app installed, so if the deal returns I’m sure I will hear about it.

  9. I would like to cancel my Amex Gold card soon, but I am curious about the following point?

    I have refundable BA flights booked for next June paid for with this gold card. If for any reason I need to cancel the flights – where would BA credit the refund to if I have indeed cancelled the card I paid with?

    Would it be to another card in my BA profile, or would it sit in a dormant Amex account until I go and claim it?

    Appreciate if anyone knows the answer to this.

    • If refunded you would get a statement from Amex noting the credit has gone into the closed account and you can then transfer that credit to another account with them / get it refunded into your bank.

      • I never got any notification that my closed account went into credit – realised myself, and had to call and ask them to move the credit to a different card. Beware.

  10. RussellH says:

    I have never seen either Amex MR points or Tesco CC points transfer to BA Exec Club within 24 hours! Always 36 to 48 hours at least. MR points transfer to Hilton quicker than to BA in my experience. Transfers to SPG seem to take around 72 to 84 hours, and to Club Carlson it takes around a week usually (officially ten days).

    These time scales for hotel points at least can be far too long if you need a points booking now. (OK, with Hilton you can do a booking on 90% of the points these days…)

    • MR to SPG for me recently (twice – on mine and Mrs G’s accounts) has taken just over 24 hours.

  11. I have some 4000 Heathrow Rewards points. Currently with 50% bonus should I convert to Avios or wait it out for a better offer in near future?

    • If you don’t need the avios I’d wait. In hindsight I wish I had waited and ordered the shopping vouchers at 2x instead of getting a 50% bonus (effectively paying 1.33p for avios – ouch)…

      • Genghis sorry this may be a stupid q but I don’t get the maths here/ dont see why taking the 50% transfer bonus means you’re effectively paying 1.33p/Avios…?

        • There was a recent ‘double face value’ promo if you converted Heathrow Rewards points to shopping vouchers. So …

          1000 HR points got you £20 of shopping vouchers instead of the usual £10-worth

          In the new (and previos) Avios offer, 1000 HR points gets you 1500 Avios

          When he converted 1000 points to 1500 Avios, he had no points left when – a few weeks later – there was the opportunity to use the same 1000 points for a £20 shopping voucher. This means he had effectively ‘paid’ 1.33p per Avios, in terms of the value of the shopping voucher lost, although there was no way of knowing that at the time.

        • What he said 🙂

  12. It is the timescales that can catch you out with this – I have seen Amex to BA take 3-4 days before. For IHG to Virgin conversions? Any experience of how long it can take as looking for a fairly quick top-up? Agent says 4-6 weeks which just seems silly!

  13. Does anyone know if there’s going to be an AMEX-to-Avios transfer promotion anytime soon? I’ve got a bunch of MR that I need to move because I’m closing my Amex Account and would really like to be able to maximise the transfer rate above 1-to-1 if possible.

    • No advance warning is given, so no-one could know. Not exactly likely in the UK given past experience though.

      • Same issue here. What do you mean by given past experience, Alan?

        • As in the lack of transfer bonus from Amex MR for many years in the UK, whilst occurring almost annually in the US (on top of their more favourable transfer rate). They just don’t see any need to offer here as far as I can tell.

  14. Hi,

    I’m just wondering if this article on Amex to Avios is available just in the US or if indeed it is possible for UK based Amex accounts too?

    https://thepointsguy.com/2017/07/amex-mr-to-british-airways-bonus/

    Thanks

    • Just US – they get loads of bonuses (plus higher sign-up, plus higher earnings rates, so it’s not like they need the transfer bonuses!) – sadly no such luck over here.