A lot of people with an American Express charge card got an email yesterday offering them a conversion bonus if they moved their Membership Rewards points into airline miles.
There seem to be two versions of the email. The one I got offered a 25% bonus for conversions into British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Etihad and Finnair. Reports on Flyertalk mention a 30% version as well.
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.
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 Avios points 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 15th April. That is a whole two months after the promotion finishes on 15th February!
Secondly, do not rush to open an account with an airline you don’t normally collect with. We have family in the Middle East and travel down there quite a bit, so an Etihad account MAY be of interest to me. However, before I opened an account and made a transfer to them, I would want to know:
- how many miles are needed (vs BA and Virgin) for business class to Abu Dhabi
- how their fuel surcharges compare
- how difficult it is to get 4 business class seats on the same flight
- what their policy is on change fees, cancellation penalties etc
Thirdly, remember that you can get a 60% Avios bonus by opening an International Dollar Card (IDC) with Amex.
An IDC card is a normal Amex card but operating in US$. They are available to UK residents, but Amex is quite strict on who gets one. It takes a couple of months to be approved and if you haven’t been a long-term Amex customer (10 years plus) they usually want a written bank reference.
IDC has its own Membership Rewards programme – the catalogue is here. The work of genius here is that you can ring Amex and transfer your points from the UK MR programme to the IDC programme. Your balance is automatically increased by the £/$ exchange rate – so at $1.60 to the £, your 100,000 UK MR points will become 160,000.
Now, most redemption partners have worse exchange rates to compensate for this (BA and Virgin are 3:2 compared to 1:1 in the UK scheme, for example). A few airlines are 1:1 in the IDC MR catalogue, such as Finnair. Etihad is 3:2, however, so there is no arbitrage there.
Fourthly, remember that you can buy up to 10,000 Membership Rewards points per year for 1.5p each.
This might be worth it, depending on how you value an Avios. With the 30% bonus, you’d be getting 13,000 Avios for £150, or 1.15p 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.
Finally, remember that you can transfer Membership Rewards points to another person for a flat fee of £15.
Again, details here. If your partner was targetted but you were not, you can transfer your points to him/her and get the bonus that way!
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 points from credit cards? – February 2024 update
If you are looking to apply for a new credit card, here are our top recommendations based on the current sign-up bonuses.
In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.
You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:
You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the best of the other deals currently available.
Virgin Money is offering double points on spending until 14th April (£5,000 cap) to new customers when you apply for the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard. Click here to learn more.
British Airways American Express Premium Plus
25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold
Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review
The Platinum Card from American Express
40,000 bonus points and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review
Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard
15,000 bonus points and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review
Earning miles and points from small business cards
If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these offers:
British Airways Accelerating Business American Express
30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review
American Express Business Platinum
Crazy 120,000 points bonus (to 9th April) and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review
American Express Business Gold
Huge 60,000 points sign-up bonus (until 9th April) and free for a year Read our full review
Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa
Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review
For a non-American Express option, we also recommend the Barclaycard Select Cashback card for sole traders and small businesses. It is FREE and you receive 1% cashback on your spending.