Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Five things to think about with the 25%-30% Membership Rewards bonus

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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.

Amex MR banner

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 FinnairEtihad 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!

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 points from credit cards? – March 2023 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.

SPECIAL OFFER: Successfully apply for either of the Barclaycard Avios credit cards by 2nd April 2023 and you will be entered into a free draw to win ONE MILLION AVIOS! Full details are on the application forms here (free) and here (paid). This competition is exclusive to Head for Points readers. T&C apply.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

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.

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

30,000 points and unbeatable travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus 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:

Until 30th March 2023, the sign up bonus on American Express Business Platinum is increased to 120,000 Membership Rewards points – click here. The bonus on American Express Business Gold is increased to 60,000 Membership Rewards points – click here. T&C apply, see the application forms for details.

American Express Business Platinum

Crazy 120,000 points bonus (to 30th March) and a £200 Amex Travel credit every year Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

60,000 points sign-up bonus (to 30th March) and free for a year Read our full review

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

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.

Barclaycard Select Cashback credit card

1% cashback (3% for 3 months if you apply by 31st March) and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (27)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Richyo says:

    Is this purely targeted then as I don’t think I received an email re bonus?

    • Raffles says:

      Yes, its targetted – hence the different rates even for those who are emailed

  • politicfool says:

    Can you also transfer to the Amex US MR programme if you happen to be a former US resident and still have US issued Amex cards?

    • Raffles says:

      If you have a US Membership Rewards account then, yes, I believe you can transfer over. Only once a year, though, so you could do it now and then you’d need to save your UK points for the next 12 months before you could do it again.

  • whitenoise says:

    That’s interesting, only got the 20% version here…

  • Ben E says:

    arse… nothing received 🙁

  • Ian Knox says:

    does having an IDC card prevent you churning uk based cards?

    • Raffles says:

      I honestly don’t know. The IDC MR scheme is separate to the UK one, so it might not.

  • Roger says:

    I got the 25% offer which includes BA and VS.

    According to the T+Cs, the BA bonus Avios will be awarded by 15 April 2013 and the VS bonus miles by 11 March 2013.

    Hmm. I know that bonuses sometimes appear earlier, but the fallback date is important to me because I’m almost sure to give up my platinum card by March 2013.

    I can’t risk ‘losing’ the BA bonus so it looks like VFC will get the credit. (‘Losing’ in quotes because you can’t lose what you didn’t have. ;))

    • Roger says:

      I may have jumped to the wrong conclusion here.

      It must be the transfer date that has to be within card validity, not the bonus credit date, so I could cheerfully transfer my MR points to BA by 15.2, cancel the card on 28.2 and see the bonus Avios by 15.4.

      I hope.

  • Buddy says:

    So 2 questions:
    1. If you have an IDC card, does that prevent you from accessing bonuses since its a UK issued Amex with a MR account?
    2. Can you transfer points back into a MR account at the same exchange rate?

    • Raffles says:

      1. Don’t know. The UK MR scheme is totally separate to the IDC one (and indeed the UK Small Business MR scheme is separate to the UK personal cards MR scheme). In reality, you would probably be OK but I can’t be certain.

      2. Yes, I believe it works both ways. However, you can only do one transfer a year out of an account. You can’t ring up each month and move your UK points to IDC, you need to accumulate them and do it once a year.

  • Tom says:

    It sucks to not get the promotion..paying all this $$ to Amex for plat to find everyone else gets better promotions!

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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