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

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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.)

Comments (72)

  • Idrive says:

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

  • 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,

  • 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?

    • Idrive says:

      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.