Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Topping up your 35,000 American Airlines miles from MBNA

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Back in April, MBNA launched the most generous credit card offer I have ever seen on a free airline credit card. If you took out their American Airlines card and spent £5,000 within six months, you would receive a whopping 35,000 American Airlines miles.

Most people who applied should have got their 35,000 bonus miles by now – although, as the last date to apply was 31st May, in theory some of you will still be working towards the £5,000 target.

Depending on how much of the £5,000 you put on the Amex card and how much went on the Visa, you will have between 38,750 and 42,500 American Airlines miles upon hitting £5,000.

American Airlines

You can do a lot with this. 30,000 AA miles is a one-way ticket on BA to India or the Middle East in Club World, or 40,000 miles gets you First Class. You can also fly on Etihad to Abu Dhabi for the same miles.

However, many people will want to fly to the US on their miles – especially as there are NO FUEL SURCHARGES if you redeem them on an American flight as opposed to a BA one.

Topping up your balance

At 50,000 AA miles for a one-way in Business Class to the US, you could be 11,250 – 7,500 miles short of your target. What is the easiest way to get these?

It obviously depends on what currencies you have to play with. (You could also buy the missing miles for cash but that should be a last resort.)

Here are six possible options, apart from the obvious one of continuing to put your day to day spend onto the AA credit card (!):

Credit upcoming British Airways and oneworld partner flights to American. If you are not bothered about earning tier points from any upcoming flights, then crediting the miles to AA instead of Avios is an easy way to boost your balance. If you have BA status, then wait until you arrive at the airport to change the number to AA or you may lose your seat selection.

(If you are flying to North America soon, there is also this promotion to earn 15,000 – 30,000 AA miles as a bonus for a round-trip. Even flying in World Traveller Plus on BA, credited to an AA account, gets you a 15,000 mile bonus.)

Transfer Starwood Preferred Guest points to AA. If you took out the SPG Amex card in the recent promotion, you will have 20,000 Starwood points – some of which could be moved across. Alternatively, you can still take out the SPG Amex and get 10,000 points (11,000 if I refer you). The good thing about the SPG card is that you can get it whatever other Amex cards you have – there are NO restrictions. Here is my full review of the SPG Amex.

Transfer Amex Membership Rewards points to Starwood and then to American. American is not a direct Amex partner. However, you can transfer Amex points to Starwood at 2:1 and then on to AA at 1:1 for small quantities. It would therefore require 20,000 Amex points to get 10,000 AA miles. If you don’t yet have the Amex Gold card then you would get 20,000 Amex points for signing up (22,000 if I refer you). Here is my full review of the Amex Gold.

Transfer other hotel points to American Airlines, or credit upcoming stays. Apart from Starwood, other hotel groups are less generous in their exchange rates to airline miles. However, if you have some small quantities of unused hotel points – not enough for a redemption – then you have nothing to lose by moving them across. The same goes for upcoming car rentals.

Think about bills you could pay on your AA Visa card that you currently pay by direct debit or debit card. This post discusses paying council tax and other utility bills with plastic. There are also the other old favourites – pay for big ticket items for friends or family, buy 3V Virtual Visa cards to generate card spend or buy a slug of gift cards for your usual supermarket that you can work through over the next few months.

I am not an expert on the AA programme, so please do post below if there are other interesting options available for earnings a four-figure chunk of miles relatively quickly.

Comments (42)

  • Howard says:

    Thanks for response.

    Is the 6 month rule (like Amex) the same with this card?

    • Rob says:

      MBNA does not have a formal system. There are numerous cases in the past, though, where they have stopped people getting a bonus if they have already had the card. Do not think that everyone is like Amex, Amex is very much the exception.

      Lloyds has a ‘once for life’ approach, for example.

  • Rob says:

    I have never done IHG this way, although Alan above says it works fine and he is a fine upstanding bloke!

  • Dan says:

    Can someone please confirm – the American Airlines card expenditure of £5,000 within 6-months of the account being opened, is NOT restricted to Amex expenditure only right, it can be on Visa too? I have spent £6.1k so far and have not received the final 20,000 mile bonus, although this was completed in August and looking at the T&C of the offer it did say wait up to 6 weeks. But from my experience MBNA always credits any earlier bonus expenditure at the same time as the regular statement cycle, indeed it is even printed on the online/paper statements.