Why the only thing better than transferable points is INSTANTLY transferable points

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One of the key ideas I push on Head for Points is that transferable, or convertible, points are better than non-transferable points.

The best way to explain this is via American Express Membership Rewards points, earned from Amex Gold, Amex Platinum and the Amex Rewards Credit Card.

You can transfer 1 American Express Membership Rewards point into 1 Avios.  You might think, therefore, that 1 Amex point is worth the same as 1 Avios.  IT ISN’T.

1 American Express Membership Rewards points is worth MORE than 1 Avios.  This is because, as well as converting to 1 Avios, it will also convert into 1 Virgin mile, 1 Etihad mile, 1 Flying Blue mile, 2 Hilton points, 1.5 Marriott points, 3 Radisson points, 0.5p of shopping vouchers, 0.45p of statement credit etc etc.

As well as giving you more choice, transferable points are also defensive.  Even if you intend to convert your Amex points to Avios, it makes sense to keep them with Amex until the last minute.  If you move them to Avios and BA moves the goal posts in terms of points needed or availability then you’re stuffed.

Other convertible points currencies include:

  • HSBC Premier credit card points (four airline partners plus shopping vouchers)
  • Tesco Clubcard points (Avios and Virgin plus many non-travel partners)
  • Heathrow Rewards (various airline partners as well as shopping discounts)

So …. convertible points are worth more than non-convertible points.

However ….. INSTANTLY convertible points are worth more than all other convertible points.

Instant transfers from Membership Rewards to Delta SkyMiles

One – sensible – argument against not converting your points until you need them is that the transfer takes time.  Even transfers which are quick, such as American Express transfers to Avios, still require you to wait overnight.  It is possible that the redemption seat you wanted may have gone when they arrive.

Some American Express Membership Rewards partners have INSTANT transfers, however.  The only caveat is that you need to have already linked your accounts.

This is your dream result.  You can look for the seat you want and, when you find it, move the points and immediately book without any risk of losing the seat.

There are no HSBC Premier, Tesco Clubcard or Heathrow Rewards miles partners which allow instant transfers.  This is a unique Amex feature.

Which American Express partners offer INSTANT transfers?

As far as I know, the list is:

  • Delta SkyMiles
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Here is an example

The reason I thought I’d write this article is that I just made such a redemption.  I was looking for an interesting way to get to the Middle East which I haven’t written about before.  I thought Air France was worth a look as you will soon be able to redeem Virgin Flying Club miles on Air France.

Flying Blue, Air France’s own frequent flyer scheme, is also an American Express partner but does not offer immediate transfers.  As both Delta and Air France are members of the SkyTeam alliance, however, I could book the same seat via Delta SkyMiles with an immediate transfer.

This is how easy it was.  Stage 1 was to find the flight on the Delta website (click to enlarge).  Note – in the top right hand corner – that I have a zero mileage balance.

Booking Air France with Delta miles

Happy to book this flight – 42,500 miles plus £321 of taxes was a fair deal compared to 50,000 Avios plus £348 on BA – I went into my American Express Membership Rewards account and transferred 42,500 points:

Amex tells you to wait 30 minutes.  In reality, if you log out of your Delta account and log back in again, the points will be there immediately.  I completed my booking and my seat was sorted.

Even if transfers to Flying Blue were instantaneous, booking via Delta would still have been a better deal than using KLM’s own programme.  My flight would have needed 45,000 Flying Blue miles compared with 42,500 Delta SkyMiles and the taxes were the same.


Transferable points, such as American Express Membership Rewards and HSBC Premier points, are more valuable than non-transferable points.

The most valuable points of all, however, are those that transfer instantly.

PS.  Whilst 42,500 Delta SkyMiles is a better deal to Dubai than 50,000 – 60,000 Avios, it is worth a reminder that this is NOT the best deal to the Middle East.  I booked it because I wanted to try Air France.  The best option is to transfer 25,000 Amex points to the Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer scheme which is all you need for a one-way Business Class flight from the UK to the Middle East.  As a Star Alliance partner you’d be flying SWISS, Lufthansa or Turkish.

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  1. A bit off topic..
    I’m returning to this game after about 18 months out and catching up on some reading. One thing I notice immediately is that there appears to be more generous referral opportunities. I currently hold a BAPP (for @ 8months) and recently hit the £10k target for companion voucher. I have just referred my wife for a BAPP and received 9k referral bonus.
    I’m interested to understand if there is an optimal strategy to maximise referral bonuses between the two of us by churning BAPP, Amex Platinum and SPG. (If I understand the terms correctly, it seems best to make 3 or 6 referrals from one account to maximise the points and perhaps then move to a different account?)
    Thanks in advance for any feedback

    • Genghis says:

      Referrals from Amex Platinum (to any of the referred card options of any currency) are the most rewarding at 18k MRs.

      • Ah, OK thanks.
        So its probably best that at any one point in time one of us holds a Platinum card and work out a schedule to refer and churn the others cards from that point.
        Thanks for your help

        • Subject to an annual limit of 5 referrals or 90k MR points.

        • per calendar year, so best to hold over new year.

        • Yeah the per calendar year is a big one! I had done my 5 last year and was going to cancel. Then I checked with Amex if it was a limit of 5 per year based on the card opening date or calendar year. Was very happy to discover it’s per calendar year! 180k of points in the space of a few weeks if you have enough friends to refer.

  2. OT – The hotel status you get with AMEX. Does it renew or is it a one off? My Radisson account is showing i will downgrade to Silver at the end of next month. Will AMEX upgrade me back to gold and is this automatic?

    • Has always autorenewed for me OK.

      • When did this happen? Should i expect it to lapse and then renew or not actually downgrade at all?

        • With Radisson (and prev Club Carlson) I never dropped. Don’t use them much but excellent upgrade on redemption at Park Inn Oslo Airport earlier this week.

  3. Lady London says:

    Hey Rob I suggest you go back and change this booking immediately.

    Change it to First Class and I believe you might experience the very special First Class Lounge service Air France offers in Paris (if there’s time – make sure you get it).

    That’s apparently even better than the Lufthansa First Class terminal and much more your style 🙂
    Plus wouldn’t we all want to hear about it?

  4. chetas patel says:

    SPG are closed for new members being allowed to transfer their points to emirates skywards

    “If you linked accounts prior to 15 July 2018, you’ll continue to earn and receive benefits with Your World Rewards™.
    If you’re interested in joining Your World Rewards, continue to check back on updates to see when registration returns”

    Sad times as i really want to keep building up my emirates points. wish i still had my mbna emirates.

    • Weirdly I got 554 Emirates miles dropped in my account during the SPG/Marriott IT crisis – even though I have never had Emirates status and therefore do not qualify for earning EK miles!

  5. Steve O'Hara says:

    The ps at the end was interesting and made me think – is there a resource where you could find which is the best program to use points for flying to certain locations? Eg to stop noobs like me dishing out 45k avios when I could go to the same place via a different scheme for 25k (assuming points equivalent) ! I would personally find this an absolutely invaluable tool!

  6. Would EU261 cover if a less than 3 hours delay in the first flight, if this causes the connecting flight to be missed and a more than 3 hours delay to the final destination? Flight to Paris delayed in Rob’s case causing more than 3 hours delay in landing in Dubai?

  7. Qwerty Bertie says:

    Partially on-topic. Thinking of closing the Platinum card to reset the clock and have it again in the 2nd half of the year, but I would prefer to keep the MR points I have built up because of their flexibility.

    I’ve read previously they can be sent to a dollar card, but also that the MR transfer rates are worse with those. However, would it be possible to later transfer them back to a MR-based pound card, whether leaving the dollar card open (if possible) or closing it?

    • Charlieface says:

      Yes apparently it’s one transfer every 12 months. Don’t forget you may be better or worse off depending how exchange rate moves.

      • Yeah was 1.5 USD:GBP when I first got the card – that made Krisflyer transfers amazing value!

        • 1.59 last time I transferred 🙂

        • LOL has clearly been a while 😉 Those were the days!! I’m in Oz on holidays now and am just glad I left some cash here given what’s happened to the GBP…

  8. youngtraveller says:

    I would really like seeing more things about where to redeem my amex points/avios for cheaper flying to places like Asia and Middle East or South America, where a stopover isn’t so bad. I did not know the information about Singapore miles so that really helps to keep in mind for the future.

    • Here is a big tip. From much of Germany and other countries nearby, flights to Doha on Qatar Airways drop into the cheaper Avios pricing bucket. One-way in Business is 37,500 peak instead of 60,000 peak. There can be a saving in flying to Germany for cash, picking up Qatar there for 37,500 Avios and then getting a connection from Doha to Asia.

      You may also want to see if any Asian cities fall into cheaper Qatar Airways price band from Doha. Beijing in Band 5 but Shanghai is Band 6 and pricier. See post 1 of this fascinating thread https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/british-airways-executive-club/1527161-selecting-redemption-destinations-edges-pricing-bands.html

      The classic one used to be finding frequent schemes which treat Russia as Europe. The deepest darkest far corners of Russia are a short hop to Japan so you could fly to the far eastern corner of Russia for the same miles as London to Paris and then get a peanuts regional flight to Tokyo. No idea if this is still possible or not with anyone.

      • Lady London says:

        I gather the old BMI scheme was a treasure trove of those!
        I always love it when some of you who were in it then, talk about some of the greatest ones!
        A shame I came to this field of interest too late.

      • Lady London says:

        I think treating Guam as America may have been another one. think that got closed a few years ago though. Guam as in being close to lots of Asia.

        Wish I’d been around in some of those glory days.

        My excitement consisted only of working for a travel agent that was regularly knocking out IT tickets that were supposed to require hotels booked with them…. er…. without hotels. Heard rumours that Amex may even be knocking out IT tickets now like some OTA’s, but accidentally without hotels etc.? shurely this cannot be true…

      • youngtraveller says:

        One that I just found was that if you want to redeem for a ba flight from Asia to UK and you have Amex points you could transfer to Asia miles and redeem less miles than BA. For example on the 20th of Feb there is a flight from singapore to london with ba( BA0012) direct redemption costs (87500 Avios + £ 209.41) for club world, but for the same flight if booked through Asia Miles it costs ( Asia Miles 70,000 + HKD 2,079) saving you a lot of Amex points, but of course if they are already in avios then no such luck

    • Following on what Rob said here are the expensive routes on QR from/to DOH @60,000 points:


      and here are the cheaper routes @37,500:

      DOH- MUN

      Check the aircraft they have on the route before you book as some routes have A321’s with a different variation of business class.

      • Another great sweet spot is DOH-SOF. Only 20k Avios. The second daily flight leaves at 10:30pm, so you might be able to position on the same day and it’s sub 5h flight. Also to add to the 37.5k pricing DOH-ZAG. Taxes are also much lower from most of these airports.

        • youngtraveller says:

          Thanks guys for the reply, will definitely check it out. From Cardiff where I live it is actually cheap to get to some of the places Russ said with flybe, around 60 return or sometimes even lower.

    • Lady London says:

      For South America keep an eye on Iberia. They have regular % off points sales once or twice a year and some South American destinations usually come up. Bear in mind some of the posters’ comments on here about dealing with Iberia if anything gets sticky, though.

  9. Sorry I’m just adding a problem to a random thread.

    I’ve been using the avios shopping portal for a while – However I’ve just realized I have a lot of pending hotel bookings not confirming since march/july 2018. I’m wondering if that’s a bug from the avios closure (but the points was not credited in my BA account)

    • Unlikely, they should all flow to BA when confirmed.

      • in….teresting.
        I’ve sent in some claims and see what’s gonna happen. we are talking about some 30kish avios here….. they are all shown as pending and my BA account didnt show them.

        OTOH. made IHG RA!

        • Hotels take forever to credit. Even on pre-pay rates they won’t credit until 90-120 days after the end of your stay.

  10. William says:

    Little OT, I have the platinum card and no other Amex ( but Have Lloyds Avios Amex). Got around 50k mpoints and 50k avios from other sources. I am planning to increase the Avios balance and I am thinking of either applying for the BAPP/SPG, which is the best one to get first? + How does one self refer? Just enter your normal details after clicking on the referral link?

    • Genghis says:

      BAPP for 26k sign up (SPG only equivalent to 11k avios). Then decide if you need 241.
      For self referral enter details after clicking on referral link, yes.

  11. GoreyRed says:

    Very good article. I didn’t know these options existed.

    I’ve got a BA Executive Club account, Virgin MIles, and AMEX MR. It sounds like to be able to transfer I should open loyalty accounts with a few other airlines? Or should I just open one with one Sky Team airline?

    • Peter K says:

      If I were you I’d concentrate on a small number. Often there are expiry dates on airline reward schemes and you risk losing miles.

      • I think that, unless you travel significantly with a certain alliance, it’s really hard to run up a large balance in the UK in airline schemes other than avios and virgin.

        Obviously it’s s bit different if you’re running up 6 figure sums on amex each year

        • GoreyRed says:

          Thanks Lumma & Peter K
          Sounds sensible. With Virgin linking up with KLM etc I will have more international reach, BA is good for flights in Europe, and AMEX for everything else.
          Awardhacker looks like a simpe way of getting an idea of what else is possible for a reward flight.

  12. Being a complete newbie to the points game, at the end of the article it refers to a Singapore Airlines business flight one way to middle east for 25,000 Amex point, maybe a daft question but how do I book this ?
    I have Amex and enrolled in KrisFlyer but can’t find relevant flights to book.

    • Use the KrisFlyer redemption site to search for a flight to the Middle East in Business – it will offer you Lufthansa, Swiss, Turkish or Egyptian for 25,000 miles each way plus tax.

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