Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Should you convert Amex, Heathrow Rewards or HSBC points to Avios on receipt?

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A regular question I receive from readers is about ‘convertible’ points.  There is a psychological desire to move, say, your American Express Membership Rewards points to Avios as soon as you receive them, perhaps because you like to see your Avios balance increasing.

Is this the right approach, or should you leave your points where they are for as long as you can?

Should you convert points to Avios?

Why ‘convertible’ points are more valuable than all other points

Let’s recap why you should value ‘convertible’ points more highly than other points, and why you definitely should not rush to convert them.

In general, you should value ‘convertible’ points more highly than a point which has no other use.  It is therefore worth choosing ‘convertible’ points when given the choice, and you should keep your points unconverted for as long as possible.

There are a number of ‘convertible’ currencies you will come across.  The main one is American Express Membership Rewards points, which can be earned from The Platinum Card, Preferred Rewards Gold, American Express Rewards Credit Card, Business Platinum or Business Gold.

Other convertible currencies include Tesco Clubcard points (to Virgin Flying Club), Heathrow Rewards points and HSBC Premier Mastercard points (to Avios, Etihad Guest, Singapore Airlines and Asia Miles). Most hotel scheme points are also, to a lesser or greater extent, convertible.

(I am not discussing Nectar to Avios transfers in this article, because those points can be moved in either direction without any loss of value.  This is not the case for all of the other transfers listed above.)

There is one thing you need to remember

This is the key point I want to make:

There are various reasons for this:

  • An Amex point will hold its value better.   If you transfer them to Avios and Avios devalues, you have lost out – you can’t convert them back.  Keeping them as Amex Membership Rewards points means that you have alternative options.
  • American Express or British Airways may decide to run a conversion bonus at some point for moving your points across to Avios.  If this happened, 1 Amex point would be worth more than 1 Avios.  (The possibility of a conversion bonus is why I NEVER recommend auto-converting Tesco points to Virgin Points, even if you are 100% sure that is what you will spend them on.)  Whilst I admit that Amex and Clubcard bonuses are rare, Heathrow Rewards and HSBC Premier HAVE been running them in recent years.
  • Amex may run a great promotion with another partner which allows you to get far more value from a point than you would get from 1 Avios
  • Your personal priorities may change and you may decide that you would prefer to redeem your Amex points for something else other than Avios.  By not converting, you retain the flexibility. 
Should you convert Tesco Clubcard points to Avios?

I have written on HfP before that, even before the partnership ended, I did not convert my Tesco Clubcard points into Avios.  For years I used them for Safestore as we have some furniture with them and Safestore accepted Clubcard vouchers at 3 x face value.

When that deal ended, we switched to Uber credit at 3 x face value.  My choice was to use 100 Clubcard points for either £3 off my Uber bills or receive 240 Avios.  If I took Avios I would be valuing them at 1.25p each – and I don’t.

Of course, the Clubcard / Uber deal is now over too.  The few Clubcard points I earn – and it is only a few these days – get sent over to Virgin Points simply to keep my life easy.

Fast transfers are another reason to leave points where they are

There is another reason why keeping American Express and Tesco points in their ‘original’ form as long as possible makes sense.  Amex points usually convert to Avios within 24 hours of a transfer being initiated. Tesco points usually convert to Virgin within 24 hours, whilst Amex transfer to Virgin Points are instantaneous.

If a reward seat opened up and I didn’t have enough Avios or Virgin Points, I would be confident enough to assume that the seat would still be there tomorrow morning when I could have converted points across.

Some American Express Membership Rewards transfers are INSTANT – Virgin Atlantic, Delta Air Lines, Marriott Bonvoy and Emirates – as long as you have already linked your accounts.  There is absolutely no reason whatsoever, except for a conversion bonus, why you should move points to those partners before you need them.

Some transfers, admittedly, are not instant.  Slow transfers are one reason why you may want to move across hotel points before you need them.  The last time I moved some Starwood (now Marriott Bonvoy) points to Lufthansa it took 28 days!  I was lucky that the redemption I wanted was still available.  You shouldn’t rely on a hotel scheme moving your points across to British Airways in a hurry.  If you will be totally reliant on a hotel transfer to make a redemption you have planned, you may want to move them in advance.

Conclusion

In general, if you want to maximise the value of your points then you want to maximise their flexibility.  For ‘convertible’ currencies, this means keeping them in their original form as long as possible.

PS.  If you are planning to cancel an Amex Platinum or Amex Gold card but don’t want to empty out your Membership Rewards account, there is a solution.  Get the Amex Rewards Credit Card, which is FREE and allows you to keep your Membership Rewards account open.  This article explains why the Amex Rewards Credit Card is an easy way to save your Membership Rewards points.


How to earn Avios points from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (October 2022)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous 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:

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

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points (SPECIAL OFFER), £200 travel credit and unbeatable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Run your own business?

We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,000 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

10,500 points bonus – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company Read our full review

You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

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

There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

Comments (12)

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

  • Stian says:

    The problem with HSBC points is the rolling “hard” expiry of the points after three years. I’ve not found a way to stop this, which means that I’m in effect operating a “manual automatic” conversion of 30 to 35 months old points every few months. This is a disincentive to use the card, frankly, and it doesn’t help that the programme has, to me, very few attractive uses of the points other than converting them to Avios. While I appreciate the boost to my Avios balance, I still wish there was a way to build up a useful balance of HSBC points that I could keep until I needed them.

    • Alan says:

      If you’ve got a big balance then the transfer rate to SQ KrisFlyer is much better than with Amex and the availability (and hard and soft product) of SQ to Oz is much better than BA 👍

  • sayling says:

    “There is another reason why keeping American Express and Tesco points in their ‘original’ form as long as possible makes sense. Both convert to Avios points”

    Needs a little update?

    • RussellH says:

      Yes, it needs another proof-read. There is also a reference to Marriott Bonvoy being an airline. Substitue “Programme” for “airline”?

    • Rob says:

      Yes, apologies. With both Rhys and I away last week we have been running on a skeleton basis.

  • chabuddy geezy says:

    I think Heathrow rewards transfers are once per week. For me it took place on Monday evening for an avios transfer.

  • Philip says:

    I set up my Tesco account to automatically send to Virgin Atlantic. But I can’t work out how to unset it. In my account it seems to give 3 options…
    Vouchers, Clubcard Christmas savers and Virgin Atlantic but no “leave in account” option.

    • BLT says:

      I think vouchers would be the default

    • Pogonation says:

      Vouchers.. They’re always issued as vouchers every quester anyway and then you convert the vouchers to virgin or other.. Unless it’s changed in the last few years.

      • Philip says:

        I thought vouchers meant they send paper vouchers out in the post. They used to do that.

  • Alan says:

    The recent SQ KrisFlyer promo for status on transfers from HSBC was another good example of holding onto them – if you had already transferred you couldn’t have taken advantage of the promo – although equally they have an expiry date (unlike Amex MR), so be sure not to let any expire!

  • Bemi says:

    Hi Rob – great article as always. The only reason why I convert my Amex reward points to avios as soon as possible is so that I can cancel the Amex card and start the clock ticking to be recognised as a new customer. I read your other article on downgrading to a free Amex Rewards Credit Card to keep the Amex Rewards in their original form but that will mean not starting the clock to be a new customer which takes 24 months

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

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