Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

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 American Express Preferred Rewards Gold, The Platinum Card 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.

American Express Membership Rewards points are transferable

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 Point, 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 British Airways 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 (12 airline and hotel partners)
  • Tesco Clubcard points (Virgin Points plus many non-travel partners)
  • Heathrow Rewards (various airline partners as well as shopping discounts)

You could, arguably, include Marriott Bonvoy points in this list too.  It is the only hotel scheme where you get genuine good value if you convert your points to airline miles.  This article looks at the 38 Marriott Bonvoy airline partners.

I do NOT include Nectar on this list, because transfers between Nectar and Avios are 2-way.  It doesn’t matter where your points sit, because you can move them in either direction.

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

Transferable miles and points are the best

That is stage one.  There is a second stage however ….. INSTANTLY convertible points are worth more than all other convertible points.

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.

What you want is an instantaneous transfer. 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.

Where can you find instant transfers? Here are your options:

  • you can’t do it with Heathrow Rewards or any hotel points transfers to airlines, as far as I know
  • you CAN do it with Tesco Clubcard transfers to Virgin Atlantic (anyone signed up to auto-conversion can request a transfer of their current points balance, if it is 150+, at any time and the transfer is instant)
  • HSBC Premier (for all partners, we think)
  • American Express (some partners)

There is one other UK Avios partner which allows instant transfers – Capital On Tap, via their Business Rewards Visa card for SMEs.  You can learn more about Capital On Tap’s Avios earning credit card hereThere is a bonus worth 30,000 Avios for signing up this month.

Instant transfers from Membership Rewards to Delta SkyMiles

Which American Express partners offer INSTANT transfers?

As far as I know, the list of Membership Rewards partners which transfer instantly is:

  • Delta SkyMiles
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Marriott Bonvoy

Note that first-time Amex transfers to a new partner may not be instant due to security checks. It makes sense to link your accounts in advance by doing a dummy transfer on the Membership Rewards website.

Which HSBC Premier credit card partners offer INSTANT transfers?

We think, following the relaunch last year, that all HSBC Premier card partners are now instant. We have tested a few and all were. Please let us know if you have found any that are not. Let me repeat – we do not guarantee that all of the partners are instant but we haven’t found any yet which are not.

Airline partners:

  • Asia Miles
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Etihad Guest
  • EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
  • Finnair Plus
  • Flying Blue (Air France KLM)
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • TAP Miles&Go

Hotel partners:

  • IHG One Rewards
  • Wyndham Rewards

Remember that HSBC points have a hard three year expiry. You can’t keep them mounting up for decades. Amex is better if you are taking a very long term view.


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

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

Want to earn more points from credit cards? – December 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.

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

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

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £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.

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive 30,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 30,000 Avios) with American Express Preferred Rewards Gold. You receive 25,000 points if you spend £3,000 in three months and a further 5,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive a huge 100,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 100,000 Avios) with The Platinum Card. You receive 75,000 points if you spend £10,000 in six months and a further 25,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.

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 – 30,000 points (TO 9th JANUARY), FREE for a year & four airport ….. Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

Crazy 100,000 points (TO 9th JANUARY) and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 bonus points 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:

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

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year 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 and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (41)

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

  • The Hunter says:

    Seeing as there’s a pic of a platinum card…
    Can anyone please confirm whether a holiday needs to have been booked on an Amex / Amex Platinum card for the travel insurance to be valid for that trip? Concierge told me on the phone, rather unhelpfully, that they couldn’t answer insurance questions 🙄

    • Rob says:

      Big stuff – no need to pay with an Amex at all

      Little stuff – it is broken down by segment, eg if you don’t pay for your flight with an Amex then you don’t get the £200 if your flight is delayed by 4 hours (or whatever it says) but this won’t impact cover if you pay for your hotel with Amex and one of the hotel issues kicks in – or vice versa.

      • Stuart says:

        I have the same question re the hire / rental car cover, I have wanted to take advantage of this a few times now, as it would be great not to worry about the damage or paying for excess waiver but the support team at amex couldn’t confirm if I am covered regardless or only if I pay and put the amex as a deposit. Many hire car companies in Europe do not accept Amex only Mastercard or Visa. Happy to pay with one of those but would be good to still get the amex benefits.

        • Rob says:

          Zero requirement to use an Amex for the car hire cover. The insurance document is on the Amex website.

          • QFFlyer says:

            Correct, and unusual even among Amex cards from other countries – US and Australia do not allow cover when not paying with Amex. Hertz in Canada tried warning me (to their credit) about this when I paid using a Mastercard, sure enough I needed to claim, and Amex (well, AXA) came through.
            I’ve claimed due to an accident and due to a break in, both times hassle free.

  • TrainDriverSparky says:

    ‘I do NOT include Nectar on this list, because transfers between Nectar and Avios are 2-way. It doesn’t matter where your points sit, because you can move them in either direction.’

    And you’ll lose value if you transfer back to Nectar?

    • Rob says:

      Yes, you will, but at least the reverse transfer is possible. I don’t think anyone would complain if you could transfer points BACK to Amex with a 20% haircut.

  • mnlbay says:

    HSBC rewards to:
    – Cathay: instant (within 30 mins)
    – Krisflyer: instant (within 30 mins)
    – Etihad: instant (within 30 mins)
    – EVA: waited 6 weeks after many chasers & escalations with HSBC, no luck. Points refunded to account and £100 for inconvenience

    If experiencing issues with HSBC reward points transfer, you have to go through on the phone to the digital wallet team.

    This is my experience since beginning of October.

    • Rob says:


      • meta says:

        Avios (had 12k expiring points) sent this morning at 11am, in the BAEC account after 4pm. It does say overnight when you do the transfer.

  • L Allen says:

    Capital on Tap transfers instantly

  • RTS says:

    With HSBC 3 year expiry – does the entire balance reset every time you earn on it?

    • Rob says:

      No, it is hard expiry like Lufthansa. Use em or lose em. Difference being that LH will actually tell you they are about to expire your points. HSBC doesn’t even show your balance on statements or in the app.

      • meta says:

        It now shows the balance when you log in on the desktop version. There is also a banner showing how many points are expiring (if you have any). It’s displayed on the the page for redeeming. When I did it this morning the message disappeared as soon as I transferred out the expiring points.

  • Anon says:

    In practice how long do Amex transfers to Krisflyer take? Is it the 15 days mentioned on their website?

  • Jim Lovejoy says:

    I did an Amex US transfers to kris-flyer this year and it was instantaneous, so I’d think Amex UK would be the same.

  • Charlieface says:

    Non-instant transfers in general scare me: it makes me think there is some guy who creates an Excel spreadsheet every couple days and emails it over.

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

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