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? – March 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.

SPECIAL OFFER: Successfully apply for either of the Barclaycard Avios credit cards by 2nd April 2023 and you will be entered into a free draw to win ONE MILLION AVIOS! Full details are on the application forms here (free) and here (paid). This competition is exclusive to Head for Points readers. T&C apply.

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

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.

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 – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and unbeatable travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus 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:

Until 30th March 2023, the sign up bonus on American Express Business Platinum is increased to 120,000 Membership Rewards points – click here. The bonus on American Express Business Gold is increased to 60,000 Membership Rewards points – click here. T&C apply, see the application forms for details.

American Express Business Platinum

Crazy 120,000 points bonus (to 30th March) and a £200 Amex Travel credit every year Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

60,000 points sign-up bonus (to 30th March) and free for a year Read our full review

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

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 (3% for 3 months if you apply by 31st March) 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.

  • Cwyfan says:

    You need the caveat that, although avios and nectar are interchangeable, there is always a devaluation if you do it more than once with the same pot.

  • Louie says:

    Rats. I wish I had known HSBC points were instantly transferable only yesterday, when I needed some SQ miles. Last time I did it they posted overnight but I couldn’t take the risk so used other points which did transfer instantly but not at such a good rate.

    • Rob says:

      I don’t have personal experience of an instant transfer post relaunch but the other partners I and other readers have tried were instant.

  • Phil G says:

    Our transfer to Virgin points took 10 days and we missed out not the reward seats we wanted, and now can’t transfer them back

    • Ben W says:

      Ditto, my first transfer from AMEX to Virgin took over a fortnight when looking to take advantage of the half price redemption offer (so missed out).

      • LLLL says:

        Same. My first transfer from Amex to Virgin was horrible for Player 1 and Player 2. Haven’t tried ‘instant’ conversion since.

      • SamG says:

        Same. Luckily I had only done 1000 and could do a transfer to Delta instead

    • Ironside says:

      The first AMEX-Virgin transfer does indeed take some days. Once complete, the second is instant.

      My experience was fortunate in that I suspected Upper Class seats would become available but wasn’t sure, so transferred 1,000 points across as a warm-up. In fact, the return sector opened up overnight before the outbound, so I found myself sat next to the Virgin ticket desk at 6am with a laptop, getting the points transferred before asking them to make the upgrade in person.

      I also threw some Tesco Clubcard points at the same problem, in the same way, but the second transfer didn’t appear for hours.

  • Yorkieflyer says:

    Instant transfer assuming you’ve transferred once before

    • tony says:

      Is this common for all, or just the Virgin ones? Am toying with an EK transfer – should I send 1k over first so it’s all lined up as I don’t want to end up in the situation Phil G has….

      • memesweeper says:

        Yes – top up now to ensure it works smoothly when you need it to.

        It might not be ‘instant’ – my last one seemed to take a few minutes – but maybe log out / log in would have made the balance update on my Emirates account faster.

      • Rob says:

        Don’t send anything, just link the accounts.

  • Jonathan says:

    I think I’ve heard somewhere that HSBC points have a hard expiry, meaning you can’t rack up excess balances like you can with Amex MR and know that the points are all safe and well until you need them…

    Again, I’m not entirely sure on this policy, it’s just something I’ve heard, I’m sure someone here could confirm ?

  • stevenhp1987 says:

    Had anyone ever had problems linking Amex MR to VS?

    Keeps getting rejected when attempting to link them.

    Amex say VS are saying its due to name difference but VS have confirmed the name is what it should be over the phone…

    I’m being sent round in circles by both of them!

    • Roberto says:

      I did it over the phone as I could not do it online however your issue is probably that posh Hyphen you have Steve 🙂

      On a different note did you book/go on that Virgin Voyages Greece cruise you spoke about? If so how was it?

      • stevenhp1987 says:

        Probably is the hyphen… But it’s not uncommon so the agents should have seen it before! I’ve mentioned that to both over the phone…

        We went on a second VV cruise (VS funded of course) back in October. The French Daze one. Was really good! Especially for the price.

        Going on the Valiant Lady a third time in just under 4 weeks, again on VS points (Western Caribbean Charm)… Starting to run low on VS points now.

        We did book the Greek Island Glow one for July this year. Put down $300 on the October cruise to get additional $300 off and $600 obc.

        Having already booked an MSC cruise (Caribbean back in November) we status matched IHG Diamond to MSC Gold then MSC Gold to VV.

        So we got additional obc for July plus extra perks on the October and upcoming February cruise.

        We paid just under £3k for the Greek cruise and we have $1,100 obc. Used up an expiring BA 2-4-1 so we have some flexibility should the new ship not sail this year.

        Cannot complain at all!

  • Keiths says:

    Small caveat on keeping transferable points until needed.
    If you do this with American Express you need to keep your MR account open. Would this not prevent your 24 month churn?
    So, you gain in convertibility, but lose in terms of future sign-up bonuses?

  • Doug says:

    Rob, my brain now hurts.
    Either I have been incredibly misled or one paragraph of this article needs to be re-written.
    The article suggests that 1 Amex point can be converted more than once. “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.”

    My understanding has always been that one Amex point can be converted into any ONE of these but not into all or any more than one! Have I been mistaken?

    • Rob says:

      You’re confused.

      The point is this. Would you rather have a £5 Waitrose gift card or £5 voucher valid in any supermarket? You’d prefer £5 to spend in any supermarket, because it gives you extra choice – you can go to Waitrose if you want but you can also shop somewhere else if you think you’ll get a better deal.

      This is why 1 Amex point from a Membership Rewards card is better than 1 Avios from a free BA Amex.

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