Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

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

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This article is part of an introductory series which we’ve been running this week whilst we wait for the January newsflow to pick-up.

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 40 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, albeit with a slight loss of value.

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 do it with Heathrow Rewards to Emirates (according to reader reports – I have not done this myself)
  • you CAN do it with NatWest Rewards points to Emirates
  • you can’t do it with Heathrow Rewards or hotel points transfers to other airlines, as far as I know, or with NatWest Rewards transfers to Avios
  • 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 (instant 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 an exclusive sign-up bonus for HfP readers of 10,500 Avios.

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
  • Qantas (based on reader feedback)
  • 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 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. They expire irrespective of your activity. You can’t keep them mounting up for decades and you will have to move them at some point. Amex points are better if you are taking a very long term view.

Conclusion

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? – February 2024 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.

Virgin Money is offering double points on spending until 14th April (£5,000 cap) to new customers when you apply for the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard. Click here to learn more.

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

40,000 bonus points 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

Crazy 120,000 points bonus (to 9th April) and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

Huge 60,000 points sign-up bonus (until 9th April) 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

2% cashback on all your business spend for 3 months (1% thereafter) and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (18)

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

  • Michael C says:

    Just as a fyi, I made a massive boo-boo last summer: read online that Amex-KrisFlyer was 24 hours. Except I read it on a US site!
    Took over 3 weeks, by which time we’d been and gone to the destination in question…

    • BBbetter says:

      Was that your first transfer to SQ? Typically the following transfers are quicker as they don’t have to check names again.

  • Mohamed says:

    Heathrow reward to Emirates are instant, I ve done it several time and the last time 4th December.
    My question why someone like Uber can get you instant transfer to BA and big airlines and hotels can’t even get you instant credit for their own program, like a bank, like a supermarket??? Even like an oyster card.

    • Rob says:

      I believe Avios has a new-ish API which lets partners have direct access to their system. It’s easy for a tech-first company like Uber or Capital On Tap to apply this, less so for those running 1980s-based IT systems (I guess).

      HSBC outsources transfers to Ascenda / Kaligo which is also a start-up and so has the latest tech.

    • Rob says:

      Thanks, will add.

      • cariocaseb2005 says:

        May I suggest you add NatWest MyRewards to turn list as well? If you hold a NW Premier current account, and a NW Premier credit card, all your cc spend banks 0.5% cash back into “NW MyRewards”. The balance you build up over time can be converted into various partners, incl. Avios, Emirates etc. (haven’t tried it out bcs of the poor cvr rate), but it’s another option for ppl to be aware of I guess.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      With flights and hotels own points/earnings posting the delay is usually due to when the systems are set to batch process activity.

  • Stephen says:

    Maybe not as relevant to everyone but BP are also instant! As in, immediate! 😁

  • QFFlyer says:

    Amex (UK) MR to Qantas is instant (or was for me a few months ago).

  • Midi says:

    At the last minute between Christmas and new year… I transferred 70,000 Amex Membership Rewards to Avios. I paid for a three times boost via BA, I then booked Qatar flights to down under for the family. Tickets had a cash price of circa £6k; I paid circa £1200 for the tickets (+340k Avios) and circa £1900 for the 3x Avios boost. But I only needed about 100k Avios not the 210k Avios I got from boosting.. so I have tickets to down under for next Christmas at under half price, and enough Avios left over to make decent use of my two outstanding 241 vouchers.

    All the above transferring was instant… Including – luckily – the conversion from Avios to Qatar points and back to Avios that I mistakenly did!

    The booking process at Qatar was a different experience… log in tech issues at the time caused a real challenge, and their phone support was of variable quality.

    • Talay says:

      Qatar tech is abysmal. Even if you scroll forward a week, it does about 10 days, meaning there is a gap between the week you previous searched and the week it now shows you.

      You couldn’t write crap coding like that if you tried !

  • Ironside says:

    “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)”

    This is a great nugget of information, albeit a weird one. It means that Tesco – VS transfers *could* be instant for everyone, including those not signed up to auto-convert, but someone somewhere has taken the decision to limit that feature.

    It’s a business, rather than a technical, limitation. And not a very well publicised one at that.

    • W888TEE says:

      This is good to know. We have +300k Avios shared between AA Platinum, Mastercard and BA Executive. My wife and I want to convert the above to Virgin points in anticipation of another Virgin Voyages cruise opportunity, in the Med. We also have two BA upgrade vouchers which was reached December 2023. So attempting to work out if I can secure flights to the Caribbean 2025 and a cruise. This will be our first use of Avios.

  • cariocaseb2005 says:

    Question from me Rob on transferring Emirates skywards miles into Heathrow Rewards. I understand the min amount is 6k EK miles into Heathrow Rewards – would you know whether it matters what the 6k balance is made up, I.e. 5k EK miles from household balance + 1k EK miles from my personal account? Or would the 6k EK miles need to be sitting in my own personal Skywards account, as opposed to HH acct?

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

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