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Can’t Choose From 12 AmEx Transfer Bonuses? Here Are the Best 3!

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AmEx is offering an unprecedented number of transfer bonuses to airlines and hotels (HT: u/corncobcareers @Reddit). Most of them you wouldn’t want to use, but that still leaves a number of choices. Log on to your account to see these offers (my preferred choices are in green).

AmEx airline transfer bonuses

  • 25% Aeromexico Club Premier
  • 20% Air Canada Aeroplan
  • 25% Air France / KLM Flying Blue
  • 15% Avianca Lifemiles (You’ll actually get 32%)
  • 40% British Airways BAEC, Air Lingus AerClub  and Iberia Plus
  • 25% HawaiianMiles
  • 15% Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • 30% Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

AmEx hotel transfer bonuses

  • 30% Hilton Honors
  • 30% Marriott Bonvoy

Even with bonuses, the hotel transfers don’t make much sense unless you’re trying to top off your account for a specific (preferably 5-day for a free 5th night) redemption. If this is something you’re debating, the Hilton bonus is better because the ratio is already 1:2 so with the 30% bonus you get 2,600 Hilton points for 1,000 AmEx points. If you don’t have a specific 5-day redemption in mind, I’d strongly suggest going for airline miles instead.

So, what transfer(s) would I go for?

AmEx Transfer Bonus to Avianca LifeMiles (32% total)

UPDATE 9.23.21

Avianca is clawing back its 15% transfer bonus. I first learned from reader John in the comments and here is an email I received from them a couple of days ago. 

 

It just so happens that Avianca has its own 15% bonus for transferring AmEx points in addition to the AmEx bonus.

When I read about it in the Reddit Award Travel comments, I had my doubts it was a separate thing. So I transferred 1,000 AmEx points as an experiment.

Sure enough, when the dust settled (a minute later 🙂 ) my loot amounted to roughly 32%.

And then they’ve clawed it back!

This is outrageous and unacceptable. While I only transferred 1,000 points to test the system, many people transferred thousands COUNTING on getting the additional 15% bonus listed on Avianca’s website. Furthermore, I find their “malfunction” claim dubious. I can swear there has been at least one occasion before when LifeMiles doubled a transfer bonus from AmEx and it went without a hitch.   

I don’t know if there is anything that can be done about it since DOT doesn’t regulate frequent flyer programs, but it will affect my decision-making process in the future.

Avianca is a Star Alliance member

Avianca doesn’t add fuel surcharges to any of its partners. That’s great.

On the other hand, the Avianca award chart (the one they still mostly use even though they stopped publishing it years ago) isn’t very generous. Having said that, the 32% bonus does change my valuations quite a bit. Here are some examples for one-way Business Class travel.

  • Los Angeles to Bogota: 33,000 Avianca miles (25,000 AmEx Points)
  • Brazil: 49,000 (38,000 AmEx Points)
  • Europe: 60,000-63,000 (46,000-48,000 AmEx Points)
  • South Africa: 78,000 (60,000 AmEx Points)
  • South East Asia: 75,000 (57,000 AmEx Points)
  • South Pacific (Australia): 80,000 (61,000 AmEx Points)

You can also redeem Avianca miles on U.S. domestic United flights.

Avianca’s sweetest spot

Of course, the sweetest spot in the Avianca redemption scheme is a Business Class award  from New York (JFK) to Lisbon in Business for 35,000 miles (27,000 AmEx points). I still check it out periodically to make sure they haven’t slaughtered that unicorn yet. Nope, so far so good.

The “unofficial” 35,000-mile price for JFK-LIS Business Class is still intact

Note, you can only get it for JFK-LIS. Not EWR-LIS, not LIS-JFK, not any of other numerous combinations I’ve tried. Why this single flight is still redeemable at this wonderful rate is a complete mystery to me, but hey, why dwell on a good thing?

Even when you pay the full 63,000 miles (48,000 AmEx points) for a flight back, your roundtrip in Business between New York and Lisbon will only cost you 75,000AmEx points. Not too shabby!

You can benefit even more (much more!) by using skiplagging techniques. But, quite honestly, this bonus is quite a game-changer even if you’re not into “hacking.”

Read my other Avianca LifeMiles posts here.

AmEx Transfer Bonus to Iberia Avios (40%)

For Iberia Business Class to / from Madrid

OFF-PEAK PRICES

City Economy Blue Economy Full Premium Economy Business
NYC, Boston, Chicago 17K 22K 25.5K 34K / 25K AmEx Points
Miami, Los Angeles 21,250 27,750 31,750 42.5K / 31K AmEx Points
San Francisco 25,500 33,250 51K

PEAK PRICES

City Economy Blue Economy Full Premium Economy Business
NYC, Boston, Chicago 20K 28K 35K 50K/36K AmEx Points
Miami, LA 25K 35K 43,750 62.5K / 45K AmEx Points

Every redemption rate is a bargain; even the most expensive Peak rate from LA and Miami costs only 45,000 points.

If you’re thinking, well, I don’t care about Madrid — it doesn’t really matter. Iberia flies to so many cities in and beyond Spain, you’re not limited to Madrid at all. And the prices, both cash and award, can be dirt cheap. I’ve flown between Spanish cities for as little as 25 Euro! And when the cash fares are high, you can use Avios (interestingly, in Europe British Avios can be easier on your wallet taxes-wise than Iberia Avios).

Iberia / Level Nonstop Premium Economy to Barcelona

Level flights to / from Barcelona are operated by Iberia and don’t have a Business Class cabin, so Premium Economy is the best you can get. According to this Loyalty Lobby review, the seats have adjustable footrest, a good choice of entertainment options and decent food. The report is quite old though, and there aren’t many others.

Level flies to Barcelona from New York, JFK, Boston, and San Francisco. The costs are as follows:

  • New York and Boston: 25,500 (19K AmEx Points) Off-Peak; 35,000 (25K AmEx Points) Peak
  • San Francisco: 38,250 (28K AmEx Points) Off-Peak; 52,500 (38K AmEx Points) Peak

For more details including fuel surcharges and the peak calendar check more of my Iberia posts here:

AmEx Bonus to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (30%)

This hasn’t been the first or even the second 30% AmEx Transfer Bonus to Virgin, and I’ve thoroughly dissected them a few times before. Here are only some examples.

You can fly in Delta Business Class for 39,000 AmEx Points to Europe and for 35,000 AmEx points to South America plus:

You can fly in the new First Class (The Suite) for 85K-93K (RT) to Japan on ANA.

Using Virgin points for flights on Delta

I must say I’ve checked Delta award space to Europe (only a few routes, of course) for 2022 and it’s abysmal. Go to the Virgin Atlantic website and do a quick search (you don’t have to log on) to get a feel of what’s there.

Using Virgin points for flying on ANA 

I doubt anyone can beat 85,000 points for a round trip in First Class from the West Coast to Japan (93,000 from the East Coast). This is beyond amazing! You need to call Virgin Atlantic to redeem an ANA award, and there will be a moderate fuel surcharge, but now you can book a one-way flight (only round trips were bookable before). And availability seems to be decent as long as you’re booking well ahead.

Here are my other Virgin Atlantic pieces.

What about AmEx transfer bonuses to other partners?

Aeromexico would be quite an interesting proposition — with the 25% bonus, you could book a round-the-world trip in Business Class with 15 (!) stopovers for just 176,000 AmEx points. The problem is … has anyone tried that? I’ve heard nightmarish stories about booking even a simple partner award on Aeromexico, so pass.

Air Canada is solid, but its award levels are hardly generous, and the 20% Amex transfer bonus is weak compared to others. But if Aeroplan works for you, surely make sure to look into it. I just don’t find the program compelling — again, compared to the values you can get from other AmEx partners.

Aer Lingus — high fuel surcharges with no other benefits from what I’m seeing.

British Avios — maybe, especially if you’re interested in short flights and Hawaii from the West Coast.

Flying Blue — I believe you can get a better value with Virgin points especially since transfer to Virgin gives you a  slightly higher bonus. Business Class availability to Europe on Air France / KLM was quite decent in my search, so if you’re OK with a $300+ fuel surcharge per one-way travel, you can at least save on points.

Hawaiian — expensive for award flights to Hawaii and a poor value for redemption on partners.

Qantas — come on! 🙂

To recap

AmEx offers 12 transfer bonuses to its partners, but the sheer number of bonuses means very little. Of all these bonus offers, I’d pay attention to three: Avianca LifeMiles, Iberia Plus and Virgin Atlantic. These three programs offer outsized value you won’t see from the other contestants. 🙂

Are you planning on transferring your AmEx points? Where to?  

 

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