We are big fans of British Airways’ Avios program for short haul flights since it’s a distance-based reward program. For flights under 650 miles, it is only 4,500 Avios each way.
Luckily for us, we’re are all based out of an American Airlines hub and can redeem Avios for AA flights. For one of the routes that we fly with frequency – New York to Toronto – we only need 9,000 Avios roundtrip. If we used redeemed AAdvantage miles, it would cost us at least 12,500 miles ONE WAY!
Normally, American Express Membership Rewards points transfer at a 1:1 ratio to British Airways Avios. However, until January 31st, 2015, American Express is giving a 40% bonus — meaning, 1,000 American Express Membership Points yields 1,400 British Airways. Our trip between New York and Toronto will require only 6,500 Membership Rewards points (7,000 in practice since transfers need to be done in 1,000 increments) vs 9,000 Membership Rewards points before.
If you live in an American, US Airways or Alaska Airlines hub or focus city (New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Charlotte, Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle or Anchorage) this is a no brainer. Look up reward tickets to see if they are available (the best place to search is on AA.COM since it can search all American, US Airways and Alaska availability with a month-long calendar) and if they are, book on BA.COM.
A few key points to remember:
- British Airways does not show all American or US Airways availability. If you find availability on AA.COM and it does not show on BA.COM, it could be there are too many results. In those instances, you will need to call them and tell them the exact flights you want. Ask them to waive the booking fee since you couldn’t do it online.
- Alaska is not bookable online on BA.COM; you have to call them. Ask them to waive the booking fee since you couldn’t do it online.
- Transfers between American Express and British Airways occur instantaneously so there’s no need to transfer until you find the award availability.
- Cancelling British Airways award tickets means either forfeiting the taxes for the award ticket or the points. Since taxes for a domestic roundtrip are $11.20, it always makes sense to forfeit the taxes and get the points back. Taxes are higher for international tickets.
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