The American Express Membership Rewards program offers members the ability to redeem points for all kinds of rewards. Like similar credit card rewards programs such as Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou, the best Membership Rewards value usually comes from transferring points to an airline partner. However, there are some exceptions that are worth considering like booking tickets through the Amex travel portal. Here’s a rundown of when that makes sense and when it doesn’t.
How to Pick the Best Travel Rewards Cards
With so many travel rewards credit cards on the market, it can be difficult to decide which ones are worth getting and which should be ignored. If you get too many cards, you may end up paying more in annual fees than the value you get out of the cards. On the other hand, if you have too few cards you might miss out on programs and points that fit your travel needs.
Best and Worst Chase Ultimate Rewards Redemptions: British Airways
British Airways Executive Club is a great program that can really stretch the value of your Ultimate Rewards points. Since BA is an airline partner of UR you can transfer points to Execuive Club, the airline’s frequent flyer program. While British Airways is not a U.S. airline, you can use Avios to fly on its partner airlines, which include American or Alaska.
Also, unlike most U.S. based airline programs, British Airways Executive Club is a distance-based program, and it works best on relatively short, non-stop flights. Redemption levels start at 7,500 Avios per one-way flight (15,000 roundtip) in the U.S. and 4,000 Avios (8,000 roundtip) elsewhere.
Best Credit Cards for British Airways
- July 2018: Best British Airways Rewards and Air Miles Credit Cards
- Clicking "Apply Now" will take you to the
Credit-Land.comwebsite to view card offers
- Fly on
British Airwaysor Any Other Airline, Anytime
- Offers Available for Excellent and Good Credit
Ultimate Rewards to British Airways: Best Redemptions
Short flights in the U.S.
Nonstop flights for distances up to 1,150 miles in the U.S. are priced at 7,500 Avios one way, which is a much better rate than reduced United flights priced at 10,000 miles for distanced up to 700 miles. The next level is 10,000 Avios for distances between 1,151 and 2,000 miles.
1) For travel originated or terminated in the U.S., consider transferring your Ultimate Rewards points to BAEC if:
- You hold a Sapphire Preferred card and your desired roundtrip ticket costs $187.50 or more on the Ultimate Rewards site or
- You hold a Sapphire Reserve card and your roundtrip ticket costs $225 or more on the Ultimate Rewards site.
2) For travel not originating or terminating in the U.S., consider transferring your Ultimate Rewards points to BAEC if:
- You hold a Sapphire Preferred card and your desired roundtrip ticket costs $112.50 or more on the Ultimate Rewards site or
- You hold a Sapphire Reserve card and your roundtrip ticket costs $135 or more on the Ultimate Rewards site
For better understanding of this valuation, read the Best and Worst Examples of Using Chase Ultimate Rewards Points – The Portal.
A few examples of flights under 1,150 miles are: NYC – Miami, Toronto/Montreal, Washington, Chicago or Bermuda or Los Angeles to Seattle on the West Coast. You can find the distance between cities with this free tool.
West Coast to Hawaii on Alaska or American
Flights between the continental U.S. and Hawaii cost 22,500 one way, but the West Coast lies well within a 3,000-mile distance from Honolulu, so if you transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to BAEC, you can fly between the West Coast and Honolulu on American or Alaska for 12,500 Avios or 25,000 per roundtrip.
Boston to Dublin on Aer Lingus
One of the most amazing Ultimate Rewards values is redeeming Avios between Boston and Dublin on a British partner Aer Lingus for 25,000 per roundtrip. Even a business class ticket (redeeming Avios for business class tickets are not usually recommended) for 75,000 Avios per roundtrip is a good deal compared to United’s 100,000 miles price tag.
Northeast to Western Europe on Airberlin or Iberia
Transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to BAEC and fly from New York to Berlin/Dusseldorf for 40,000 Avios on Air Berlin (per roundtrip), or to Madrid for 34,000 Avios on Iberia. United charges 60,000 miles for flights between the U.S. and Europe.
London to Europe on BA
We generally discourage people from using Avios to fly British Airways over the ocean due to high fuel surcharges, but short- and medium-haul flights between London and Continental Europe can be a real bargain. The fees on intra-Europe BA flights are capped at £35 (which is slightly above $45 with current exchange rates), so you can connect anywhere in Europe for cheap. You can fly to Marseilles or Copenhagen for 9,000 Avios per roundtrip, Rome, Ibiza and Budapest for 15,000 Avios, or Moscow, Athens and Istanbul for 20,000.
Save even more by flying BA off-peak
British Airways has discounts if you don’t mind flying off-peak with them. Your savings for short-to-medium-haul one-way flights are as follows:
- 4,000 Avios vs. 4,500 for Zone 1
- 6,500 Avios vs. 7,500 for Zone 2
- 8,500 Avios vs. 10,000 for Zone 3
- 10,000 Avios vs. 12,500 for Zone 4
Intra-South America on LAN/TAM
Intra-South American flights can be prohibitively expensive; a one-hour flight between Lima and Cuzco (a gateway to Machu Picchu) can cost hundreds of dollars. However, the same flight can be yours for 4,500 Avios one way. Same 4,500 Avios can get you between other popular cities, for example, Sao Paulo and Iguassu Falls or Rio and Florianopolis. Or you can fly from Buenos Aires to Santiago de Chile for 7,500 one way.
Intra-Australia flights on Qantas
Qantas holds a virtual monopoly on intra-Australia flights, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a 1.5- hour flight between Sydney and Melbourne can cost $300-400 sometimes. Instead, transfer you Ultimate Rewards points to BAEC and book the same flight for 4,500 Avios and a few dollars of taxes.
Sydney – Auckland on LAN
This is a rare instance when we can recommend paying slightly more for a business class flight. This route is served by South American LAN on the way to/from Santiago and features Premium Business class with lie-flat seats. This 3.5 hour flight will cost you 20,000 Avios in business or 10,000 Avios in economy (one way).
Intra-Asia on Cathay Pacific and intra-Japan on JAL
You can fly from Hong Kong to Hanoi or Taipei for 4,500 Avios and to Chiang Mai or Siem Reap for 7,500 Avios one way. You can also use other oneworld partners Malaysia and SriLankan, but both add some fuel surcharges to their award tickets. Or you can redeem 4,500 Avios for any intra-Japan one-way flight on JAL from Tokyo – be it to Fukuoka in the South or Sapporo in the North.
Ultimate Rewards to British Airways: Worst Redemptions
This list is amazingly short.
Avoid connecting flights
The way Executive Club is designed is that any extra segment adds costs. So if there isn’t a non-stop flight or if you can’t find a nonstop availability, the system will usually (although not always) charge you for two segments instead of one.
For example, the flying distance between New York and Tampa, is just a hair above 1,000 miles which means it would cost 7,500 Avios per one-way flight if there was a non-stop flight between these two cities on American. Unfortunately, there isn’t, so when the computer routes your flight via Miami or Washington, DC, it adds an extra segment, meaning that you end up paying 15,000 Avios instead of 7,500. That makes transferring to United or booking your trip with Ultimate Rewards points a better option.
Once again, this is not always the case, so try to price your itinerary on the British Airways website first.
Avoid redeeming Avios for premium class travel
With some exceptions, using Avios to book first, or even business class is rarely a good deal. The BAEC scheme operates with a premise of a four-class configuration.
- Premium Economy
So if an economy seat costs 4,500 Avios, then a premium economy seat is 6,750, which is 50 percent more; a business class seat is 9,000, which is twice as much as a seat in economy; and a first class seat is 18,000 Avios, which is twice as much as a seat in business.
While redeeming Avios for a business class seat may be a decent value (like our Boston-Dublin and Auckland-Sydney examples), in general, the best value of the BAEC program is in short trip redemptions. There just isn’t much value in spending a lot of points for a two to three-hour flight. If you’re interested in business or first, save your Ultimate Rewards points for another day and transfer them into a program providing a much better value for long-haul premium class travel.
How Do I Find a Cheap Mileage Run to Bump Up My Frequent Flyer Account?
You’ve heard about them before. Mileage runs–the holy grail of scoring tons of miles by using cheap fares to fly a long distance. Since airlines have largely adjusted the way they award miles (based upon price of the ticket versus distance flown), mileage runs have lost much of their appeal.
Get These Credit Cards to Top Off Your AA, Delta or United Frequent Flyer Account
It happens to all of us. You’re planning a trip and you find the award flight you want, but you’re just a few miles short. What do you do? The easiest solution is to transfer points from a rewards credit card to your frequent flyer account. Or better yet, get a new card with a big sign-up bonus. You’ll probably even have enough miles to upgrade from coach to business. Why not travel in style?
Best Use of Citi ThankYou Points for Flights to Asia
Tickets to Asia are usually north of $1,000 and sometimes close to $2,000. You can use Citi ThankYou points to fly there free by booking your flight with the Citi Travel Center or by transferring the points to one of the Citi’s airline partners. Booking through the travel portal is rarely a good deal though, due to the high cost of the ticket. Transferring points to a frequent flyer program is generally a more prudent choice. We give you the lowdown on which programs are the best transfer options.
The Best Apps for Tracking Miles and Points
One of the first things you need to do when you start collecting points and miles is get the right app to keep track of your accounts. You’ll never have to worry about points expiring, forgetting passwords or losing account numbers again, and you’ll always know how many points and miles you have. And while some apps are dedicated to tracking, you might be better off with an all-around good travel app like Tripit, which offers miles tracking in its pro version.
What to Do If You’re Declined for a Travel Credit Card
You’ve done the research. You’ve figured out which one of the myriad of rewards credit cards you want. It’s the perfect card to earn a free flight fast to wherever you want to go. You apply and… you get declined! Don’t worry; we know what you should do next.
Chase Ultimate Rewards: Best and Worst United MileagePlus Redemptions
United is arguably the most popular Chase airline transfer partner, and transferring Ultimate Rewards points to United often makes sense when the price in points on the Ultimate Rewards website is too high compare to what you could pay for the flight using alternative currencies — frequent flyer miles. Since the United MileagePlus program is region-based and isn’t linked directly to the price of a revenue ticket, you will come ahead if the Ultimate Rewards cost is more than $300 (for a Sapphire Preferred cardholder) or $375 (for a Sapphire Reserve cardholder). For better understanding of how this valuation works, read the first installment: Best and Worst Examples of Using Chase Ultimate Rewards Points – The Portal.
How to Upgrade Your Flight with Delta SkyMiles
Many travelers who earn frequent flyer miles aren’t always interested in booking an award ticket. Instead, they want to use their miles to upgrade a ticket they’ve already bought with cash. Upgrades and award travel have a lot in common, but the rules are unique for every loyalty program. This post discusses how to upgrade a ticket purchased with Delta Air Lines.
How to Navigate Award Routes
It can be frustrating to redeem award miles for an overseas trip. But, keep in mind that not all hope is lost since many airline websites fail to show award space from all of their partners. This means that there are many routes with open seats available for award tickets going empty, but you may have to call the airline mileage program to find them.
Can You Downgrade Barclaycard, BofA, Capital One and U.S. Bank Travel Credit Cards?
The time to think about downgrading a premium credit card is when your annual fee is due and you don’t feel that the benefits you’re getting from the card are worth it anymore. There are many reasons to downgrade instead of just closing your account.
Best Uses of Citi ThankYou Points for Flights to South America
The Citi ThankYou program has 12 airline transfer partners, but none of them would be considered household names by Americans. Citi has members like Malaysia Airlines, Eva, Singapore and Virgin Atlantic, and many people don’t quite understand how to use these airlines to fly from the U.S. But this is where airline alliances are especially helpful.
JetBlue Has the Cheapest Cost To Cuba on an Award Ticket
Cuba is all the rage now. Since the U.S. Department of State announced a new course in relations with Cuba in December 2014, we’ve come a long way in getting people there. Traveling restrictions have been considerably relaxed – actually, traveling to Cuba has never been illegal, but spending money on the island was, and it’s hard to do one without the other. Technically speaking, it’s not like anyone can fly to Cuba just as you fly to any other place in the world, as you must cite one of 12 reasons so the airline could sell you the ticket.
Delta Quietly Raises Business Class Redemption Levels to Europe
In the last three years, all the major U.S. airline frequent flyer programs have had devaluations. Delta has gone further than everyone else though, by removing its SkyMiles award charts early last year. The goal was probably to stop complaints about program’s frequent devaluations because if you don’t have a chart you may not know that the award levels have increased. But what they are doing now has completely changed devaluations as we know them. Read on to see what we have uncovered about upcoming changes and when they take effect.
How to Upgrade Your Flight with United MileagePlus Miles
Many travelers who earn frequent flyer miles aren’t always interested in booking an award ticket. Instead, they want to use their miles to upgrade a ticket they’ve already bought with cash. Upgrades and award travel have a lot in common, but the rules are unique for every loyalty program. This post discusses how to upgrade a ticket purchased with United Airlines.
10 Ways to Redeem Miles with Air Canada Aeroplan for Maximum Value
Air Canada no longer operates Aeroplan, its own loyalty program, but it still offers plenty of great redemption options. There were significant changes to how miles are valued in recent years following the spinoff, yet you can find great value if you know where to look and what to book. For instance, Aeroplan still allows stopovers and open jaws, which are a great way to increase award ticket value. And it has a round-the-world in business class fare for just 300,000 miles. Read on for more details.
These Credit Cards Offer Special Savings on Your Next Hotel Stay
RewardExpert is dedicated to helping you earn free travel with airline miles and points, which can be earned more easily using certain credit cards. But did you know that these same cards sometimes provide special discounts and promotions when you book a hotel?
8 Ways to Redeem Miles with ANA Mileage Club for Maximum Value
ANA Mileage Club used to be one of the best ways to book awards on Star Alliance partners such as United Airlines, Lufthansa, and Singapore Airlines. That changed after they completely updated the program. Now there are actually four different award charts depending on when, where, and who you fly.
8 Ways to Redeem Miles with Lufthansa Miles&More for Maximum Value
How much value you can you get with Lufthansa’s Miles & More loyalty program? These miles don’t have a big presence in North America, but it’s still possible to accumulate them with Star Alliance carriers, by transferring points from Starwood Preferred Guest, or getting a credit card from Barclaycard. The program offers a few unique values despite collecting additional carrier surcharges on most international award tickets.