Monday, February 2, 2015

Why I passed on the American Express - British Airways transfer bonus

The past couple of years British Airways Avios points have been pretty useful for me. We used them to fly to London on their signature A318 London City service and back on their 747 First Class, and we've used them countless times for short-haul flights (gotta love 9000 miles for NYC-Montreal round trip). I also have a decent amount of Amex points, which I love because of their flexibility. So it's no big surprise that I was excited about the Amex - BA transfer bonus that was announced for January.

As I've mentioned previously, we've been planning on going to Japan in spring but since my brother still doesn't have dates nailed down yet, our being there is going to rely on some serendipitous last-minute award availability or we're not going to be able to attend. I hemmed and hawed about proactively transferring my Amex points over during the bonus period, but I have a fairly hard rule with myself that I don't transfer points until right before I'm ready to buy a ticket. But in this case, I figured that I'd use the points eventually for a nice long-haul business class redemption at some point during the year even if the Japan trip doesn't happen, so why miss out on a 40% bonus?

Then last week BA announced a huge mileage devaluation. While BA did the usual gamification technique of creating a ridiculously complex set of redemption rules to obfuscate the changes, my takeaway is that the 40% transfer bonus is basically wiped out by the price hikes. So unfortunately my only use of this promotion was the 30,000 Amex —> 50,000 BA Avios that I did in early January for my Vancouver trip. I suppose it's better than nothing.

With BA and United's recent devaluations, they're both getting ever closer in valuation to Delta's infamous "SkyPeso". Indeed when I search Delta for some of the sample dates that I was considering, I'm getting round-trip flights in Business Class for 160,000 points. For comparison, BA wanted 140,000 points plus $578 per person (pre-devaluation) to fly on their partner Japan Airlines (JAL). So, in the end, I may end up actually transferring my Amex points to Delta (gasp!) to make this trip happen.


Another important thing about Delta is that in 2015 they enabled one-way awards. This is huge for us because we won't have enough miles to book two round trip tickets with a single airline, so we'll likely book two one-ways with one airline for the flight there and two one-ways with another airline for the flight home. When we're traveling together, we always try to have a single ticket with both his and my flight on it so we don't get split up if there's a problem with seats or flight delays/cancelations. We both have a bunch of United and Chase Sapphire miles so we may book one of the legs on United/Star Alliance. Whenever possible, I prefer to avoid flying USA-based airlines for international travel,  so ideally I'd go one way on Korean Air's A380 (via Seoul) and come back on All Nippon Airways 777 First Class out of Tokyo.

Lucky has a good post over here with some more detailed analysis about waiting to transfer your points until the last minute.




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