Avios Now a 1:1 Transfer Partner of Amex Membership Rewards

Back in the fall of 2015, American Express lowered the transfer ratio of Membership Rewards to British Airways and Iberia from 1:1 to 10:8. This move hurt American Express Membership Rewards because Chase Ultimate Rewards remained a 1:1 transfer partner with British Airways. Now, American Express has re-introduced British Airways and Iberia as a 1:1 transfer partner once again. This is great news, especially since British Airways offers promotional transfer rates about every year.

Avios refresher

Avios is a rewards program that partners with different airlines, such as British Airways, Iberia Plus, and Aer Lingus. The programs for the airlines are separate but related, meaning that they have their own routing rules, award charts, and calendars but also allow you to transfer points between them.

Each of these airlines has their own distance-based award chart which can be seen below.

British Airways

Aer Lingus

Iberia

What can I use Avios for?

Avios are excellent for short-haul flights around the US/Mexico/Caribbean, flights from the West Coast to Hawaii, certain routes to Europe, and other intra-continent flights around the world in places like South America and Australia.

Here are some specific examples of great value that you can get from Avios.

1) Flights to Europe

A. Flights with Aer Lingus 

A long-loved sweet spot was using Avios to fly Boston to Dublin on Aer Lingus but that sweetspot was bumped from Zone 4 to Zone 5 on the British Airways chart so that the mileage requirements increased. Even with the new requirements, it’s still a good deal, especially if you can book the trip during off-peak times.

The roundtrip redemptions from Boston to Dublin now look like this:

  • Economy
    • Off-peak: 26,000 Avios
    • Peak: 40,000 Avios
  • Business:
    • Off-peak: 100,000 Avios
    • Peak: 120,000 Avios

Also, as a result of the new chart with Aer Lingus, more sweet spots opened up from different cities. You can now fly from NYC/Chicago/Hartford/DC/Toronto to Dublin for the following rates:

  • Economy
    • Off-peak : 26,000
    • Peak: 40,000
  • Business:
    • Off-peak: 100,000
    • Peak: 120,000

Fees can be around $170 total for a roundtrip so they aren’t that bad, considering how cheap these redemption rates.

B. Flights with Iberia 

If you want to fly in business class to Europe from certain cities like New York and Chicago, then you probably want to consider transferring your Membership Rewards directly to Iberia Avios. It is possible to transfer your Avios from British Airways to Iberia, but there are technical steps involved with that so I would just transfer your points directly to Iberia if you were planning on flying with them.

The great sweet spots with Iberia are for trips between 3,001 to 4,000 miles. 

This is a tremendous sweet spot for using Iberia Avios to book business class, especially if your trip falls within the off-peak calendar. 68,000 Avios for a roundtrip in business class to Europe beats some of the best redemption rates like Korean Air, Asiana, and ANA and the fees are reasonable so don’t overlook this option!  The 100,000 (round trip) redemption rate from British Airways and Aer Lingus during off-peak times isn’t bad either, so long as you can avoid or minimize fees.

Here’s a comparison of the rates with British Airways/Aer Lingus.

  • British Airways/Aer Lingus
    • Off-peak: 50,000
    • Peak: 60,000
  • Iberia
    • Off-peak: 34,000
    • Peak: 50,000

These rates are good with Iberia for the following routes:

  • Boston to Madrid
  • New York to Madrid
  • Chicago to Madrid

Chicago technically is more than 4,000 miles but Iberia lumps it in with the other routes and I’m 100% okay with that.

2) North America to Hawaii

When flying from the West Coast to Hawaii, Avios offers one of the best redemptions. For this particular redemption, you’ll be flying with American Airlines or Alaska Airlines, which gives you access to a number of departing locations all along the West Coast and Alaska.

A. Avios economy redemptions

  • 25,000 Avios – West Coast to Hawaii

B. Avios business class redemptions

Getting from the West Coast to Hawaii in business class with Avios is still somewhat of a sweet spot compared to other major airlines, although you can do better by going with airlines like Korean Air, ANA, Singapore, etc.

  • 75,000 Avios – West Coast to Hawaii

Note: if you used Iberia Avios for this redemption you could get it as low as 62,500 Avios roundtrip (but you can’t book one ways on American with Iberia).

3) North America to South America

Avios can offer you some of the best redemption rates for getting to South America. You’ll usually be flying on LAN, TAM, or American Airlines.

A. Avios economy redemptions

Take a look at economy rates for getting to two popular South American destinations, Lima and Santiago Chile from Texas and New York. The distances between these destinations stays in Zones 5 and 6 for Avios so the rates are pretty reasonable but the sweet spot is getting to destinations in the southern part of South America, such as Santiago.

  • 40,000  Avios -DFW/JFK to LIM
  • 50,000  Avios – DFW/JFK to SCL

B. Avios business class redemptions

For the most part, the business class redemptions to South American from North America are not great and a lot of them are very terrible but I’ve included them for your reference and the sake of completeness. Here’s a look at some of the redemptions and how they stack up against the competition.

  • 75,000 Avios – MIA to LIM
  • 120,000  Avios -DFW to LIM
  • 150,000  Avios – DFW to SCL

4) North America to Mexico or the Caribbean

Using Avios to get to Mexico and various Caribbean destinations can be a great way to redeem. As you can tell from a couple of the examples I’ve posted, the deals can be great even if you are flying from the Northeast or Midwest.

A. Avios economy redemptions

Getting to Mexico

  • 15,000 Avios – DFW to CUN (Cancun)
  • 20,000 Avios – JFK/ORD to CUN

Avios business class redemptions

When flying from hubs in the southern part of the country, the redemptions for business class are an absolute steal to Mexico and the Caribbean, assuming you can find direct shots. Even when you’re departing from northern states, the redemption rates are still very competitive.

Getting to Mexico

  • 30,000 Avios – DFW to CUN (Cancun)
  • 60,000 Avios – JFK/ORD to CUN

5) Short haul economy flights in North America

The recent devaluation to short-haul flight redemptions with Avios was a pretty big hit to the program but there’s still some pretty good redemptions to be had. The devaluation basically did away with the first zone and made it so that the cheapest short-haul flight in economy would require 7,500 Avios, and business and first class were changed to Zone 2’s requirements as well.

Even with that devaluation, it’s still a good deal to use Avios for flights 2,000 miles and under in the U.S. because you can save 5,000 to 10,000 miles.

Getting around the United States

  • 15,000 Avios for routes up to 1,150 miles (e.g., MIA – JFK)
  • 20,000 Avios 1,151 miles to 2,000 miles (e.g., SFO – IAH)
  • 25,000 Avios 2,001 miles to 3,000 miles (e.g., LAX – JFK)

6) Intra-continental flights

Avios can also be used effeciently to book intra-continental flights. I’ve recently used Avios to book some pretty otherwise expensive flights between Lima and Santiago. The particular flight I booked costed $2,000 for a one-way business class ticket. I used 20,000 Avios for a 10 cent per point redemption, a great value that you usually find on higher-end first class suites.

These kind of redemptions can be had in other continents, too. I’d always do some research on One World partners in Africa, Australia, and Asia in order to seek out valuable Avios redemptions.

Final word

I consider Avios to be a valuable currency because there are many ways to earn them and there are several sweet spots that you can take advantage of if you know how to look for them. Now that Membership Rewards is once again a 1:1 transfer partner with British Airways and Iberia, Avios is now an even stronger program in my eyes.

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