Membership Rewards points are one of the original transferable loyalty currencies, and they often promote different partners with limited time promotions. Right now you can get 50% more points when you transfer Membership Rewards to Avios, getting 1,200 Avios for every 1,000 Membership Rewards points. The normal transfer ratio is 800 Avios for 1,100 Membership Rewards points. (HT to One Mile at a Time)
Is this a good deal? While I wouldn’t normally transfer to Avios, I think the bonus promotion makes it worthwhile in certain cases.
The issue is that Avios is not a very good deal for most long-haul awards. They charge extra for connecting flights, and business and first class awards can be very expensive. Any carrier surcharges are also passed on to the traveler when making a redemption; British Airways is particularly awful when it comes to fees so I try not to use my Avios with them even though they operate the program.
Where Avios become a great deal is when you use them for short-haul awards, particularly on flights where economy class is tolerable or if the carrier does not collect surcharges. Connections become less of an issue. For very short distances, Avios may even be the cheapest option. And there are a few business class flights and carriers that are less problematic than British Airways. Here are some examples:
Short hops within North America start at 7,500 Avios for flights of 1,500 miles or less in economy class. In Europe, Asia, and elsewhere you can redeem just 4,500 Avios for flights of 650 miles or less. Partners include American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Cathay Pacific, JAL, and others.
Alaska Airlines has dozens of flights from West Coast cities to the Hawaiian Islands. These cost just 12,500 Avios each way compared to 20,000 miles or more through other loyalty programs. You’ll need to call British Airways to book since Alaska Airlines is not included in its online search tool.
Long-haul routes on Cathay Pacific are an example where booking a premium cabin still makes sense. They have several North American gateways, reducing the need for costly connections. LAX-HKG is 150,000 Avios each way in business class. Carrier surcharges are about $50 for round-trip travel. Likewise, some flights to Europe (BOS-DUB on Aer Lingus for 37,500 Avios in business class) are also a good deal.
So take a look at your upcoming travel plans, and use my Award Maximizer to see how many Avios you might need to reach your destination. Remember that you’ll need to search for each segment separately if you have to make a connection. This promotion runs through October 10, 2016, providing a long window of opportunity.