Should You Take Transfer Bonuses Into Account When Booking Flights?

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Take Transfer Bonuses Into Account When Booking Flights

Should You Take Transfer Bonuses Into Account When Booking Flights?

I recently made a speculative transfer to British Airways Avios with the 40% American Express Membership Rewards transfer bonus.  I know that I will be able to use those BA Avios pretty easily on American Airlines flights. Sometimes I used them instead of AA miles even when the price is more!  But the speculative transfer got me thinking should you take transfer bonuses into account when booking flights?

Of Course You Should….Or Maybe Not?

To be clear I am not talking about when there is an active bonus to take advantage of.  If you were debating on whether to transfer Membership Rewards points to BA with the bonus or another airline program, and it would be cheaper to book it with Avios because of the bonus, then you of course take it into account.  But what about when they have already been transferred to your account?

I only transferred enough MR points to have 60,000 Avios in my account.  That is just enough to get four short haul domestic tickets in economy.  The perfect amount for my family of four! My question is should I value those points as the 43,000 Membership Rewards points it took to transfer?  Or do I simply value them as I would 60,000 Avios if I had got them from the Chase British Airways Visa, which made some changes to their card recently.

There are two ways you can argue this point so I will take a stab at looking at it from both sides of the coin.

Take Transfer Bonuses Into Account When Booking Flights

Why You Should Consider The Transfer Bonus

First up is that you should of course take the transfer bonus into account.  When I go to use these points I should think of them as 43,000 MR points versus 60,000 Avios.  That is where the true value or cost is.

For example if I had the choice of booking a flight for 15,000 Avios versus 12,000 American Airlines miles (because of their new web specials) I should really think about them as 10,714 Membership Rewards points.  If you valued the two currencies (MR & AA miles) pretty equally the Avios booking would make more sense.  Because it is offering you overall better value compared to what it cost you.

Why The Transfer Bonus Doesn’t Matter

No no no…none of that matters! Once the points are transferred they are what they are.  How you acquired them and at what price shouldn’t matter. They have a value once they arrive in their current form and you should focus on that value.  So in the example above 15,000 Avios are worth more than 12,000 American miles so you would book the flight with American.

Take Transfer Bonuses Into Account When Booking Flights

My True Belief Lies In The Middle

Look at me politicking all of you, playing it safe right in the middle.  If I had to choose one or the other I would learn towards the transfer bonus doesn’t matter.  Once they are transferred you base the value on what the miles are worth now.

However, I do tend to take the transfer bonus into account if it means transferring more points out of the currency.  Let’s take the example above with the flight costing 15,000 BA Avios.  But let’s say the other option is to book a Delta flight at 12,000 Skymiles.  If I already had the Skymiles in my account I would go that route but if I didn’t and would need to transfer Membership Rewards to Delta then I would consider the transfer bonus.  Because then it is a MR to MR equation.  At least that is my take on it.  If the Delta flight was 10,000 Skymiles then I would still make the transfer since it is lower than the cost of the Avios flight even when adding in the transfer bonus.

Final Thoughts

Maybe I am making this discussion more difficult than I need to.  Should I just stick with one theory or the other or should I merge them together like I do?

Should You Take Transfer Bonuses Into Account When Booking Flights? Which way to do you lean? Let me know in the comments section, I look forward to discussing it with you.

Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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  1. Another point in all this is replacement cost. I like sitting on at least a few types of airline miles for when I need them, and Avios are very useful for AA flights. MR transfers to Avios are fairly common and it’s easy to replenish Avios from multiple sources if there are no bonuses. Neither is true for AA miles, for example.

    • Great point Christian! It is much easier to replenish Avios versus AA miles. Citi needs to get off their ass and make them a TY transfer partner already lol

  2. A different way of looking at it: minimum redemption value. If I never ever ever redeem for below that number, the math is much simpler:

    60k MR @ 1.8 cpp = $1080
    84k Avios @ 1.5 cpp = $1260
    Potential 20% devaluation: $1008
    Close enough for a speculative transfer, especially since I fly intra-Europe quite a bit and use their shopping portal every once in a while (so devaluation and dormant account risks are low).

    It’s also the only recent bonus that’s been of interest to me for speculative transfers. I’d never transfer speculatively to AV (miles expire in a year, few ways of keeping the account active), FB (low expected value, too dynamic, have to fly to extend expiration), or VS (not many options for me), so potential transfer bonuses only matter if they line up with travel plans. And I don’t use other programs that they’ve offered transfer bonuses for in the past.

    • So as long as you get above $1080 once you make the transfer you are happy or do you want at least $1260 once the points are transferred to Avios?

  3. For me, I view it as a a complete picture from beginning to end. Once I transfer the miles to BA, I dont think about the original value of where they came from. But I do take into account the ability to cancel or change the flights. With BA, I can cancel/change the flight and get my points back for essentially a $5.60. With AA, you can reschedule for free but only for up to one year and hope they have award space. The built in cost of flexibility is totally worth me paying the extra points (which are partially offset by the transfer bonus). Our family vacation this past year I had to change all of our flights and it was nice to just get a refund back on some of the AA flights booked with BA Avios.


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