For the month of September, American Express US is putting on a veritable bonanza of transfer bonuses.
If you’ve gotten into the US credit card game, you’ll most certainly want to think about making some moves with your Amex US Membership Rewards points this month.
Amex US Transfer Bonuses to 12 Partners
Until September 30, 2021, you can earn the following bonuses when you transfer Amex US MR points to one of 12 airline and hotel partners:
- 40% transfer bonus to Aer Lingus AerClub
- 25% transfer bonus to Aeromexico Club Premier
- 20% transfer bonus to Aeroplan
- 25% transfer bonus to Air France/KLM Flying Blue
- 15% transfer bonus to Avianca LifeMiles
- 40% transfer bonus to British Airways Avios
- 25% transfer bonus to Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles
- 40% transfer bonus to Iberia Plus
- 20% transfer bonus to Qantas Frequent Flyer
- 30% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
- 30% transfer bonus to Hilton Honors
- 30% transfer bonus to Marriott Bonvoy
With such an abundance of transfer bonus possibilities, which programs might you consider transferring points to – especially as a Canadian who dabbles in US credit cards?
I’ll share with you some of my top picks for where I personally might transfer my points, as well as which programs just aren’t worth it even with the transfer bonus in play.
1. Book ANA First Class with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club for 43,000 US MR Points
For anyone who’s inclined to redeem points for aspirational travel experiences, this is hands-down the best way to take advantage of Amex US’s September bonus bonanza.
(In fact, I’m a bit salty that I’ve missed out on this, having only recently transferred a good chunk of US MR points to Virgin Atlantic back in August myself.)
The sweet spot of using Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles to book ANA First Class has been fairly well-documented in recent months, ever since Virgin Atlantic relaxed the redemption rules to allow for one-way bookings at half the round-trip price.
It’ll cost you 55,000 or 60,000 Flying Club miles to book a direct flight from the US West Coast or East Coast, respectively, and once you factor in the 30% transfer bonus, that reduces to only 43,000 or 47,000 US MR points.
For context, we already consider it one of Aeroplan’s best sweet spots to book Vancouver–Tokyo for 55,000 points in business class. Paying 45,000 points for First Class to Asia? That’s an absolute steal.
In addition to North America–Tokyo flights, you could also book one of ANA’s New 777 First Class routes to London or Frankfurt for the same 60,000 Flying Club miles or 46,200 US MR points with the 30% bonus.
Since award space cannot be searched online, you typically need to locate ANA First Class award space using another search engine (like ExpertFlyer or Aeroplan) and then call Virgin Atlantic to book.
However, I was recently able to complete an ANA First Class booking through Virgin Atlantic’s WhatsApp service, and that seamless booking experience only adds to the attractiveness of this sweet spot.
2. Boost Your Balances with Aeroplan / Avios / Flying Blue
For me, Virgin Atlantic & ANA First Class is the only singular sweet spot that I think is worth aiming for under these Amex US September 2021 transfer bonuses. Some of the other transfer partners may still be appealing, but they’d be pursued with other purposes in mind.
For example, maybe you’re looking to keep things fairly simple in terms of your airline points for the time being, without spreading yourself too thin across multiple programs. If that’s the case, then consolidating your points balances to programs that we can easily earn in Canada might make the most sense.
But I do think the 40% transfer bonus to one of the Avios family of programs (British Airways, Iberia, or Aer Lingus) could be a lot more powerful, especially since Aeroplan points are comparatively easier to come by than Avios up here in Canada.
With a 40% transfer bonus in play, you could book Iberia business class from the US East Coast to Madrid for only 25,000 US MR points (equivalent to 34,000 Iberia Avios) or Aer Lingus economy class from Toronto to Dublin for only 10,000 US MR points (equivalent to 13,000 British Airways Avios). Those are some staggeringly low prices for transatlantic flying.
Iberia has also recently started flying from Madrid to the Maldives, giving you a potential alternative long-haul lie-flat option en route to the overwater villas if more luxurious routings aren’t available. One-way business class flights are priced at 42,500 Iberia Avios, equivalent to 31,000 US MR points after the 40% bonus.
Keep in mind that Avios are freely transferrable between British Airways, Iberia, and Aer Lingus’s Avios programs, as long as your accounts have been open for at least 90 days. Therefore, it doesn’t matter too much which of the three Avios programs you convert points to – just pick the one that you’re most likely to use the soonest.
By combining the points you earn from the Canadian side with the 25% transfer bonus from the US MR side, you can boost your balance and reach sweet spots – like the program’s monthly Promo Rewards or 64,000 Flying Blue miles for Air France business class from Los Angeles to Tahiti – that much quicker.
3. Diversify Your Options with Avianca LifeMiles
Of course, most Canadians get into the US credit card game for the express purpose of diversifying their options compared to the programs we have access to in Canada.
In this regard, Avianca LifeMiles and its 15% transfer bonus is perhaps the most interesting. We haven’t covered LifeMiles in-depth yet, and it’s about time we did, because it can be a useful diversification option for Star Alliance premium flights even if Aeroplan your primary program.
Lufthansa First Class is the primary example that comes to mind. With Aeroplan, you’ll pay either 90,000 or 100,000 Aeroplan points for a one-way transatlantic flight in Lufthansa’s most luxurious cabin.
Compare that to 87,000 Avianca LifeMiles, equivalent to 76,000 US MR points with the 15% bonus in play, and you can easily see how it can be useful to keep on hand a stash of LifeMiles to supplement your Aeroplan balance.
Similarly, consider a simple transatlantic flight on Swiss business class from Chicago to Zurich: that’s either 70,000 Aeroplan points or 63,000 LifeMiles, equivalent to 55,000 US MR points with the 15% bonus.
Keep in mind that LifeMiles works best with simple, straightforward routings like the examples presented here. On the other hand, the program has its fair share of quirks, such as offering cheaper pricing on mixed-cabin awards that can be used to your advantage.
Look out for a guide to LifeMiles sweet spots coming soon with all the details.
4. Book an Aeromexico Round-the-World Award for 176,000 US MR Points
For the true maximizers out there, perhaps the opportunity to book a 16-segment round-the-world award on SkyTeam airlines (while sharpening your Spanish skills through Aeromexico’s call centre) for only 176,000 US MR points is too good to resist.
We’ve covered the Aeromexico Club Premier round-the-world award in detail, noting that it’s a highly complex redemption opportunity that could nevertheless be very powerful if you managed to pull it off. You could stop in 15 cities around the world over the course of a year while flying in SkyTeam’s best lie-flat seats.
The caveats? You’ll likely face $1,000+ in fuel surcharges, the booking process can be fairly arduous over the phone, and of course, who knows when this type of trip will be realistic given the state of the world.
Still, if you feel like rolling the dice on a post-pandemic sabbatical, a comprehensive round-the-world trip for 220,000 US MR points is normally already a sweet deal – and it’s even better with a 25% transfer bonus, bringing the cost down to 176,000 US MR points.
While a transfer bonus bonanza to 12 airline and hotel partners might look overwhelming at first glance, we can distill the list down to a handful of potentially attractive uses of Amex US MR points from a Canadian collector’s perspective.
The transfer bonuses we haven’t mentioned here generally aren’t worthwhile even with a bonus in play.
You’d get a lot more value out of your hard-earned US MR points when redeeming for flights rather than hotels through Hilton or Marriott. And even though Qantas Frequent Flyer does have some sweet spots of its own, none are superior enough to the other US MR partners that it justifies transferring a large balance over to a relatively niche program.
Instead, I’d focus all my attention on the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club sweet spot during this round of transfer bonuses if a deeply-discounted ANA First Class redemption is something that interests you.
Otherwise, this is a decent opportunity to either consolidate your balances into popular award programs like Aeroplan or Avios, or diversify into adjacent programs like Avianca LifeMiles for your future flying needs.