When Was the Last Membership Rewards Transfer Bonus?

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American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and Capital One Miles, three of the four major transferrable point currencies, periodically run transfer bonuses to airline mileage partners. Chase Ultimate Rewards offered their first transfer bonus ever in May of this year to British Airways Avios.

To be clear, sometimes the transfer bonus is offered by the bank, and sometimes the transfer bonus is offered by the mileage program. Both kinds are included in this list.

When Was the Last Transfer Bonus? Series Index

This post is part one in a series sharing the histories of transfer bonuses from Membership Rewards, ThankYou Points, Capital One Miles, and Ultimate Rewards to airline mileage program partners. I originally wrote these posts in 2017 and update them (at least) annually. SPG points are the previous incarnation of Marriott Rewards. You can still transfer Marriott points to airline partners as you could before with SPG points, but Marriott has not offered any transfer bonuses on top of the consistently available 5k airline mile bonus you’ll receive for every 60k Marriott points transferred so I’ve left them out of this series.

Capital One and Ultimate Rewards are new to the party so I’ll be writing posts for those currencies soon.

Why Should You Care about Transfer Bonuses?

Strategy and planning. Want to redeem less points? Have the flexibility to wait to book your award? If you have an idea of when the next transfer bonus is, you could wait until then.

Transfer bonus histories are especially useful if you want to transfer points to a partner that doesn’t normally have a favorable transfer rate, and a bonus would make the transfer feasible.

For example, a couple years ago I found a British Airways Avios sweetspot between Brazil and Europe: It only costs 42,500 Avios + taxes to fly Iberia (flat bed) Business Class between São Paulo and Madrid. Unfortunately my only access to Avios was via Membership Rewards, and the transfer rate at the time between Membership Rewards and BA Avios was 250:200, which would make the redemption worse.

I researched when the last transfer bonuses were from Membership Rewards to BA Avios and learned that there had been one bonus offered per year for two out of the prior three years, and each had been in the second half of the year (August or later). That told me I wasn’t likely to see another bonus offered within the period of time I had to book my desired award.

Thankfully since then the transfer rate has improved to 250:250, but that’s beside the point. The point is the more historical info you have the better you can plan out redemptions.

Transfer Bonus History of Membership Rewards

Information below concerns transfer bonuses from the last five years. If a transfer partner isn’t mentioned, it’s because there have been no transfer bonuses offered in the last five years. For partners that don’t transfer 1:1, I’ve included a reminder of the standard rate.

Aer Lingus

It’s always good to see Amex offering more transfer bonuses. That being said, I don’t see a reason to transfer your points to Aer Lingus over British Airways Avios or Iberia Avios.

AeroMexico

  • From mid January through mid February 2019: 25% transfer bonus
    • That meant 1,000 Membership Rewards = 2,000 Aeromexico miles
  • In November 2018: 25% transfer bonus
    • That meant 1,000 Membership Rewards = 2,000 Aeromexico miles
  • From February through early March 2015: 20% transfer bonus
    • That meant 1,000 Membership Rewards = 1,200 Aeromexico miles, because the transfer rate used to be 1:1 before it was adjusted to make up for the fact that the program’s rewards were in kilometers instead of miles

For over three years there weren’t any Aeromexico transfer bonuses to speak of, and then two popped up in close succession. The bonus in November was offered by Aeromexico, and the one in January by Amex. Looks like they’re testing the waters to permanently change the ratio to 1:2.

Aeroplan

  • In May 2019: 10 to 20% transfer bonus to a targeted market
  • In November 2018: 20% transfer bonus to a targeted market
  • From mid November through mid December 2017: 20% transfer bonus to a targeted market

It’s looks like there will be another ~20% transfer bonus in November 2019, but it will probably be targeted.

Flying Blue (Air France/KLM)

  • From mid March through April 2019: 25% transfer bonus (not targeted)
  • From May through mid June 2018: 25% transfer bonus (not targeted)
  • From mid October through the end of November 2015: 30% transfer bonus to a targeted market
  • From mid November through mid December 2014: 30% transfer bonus to a targeted market

Expect another transfer bonus in the second quarter of 2020.

Alitalia 

  • In December 2016: 40% transfer bonus
  • In October 2016: 25% transfer bonus

There hasn’t been an Alitalia bonus recently. I wouldn’t expect one.

Avianca LifeMiles

  • In March of 2019: 15% transfer bonus

We saw the first Avianca transfer bonus offered this year so it’s too soon to discern a pattern.

British Airways 

You have until October 1 to take advantage of the current 40% transfer bonus to BA Avios. It’s realistic to expect a British Airways transfer bonus during the second half of every year.

Cathay Pacific

  • In March 2019: 10-30% transfer bonus to a targeted market
  • In September 2018: 10-30% transfer bonus to a targeted market

There are not enough data points to discern a pattern.

Etihad

  • In October 2016: 20% transfer bonus (note this bonus was not Amex specific, it applied to transfers in from a variety of partners including SPG points and ThankYou Points)
  • From May through mid June 2016: 30% transfer bonus
  • From May through mid June 2015: 30% transfer bonus (this was when Etihad was introduced as a Membership Rewards transfer partner)

I wouldn’t count on any more Etihad transfer bonuses.

Emirates 

  • For the second and third week of November 2018: 25% transfer bonus

Again, too soon to discern a pattern as there’s only been one transfer bonus.

Hawaiian Airlines

  • For the second and third week of June 2017: 25% transfer bonus
  • For the second and third week of June 2016: 25% transfer bonus
  • For the second and third week of December 2015: 25% transfer bonus
  • For two weeks in June of 2014: 20% transfer bonus

Hawaiian bonuses were creating a clear pattern but we haven’t seen once since 2017.

Iberia 

You have until October 1 to take advantage of the current 40% transfer bonus. A general Avios transfer bonus during the second half of the year for two months is now the norm.

JetBlue 

  • In June 2019: 40% transfer bonus to a targeted market
  • In August and September of 2018: 25% transfer bonus (not targeted)
    • That meant 1,000 Membership Rewards = 1,000 JetBlue points
  • End of February 2018: targeted 10%, 20%, and 30% transfer bonuses
  • In November 2017: 25% transfer bonus (not targeted)
    • That meant 1,000 Membership Rewards = 1,000 JetBlue points
  • In May 2017: 25% transfer bonus (not targeted)
    • That meant 1,000 Membership Rewards = 1,000 JetBlue points
  • In November 2015: 30% transfer bonus but only to a targeted market
  • In November 2014: 40% transfer bonus but only to a targeted market
  • In mid August through mid September of 2014: 25% transfer bonus

JetBlue transfer bonuses are sporadic, with a mixture of targeted and public offers. I think there’s a good chance we’ll see a public 25% transfer bonus that brings the ratio up to 1:1 before the end of the year.

Qantas

  • In June of 2019: 20% transfer bonus

No pattern yet. But I love that Amex has upped their game with four first time transfer bonuses recently: Aer Lingus, Avianca, Emirates, and Qantas.

Virgin Atlantic 

  • May 1 – July 1, 2019: 30% transfer bonus
  • In November 2018: 10-30% transfer bonus to a targeted market
  • From August through mid September, 2018: 30% transfer bonus
  • From mid October through November 2017: 30% transfer bonus
  • From mid April through mid May of 2017: 30% transfer bonus
  • In May 2016: 30% transfer bonus
  • In October 2015: 30% transfer bonus but only to a targeted market
  • In April 2015: 25% transfer bonus
  • From mid October through November 2014: 35% transfer bonus
  • In May 2014: 30% transfer bonus

Virgin Atlantic transfer bonuses are without fail an annual occurrence, but the time of year varies.

Iguazu Falls, on the border of Argentina and Brazil, is a great side trip to add when visiting Buenos Aires. Transfer Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic during a 30% transfer bonus and you can book Delta One (business class) from Atlanta or New York City for only 70,000 points and just taxes roundtrip (35k one way!). That's not much more than the standard economy roundtrip price on the legacy carriers.

Iguazu Falls, on the border of Argentina and Brazil, is a great side trip to add when visiting Buenos Aires. Transfer Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic during a 30% transfer bonus and you can book Delta One (Business class) from Atlanta or New York City for only 70,000 points and just taxes roundtrip (35k one way!). That’s not much more than the standard economy roundtrip price on the legacy carriers.

Top Membership Reward Earning Cards Right Now

There are more Membership Rewards to airline partner transfer bonuses than any other transferrable point currency. To take advantage, open one of these cards for a big boost of bonus points and/or to earn lots of points with lucrative spending category bonuses.

Bottom Line

If you’re planning an award and have some flexibility, see if you can wait until the next roughly expected transfer bonus to save points. It looks like the next couple we can expect to see are JetBlue and Aeroplan. And right now until October 1 you can take advantage of the transfer bonus available to all three Avios programs.

Bookmark this page for future reference! And let me know below if there was a past transfer bonus I missed.


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24 COMMENTS

  1. Sarah, Thanks for the helpful write-up. Could you please include a history of transfer bonuses from Membership Rewards to SPG points? It may not the most desirable transfer, but it could be a unique opportunity for those interested in redeeming Marriott points for travel packages.

    • The only transfer bonuses I’m aware of between Membership Rewards and Aeroplan happened in:
      -Mid November to mid December of 2011: tiered bonus with max of 25%
      -End of November and beginning of December 2010: tiered bonus with max of 25%

      Since neither of those happened within the last three years, I didn’t include them in this post.

  2. Sarah, Is Scott Ok? He was a big help in getting me going in this hobby. I would always go to this site before others. I wish him well in whatever he is doing.

  3. You said above that you would add info for MR->SPG xfer bonuses, but I’m not seeing it….
    Also, shouldn’t you get rid off the Scott graphics since he’s moved on?

    • I did add a section last year, then accidentally deleted it when updating this post earlier in the month. Just added it back in.

      Which Scott graphics are you referring to?

  4. Just a Thank You note Sarah. Based on the combination of info that I got from your posts, my wife and I used the bonus and transferred 54K MR points to Virgin Atlantic and got 70K in VA points. We then used the sweet-spot and booked Delta One flatbeds roundtrip from our home in Honolulu to Tokyo for next spring. So two adults will fly HNL-NRT roundtrip first class flatbed for a total of 108K MR points! Great deal, Thank you.

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