If you’re not flying with British Airways anytime soon, you can still avoid losing your miles with the help of one of your rewards credit cards
Dear Cashing In,
I have 98,000 Avios points from British Airways that are due to expire in a month. I know there are several ways to keep them from expiring, including using a BA credit card. I don’t have one of those, but I do have a Chase Sapphire Preferred.
If I transfer points from my Sapphire to my Avios account, will that be enough to keep my Avios points from expiring? If not, what other easy ways are there to keep those points from expiring? — Yael
That’s a great way to keep that Avios account active without spending a dime. Your Chase Sapphire Preferred card earns Ultimate Rewards, and British Airways is among the 10 transfer partners for Ultimate Rewards — all of which offer 1:1 transfer value. That means you can transfer 1,000 Ultimate Rewards points to your Avios account, with no transfer fees, and renew your British Airways points for another 36 months.
If you have American Express Membership Rewards, you can also renew your Avios account by transferring those. Through Dec. 31, 2013, American Express is offering a 20 percent transfer bonus to the British Airways Executive Club. That means 1,000 Membership Rewards points are worth 1,200 Avios points.
Making a purchase through the British Airways shopping portal is another way to renew expiring points. You don’t have as many shopping options as UK-based members, and not nearly as many as you’d have with a U.S.-based airline loyalty program or your Ultimate Rewards portal, but you can probably find something. Log in to your Executive Club account to access the BA eStore, where you can collect up to 12 Avios points for every $1 spent with merchants, including Apple Store, Target.com, Nordstrom and eBay.
With less than a month until expiration, though, you’d be cutting it close with an online purchase. It often takes a little time for miles to post to your account. If you make a last-minute purchase such as this, stay on top of it and make sure your account is credited before the expiration date. Those points can show up as “pending” on your Avios account even after an item has shipped. Even when it shows up as approved, check to make sure the points have actually appeared in your Avios account.
A faster and safer (but not so cheap) option is to purchase Avios points — a transaction that automatically renews your account. You can purchase 1,000 Avios points — the minimum purchase allowed — for about $50. Transferring points from another rewards program is just as fast and far more economical.
If you’ve been avoiding using those Avios points because of the hefty fuel surcharges that eat into redemptions for overseas flights on British Airways, look into using your points on domestic fares instead. According to the Avios online calculator, 10,000 Avios points will buy you a one-way economy fare between Dallas and New York, so that 99,000 points you’ll have after your UR transfer can buy a lot of travel stateside — with no fuel charges.
Since you have British Airways points, you’re obviously an overseas traveler, so you’ll be happy to hear your Sapphire Preferred card is about to get a microchip. Chase just announced Sapphire Preferred will be available in chip-and-signature form starting Nov. 18. As a current cardholder, you can request an EMV-enabled card to replace the one you have.
That card was always a good option for overseas travel because it charges no foreign transaction fees, earns 2 points per $1 on travel and dining, and gets you 20 percent off travel redemptions — not to mention that 1:1 partner transfer you’re about to benefit from. Your new card will have a magnetic stripe for use in the U.S., until we complete the migration to chip technology in the next year or two, but if you find yourself heading to Europe or any country that has already migrated to EMV, you’ll have a safe and travel-friendly chip card at hand.