One of the great frustrations of the American Express Membership Rewards program is that American Airlines does not participate as a transfer partner. What’s more, it’s nearly* impossible to use American Express points to claim an award seat on any oneWorld carrier (American, British, Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Iberia, LanChile, Finnair, Aer Lingus).
I say nearly because there are ways of working partnerships to get some seats, such as transferring points to Continental or USAirways to claim award seats on Qantas.
But there aren’t any oneWorld partners in the Membership Rewards program.
Right now there’s a brief window of opportunity, however, created by a confluence of two separate conversion bonuses.
As I noted yesterday, transfers from American Express to Starwood earn a 50% bonus through March 31.
And until January 31, transfers from hotel program into the British Airways program earn a 50% bonus.
Specifically, transfers from Hyatt Gold Passport, Hilton HHonors, Marriott Rewards, Priority Club Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest earn the British Airways conversion bonus. (This is available to residents of the United States and Canada only.)
As a result, American Express points can convert nearly 1:1 into British Airways miles through January 31.
The conversion works as follows: 40,000 American Express points = 20,000 Starwood points = 37,500 British Airways miles (instead of the usual 25,000). So 40k Amex points convert to 37.5k BA miles. Not bad.
Note that the transfer from Starwood to BA may take a couple of weeks, and the 50% bonus on transfers into BA may take another 4-6 weeks — so it is likely not possible to hold an award seat on British Airways before initiating the transfer from Amex. That said, I’ve found British Airways to have excellent award availability on flights from North America to Europe. For flights beyond Europe your mileage may vary.