This is a question I recently got from one of my readers, and thought it would be good to feature it in a post:
So, basically, the annual fee is coming due, and the reader is concerned about her Membership Rewards points. First, it’s definitely crucial to have at least one MR-earning card open at all times in order to keep Membership Rewards points intact. Here is what I suggested to this particular reader (edited response):
“This is a tough one. On the one hand, I’d hate for you to apply for such a low offer. On the other hand, I don’t like the idea of speculatively transferring points to miles. With all the devaluations we’ve had lately, it would be quite risky. Avios might be a decent option since they just changed the chart, but you are still locking yourself into one program.
Have you checked CardMatch tool to see if better offers show up? Some readers have reported seeing 30,000 points sign-up bonus on Amex Everyday Preferred (read about it here). Even with $95 annual fee, not waived, it would be preferable to 10,000 points offer on no-fee Amex Everyday. Plus, it’s an excellent card for those who like to accumulate MR points via everyday spending.
Update: Dustin from Wallerswallet mentioned that this non-affiliate link for Amex Everyday should pull up 25K points offer in incognito mode. Try it in several browsers.
If nothing better comes up via that link, you have three options:
1) Transfer to Avios or another program suitable to your current needs (risky).
2) See if you can get the fee waived. You can do it via chat or call. You can also ask for a retention offer (bonus points on certain amount of spending) and see what they say. I recommend you try several times if the first call is unsuccessful. You can also ask if you can convert it to Amex Everyday.
3) Apply for Amex Everyday.
I would try the second option first, HUCA if necessary, and consider applying for Amex Everyday if nothing comes of it.”
Is it always a bad idea to speculatively transfer flexible points?
If at all possible, I recommend you try to keep points in their flexible form. That said, it doesn’t mean you should never speculatively transfer them to miles. I’ve done it in the past when Membership Rewards program had a 40% bonus on transfer to Avios (British Airways currency). However, I was reasonably sure we would use those miles within three years, and we did. In that particular case, 40% bonus more than made up for the risk of potential devaluation, at least in my mind. Plus, I didn’t have to worry about upcoming annual fee on my Amex Premier Rewards Gold.
You may have heard about Alaska Air buying out Virgin America. Frequent Miler had an interesting post on it earlier this week
. Basically, if you are willing to take a risk, there is currently a limited-window of opportunity to transfer Membership Rewards points to Virgin America before the program is rolled into Alaska Mileage Plan. Even though you’ll be transferring MR points 2:1 to Virgin America, eventually they will probably
be converted to Alaska miles on 1:2 basis, or at least 1:1.5. Emphasis on “probably.”
Like I said, it’s risky, but for those who love Alaska miles, it’s a viable option. Bank of America Alaska co-branded cards are currently churnable (you can get the bonus again), but that could easily change in a near future. Of course, they may end up converting on 1:1 basis (gasp!)
As of now, you can still fly to South America in the off-season for only 40,000 miles roundtrip in economy by redeeming Alaska miles on American Airlines flights. However, I’m pretty certain that by the time your Virgin America points are rolled into Alaska program, that sweet spot award will be gone. See this post on best uses of Alaska miles
. While first-class award prices have changed since it was written, economy is untouched…for now.
Still, Alaska mile is probably the most valuable mile out there. They don’t belong to any alliance, but rather have partnerships with various airlines. You can redeem miles on Delta, American Airlines and of course, Alaska Air flights. For many, speculatively transferring MR points is worth the risk in this particular case. I do believe you have some time before the option to transfer to Virgin America is gone by the way of dinosaurs. I understand why many are excited about this possibility, and if I had MR points, I would seriously think about doing it myself.
Your situation may be totally different, though. Miles are a very risky investment, as was made very clear by Alaska move on Etihad first-class redemptions last week. I do believe economy awards are safer overall compared to their fancy business and first-class cousins. Still, don’t think for a second that the price you are seeing today will be the same next year or even the next day. Keep your miles locked away in a flexible program if at all possible.
Readers, who is planning to transfer MR points to Virgin America?
P.S. Please, see the comment from Erik for additional tips.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.