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We are a party of six, so you could just imagine that going on a family vacation is not exactly cheap. But we try to make it work. Our family goes to Hawaii yearly. It’s easily our default vacation spot coming from Los Angeles. We don’t have to worry about planning so much for our vacation since we have a general idea where to stay, what to do, places to eat, etc.

My favorite sweet spot bookings to Hawaii

For the past three years, we’ve been very lucky to have found availability to Hawaii around Spring Break and the 4th of July. I’ve relied on using my Chase Ultimate Rewards points and had transferred them to Korean Airlines and/or to British Airways to get the sweet spot booking of 25,000 Ultimate Rewards + $11.20 in fees per person. Now that Korean Airlines is no longer a Chase transfer partner, transferring Ultimate Rewards to British remains as my sweet spot option. We’ve gotten so comfortable in transferring points from Chase to British.

For this summer trip to Kauai, in order for all six of us to fly from Los Angeles to Kauai round trip, we would need:

  • 25,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards to British Airways  x 6 passengers = 150,000 British Airways Avios Points

However, for a change, I looked in to my American Express Membership Rewards (MRs). British Airways is also a transfer partner, meaning we would also need 150,000 Amex MRs to be transferred to British Airways and get a 1:1 ratio. So which route did I choose? Did I book using Chase Ultimate Rewards or did I use American Express Membership Rewards?

My youngest son at Kahalahala Beach, Kauai’s North Shore

Why I chose to transfer points from American Express vs. Chase

With this most recent booking to Kauai, I used points earned with American Express. Why? What drove me in using my points with American Express? Amex offered a 40% transfer bonus to British Airways back in the Fall. The 40% transfer bonus offer was good through November 15, 2018. Without having any concrete plans in using these points once transferred, I took a leap of faith and transferred Amex MRs to British Airways for the 40% bonus.

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Image courtesy of American Express

Booking Hawaii at an average of 17,800 Amex MRs per person

I knew that a future booking to Hawaii would cost us 150,000 worth of Avios points, so to get that along with the 40% transfer bonus, I only needed to transfer 107,000 Amex MRs. It worked like this:

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That still left me short of 200 Avios points. I knew that going in. I had another 300 Avios points in my BA account. I used 200 of my existing Avios points and added that to the 149,800. That’s how I got to the 150,000 Avios points needed for a future booking to Hawaii.

With my 107,000 Amex MRs, I was able to get six roundtrip tickets to Hawaii. That’s an average of 17,800 Amex MRs per person + $11.20 fees. I was pretty happy with that!

Transferring points without any concrete plans – yes or no?

The 40% transfer bonus promotion ended in November 15, 2018. As mentioned, I had no specific concrete plans then. In fact, I remember just getting back from another vacation – we were just in Taiwan and Hong Kong when I decided to do the points transfer. I was still jet-lagged and tired from the trip. But my thinking was clear. I wanted to stretch my points.

I took a risk with the transfer. Remember that once the points are transferred from American Express to another transfer partner, there’s no turning back. But I had faith that I’d be using the Avios points. The British Airways Avios site had served me well in the past and I was able to book the following trips:

  • Melbourne to Sydney (roundtrip) – 2016
  • Lima, Peru to Cusco (roundtrip) – 2018
  • Hong Kong to Taiwan (roundtrip) – 2018

I was not worried. It was only a matter of time before I booked our trip. Sure enough, I booked our trip 8-9 weeks after transferring our Amex MRs to British Airways.

Simple steps in booking via British Airways to Hawaii

In a perfect world, these are the easy steps I would take in booking flights to Hawaii with British Airways:

  • Find flight availability via British Airways website, or via American Airlines site
  • Transfer Membership Rewards (MRs) from American Express or Chase Ultimate Rewards to your British Airways Avios Executive Club account
    • The transfer, in my experience, happened within 1-2 minutes, it was rather quick
  • Book the flights via British Airways website
    • Or, call British Airways directly to complete the booking

I had trouble booking this directly using the British Airways website. It has happened before and all it took was a phone call directly to British Airways. I called 1-800-247-9297, and Jen from the BA Avios team assisted me. There’s usually a booking fee when you book with a live rep, but since the trouble was with their website, Jen waived the fee. After 10-15 minutes, we sealed the deal. Kauai here we come! And we get to go around the Fourth of July. Last time we were there for the Fourth, the tickets around the highest season in Hawaii was running close to $1,000. It’s crazy.

Our 4th of July 2016 family picture at Kauai Coast Resort
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Image courtesy of British Airways

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Image courtesy of British Airways

My takeaways

It’s not always advisable to transfer points when you don’t have any solid booking in mind. However, in our case, I just knew that we’d be planning a trip to Hawaii and that it was just a matter of time before the booking occurred. It was a gamble, but it paid off for me and my family. We now have two big trips to look forward to. Spring Break trip to Japan, and we will celebrate the Fourth of July in Hawaii.

Did you take advantage of the 40% American Express bonus transfer offer? Let me know how you plan on using your points. Good luck!


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