Qatar Airways Joins Amex Membership Rewards
Pretty much overnight, Qatar Airways joins Amex Membership Rewards. This is particularly interesting because Qatar, a oneworld alliance member, is known for its famous QSuites, one of the best business class products in the world. Qatar's Privilege Club loyalty program charges reasonable rates for QSuites flights, making Avios very valuable for this aspirational booking.
At first glance, Qatar's addition as a transfer partner isn't a groundbreaking. Qatar's Privilege Club uses Avios as its points currency, the same as British Airways, Iberia, and Aer Lingus, and you can transfer Avios from these airlines to Qatar. This means Amex cardholders already had access to Qatar via British Airways, so this addition just makes that process faster. But, upon a closer look, there might be an additional opportunity here involving transfer bonuses.
Qatar Transfer Bonuses
Most transfer bonuses are offered by banks instead of airlines themselves. Chase, Amex, Citi, and Capital One on occasion offer you a bonus if you transfer your points to certain of their transfer partners. (For the most up-to-date information about current and prior transfer bonuses, check out this post.) But sometimes, airlines themselves will offer a transfer bonus, independent of anything offered by a bank. Avianca regularly offers transfer bonuses for its LifeMiles program, and Qatar has been doing the same as well.
In less than a year, Qatar has offered two great transfer bonuses from all of its bank transfer partners worldwide. Until now, Qatar's only transfer partner in the US has been Citi ThankYou Points. In November 2022, Qatar offered a tiered 20-30% transfer bonus, and then a flat 30% transfer bonus in June 2023.
Qatar's own transfer bonuses are not targeted to a specific bank. Instead, they usually offer bonuses across all Qatar transfer partners worldwide. This differs from LifeMiles bonuses, which are limited to a specific bank.
The opportunity here is that we may now have even more frequent transfer bonuses from Amex to the Avios programs (British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, and Qatar). Right now, Amex is offering a 30% transfer bonus to British and Iberia through August 31. In September 2022, they offered a 25% transfer bonus to British Airways.
If Qatar had already been an Amex transfer partner, we would have had 4 different transfer bonuses in less than year, ranging between 20% and 30%. With Avios being the loyalty currency of 4 different airlines that each have their advantages for award bookings, I'll never turn down an Avios transfer bonus opportunity.
This also gives us an opportunity to hold onto our transferrable currencies longer. With likely increased transfer bonuses to the Avios ecosystem we can better fight the urge to transfer points speculatively during a bonus period.
How Qatar's Transfer Bonuses Work
Qatar's transfer bonuses are quirky in how they work. Normal transfer bonuses result in you having to transfer fewer points to make a booking. For example, if you need 30,000 miles for a flight and the bank is offering a 30% bonus, you need to only transfer 24,000 points. The 30% extra miles will get you over that 30,000-mile goal. These bonuses are a great way to spend fewer miles on award flights.
However, Qatar's own bonuses are processed like a rebate. Qatar deposits the bonus miles to your account shortly after the transfer period ends. For example, I made 3 transfers from Citi to Qatar across different dates during the most recent 30% bonus that ended on June 30. On July 10, Qatar deposited the 30% bonus miles into my Qatar Privilege account.
Qatar's rebate-like bonuses don't save you miles on your booking up front, since Qatar deposits you the bonus miles after the transfer bonus window has closed. This means you don't save miles up front with Qatar's bonuses. At the end of the day, you end up saving miles on your future Avios bookings. In my case above, I plan to transfer these bonus miles to my British Airways account to book domestic flights on American.
Qatar Airways Joins Amex Membership Rewards: ToP Thoughts
Qatar Airways joining Amex Membership Rewards is by no means groundbreaking, especially since Avios became moveable between airline programs. It is still noteworthy because of Qatar's generous transfer bonuses that traditionally apply to all of its partners. That means this development can lead to more transfer bonuses for Avios, the common points currency among Qatar, British Airways, Iberia, and Aer Lingus. Hopefully Qatar will continue to offer its own transfer bonuses and include its US transfer partners in on the fun, especially American Express Membership Rewards.