The Best Amex Transfer Partner (BY FAR!) Has Been Hiding In Plain Sight: Cathay Pacific Asia Miles

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What do you think the best Amex transfer partner is?

If you had asked me a few days ago, I would have probably opted for Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer – there are good cases to be made for half a dozen other programmes, depending on where you want to go and how you want to travel.

I would not have said Cathay Pacific Asia Miles though – and I doubt many other people would. The thing is, we’ve all been missing a trick for years. Asia Miles is, without doubt, the most valuable Amex transfer partner.

Housekeeping

Before continuing, let me quickly get a quick qualifier out of the way first:

Terms like “best” and “most valuable” are inherently subjective. If you spend most of your points/miles flying short-haul with BA, Avios is still likely your best option. If you predominantly take advantage of very specific ‘sweet spot’ redemptions – like using Virgin Flying Club Miles for ANA First Class – stick with that.

If you want to know how to fly Business and First Class on a wide range of routes, for far fewer points/miles than you currently spend on those flights, Asia Miles is the programme for you!

I should also make clear that you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards Points directly to Asia Miles at a 1:1 rate. Transfers tend to be completed within 48 hours once you have linked your accounts.

Asia Miles award chart

Asia Miles has lots of different award charts. For now, the one we are focusing on is just the standard award chart below:

As you can see, the number of miles required for a one-way redemption is determined simply by the cumulative distance of the flights involved – it’s not region-based or segment-based like many other programmes’ award charts.

There is an important limitation though, which is that a one-way award can only include 2 segments. In other words, you are allowed only one connection.

The award prices listed are for travel on Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon, with partner awards generally pricing out 5,000 miles more.

[If you’ve spotted the “Long- Type 2” category in the chart, don’t worry about that for now – it’s only relevant in a specific American context.]

In terms of a practical example, let’s focus on a “Long – Type 1” redemption on Cathay Pacific itself, which means we can fly up to a maximum of 7,500 miles.

The distance between London and Hong Kong is about 6,000 miles, so you could fly Cathay Pacific Business Class for 65,000 Asia Miles – and still connect to somewhere else within ~1,500 miles of Hong Kong (like Shanghai, or Ho Chi Minh City) as part of the same award.

Why are Asia Miles so valuable?

Many readers will know that you can fly Cathay Pacific Business Class between Europe and Hong Kong for just 42,500 Alaska Mileage Plan Miles, so you might be wondering why 65,000 Asia Miles is impressive.

There are A LOT of reasons – as will become abundantly clear in future posts – but here are some of the most obvious:

Direct 1:1 Amex transfer partner

The fact that Asia Miles is a 1:1 transfer partner from Amex is hugely important.

To get 42,500 Alaska Miles using Amex MR Points, you would have to transfer indirectly via Marriott Rewards, and would need 112,500 Marriott Points. That means you would actually need 75,000 Amex Points, given the 2:3 Amex to Marriott transfer ratio.

For further context, a one way between London and Hong Kong in Cathay Business Class would require 92,750 British Airways Avios (also a 1:1 Amex transfer partner).

By transferring to Asia Miles instead, you save 10,000 Amex Points compared to booking with Alaska (via Marriott) and 27,750 Amex Points compared to booking with BA Avios.

Free stopover on one-way awards

We often write about how great Alaska redemptions are because they usually allow a free stopover even on one-way redemptions. One of the big drawbacks of Alaska Miles from a UK perspective though, is that you aren’t allowed to even connect beyond Hong Kong on a single award with Cathay Pacific when flying to/from Europe – let alone have a free stopover.

With Asia Miles, you can have a free stopover on one-way redemptions regardless of where you are going to or from. The only real restriction is that (because you are only allowed 2 segments on a one way award) this realistically has to be in hub city – eg. Hong Kong for Cathay Pacific.

This policy opens up some truly incredible redemption values.

Examples

Let’s say that you want to fly from London to Sydney, Australia. A quick look at the Asia Miles award chart earlier in this article shows that you could fly one way in Business Class with Cathay Pacific (via Hong Kong) for just 85,000 Asia Miles, based on the distances involved.

That is a remarkable price in itself – but you can also have a free stopover in Hong Kong for a few days (or a week… or a month, etc) too!

If you look closely at the screenshot above, you can see that the first flight is 10th September and the second flight is on 16th September.

Don’t fancy Australia? – how about Barcelona to Los Angeles (via Hong Kong) instead…

Again, the whole thing (one-way) in Cathay Pacific Business Class, with a week’s stopover in Hong Kong, can be booked for just 85,000 Asia Miles + taxes/surcharges

How to book

The Asia Miles website is relatively good at pricing up these sorts of awards. Log in to your account, click on “redeem awards”, then “flight rewards”, scroll down and then click “Redeem now”. After that, you should see a screen like the one below – if you want to have a stopover, make sure you select “Multi-City”:

Finding availability can be a bit tedious, but Cathay does make more space available to Asia Miles members than it does to partner airline programmes, so it can be worth the effort.

One irritating quirk is that the Asia Miles website doesn’t show how much the taxes and surcharges are going to be, unless you already have enough miles in your account to book the award. Instead, (from the UK) just phone 0800 092 3595 and the Asia Miles agents will be able to help.

If you do phone and want to book a stopover, make sure you are very clear that you want them to search a multi-city award and give them the exact flight details that you want to book.

As regards surcharges, the bad news is that Asia Miles does charge them. The good news is that if you stick to Cathay Pacific’s own flights rather than partner airlines, they are actually quite reasonable. I did a few tests and for something like Europe-Hong Kong (stopover)-Sydney, you’re looking at about ~£150-£200 in total for taxes and surcharges one-way. Obviously, if you want to fly from the UK, add Air Passenger Duty on top.

Bottom line

The value you can get by transferring Amex Points to Asia Miles is truly astonishing – I’ve barely scratched the surface in this article.

Watch out for more posts later today explaining how to really make the most of Asia Miles…

Comments

  1. Andrew M says

    Thanks for that! I knew there was a lot of value to be had from Asia Miles but I’ve always found the website too painfull to use, especialy trying to track down avalability. I’ve never yet succeeded in making a booking with them. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of your articles on Asia Miles. 85000 for BCN-HKG-LAX is almost an Alaska level redemption!

    PS I’m also looking forward to that promised article on Asiana miles. More “exotics” please!

    • Joe Deeney says

      The website is annoying, though not as bad as I remember it being. You can search for availability first elsewhere of course,although might miss out on some only for Asia Miles members that way.

      I definitely hope to get Asiana and Turkish (and probably others I’ve started and then got sidetracked on) done properly at some point in the not too distant future. The problem with ‘exotics’ is that you have to explain everything from first principles, which is extremely time-consuming, but otherwise most readers won’t have a clue what you are on about.

      • Andrew M says

        Oh yes, it was a Turkish article, not Asiana that was mentioned previously. It would be great to see Asiana as well though 🙂

      • Craig Sowerby says

        There’s no way for Turkish Miles & Smiles to be explained in any straightforward manner to anybody with only a passing interest. To take advantage of its benefits, you just have to deep dive into the Flyertalk board and learn to accept the surreal…

        • Joe Deeney says

          Haha – indeed. If/when the website is working semi-functionally some of the basic TK redemptions could be explained, but anything involving emails or phone calls is probably a bit of a specialist subject.

          • Craig Sowerby says

            Yep. Just booked an upgrade using miles online a few days ago. The website gave every impression of having glitched out and frozen, except the upgrade went through fine once you’ve logged out and logged back in…

          • Joe Deeney says

            Brilliant. Given my IT record with IHG, Accor, Radisson, KrisFlyer, etc,(etc), it sounds like me and Miles & Smiles will get on very well indeed once I really start delving in properly…Sigh

  2. spk307 says

    On the topic of stopovers, SQ has a couple of fifth freedom flights which means stopovers can be at Manchester and Frankfurt which are more useful to travelers based in Europe. CX has some fifth freedom flights as well, but they are mostly in Asia and the distances are too short to add any meaningful value for stopover redemptions.

    • Joe Deeney says

      KrisFlyer is great – particularly if you can work in a strategic stopover on a return redemption. Asia Miles is in a different league though in terms of value.

  3. Saj says

    What’s Asia Miles redemption availability like? When I have searched previously a while back it seemed pretty limited on Cathay.

    • Joe Deeney says

      Cathay availability seems relatively good at the moment (likely to do with the political situation in HK). Asia Miles is actually supposed to make more space available for Asia Miles members, but I’ve no idea how that really works in practice.

  4. Craig Sowerby says

    Impressed you found BCN award space in J. It is like finding a unicorn. Never come across it, despite obviously taking a look every time I fancy flying to/from Asia…

    • Joe Deeney says

      Might be a result of the extra award space Cathay makes available to Asia Miles? It came up first or second date I checked, but that might just be luck of course!

  5. Kash says

    Useful article! It’s about time Asia Miles was covered. I’m planning a return trip to Doha soon and looking at their Oneworld Multi-Carrier Award Chart, if I flew BA one way and QR the other, it would cost me 90,000 miles return in Business compared to 50,000 Avios off-peak for the BA flight and 62,000 Avios for the QR.

    As it stands though, unfortunately I don’t have enough Amex MR points to transfer across so I’ve made use of two of your other excellent articles and am transferring MR to Bonvoy so I can top up my AAdvantage with the transfer bonus to book one way on QSuites and then QR back to Frankfurt on their A380 so I can try their First Class. Thank you Inside Flyer!

    • Joe Deeney says

      Cheers Kash, glad to hear you’re enjoying reading! AA Miles for Middle East and Indian Subcontinent is one of my absolute favourite redemptions – Qsuites and Etihad A380 First Class Apartment are both sensational (I even got to have a look round The Residence at one point). I’ve not tried Qatar First yet, but would love to give it a spin while Qatar are still flying it.

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