Why I’m considering making Iberia Airlines my AMEX Platinum preferred airline

As I mentioned before, I’m surprising myself by considering designating Iberia Airlines, out of all possible airlines, as my preferred airline for my Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN.

What does this get me?  Well, it gets me a statement credit for the first $200 I spend on incidentals for my preferred airline.  Gift cards from the airline count.  I can also redeem AMEX Membership Rewards points on the AMEX travel portal (at 1 cent per point) with a 35% point refund.  (It used to be a 50% refund, but they changed it.)

So why Iberia?

Well, when I first got the card (my first “premium” credit card – it has a $400 annual fee!!!), I made my preferred airline United, since I fly to Europe with them all the time.  I thought it was the best deal.  (Now I’m thinking it might be KLM/Air France.)  I thought I was really clever, too, since I was getting the card in December and could take advantage of two calendar year statement credits in rapid succession by buying $400 of United gift certificates for future use.

Well, the joke was on me – United stopped selling gift certificates.  I missed out on my 2015 statement credit, and was only able to get my 2016 statement credit when I switched my preferred airline to American, which is what it is now.  I also never wanted a flight where redeeming AMEX points on American with a 50% point refund was a better deal than a straight-up award redemption.

With the new calendar year, I will be able to change my preferred airline again, and here is why Iberia is looking good …

I have over 50,000 British Airways points that I don’t know how to use.  The British Airways sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles is a great deal … until you realize that BA publishes very little award availability online.  Basically, I find them hard to use, and their shorthaul redemptions, which used to be awesome, have been devalued a lot.

So all these BA miles are burning a hole in my pocket, and at risk of expiring … until I heard the good news.  Aer Lingus and Iberia have the same corporate owner as British Airways, and BA miles can be transferred one-to-one to either mile program, as long as the accounts have been open for at least 90 days.  Iberia frequently posts award availability at great redemption rates between the U.S. and Europe.

The problem is, the redemptions are usually for flights … on British Airways.  This usually means a stopover in Heathrow, which means heavy taxes.  (Fortunately, the fuel surcharges are lower.)  With all that cash out of pocket, it becomes a less attractive award redemption.

With Iberia as my Platinum-preferred airline, however, there are two possibilities … I could transfer my BA miles to Iberia miles to pay the award redemption, and pay the surcharges on my Platinum card … meaning I could get the extra fees refunded from the $200 statement credit.  Iberia also charges good rates for intra-Europe fares; the statement credit could help with that.

OR, I could buy economy seats on Iberia through the AMEX travel portal, pay entirely in AMEX points (airfare and surcharges) with nothing out of pocket, get a 35% refund of my points, and get credited with frequent flier miles for the actual travel.  (You know, the way you’re supposed to accrue miles.)  I could credit these travel miles either to Iberia or British Airways.

Tricky, right?

Which is your preferred airline, and why?


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