Last month I mentioned that I was trying to figure out how to "initialize" my Iberia account. Now that I've succeeded, I can share my experience.
What are Avios?
For most hotels and airlines we use in the United States, a loyalty currency is almost indistinguishable from a loyalty program. It doesn't occur to anyone that there's a difference between the Delta Skymiles loyalty program and an individual Delta Skymile.
So just like you can use Euros issued in France to buy bratwurst in Vienna, you can use your Avios for rewards through any of the three programs.
However, as the people of Greece recently discovered to their chagrin, just because countries use the same currency doesn't mean they can't impose border controls. That's exactly what Iberia has done, and smuggling Avios past those controls is the subject of this post.
While British Airways and Iberia charge the same number of Avios for flight redemptions through either program, Iberia charges much lower fuel surcharges for award redemptions on their own flights than those booked using Avios in British Airways Executive Club club accounts.
Here's British Airway's Avios calculation for a non-stop flight between Madrid and New York's JFK airport:
Here's the same route priced out using Avios in an Iberia account:
What's the problem?
In a perfect world, that's all you'd need to know. By choosing "Combine my Avios" (find it under "Manage my account") on British Airways' website, you'd be able to save yourself hundreds of dollars on your Iberia award flights by booking using Iberia Plus instead.
Unfortunately, the world we live in isn't perfect yet, and you're not allowed to transfer Avios into your Iberia account until it's been open for 90 days and has at least one other (non-"Combine my Avios") transaction.
What's the solution?
In response to my original post a number of readers reached out with suggestions on how to "initialize" my Iberia account:
- e-Rewards redemption. This is what I ultimately did: I redeemed $25 in e-Rewards credit for 750 Avios in my Iberia account. That transaction initialized my (over-90-day-old) account, and I was then able to successfully transfer Avios from British Airways to Iberia using Avios.com as the Points Guy describes here. This worked for me since I already had about $24 in e-Rewards credit, so I just had to flunk a few surveys in order to earn the additional $1 in credit. I initiated my transfer on May 29, and the Avios were credited to my Iberia Plus account on June 2;
- Membership Rewards transfer. In the comments, Grant not-very-helpfully (I don't have Membership Rewards points) pointed to his post on transferring Membership Rewards points to Iberia Plus in order to initialize an account;
- Melia Rewards transfer. Another reader reported being able to transfer the 2,000 point signup bonus with the MeliaRewards program to Iberia. I wasn't ultimately able to do this — as the reader pointed out, the 2,000 bonus points aren't supposed to be eligible for transfer. However, if you do ever stay with a Melia-affiliated property, or earn Melia points through some other activity, you will be able to transfer the points you earn to Iberia Plus.
Iberia has great award availability and relatively low fuel surcharges on their own flights; that can be a powerful combination when trying to decide how to fly to or from Europe using Avios, while Avios can be one of the easiest loyalty currencies to earn since British Airways Executive Club is a transfer partner of Chase's Ultimate Rewards points.