A credit card sign-up bonus I won’t be taking advantage of….

Virgin Atlantic is offering a sign-up bonus of 45,000 miles for their American Express co-branded credit card. You earn 2o,000 miles after your first purchase, and another 25,000 miles after $750 in purchases, plus 1.5 miles per dollar spent for all purchases. There’s a $90 annual fee. In theory this sounds tempting, since 45,000 miles is a pretty big sign-up bonus, not to mention earning 1.5 miles per dollar is great.

However, these are Flying Club miles, which I consider to be more of a liability than an asset. Actually, I consider them to be less valuable than Delta miles. A lot of people want to redeem for Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic, which seems to be a pretty good business class product. Redeeming through Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club, an award from New York to London roundtrip will cost you 90,000 miles and about $611 in taxes and fuel surcharges. You could book that same exact award through ANA (they’re partners with Membership Rewards and SPG) in Upper Class for 63,000 miles and about $400 less in fuel surcharges.

Yes, Virgin Atlantic has some decent partners with reasonable redemption rates, though at the end of the day you’re going to be paying fuel surcharges and higher redemption rates than elsewhere for just about every type of award. Furthermore, the fact that they have individual partners and aren’t part of an alliance is a negative, since you can’t mix airlines on a single award.

Ultimately I don’t think it’s worth collecting miles in a program that doesn’t have the best “deal” for at least some kind of redemption. For example, Delta has the best redemption rates on V Australia. British Airways has the best redemption rates for travel on LAN (and allows unlimited stopovers, meaning you can hit Lima, Santiago, and Easter Island all on a single award for 80,000 miles roundtrip in business class).

And for Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club I’m drawing a blank. I can’t think of a single type of award where they would be the most reasonably priced.

Comments

  1. One benefit of Flying Club miles is that you can use them for a US Airways redemption from North America to Europe in Y for 50000 miles and a minimal fee. Sure, ANA will give you the same redemption for fewer miles, but I’ve never found ANA points to be very easy to accumulate (aside from the Membership Rewards/Starwood route). I redeemed my 50K Flying Club points for two PHL-ANC tickets on US — not a bad deal, considering that the flights were upwards of $800.

  2. “British Airways has the best redemption rates for travel on LAN (and allows unlimited stopovers, meaning you can hit Lima, Santiago, and Easter Island all on a single award for 80,000 miles roundtrip in business class).”

    this is off the subject, but. . . how do you book Easter Island, every time I try to use BA miles, it says there is no availability EVER and even on “including partners” but when I check expedia, there are obviously flights on LAN. help!

  3. I like Flying Club miles, gotten a lot of F award trips on SQ from LAX to NRT with them for 130,000 miles and never any real issues with award availability. Try doing that with United miles!

  4. @worldtraveller2 find available LAN flights searching for award seats on the Qantas website and then call BA. Sometimes it takes more than one call, because BA IT is awful, and BA telephone agents range from surly to incompetent for the most part. But do not rely on the BA website and certainly not for LAN seats.

  5. I’ve built up >50k Flying Club miles purely from generous rental car promotions, but for the life of me cannot figure out how to use them. Entirely worthless program IMHO.

  6. Indeed. I had about 100k left from being gold VAA for a few years and was struggling to use them. In the end I cashed them in for a return premium econ but paid almost full fare of another carrier in taxes and fuel etc.

    What I did find the miles for when flying them often was the upgrade from econ to preum econ – they were always willing to open up U class seats and it was only 10k miles for transatlantic.

    It is a good product, was a game changer in its day, but feels like the polish has rubbed off, and the mileage program just does not appeal to the regular traveller.

  7. @LAXNRT – VS website says that effective immediately (no date provided for when the posting went up) there are no VS awards allowed for SQ awards in 1st or biz. Glad you got to enjoy the awards when they were available!

  8. @TravelinWilly It has said that for quite I while I think but I still had never any issues calling in and redeeming on SQ. Last time I did was about 3 months ago and I booked the ticket only 4 days out.

  9. Best use of FlyingClub miles for me (transferred from AmEx MR):
    Hawaiian Airlines inter-island round-trip: 6000 flyingclub miles

  10. @BobS That’s a favorite for me as well and definitely the best deal out there for inter-island travel.

  11. I think the best way to look at Flying Club is not as a bad airline program (which it is) but as a good car-rental program.

    At 1,000 per rental from Alamo, Avis, and Hertz (all before promotions), it’s a pretty good way to get value from a car rental that would otherwise earn 50 miles per day in another airline’s program.

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