Through May 15, 2012, the US Membership Rewards program is offering a 25% bonus on transfers to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.
While there is no limit to the number of transfers that can earn the bonus, it’s not built into the transfer ratio like with the British Airways bonus. Instead, the 25% bonus posts within 14 days of the original transfer (though I suspect it will be sooner in practice).
In the past I would say points transfers to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club for the purpose of actually flying Virgin Atlantic were never a good deal.
ANA used to be the best option by far. They partnered with Virgin Atlantic, and they have a very lucrative distance based award chart. The thing that made their chart especially lucrative was that they didn’t impose fuel surcharges for redemptions on Virgin Atlantic. So while Virgin Atlantic directly charged 90,000 miles plus about $800 in taxes and fuel surcharges for a redemption between New York and London, ANA charged 63,000 miles plus about $150 in taxes. Unfortunately last July they started imposing fuel surcharges on Virgin Atlantic redemptions, so that’s no longer the case.
The next best option was Continental miles, since Continental partnered with Virgin Atlantic and also didn’t impose fuel surcharges on award redemptions. Unfortunately they discontinued their partnership with Virgin Atlantic as of February of this year.
That means that there’s now not really a way to fly Virgin Atlantic without paying fuel surcharges (then again, the same goes for British Airways, so they’re not alone). That means that ANA is typically still the best airline to transfer Membership Rewards points to for Virgin Atlantic. They have a distance based award chart, as follows:
So in almost all cases it’s still going to be more economical to transfer to ANA than to Virgin Atlantic, even with the transfer bonus.
The one major exclusion would be if you’re trying to book one-way travel, since ANA won’t let you book a one-way award. While I don’t like Virgin Atlantic’s fuel surcharges, I give them big prop for being transparent about them. When you use their award calculator it will tell you exactly how much they are:
40,000 Flying Club miles would require 32,000 Membership Rewards points to be transferred. If you need to fly Virgin Atlantic one-way, that’s still going to be your best bet.
There is one other major potential upside here, though. Flying Club miles can be converted to Hilton HHonors points at a 1:2 ratio. That means that through this promotion you can actually transfer them at a 1:2.5 ratio.
That’s actually a really solid deal if you collect Hilton points. It’s not a ratio at which I’d just speculatively transfer all my Membership Rewards points since I’m not a Hilton guy. Their award chart looks like this:
In other words, transferring 20,000 Membership Rewards points will get you 50,000 Hilton HHonors points, enough for a free night at one of their top hotels. That can actually be a pretty good deal.