Link: Virgin America Visa® Signature Card
I’ll be the first to admit that I can be a bit dismissive of revenue based frequent flyer programs and their associated credit cards. It’s not that I have anything against them, it’s just that they’re a bit too straightforward for my liking. With a revenue based frequent flyer program no one wins and no one loses. Given that redemption rates are fixed and based on the revenue cost of a ticket, no one is getting an amazing value with their points.
Conversely with traditional frequent flyer programs there are winners and there are losers. If you redeem your miles for travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco at the “standard” level, you’re one of the losers. If you’re redeeming your miles for international premium cabin travel you’re winning. Big time. In my opinion very few people break even with traditional mileage currencies — they either come out way ahead or way behind compared to focusing the same amount of energy on a revenue based frequent flyer program.
With that in mind, I haven’t paid much attention to the Virgin America Visa credit card. At least not until last night, when I posted about the really interesting reciprocal mileage accrual and redemption partnership between Virgin America and Singapore Airlines. I made reference to the fact that you could transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Virgin America Elevate at a 2:1 ratio, and even with that it can sometimes make sense rather than redeeming directly through Singapore’s KrisFlyer program. But clearly I had a brain fart, because I completely overlooked Virgin America’s co-branded Visa card, which offers one Elevate point per dollar spent.
At that point I had a closer look at the card, and realized it might just be the most rewarding credit card out there for spend in categories that don’t accrue bonuses on other cards.
Virgin America has very simple (and fixed!) pricing for awards on Singapore Airlines (the mileage calculator can be found here). Travel between their US gateways (including Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco), and their destinations in Asia (including Tokyo, Hong Kong, Seoul, and Singapore) cost just 35,000 points in coach, 95,000 points in business class, or 130,000 miles in first class. These rates are across the board cheaper than what Singapore directly charges their own KrisFlyer members, not even factoring in that Virgin America doesn’t charge fuel surcharges, while KrisFlyer does (which on a roundtrip longhaul journey typically range from $250 to $700).
But it doesn’t end there. Some of their intra-Asia redemption rates are nothing short of spectacular. For example, take a look at their roundtrip redemption rates between Singapore and Bangkok. It’s literally just 6,000 points roundtrip between the two cities in economy.
And the cost between New York and Frankfurt is amazing as well. Roundtrip travel is just 20,000 points in coach, 70,000 points in business class, or 90,000 points in first class.
Now there’s one potential issue — For the most part Singapore doesn’t release first and business class saver award space for any flights operated by their new longhaul product to their Star Alliance partner airlines. Instead they release this space only to their own KrisFlyer members. This means that award redemptions between the US and Asia in first or business class on Singapore Airlines aren’t possible using miles from Aeroplan, United, US Airways, etc., given that all their routes to the US feature their new first and business class product. Instead you can only redeem for coach, or for routes operated by the older product.
That being said, I’d hope that this restriction doesn’t apply to travel booked through Virgin America. On one hand I feel like it probably will (why should they give Virgin America different treatment?), but on the other hand I’d hope they would have better judgment than even publishing a premium cabin award chart if they had no way of accessing the space. I tried to find out more, though apparently Virgin America redemptions on Singapore Airlines won’t be available for a couple more days, so I have no way of testing this yet.
Regardless, Virgin America hands down has the lowest redemption rates for coach travel on Singapore Airlines (or just about any airline for that matter!) to virtually anywhere they fly. You really can’t beat 6,000 points roundtrip between Bangkok and Singapore, 20,000 points roundtrip between New York and Frankfurt, or 35,000 points roundtrip between New York and Singapore. I can’t think of any other program with those kinds of rates.
On top of all that the card is actually pretty lucrative for redemptions on Virgin America as well. Each point can be redeemed for roughly 2.2 cents towards the cost of a ticket. Take the following flights between San Francisco and Seattle, for example. Here’s the cash cost for a ticket:
And here’s the cost using Elevate points:
Across the board you’re looking at about 2.2 cents of value per point, which is actually a really good return if you’d otherwise buy Virgin America tickets. The only points currency I value that high are Starwood points, and this is more or less 2.2 cents per point that are “good as cash” towards the cost of a ticket. So for someone that books the occasional Virgin America ticket, this alone may make this the most valuable credit card for everyday spend in categories that don’t otherwise accrue a bonus.
So I’ll post an update as soon as I found out more about redemptions on Singapore. If Elevate members have access to premium cabin award space on Singapore just as KrisFlyer members do, then this will mark one of the most lucrative frequent flyer partnerships in a long time, in my opinion.
If Singapore blocks their new premium cabins to Elevate members then this card will simply be the most lucrative for longhaul coach redemptions.
Link: Virgin America Visa® Signature Card
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