Membership Rewards Transfer Bonus To Virgin America Elevate

Through January 31, 2014, the US American Express Membership Rewards program is offering a 40% bonus on points transfers to Virgin America Elevate. The usual transfer ratio is 200:100 (Membership Rewards:Elevate points), so through this promotion the transfer ratio will be 200:140.

Virgin-America-Elevate-Transfer-Bonus

Virgin America has a fixed value award chart for travel on their own flights, so their award pricing is based directly on the cost of a revenue ticket. Each Elevate point typically gets you ~2.2 cents towards the cost of a Virgin America ticket, meaning a $220 ticket would cost you ~10,000 points. So even with the transfer bonus you’re looking at a maximum of ~1.6 cents of value per Membership Rewards point. That’s actually not half bad if you’d otherwise book a paid ticket on Virgin America.

Beyond that, Virgin America does have some interesting partners, including Emirates, Virgin Australia, Virgin Atlantic, and Singapore, and there are some tempting redemptions there under specific circumstances. The problem is that I don’t find any of their premium cabin redemptions on those airlines to be the best options out there.

The redemption rates on many of these airlines are quite good, though the issue is that they also impose fuel surcharges. For example:

  • A roundtrip between New York and Milan in Emirates business class will run you 59,000 Elevate points (~83,000 Membership Rewards points through this promotion), though there are $1,090 in taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges on the ticket
  • A roundtrip between New York and London in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class will run you 35,000 Elevate points (~49,000 Membership Rewards points through this promotion), though there are $1,130 in taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges on the ticket
  • A roundtrip between Los Angeles and Sydney in Virgin Australia business class will run you 80,000 Elevate points (~120,000 Membership Rewards points through this promotion), though there are $920 in taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges on the ticket

So the values aren’t bad in terms of the number of points required, but the fuel surcharges sting.

For a bit of context, Membership Rewards also offered a 40% transfer bonus to Virgin America last September.

Overall unless you have a specific redemption in mind I don’t find this transfer bonus to be especially compelling. I think the most compelling way to use points through this promotion is towards the cost of a Virgin America ticket, since each Membership Rewards point will get you ~1.6 cents towards the cost of a ticket.

Comments

  1. Jim says

    The taxes and fees flights operated by Singapore Airlines are the “sweet spots” imo.
    To give you some examples JFK-SIN RT $65 or $134 for a RT FRA-SIN. Travelling Coach/Business/First doesn’t have any impact on taxes and fees. Only downside is that One-ways are not half the price of a round-trip, and redemption rates are a bit higher as far as I can see. But with lower additional fees this may be a good alternative.

  2. says

    @ Jim — As Lantean mentions unfortunately most premium cabin Singapore Airlines flights are blocked to Elevate members.

  3. says

    @ Karen — You can redeem Virgin America points for travel on Virgin Atlantic, though there’s no way to convert the points into Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles.

  4. Michael says

    The taxes on virgin Australia should be lower as they no longer charge fuel fees. I think it’s about $200 ish for a return journey.

  5. Mr. Cool says

    whats the rule for knowing if an SQ award flight will be available using “elevate” points please? id like to avoid calling the call center.

    is it similar to the common rule that if the operating airline offers the
    specific award flight/date at a “saver” level than it is equally
    available to all of its partners?

  6. says

    @ Mr. Cool — Unfortunately the only way to know for sure is to call. Virgin America seems to only have access to economy awards for longhaul flights, but not first or business class awards. So if you see a saver economy award available through KrisFlyer, chances are that it’s also available through Virgin America.

  7. Mr. Cool says

    @lucky good to know, thanks!
    probably too expensive in miles for biz/first anyway.
    btw, does Vamerican have an award chart as such? or do you always have to use their “redeem-with-partners” tool?

  8. says

    @ Mr. Cool — They have a revenue based redemption program for travel on their own flights, so the points cost is entirely based on the cost of a revenue ticket.

  9. Mr. Cool says

    @lucky right. but i wonder how that works vis-a-vis partners.. elevate is a dual system of sorts i guess.

    but a 1-way from north amer to euro = 24k + $11 on SQ.. thats pretty cheap!

  10. says

    @ Mr. Cool — Ah, sorry, misunderstood your question. No award chart really, just the “tool” where you have to select the origin and destination.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *