Does Buying Virgin America Points Make Sense?

Virgin America is once again offering a promotion whereby you can earn a bonus on the purchase of Elevate points. The promotion isn’t quite as generous as the 80% bonus they offered in October, though you have through December 12, 2014, to purchase Elevate points with a 70% bonus.

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Virgin America Elevate points ordinarily cost 5.2 cents each to purchase, so through this promotion Virgin America Elevate points can be purchased for ~3.06 cents each. You can purchase up to 20,000 points per account per calendar year, before factoring in the 70% bonus (meaning you can purchase a maximum of 34,000 points through this promotion).

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Should you buy Elevate points?

Like many low cost carriers, Virgin America has a revenue based frequent flyer program, whereby the number of points you earn is based directly on how much your ticket costs.

They’re also revenue based on the redemption side, whereby you can redeem each point for ~2.1-2.3 cents towards the cost of a revenue ticket on Virgin America.

For example, here’s a comparison of revenue fares and award fares between Chicago and Los Angeles:Virgin-America-Elevate-2

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So obviously it doesn’t make sense to purchase points for ~3.06 cents each when you can only redeem them for ~2.2 cents each.

That being said, what makes Virgin America unique among low cost carriers is that they have award charts for redeeming points on their partner airlines.

Using Elevate points on partners

Virgin America partners with Emirates, Virgin Australia, Virgin Atlantic, Singapore, and some other carriers. The downside is that in many cases they impose fuel surcharges for travel on partner airlines, which wouldn’t necessarily apply if strategically booking them through another airline.

The redemption rates on many of these airlines are quite good, at least before factoring in the fuel surcharges. For example:

  • A roundtrip between New York and Milan in Emirates business class will run you 55,000 Elevate points, 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, though there are $910 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, though there are $926 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.

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Bottom line

Personally I won’t be purchasing Virgin America Elevate points through this promotion, though if you’re looking to top off your account for an aspirational redemption then this isn’t a half bad offer.

If you do need to top off your account, it’s worth noting these transactions are processed by points.com, so wouldn’t count as airline or travel spend.

Do you plan on purchasing Virgin America Elevate points with a 70% bonus?

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

Comments

  1. The surcharges are almost nonexistent on Hawaiian and Singapore, though. Might it makes sense to buy points and redeem on those partners? (I actually have a trove of VX points but haven’t yet redeemed any.)

  2. Hi Lucky,

    So I priced out a one way LAX-SYD and it comes out to about $1400 (including points purchase and surcharges)..PLUS topped off with about 22K MR points (to meet the 45K miles one way requirement). I called Virgin America Elevate and they even held 2 seats for me while I procure the points (if I go forward with this)

    To me this seems like a decent deal considering the dearth of avail to get to Australia, especially direct (without having to route through Asia). I was waiting till Delta allows OW redemptions on Jan. 1 to pick up a ticket like this WITHOUT all the surcharges of course, but there’s an opportunity cost to waiting it out since those seats could be gone by the time the mad dash happens on 1/1 – lol.

    Thoughts?

    Thanks Lucky for the head’s up on this!

    Stacey

  3. No. The taxes and carrier imposed fees are about what I’d spend on Alaska or AAdvantage miles themselves without those ridiculous fees.

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