Through February 15, 2015, the US American Express Membership Rewards program is offering a 35% bonus on points transfers to Virgin America Elevate.
The usual transfer ratio is 200:100 (Membership Rewards:Elevate), so through this promotion the transfer ratio will be 200:135. The bonus is hard coded into the transfer ratio, meaning the bonus points should post instantly and you can take advantage of the promotion as often as you’d like.
Redeeming Virgin America Elevate points for travel on Virgin America
Virgin America Elevate is a revenue based frequent flyer program for redemptions on their own flights.
That means the number of points required for a flight on Virgin America is entirely dependent on the cost of a revenue ticket. Each Elevate point typically gets you ~2.2 cents towards the cost of a Virgin America ticket.
So even with the transfer bonus you’re looking at a maximum of ~1.5 cents of value per Membership Rewards point. That’s not half bad if the alternative is using the “Pay With Points” option (which in my opinion isn’t how you should redeem Membership Rewards points, but I know that doesn’t stop lots of people), though also not exactly an aspirational redemption.
Redeeming Virgin America Elevate points for travel on other airlines
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 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.
Bottom line on Virgin America transfer bonus
For a bit of context, Membership Rewards offered a 30% transfer bonus to Virgin America last April, a 40% transfer bonus to Virgin America last January, a 40% transfer bonus to Virgin America the previous September, and even a 50% transfer bonus earlier that year.
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 ~1.5 cents towards the cost of a ticket. If you’re points rich and cash poor or don’t value your points as much as I do, that’s not a bad redemption rate.
Still, there are definitely better uses of Membership Rewards points than Virgin America Elevate transfers, and there have been marginally better transfer bonuses in the past.