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Through August 23, 2015, Citi ThankYou is offering a 25% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.
I know. Don’t everyone get up at once. It doesn’t sound terribly exciting.
However, there are some strategic uses of Virgin Atlantic miles that are worth considering.
A one-way Upper Class ticket between New York (or Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, or Washington DC) and London, for example, is just 40,000 miles — so 32,000 Citi ThankYou points with the bonus. Granted there are hefty fuel surcharges, but availability is quite good, and some people value the non-stop flight quite highly.
My favorite use of Virgin Atlantic miles though? Travel on Virgin America. And there are two great values.
Using Flying Club miles for short-haul redemptions
This particular sweet-spot is mainly good for West Coast travelers, given Virgin America’s fascinating route network.
All awards are priced as round-trips, and the rates, in general, are on par with what you’d pay when redeeming British Airways Avios — the gold standard for short-haul economy travel around here.
San Diego to San Francisco is particularly relevant to my interests, given that there’s no way to efficiently redeem miles between the two cities otherwise.
You can fly to Napa on Alaska directly, and United has a few flights a day, but Virgin America and Southwest otherwise dominate the route. 12,500 points for the round-trip (just 10,000 ThankYou points with the bonus), is actually pretty compelling.
Using Flying Club miles for premium cabin transcontinental flights
My other favorite use of Flying Club miles is for First Class transcons. Award availability on something like Los Angeles </> New York tends to be insanely limited on the legacy carriers.
Availability on Virgin America, however, is fantastic.
To continue with the Los Angeles </> New York example, a round-trip redemption is 75,000 Flying Club miles.
At first glance that sounds outrageous (and it is), but with the transfer bonus from Citi ThankYou, you only need 60,000 ThankYou points for the round-trip.
In comparison, if you wanted to leverage your ThankYou points towards a paid ticket on American (which is a great value, and an admittedly better product), you’d spend significantly more. Actually using ThankYou points for a paid ticket on Virgin is just obscene in comparison.
And have I mentioned that award availability is phenomenal? Because it is.
Redeeming Virgin Atlantic miles on Virgin America
The actual process of redeeming Flying Club miles is both crummy and fantastic.
The not so great:
- Awards can only be issued as round-trips.
- You have to call Flying Club (in the US, the number is 800.365.9500).
- Tickets can take a day or two to actually process (which is really something AAdvantage should aspire to).
The good news:
- No fuel surcharges! Just the basic taxes/fees, so the cash outlay is low.
- You can place flights on hold while you transfer the miles. This is like the Holy Grail of award redemptions nowadays as far as I’m concerned.
- Availability is amazing. Generally multiple flights per day, with multiple seats.
But it’s an overall simple process, and we redeem quite a few miles this way for folks.
Getting the 25% bonus from Citi ThankYou transfers
Typically, you can transfer points between Citi ThankYou and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club at a rate of 1000:1000 (as long as you have a ThankYou card that allows points transfers). Through August 23rd, you receive a 25% on transfers as well.
Unlike when American Express Membership Rewards offers transfer bonuses, you won’t actually see the bonus rate during the transfer process. Instead, the additional points will post to your account once you’ve completed the base transfer.
So there’s a bit more math involved (take the total number of points you need, divide by 1.25, round up to the nearest thousand), but the process itself is pretty straightforward.
While it’s not as aspirational or value-filled as transferring ThankYou points to Singapore KrisFlyer for Suites redemptions, I think this is a solid value for folks who need to take transcon flights and don’t want to play upgrade roulette.
The 25% bonus is icing on the cake.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club also partners with the other transferable points currencies (like American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards), but I would personally prefer to use Citi ThankYou points for something like this. So if you’re flush with points from the great sign-up bonuses on the Citi Prestige Card and Citi ThankYou® Premier Card, this is certainly an option to consider.
Has anyone else redeemed Flying Club miles for travel on Virgin America? What was your experience?