25% Bonus On Transfers To Virgin Atlantic Isn’t Horrible

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Bottom line

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?

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Comments

  1. Are you sure about the “awards can only be issued as round-trips”? My friend used his Virgin Atlantic miles to book a Virgin America flight one-way from SFO to EWR.

  2. @ Brandon — Pretty sure. Here’s what it says on the website:

    All mileage levels are for a return ticket excluding passenger taxes, fees & surcharges.
    No one way rewards permitted.

  3. Hi Tiffany, thanks for this great post.

    Question – what is the best way to search for Virgin America award availability using Flying Club miles? B/c Virgin American and Atlantic are interconnected, is it as simple as searching for Virgin America award availability on the Virgin America website?

    Lastly, are there phone booking fees when making such an award reservation?

    thanks

  4. @ Nathan — Thanks for reading it!

    You need to call, irritatingly, but they’re generally pretty good about it. No phone fees, and hold times aren’t generally awful.

  5. I don’t care what anyone says, if you are based on the east coast and are not flush with points, Virgin Atlantic is a fantastic option to get you to Europe. Minimal amount of points (especially if you can get them through a transfer bonus), a $100 or $200 dollar ticket isn’t that bad of a price, as long as you think of it as getting a discounted ticket instead of paying for full fare. Then once you get to Europe, use Avios to fly around, or fly with Ryanair.

    I honestly never understood the hate (or dislike) for Virgin Atlantic.

  6. @Jay, I totally agree with you! I love that I can go to London one-way for just 17,500 VA miles and pay around $120~ in taxes. It’s much cheaper than paying 30K United miles. Once I’m in London I can use BA points and take short haul flights to other countries for a really small amount of points, especially during off-peak season.

  7. Err, that’s weird because my friend only had 13,000 miles in his account and it costs 12,500 miles from SFO to EWR so that booking shouldn’t have been possible if they still charge it as a “round trip cost”, so how’d he get away with that? He has a confirmation # and everything. Weird…

  8. I seem to recall you can’t book these within 72 hours of departure. Bit of a deal killer for last minute fun. Do you recall what I’m talking about Tiffany?

  9. @ stvr — Hmmm, I haven’t experienced that, but could indeed be the case. The process does take a few days generally, but I don’t know if it can be expedited for imminent departures.

  10. Tiffany – Aren’t Virgin miles interchangeable amongst the 3 FF clubs of Virgin America, Atlantic and Australia? So you could have access to all 3 with this bonus opportunity with Atlantic? And Virgin Australia transfers to Kris Flyer at 1.3:1 as I recall. One of my big concerns loading up Kris Flyer and not getting the award I want is how to get rid of those miles without losing them. The transfer to Virgin Australia gives you many options if you get stuck with Kris Flyer. I think the same transfer exists between Asia Miles (Cathy Pacific) and Virgin America?

  11. @ bobbieddie — I don’t believe they are interchangeable, no. Each is a redemption/earning partner of the other, but I haven’t heard of the option to do a 1:1 exchange across the Virgin programs.

  12. @Tiffany: I doubt you’ll see this since this post is a month and a half old now but I think you need to update your award chart. VX stopped flying to/from Philly (sadly for me) this past October when they picked up gates at DAL and DCA from AA.

  13. @ Mike — Hah, yes, but Virgin Atlantic hasn’t updated their chart, and I’m just using what they have on their website.

  14. You can definitely book one way, done that many times on LAX TO CANCUN route. 10000 points, easy fantastic redemption. Thanks.

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