Through October 8, 2015, the US American Express Membership Rewards program is offering a 25% 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 200:125. 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.
Elevate Gold status when you transfer points
So what are the benefits of Virgin America Elevate Gold status?
As you can see, there is a decent amount of value to be had with the status, assuming you fly Virgin America with any regularity.
However, do keep in mind there’s potentially an alternative for Virgin America status, as they do offer status match opportunities for those with status in other programs.
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 ~2.2-2.3 cents towards the cost of a Virgin America ticket.
So even with the transfer bonus you’re looking at a maximum of ~1.4 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 in many cases 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 $1,150 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 $130 in taxes and fees on the ticket
The values aren’t bad in terms of the number of points required, but the fuel surcharges on Emirates and Virgin Atlantic sting. That being said, redemptions on Virgin Australia without fuel surcharges are sort of a sweet spot.
Bottom line on Virgin America transfer bonus
For a bit of context, here are the transfer bonuses we’ve seen from Membership Rewards to Virgin America in the past:
- In January 2015 there was a 35% transfer bonus
- In April 2014 there was a 30% transfer bonus
- In January 2014 there was a 40% transfer bonus
- In September 2013 there was a 40% transfer bonus
As you can see, on the surface this isn’t one of the best transfer bonuses we’ve seen. Of bonuses, it’s the least lucrative in the past two years. That being said, the value proposition may not be bad:
- Elevate no longer imposes fuel surcharges for redemptions on Virgin Australia, which can be a great value
- If you would get value out of Elevate Gold status, that’s something to consider in terms of the overall value proposition of making a transfer
I won’t be taking advantage of it because I’ve only flown Virgin America once, and I don’t see myself flying them much in the future. But if you fly them more frequently than I do and could get value out of Gold status and/or revenue based redemptions on them, then this promotion could make sense for you.
What do you make of Virgin America offering status as part of a transfer bonus promotion? Will you take advantage of it?
(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)