Virgin America is back with a promotion that’s almost identical to the one they offered last year around the same time.
Through October 10, 2016, 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
In terms of a further offer to sweeten the deal, Virgin America is also offering Virgin America Elevate Gold status when you transfer 80,000 Membership Rewards points to Elevate by October 31, 2016.
Virgin America Gold status comes with some decent perks, including the following:
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.
Do keep in mind there’s potentially an alternative for Virgin America status, as they do offer a pretty lucrative status match & challenge opportunity, depending on whether you have status with another program or not.
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, especially now that they have a new business class product. Unfortunately they typically only make business class award space available within a week of departure.
I won’t be taking advantage of this offer 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.
Do keep in mind that Virgin America is being taken over by Alaska, so at some point there may be some reciprocal elite benefits between the two programs.
In general the best value for transferring points to Virgin America Elevate is through Starwood Preferred Guest, as they’re a 1:1 transfer partner, and even offer a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred.
Do you plan on taking advantage of this promotion?
(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)