Should You Buy Virgin America Points With A 50% Bonus?

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Virgin America’s Elevate program is offering up to a 50% bonus on the purchase of points through March 8, 2016.


Details of Virgin America’s 50% points bonus

Virgin America is offering a tiered bonus on the purchase of points, as follows:

  • Buy 1,500-4,000 points, get a 25% bonus
  • Buy 5,000+ points, get a 50% bonus

You can buy up to 20,000 Elevate points per transaction, and up to 60,000 Elevate points per account per calendar year.

Virgin America ordinarily charges 5.2 cents per purchased point, so through this promotion the price is lowered to ~3.47 cents per point.

If you purchase 20,000 points you’d receive a bonus of 10,000 points. That means you’d be purchasing 30,000 Elevate points at a cost of $1,040.


Keep in mind that Virgin America points purchases are processed by, so don’t count as airfare spend for the purposes of your credit card. That means if you buy miles you’ll want to use a card which maximizes your return on everyday, non-bonused spend, like the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card or Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express.

As far as Virgin America Elevate points purchase promotions go, this bonus is on the low end, as we’ve seen 60-80% bonuses in the past:

Should you buy Elevate points?

Like many low cost carriers, Virgin America has a revenue based frequent flyer program, where the number of points you earn is based directly on how much your ticket costs.

They’re also revenue based on the redemption side, where you can redeem each point for ~2.1-2.3 cents towards the cost of a revenue ticket on Virgin America.

For example, here’s a comparison of revenue fares and award fares between San Francisco and Honolulu:



As you can see, in the above instance you can redeem 11,196 points in place of a $241 ticket (when you take out the $5.60 you pay in taxes on the award ticket). That’s a value of ~2.2 cents per point.

So obviously it doesn’t make sense to purchase points for ~3.47 cents each when you can only redeem them for ~2.2 cents each.

That being said, what makes Virgin America unique among low cost carriers is that they have award charts for redeeming points on their partner airlines, including Emirates, Virgin Australia, Virgin Atlantic, and Singapore.

As far as partner redemptions go, the best value using Virgin America Elevate points is for travel in Virgin Australia business class, as there are no fuel surcharges. Elevate charges the following number of points for travel on Virgin Australia between the US and Australia:

  • 45,000 Virgin America points one-way
  • 80,000 Virgin America points roundtrip


Virgin Australia is in the process of installing a new business class product on their 777s, which looks great.


At a rate of ~3.47 cents per point, that’s like paying ~$1,500 for a one-way business class ticket on Virgin Australia. That’s a pretty good value, though at the same time there are other options to consider, like the ability to transfer points from American Express Membership Rewards to Virgin America Elevate with a 50% bonus.

Promotion terms

The full terms of the promotion are as follows:

Price includes all applicable charges. GST/HST will be charged to Canadian Residents. Members can purchase a maximum of 60,000 Elevate points before any bonus in their individual account per calendar year. Please allow 72 hours for points to appear in the Elevate account. Purchases (Buy, Gift or Transfer of Elevate points) are not eligible to earn status points. All purchases (Buy, Gift or Transfer of Elevate points) are non-refundable. Points required to redeem an Elevate travel reward on Virgin America will be publicly available on a seat and flight specific basis and are subject to change. Domestic reward bookings are subject to a security fee of $2.50 per segment, payable by credit card or Virgin America credit file. The Passenger Facility Charge and Segment Fees are waived for domestic reward bookings. For international reward bookings, Virgin America guests are responsible for the taxes and fees incurred from international travel. These taxes and fees are subject to change at the discretion of each country’s government and also vary from country to country depending on the origin and destination. Price includes all applicable charges. GST/HST will be charged to Canadian Residents. Members can purchase a maximum of 20,000 Elevate points per transaction and maximum 60,000 Elevate points in their individual account per calendar year. Members can receive a maximum gift of 60,000 Elevate points in their individual account per calendar year. Members can transfer a maximum of 30,000 Elevate points in and out of their individual account per calendar year. All Elevate Terms and Conditions apply.

Bottom line

Some bonus is certainly better than none, though this still isn’t a rate at which I’d speculatively purchase Virgin America points. I would note that it could be worth topping off an account for a redemption on Virgin Australia, for example, if you’re just several thousand points short. After all, the 50% bonus kicks in even if you’re just buying 5,000 points.

My preference would still be to transfer points from Amex Membership Rewards to Virgin America Elevate, though, given the transfer bonus available at the moment.

Do you plan on purchasing Virgin America Elevate points with a 50% bonus?

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  1. Ben do you think it would be possible to upgrade, the recent SYD-LAX error fare from coach to biz, using these points? If so how would you go about it please?

  2. I agree this would be a bad purchase. But I don’t know why you’re characterizing VX as a “low cost carrier.” The entire brand is exactly the opposite: it costs a little more than legacy US carriers, but you get a nicer product and better service.

  3. VX is low cost because it doesn’t have the high operating costs of a legacy carrier (large number of hubs, highly senior workforce, etc.)

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