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One of my favorite things about American Express Membership Rewards (MR) points is the ability to obtain a bonus for transferring points to an airline. What can I say…I’m a big fan of flying with a discount.
So let’s take a look at the current promotion…
VIRGIN ATLANTIC BONUS
Right now American Express is offering a 30% bonus when you transfer MR points to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club through 07/01/19. At first, this may appear to be a good offer but if you know where to look, this can be a great offer.
The truth is that Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles aren’t very functional. Often, the awards that are booked with these miles also include cRaZy surcharges. However, before you write off the entire program, consider a few redemptions that I like.
3 WAYS TO GET GOOD VALUE
There are three very specific ways I like to get good value from my Virgin Atlantic miles. Two of the redemptions involve booking partner airlines and the other is, ironically, on Virgin Atlantic.
#1 Redeeming Virgin Atlantic Miles on Delta – Most Useful!
Virgin Atlantic and Delta are partners so you can redeem your Virgin points and fly on Delta planes. However, using Virgin Atlantic miles to fly on Delta to (or from) the UK is where you’re going to see those cRaZy surcharges that I previously mentioned. But you can use Virgin points to book Delta flights to anywhere else that Delta flys without those cRaZy surcharges.
This is how many points Virgin requires for bookings on Delta:
Note: The mileage costs (above) are for ROUNDTRIP. Divide by 2 to determine the one-way rate.
With the 30% transfer bonus, you can book a roundtrip, business class flight in Delta One between anywhere in the US and Hawaii for 58,000 MR. (75,000 / 1.3 = 57,692). If you consider how much Delta is charging you to use THEIR MILES to sit on the SAME EXACT FLIGHT, you’ll see the value.
#2 Redeeming Virgin Atlantic Miles on ANA – OUTSTANDING VALUE!
This redemption is in my TOP 10 favorite redemptions (perhaps, I should write a blog about that?), across ALL airlines. The reason is simple…it’s an outstanding value for the miles.
This is how many points Virgin requires for bookings on ANA:
Note: The mileage costs (above) are for ROUNDTRIP. Virgin Atlantic does NOT allow one-way bookings on ANA.
The table may be a bit challenging to read so let’s break it down…
Hawaii to Tokyo will cost 70,000 miles/90,000 miles (Business/First Class)
Los Angeles to Tokyo = 90,000 miles/110,000 miles (Business/First Class)
New York to Tokyo = 95,000 miles/120,000 miles (Business/First Class)
Remember, those are all roundtrip! Sound pretty good, right? But factor in the Amex transfer bonus, and of course, things look even better…
Hawaii to Tokyo will cost 54,000 miles/70,000 miles (Business/First Class)
Los Angeles to Tokyo = 70,000 miles/85,000 miles (Business/First Class)
New York to Tokyo = 74,000 miles/93,000 miles (Business/First Class)
To put this into perspective, a non-stop, roundtrip Business Class fare between New York and Tokyo will cost, in the range of, $5,000 and $6,000 (and that’s if you can fly on those specific dates. Or….you can book the same trip for 74,000 Membership Rewards Points.
Caveat: ANA is widely considered to be one of the best airlines in the world, and their first class is “bucketlist material.” Because you are booking this through Virgin Atlantic, you’ll be on the hook for the surcharges (~$300). Even with the surcharges, it’s still outstanding value.
#3 Redeeming Virgin Atlantic for (ironically) Virgin Atlantic
Personally, those cRaZy surcharges that Virgin Atlantic adds to their award bookings make their awards a waste of time but there is one specific redemption that floats under the radar for most people.
Virgin Atlantic’s current Premium Economy cabin is pretty good. Not only will you be comfortable but you’ll be getting good value for your points when you book one-way Premium Economy awards FROM the US to the UK (and not vice versa). For example, New York (JFK) to London…
…Atlanta (ATL) to London…
…and Los Angeles (LAX) to London…
If we factor in the transfer bonus….
JFK – LHR = 14,000 miles + Surcharges
ATL – LHR = 18,000 miles + Surcharges
LAX – LHR = 22,000 miles + Surcharges
…for a more comfortable Premium Economy? The surcharges can off-putting but that’s pretty good!
Again, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles aren’t very functional and the additional surcharges can be “salt in an open wound.” Thus, it’s a terrible idea to transfer MR points to Virgin Atlantic without knowing the final costs before hand.
As I pointed out in my examples, the best way to get a lot of value out of Virgin Atlantic miles is to use them for premium cabin awards on Delta and ANA or for one-way Premium Economy awards, US-UK (and not vice-versa).
p.s. Did you see the surcharges on the business class ticket in my last screenshot? 67,000 miles….AND $700!?!?!? YIKES!!
Are you going to transfer MR to Virgin? What redemption are you going to book?