As part of my Membership Rewards transfer partner series, today I’ll be looking at redemption options with Virgin America.
If you missed my introduction, these spotlights are meant to look at partners from the aspect of transferring Membership Rewards points into the programs for possible award redemptions; however, if you have earned points through other methods, these redemption opportunities are still available to you!
Membership Rewards transfer options include Aeromexico, Air Canada, Air France, Alitalia, ANA, Asia Miles, Best Western, British Airways, Choice Hotels, Delta, El Al, Frontier, KLM, Hawaiian, Hilton, Iberia, JetBlue, Jumeirah Hotels, Singapore Airlines, Starwood, Virgin America, and Virgin Atlantic.
Loyalty Points: Virgin America Elevate Points
Membership Rewards Ratio: 2 MR = 1 Point
Hubs/Focus Cities: SFO, LAX
Fuel Surcharges: No
The Good News: No black-out dates and no capacity controls! If a flight is available on Virgin America, you can use points for the flight – no matter what. Flexibility is one of my favorite benefits since it means you can book any date and any routing you prefer. Virgin America has a trendy, in-flight experience with internet, on-demand video, and a snack assortment to help you pass the time on their signature transcontinental flights. They also offer transfer bonuses from Membership Rewards, sometimes upping your value by 30% or more.
The Bad News: With no capacity controls, the downside is that the number of points required changes when the cash price does. If you’re flying last minute on a ticket that would normally cost $600, your award will require more Elevate points than a ticket costing $150. Generally speaking, each Elevate point is good for roughly 1.6-2.2 cents per point in value, depending on the specific flights and class of service you choose (that’s only 0.8-1.1 cents per AmEx MR point given the 2:1 ratio). That’s not an amazing rate, especially since some no-annual fee cards offer 2% cashback on all purchases, meaning you could take your rebates and buy a ticket – on any airline – and get more value from your credit card spending (not even counting the miles you’d earn by buying a ticket with cash).
Worth Noting: If you want to fly on a partner flight rather than Virgin America, you’ll actually deal with a more traditional award chart with flat costs by region. A trip to Europe could be just 35,000 miles (and high fuel surcharges) in upper class on Virgin Atlantic…hardly a deal, but ironically cheaper than transferring Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic directly. A business-class trip on Virgin Australia to Down Under would be 80,000 miles and roughly $850 in surcharges.
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