Last week I wrote about SPG’s newest airline transfer partner. You can now transfer Starpoints 1:1 to Virgin America Elevate points and get 5,000 bonus Virgin America points for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred. That’s particularly amazing because Virgin America is a 2:1 transfer partner of American Express and Citi (eg 20k Membership Rewards = 10k Virgin America points.)

One of the best deals with Virgin America points is flying Virgin Australia from Los Angeles to Sydney or Brisbane. One way awards in Business Class are only 45,000 Virgin America points (40k SPG points.)

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 9.39.10 PM

Roundtrips are an even better deal:

  • 40k Virgin America points in economy (35k SPG)
  • 60k in Premium Economy (50k SPG)
  • 80k in Business (65k SPG)

The Product

Virgin Australia’s old Business Class is not the nicest in the world, but you’ll hardly be slumming it.

You get a fully flat bed that is 6’2″ long with a duvet and pillow. You’ll have a personal entertainment screen and access to an onboard bar.Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 3.15.07 PM

Not all seats have direct aisle access, and reports of the food and service are less glowing than with Asian airlines, but this a solid Business Class product where you will be able to sleep and entertain yourself on the 14+ hour flights.

Plus Virgin Australia has already started rolling out a new, better Business Class that gives all seats direct aisle access.

But this bed and those sweet spots are only theoretical if there isn’t award space on the routes. How much Business Class award space is Virgin Australia releasing right now?

Virgin Australia Business Class Award Space

It is a truism of miles that airlines release Saver award space equally to all partners. (This is only very occasionally not true though phone agents say it isn’t true all the time when they are too incompetent to find the award space you know exists.) A corollary is that anywhere we can search Virgin Australia award space will show us the award space that is available with Virgin America points.

We can search Virgin Australia award space on delta.com five weeks at a time.

I did that for one passenger for the next 11 months on all four flights (LAX to Sydney and Brisbane in both directions), and the only award space that is available is within one week of departure.

Days that say “80,000” have Virgin Australia award space that is bookable for 45,000 Virgin America points one way or 80,000 roundtrip.

Los Angeles to Sydney

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 2.49.06 PMLos Angeles to BrisbaneScreen Shot 2016-04-20 at 2.49.52 PM

Sydney to Los Angeles

LAX > SYD bizSydney to Brisbane
Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 2.50.41 PM

Good News, Bad News

The good news is that if you can wait until the last minute to book your award, you should be able to find award space. That bad news is that if you can’t, you are not going to be able to book Virgin Australia Business Class at the moment.

This pattern could change at any moment. Virgin Australia used to release 4+ award seats in Business Class basically every day, even over Christmas and New Year.

Other Business Class Options to Australia

Award space to Australia in Business Class is always tough. If you must book more than a week out to Australia, right now United offers a smattering (green and blue days) on its Los Angeles to Sydney…

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 3.07.54 PMScreen Shot 2016-04-20 at 3.08.12 PM…and Los Angeles to Melbourne routes.Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 3.08.59 PM

American, Qantas, and Delta offer less Business Class award space than Virgin Australia.

Virgin Australia Economy Award Space

If you can survive 15 hours in economy, there is plenty of Virgin Australia economy award space. This calendar shows space from Los Angeles to Sydney. All days that say “45,000” can be booked for 25,000 Virgin America points one way or 40,000 roundtrip.

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 2.56.13 PM

You Don’t Live in Los Angeles

If you don’t live in Los Angeles, that is a bit of a problem as these Virgin America awards to Australia are priced only from Los Angeles. You will need a separate award on Virgin America (that will be priced based on the cash ticket’s price) to Los Angeles, or you can get yourself there with cash or any other type of miles.

Hopping Around Australia/NZ/Oceania

Your best bets if you want to see more of the area than just Sydney and Brisbane are to use Avios to fly Qantas or Virgin America points to fly Virgin Australia, including flights to remote Pacific Islands for only 9,500 Virgin America points one way.

How to get SPG Points

The Starwood Preferred Guest personal and business credit cards from American Express now come with 25,000 bonus Starpoints for spending $3,000 and $5,000 respectively in the first three months of cardmembership.

Searching For Award Space, Transferring SPG points and Booking

While you can price out a partner redemption on Virgin America’s website using their award calculator (it also conveniently shows out of pocket taxes and fees), you can neither find award space nor book there.

If Virgin Australia space shows up on delta.com, it is bookable with Virgin America points, so search delta.com. Note the date, cabin, and flight number and call 877-359-8474 to speak to a Virgin America representative. Unfortunately there is an unavoidable $20 phone booking fee.

Bottom Line

Virgin America offers an incredible deal on flat bed award space to Australia: 45,000 points one way in Business Class or 80,000 points roundtrip. The problem is that Virgin Australia releases very little award space, and all of it is in the week before departure at the moment.

Either wait until the last minute to book Virgin Australia award space with Virgin America points, book United Business Class to Australia, or book wide open Virgin Australia economy award space to Australia with Virgin America points.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

15

Effective immediately, you can transfer SPG Starpoints to Virgin Elevate points at a 1:1 rate. Like all 1:1 partners of SPG, you get 5,000 bonus miles for every 20,000 points transferred, so 20,000 Starpoints equals 25,000 Virgin America points.Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 12.17.34 PM Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 12.17.47 PMThis is 2-and-a-half times the Virgin America points that you get from competing transferable points. Virgin America is a 2:1 transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points and American Express Membership Rewards, so 20,000 of those transferable points equals only 10,000 Virgin America points. 

I have always thought that SPG Starpoints (2.5 cents each) were more valuable than Membership Rewards (2 cents each) and ThankYou Points (1.9 cents each), but not two-and-a-half times more valuable!

The reason that Membership Rewards and ThankYou Points offered 2:1 transfers to Elevate Points, and the reason today’s news that Starpoints transfer 1:1 (4:5 in increments of 20,000 Starpoints) is because Virgin America has a very deflated award chart.

Virgin America’s points are very valuable. I value them at 2.3 cents each, which means that Starpoints are worth 2.875 cents each when transferring to Virgin America points. Why are they so valuable?

Yes, you’re reading this right that it costs only 80,000 Virgin America points roundtrip in flat bed Business Class from the United States to Australia!
Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 12.22.07 PM

Check out my full recent posts on Sweet Spots with Virgin America Points that also details the routing rules. Let’s look at the sweet spots in light of the news that SPG Starpoints transfer 20,000 SPG points to 25,000 Elevate points:

  • Virgin America offers revenue-based redemptions on its own flights. Elevate points are worth about 2 cents each toward any Virgin America flight with no blackouts. That means SPG points are worth about 2.5 cents toward any Virgin America flight.
  • 80,000 Virgin America points (65,000 SPG points) is a roundtrip in Business Class between Los Angeles and Brisbane or Sydney with Virgin Australia
  • 45,000 Virgin America points (35,000 SPG points) is a one way in Business Class between Los Angeles and Brisbane or Sydney with Virgin Australia
  • 20,000 Virgin America Elevate Points (20,000 SPG Points) is a roundtrip in Economy between the western United States and Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines
  • 3,000 Virgin America Elevate Points (3,000 SPG Points) is a one way Economy interisland flight on Hawaiian Airlines
  • 3,600 Virgin America Elevate Points (3,600 SPG Points) is a one way in Economy on Singapore Airlines within Southeast Asia (like Bangkok to Singapore for example, or Singapore to Bali)

Warning: using Elevate points for Emirates or Virgin Atlantic awards will incur high fuel surcharges. However there are some premium awards flying Virgin Atlantic Upper Class that could be worth it if you’re cash rich and points poor, like:

  • New York, Newark, Washington DC, Atlanta or Chicago to London: 35,000 Elevate Points (30,000 SPG Points) + $1,100
  • Roundtrip from Boston or Detroit to London: 35,000 Elevate Points (30,000 SPG Points) + $910

Upper Class is Virgin Atlantic’s Business Class and is the best cabin on the plane. It offers offers a flat bed, Clubhouse access, and access to an onboard bar.

Bottom Line

Starting today, SPG points transfer 1:1 to Virgin America points, and 20,000 SPG points are worth 25,000 Virgin America points. That’s amazing because 20,000 Membership Rewards or ThankYou Points are worth 10,000 Virgin America points.

Virgin America’s points are very valuable. I value them at 2.3 cents each.

You can get 2.5 cents of value from your SPG points on Virgin America flights, book a roundtrip to Europe in flat beds for 30,000 SPG points plus fuel surcharges, or book a roundtrip in flat beds to Australia for 65,000 SPG points and no fuel surcharges.

Most programs charge 100k+ miles to Europe and 150k+ to Australia.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

3

Today Alaska Airlines announced it will buy Virgin America, after weeks of speculation. Alaska beat out JetBlue in the bidding.

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 11.33.31 AM

Alaska is predicting that it will take nine months to close the deal and another year beyond that for the carriers to combine onto a single operating certificate.

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 11.33.49 AM

To give you an idea of the relative sizes of these airlines, look at the 2015 passenger numbers for North American airlines, according to Wikipedia.

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 11.23.53 AM

Virgin America is a minnow. Combining with Alaska will only move Alaska up one spot into the fifth largest American airline, passing JetBlue, but even the combined airline will be less than a fifth the size of American Airlines. (Even if a future tie up with JetBlue happens as some have speculated, the combined JetBlue-Alaska-Virgin America would be only about half the size of United or Southwest and 40% as big as American.)

Alaska and Virgin America are both primarily West Coast airlines. The combined route map shows that.

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 11.20.37 AM Both airlines have a hub in Los Angeles right now. Additionally Alaska has hubs in Portland, Seattle, and Anchorage, with a focus city in San Jose. Virgin has a hub in San Francisco and a focus city in Dallas.

What Will Happen to Alaska Miles & Virgin America Points

I mainly care about this merger as it affects my points.

Basics of Each Program

Alaska Airlines runs a traditional mileage program in which miles are earned by distance flown and redeemed according to region-based award charts.

I have Alaska miles as the fourth most valuable miles, worth 1.75 cents each. Alaska miles are fantastic to fly Cathay Pacific First or Business Class, Iceland Air, Hainan Air Business Class, American Airlines at pre-devaluation prices, Fiji Airlines, and several other interesting partners. Unfortunately they are no longer useful to book Emirates First or Business Class.

Virgin America runs a new-school points program with earning and redemption revenue based on Virgin America flights, though points are redeemed according to award charts for Virgin America partner flights.

Virgin America points are actually the most valuable points on my list, worth 2.3 cents each. Virgin America points can be redeemed on Virgin America flights with no blackouts, at a rate of 2-2.3 cents per point. Partner awards include 80,000 points roundtrip to Australia in a flat bed with no fuel surcharges.

Both programs are great, and they are very different from one another. I hate to see them merge because diversity in mileage programs is per se a good thing for us. It lets us use each program for its unique strengths, raising the value of all of our miles and points.

Unfortunately the two programs will merge, although not until after the transaction closes, which is predicted for January 1, 2017.
Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 11.21.16 AM Alaska miles should be the surviving miles. I expect Virgin America points to become Alaska miles at a 1:1 rate, which is a slight devaluation of Virgin America points.

Hopefully there is a period before the forced conversion of Virgin America points during which you can transfer points freely back and forth between your Alaska and Virgin America accounts. We saw that option during the United/Continental merger, though there was no such option during the American/US Airways merger.

Credit Cards

Similarly, it looks like the Alaska credit card will survive and the Virgin America credit card will disappear.Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 11.21.36 AM

This is a little different than the American/US Airways merger which left Citi as the only issuer of new American Airlines credit cards, but let Barclaycard convert US Airways cards to American Airlines cards and continue to service its old accounts.

Transfer Partners

Virgin America is a transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points and American Express Membership Rewards. Both have a transfer ratio of two credit card points to one Virgin America Elevate point, although both have offered 25% transfer bonuses (8:5 ratio during bonus).

Alaska is a transfer partner of SPG Starpoints. Twenty thousand Starpoints equals 25,000 Alaska miles.

It would be amazing if the new Alaska retained all three transfer partners! Imagine being able to transfer ThankYou Points 1:1 to Alaska miles and booking Cathay Pacific for 70,000 miles one way to Asia or Africa!

Bottom Line

Alaska Airlines is buying Virgin America and expects the deal to close at the start of 2017. Alaska will fold Virgin America’s brand and frequent flyer program into its own.

I will keep a close eye on the combination of Alaska Mileage Plan and Virgin America Elevate, so we can maximize the value of the programs before, during, and after the merger.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

This post is part of a series about how to maximize value when transferring your Citi ThankYou Points to airline partners.

Virgin America is 2:1 transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points, meaning 1,000 ThankYou Points transfer to 500 Virgin America Elevate points. Virgin America is also a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards at the same transfer ratio.

Virgin America has five partners you can redeem Elevate Points with:

  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin Australia
  • Emirates Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines

Virgin America Flights vs. Partner Redemptions

Elevate Points are redeemed differently depending on whether you use them to book a flight on Virgin America Flights or one of its five partners.

  • If redeeming on a Virgin America flight, the required amount of points is tied to the revenue cost of the ticket. This means that you don’t have to search for specific award space, as any flight that is available on virginamerica.com can also be booked with Elevate points (ie no blackout dates.) Elevate points are on average worth about two cents a piece.
  • For flying partners, the award pricing is fixed. There is no traditional chart like other loyalty programs often use, but you can price out awards (including taxes, fees and fuel surcharges) with the award calculator tool on Virgin America’s website.

Since redeeming Elevate points on Virgin America flights is revenue based, the following routing rules only apply to partner award redemptions.

Routing Rules

One Way Pricing

It is possible to book one way awards, but most cost more than half the price (around 60 to 70%) of a roundtrip award. It appears that some might be half the price, but I’m only aware of one that is (interisland flights within Hawaii are 3,000 Elevate Points one way and 6,000 roundtrip). If any of you have discovered others through your own searching, please let us know in the comments.

Stopovers and Open Jaws

As Virgin America uses segment-by-segment pricing, you can technically have as many stopovers as you would like. You could also have as many open jaws as you would like, but it will come at a cost since one way awards are usually more than half the price of a roundtrip.

Sweetspots for Redemptions on Virgin America

Because Virgin America uses revenue based award pricing for redemption on their own flights, this means there aren’t technically “sweetspots” since the revenue cost of a ticket fluctuates. Cheap, short-haul domestic flights or spur of the moment airfare sales you can’t otherwise use your miles or points for would be the best case scenarios in which to use Elevate Points. To find out how many Elevate Points it would cost to fly a Virgin American flight, search on virginamerica.com and when you get to the results page, bubble in Elevate Points instead of US dollars.

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 7.28.25 PM

Sweetspots for Partner Redemptions

To search for how many Elevate Points it costs to fly one of Virgin America’s partners, use their award calculator tool.

  • 20,000 Virgin America Elevate Points (40,000 ThankYou Points) is a roundtrip in Economy between the western United States and Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines
  • 3,000 Virgin America Elevate Points (60,000 ThankYou Points) is a one way Economy interisland flight on Hawaiian Airlines
  • 3,600 Virgin America Elevate Points (7,200 ThankYou Points) is a one way in Economy on Singapore Airlines within Southeast Asia (like Bangkok to Singapore for example, or Singapore to Bali)

Warning: using Elevate points for Emirates or Virgin Atlantic awards will incur high fuel surcharges. However there are some premium awards flying Virgin Atlantic Upper Class that could be worth it if you’re cash rich and points poor, like:

  • New York, Newark, Washington DC, Atlanta or Chicago to London: 35,000 Elevate Points (70,000 ThankYou Points) + $1,100
  • Roundtrip from Boston or Detroit to London: 35,000 Elevate Points (70,000 ThankYou Points) + $910

Upper Class is Virgin Atlantic’s Business Class and is the best cabin on the plane. It offers offers a flat bed, Clubhouse access, and access to an onboard bar.

How to Find Award Space and Book Partner Redemptions

While you can price out a partner redemption on Virgin America’s website, you cannot find award space nor book there. To investigate award space, search on the following sites for award space:

If Virgin Atlantic or Australia space shows up on delta.com, it is bookable with Virgin America points. Same for Emirates space on alaskaairlines.com. On hawaiianair.com, you need to find Super Saver space and on singaporeair.com Saver space for the flight to be bookable with Virgin America points.

Take notes of what you find because to book, you will need to call (877-359-8474) to speak to a Virgin America representative. Unfortunately there is an unavoidable $20 phone booking fee.

Transfer Bonuses

The Virgin America Elevate program has been known to run transfer bonuses in the past, like this 25% bonus for transferring Citi ThankYou Points to Elevate Points back in September and October of 2015, and this 50% bonus for transferring Amex Membership Rewards to Elevate Points in February and March of this year. Keep an eye out for these bonuses as they magnify the value of the already cheap redemptions.  For example, if you had booked a roundtrip in Economy between the western United States and Hawaii during the 25% bonus last year, it would have only cost 15,000 Elevate Points (30,000 ThankYou points).

Transferring ThankYou Points to Virgin America Elevate Points

Sign into thankyou.com and go to the page listing the 12 airline transfer partners.

How ThankYou Points Work

As a quick refresher, there are two ways to use ThankYou Points:

  1. Use them like cash to purchase any flight on any airline with no blackouts. They are worth 1.25 to 1.6 cents toward any cash fare depending on the airline and the Citi cards you have.
  2. Transfer them to one of the 12 airline partners (like Virgin America) or to Hilton points. Then your points are whatever miles you chose, subject to that award chart and those rules.

How to Get ThankYou Points

Right now the Citi Prestige® Card and the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card come with 50,000 and 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points respectively after $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. You can even get both just eight days apart for 96,000 bonus ThankYou Points.

 Bottom Line

Virgin America is a transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points and Amex Membership rewards at a transfer ratio of 2:1. You can redeem them on Virgin America’s own flights for roughly two cents point, which would be useful if you needed to book a domestic revenue ticket you’d rather not use your miles for. You can also redeem Elevate points on five different partners for fixed amounts. There are some especially good values using Elevate points for flights on Hawaiian Airlines from the mainland US and interisland, as well as Virgin Atlantic Upper Class to London from the eastern US.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

Through March 10, 2016, American Express is offering a 50% transfer bonus from Membership Rewards to Virgin America Elevate Points.

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 12.38.20 PMThe normal transfer ratio is 200 Membership Rewards to 100 Elevate Points, but for the next month, the ratio will be 200 Membership Rewards to 150 Elevate Points.
Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 12.38.31 PM

How Membership Rewards Work

As a quick refresher, there are two ways to use Membership Rewards:

  1. The dumb way: use them like cash to purchase flights, car rentals, hotels, or cruises at a paltry rate of 1 cent per point
  2. The smart way: transfer them to one of the 16 airline partners or three hotel partners. Then your points are whatever miles you chose, subject to that award chart and those rules.

16 Airline and 3 Hotel Partners

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 12.49.10 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 12.49.18 PM

Best Uses of Virgin America Elevate Points

Virgin America points are worth about 2 cents each toward Virgin America flights. They are usually worth more than that when redeemed on award charts for Hawaiian Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and Virgin Australia flights. The only one of those partners on which Virgin America collects fuel surcharges is Virgin Atlantic.

Bottom Line

Through March 10, American Express Membership Rewards enjoy a 50% transfer bonus to Virgin America Elevate Points, bringing the transfer rate to 200 MR -> 150 Virgin America points.

This unlocks some incredible deals on partner airlines like Hawaiian, Virgin Atlantic, and Virgin Australia.

Hat Tip Doctor of Credit

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

Citi ThankYou Points have added a new airline transfer partner–its 12th–Virgin America Elevate Points. The normal transfer ratio will be 1,000 ThankYou Points to 500 Elevate Points, but there is a 25% transfer bonus through October 21, 2015, so 1,000 ThankYou Points equal 625 Elevate Points at the moment.

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 10.50.17 AM

How ThankYou Points Work

As a quick refresher, there are two ways to use ThankYou Points:

  1. Use them like cash to purchase any flight on any airline with no blackouts. They are worth 1.25 to 1.6 cents toward any cash fare depending on the airline and the Citi cards you have.
  2. Transfer them to one of the 12 airline partners or to Hilton points. Then your points are whatever miles you chose, subject to that award chart and those rules.

How to Get ThankYou Points

Right now the Citi Prestige® Card and the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card come with 50,000 and 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points respectively after $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. You can even get both just eight days apart for 96,000 bonus ThankYou Points.Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 3.26.59 PM

New Full List of 13 Transfer Partners

The full roster of Citi airline and hotel transfer partners, all 1:1 unless noted:

  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
  • Etihad Guest
  • Garuda Indonesia Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Privilege Club
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Thai Airways Royal Orchard Plus
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Qantas miles
  • Virgin America Elevate (2 TY -> 1 Virgin America)
  • Hilton HHonors (2 TY -> 3 Hilton)

Best Uses of Virgin America Elevate Points

Virgin America points are worth about 2 cents each toward Virgin America flights. They are usually worth more than that when redeemed on award charts for Hawaiian Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and Virgin Australia flights. The only one of those partners on which Virgin America collects fuel surcharges is Virgin Atlantic.

Bottom Line

Citi ThankYou Points are putting the pressure on Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards.

First Citi started offering huge sign up bonuses on both the Citi Prestige® Card and the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card. While those bonuses are active, Citi has steadily added more airline transfer partners. In the last few months, it has even begun to offer occasional transfer bonuses.

The newest transfer partner is Virgin America Elevate points, and there is a 25% transfer bonus on the normal 2:1 transfer rate for the next month. Virgin America points are worth about 2 cents each for Virgin America flights or can be worth more on the super cheap award charts that Virgin America publishes for travel on Virgin Australia, Virgin Atlantic, and Hawaiian.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

Transfer 80,000 American Express Membership Rewards to 40,000 Virgin America Elevate points by December 31, 2015 and receive top tier Virgin America Gold Status through February 2017.

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 8.01.50 AM

In addition, if you complete the transfer by October 8, 2015, you will get 25% more Elevate points, so 80,000 Membership Rewards would equal Gold Status plus 50,000 Virgin America points.

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 8.00.12 AM

Good Deal?

I value Membership Rewards at 2 cents each. I value Virgin America points at 2 cents each. Elevate points can be redeemed for a nearly-fixed value on Virgin America flights or according to award charts on partner airlines.

I ordinarily wouldn’t transfer Membership Rewards at the 200:100 ratio to Virgin America points. Even with a 25% bonus, 200 MR:125 Elevate is a bad deal.

But the addition of Gold Status makes things interesting.

Assuming you value both Membership Rewards and Virgin America points at 2 cents, then transferring 80,000 Membership Rewards to 50,000 Elevate Points plus Gold Status is like spending $600–the value of the “lost” points–on Gold Status. The perks of Virgin America Gold Status are:

  • Access to the Virgin America Loft at LAX (also a Priority Pass that you can access with free membership from the Citi Prestige® Card)
  • Complimentary upgrades to Main Cabin Select (24 hours before the flight)
  • Priority access to purchase first-class upgrades
  • Three free checked bags
  • Priority security and priority boarding
  • 100% bonus on points on all money spent on Virgin America flights (ie 10 points per dollar)
  • 25% discount on two main cabin tickets per year

Is that worth $600 to you? Probably not. If it were, you would probably already have Virgin America Gold Status because one thing I’ve noticed about status is that the people who can most use it are the same people who earn it in the first place because using it and earning it both require a lot of flying.

Bottom Line

I’m sitting out this transfer bonus/status grab. I have flown Virgin America once in my life, and I probably will fly it once or zero times before February 2017. But if you are in the weird position of not having flown Virgin America much so far but planning to fly it a lot in the next 17 months, by all means, you should transfer 80,000 Membership Rewards to 50,000 Virgin America points plus Virgin America Gold Status by October 8.

Even though I won’t take advantage, I love this innovation from American Express, and I hope Citi and Chase come up with exciting promotions to compete.

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

Virgin America no longer collects fuel surcharges on redemptions that fly Virgin Australia.

That means you can fly Virgin Australia’s flat bed Business Class from Los Angeles to Sydney or Brisbane for only 80,000 Virgin America points + $130 in taxes roundtrip. Delta charges 80,000 miles one way for the same flights!

Virgin Australia award space is widely available for up to 12 people on a single flight, including over peak times like Christmas and New Year’s.

But there are two catches:

  1. Virgin America points are expensive to acquire with cash or point transfers.
  2. This price is good from Los Angeles to Sydney or Brisbane, not from other American cities or to other Australian cities.

Getting Virgin America Points

There are Virgin America credit cards that earn one Virgin America Elevate Point per dollar, but the sign up bonus is only 10,000 to 15,000 points.

You can buy Virgin America points for 5.2 cents each normally. Until April 4, 2015, you can buy Virgin America points with an 80% bonus on points purchased. That brings the price of points to 2.9 cents each. You can only purchase 20,000 points per year–36,000 with the 80% bonus–for $1,040.

You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards at a rate of 2 Membership Rewards to 1 Virgin America point. There are occasional 30%, 35%, and 40% bonuses on the transfer rate. The most recent was a 35% transfer bonus that ended February 15, 2015. At that rate, you could have transferred 118,600 Membership Rewards to the 80,000 Virgin America points needed for a roundtrip Business Class flight to Australia.

Of the three methods, I think the best way to get Virgin America points is to wait for the Membership Rewards transfer bonuses.

The Award Price

Virgin America has different award charts for each partner. Here is the interactive chart for Virgin Australia flights booked with Virgin America points.

You select a departure and arrival city to get the prices. Los Angeles to Sydney is 40k/60k/80k Virgin America points roundtrip in economy/Premium Economy/Business Class.

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 10.15.03 AM

One way prices are slightly more than 50% of the points.Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 10.15.13 AM

You can also book domestic flights on Virgin Australia. Melbourne to Adelaide is 3,500 points one way.

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 10.53.32 AM

And flights to Virgin Australia’s destinations in the Pacific. Melbourne to Fiji is 25,000 points roundtrip.

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 10.53.52 AMBottom Line

Using Virgin America points to book Virgin Australia points just got several hundred dollars cheaper with the elimination of fuel surcharges. The price remains 80,000 points roundtrip in Business Class from Los Angeles to Sydney or Brisbane.

If you live in a different city in the United States, you’ll need to book your ticket to Los Angeles separately. If you want to go to a different city in Australia, that will also require a separate ticket.

Virgin America points are tough to rack up, since the Virgin America credit card sign up bonus is only 15,000 points, the points cost 5.2 cents each to buy, and 2 Membership Rewards transfer to 1 Virgin America point.

But if you wait for a 30-40% Membership Rewards transfer bonus, you’re looking at around 120,000 Membership Rewards and $130 in taxes for a roundtrip award to Australia on a flat bed.

Hat Tip The Points Guy

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

This is the nineteenth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

I’ve covered how to earn miles and the redemption options for miles. Now I’m giving the basics on several major airline programs where you can quickly collect miles for amazing trips. Today: the Southwest Rapid Rewards, JetBlue TrueBlue, and Virgin America Elevate programs. I’m taking all three together because they are similar programs.

Why Collect Southwest, JetBlue, and Virgin America Points?

All three types of airline points can save you big on your next domestic trip or near international trip.

All three types of points can access every flight on their respective airlines with no blackouts.

  • What airlines can you fly with Rapid Rewards, TrueBlue points, and Elevate points?
  • What are the special features of each program?
  • How can you book Rapid Rewards, TrueBlue, and Elevate awards?
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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

There is currently a 30% transfer bonus on Membership Rewards transfers to Virgin America.

Until April 30, 2014, 200 Membership Rewards transfer to 130 Elevate points. (The normal rate is 200 Membership Rewards to 100 Elevate points.)

Screen Shot 2014-04-18 at 2.42.37 AM

What are the sweetspots on the Virgin America chart that might make a transfer worthwhile?

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

There is currently a 40% transfer bonus on Membership Rewards transfers to Virgin America. The normal rate is 200 Membership Rewards to 100 Elevate points.

Until September 30, 200 Membership Rewards transfer to 140 Elevate points.

What are the sweetspots on the Virgin America chart that might make a transfer worthwhile?

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

14

Barclay’s issues a Virgin America Visa Signature card that I’ve written about before because of Virgin’s incredible award chart. This card has never had an eye-popping number as the sign up bonus, but the 20k point sign up bonus at the time was deceptively good because of some redemption options for Virgin America points on Hawaiian Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.

Hawaiian
Virgin Atlantic

Well that 20k point sign up disappeared, and the normal 10k sign up bonus returned.

But now there are two different sign up bonuses floating around: 20k and 10k + a free roundtrip. Both are intriguing, but which one is right for you?

20k Elevate Points

This page about an expired Virgin America/Visa Signature/USA Ski Team promotion has an application link to a 20k Virgin America offer after first purchase.

  • 20k Elevate Points after first use
  • $150 off a companion ticket each year
  • 3x points on Virgin America purchases
  • $49 annual fee

The $150 companion discount is actually worth about $150 too. The terms and conditions allow the discount to be applied to pretty much any roundtrip ticket purchased at least 14 days out.

Hat Tip Daraius

10k Elevate points + a Free Roundtrip

Barclay’s has temporarily sweetened the normal 10k offer to include a free roundtrip ticket on Virgin.

So this offer breaks down like this:

  • 10k Elevate Points after first use
  • A free roundtrip flight anywhere Virgin America flies until 7/11/13 (blackout dates apply) after $1,000 in spending in the first 90 days
  • $150 off a companion ticket each year
  • 3x points on Virgin America purchases
  • $49 annual fee

So this offer is identical to the 20k offer in every way except that this offer has an extra free roundtrip and 10k fewer points, plus this offer requires $1,000 in spending to unlock all components of the bonus.

Which is more valuable: 10k Elevate points or a free roundtrip on Virgin America?

Elevate points are worth about 2 cents. Here are a few screenshots showing a roundtrip from Los Angeles to Boston on Virgin and its cost in cash versus points.

Using the MileValue Mile Value Calculator, this itinerary gets 2.07 cents worth of value per point.

That means an extra 10k points is worth $207. That makes the free roundtrip pretty clearly the more valuable perk if you can use it well, since cross country trips normally cost $300 or more.

Can you use it well?

The free roundtrip code comes 4-6 weeks after spending the $1,000. That means you will get the code around April or May if you get the card and meet the spending requirement immediately. That would give you about two months to fly a roundtrip anywhere Virgin America flies.

Opportunity Cost

The opportunity cost of a card is what you give up to get it. When you get a great American Express personal card, that means you can’t get a different American Express personal card until later.

But this card is issued by Barclay’s, which has only two or three cards worth getting. That means there isn’t much opportunity cost to getting this card.

Which Card for You?

If you want to use your Virgin America points on one of its partners like Hawaiian, Virgin Atlantic, or Virgin Australia, then you want the version with as many points as possible, the 20k sign up bonus.

Application Link: Virgin Atlantic Visa Signature with 20k points

If you want to use your Virgin America points on Virgin America and you want to take a roundtrip flight between May and July, you are better off with the 10k points plus free roundtrip.

Application Link: Virgin Atlantic Visa Signature with 10k points and free roundtrip on Virgin

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

0

Singapore has recently entered a codesharing partnership with Virgin America to allow more passengers to connect to Singapore flights leaving Los Angeles and San Francisco.

To celebrate the partnership, you can earn both Singapore miles and Virgin America points for the codeshared flights from now until February 28, 2013.

To earn the double dip, you must register your flights in advance here. You have to provide a KrisFlyer and Elevate number, so you must be crediting the flights to those programs.

You will earn KrisFlyer miles equal to the distance of the Virgin America flight plus whatever other KrisFlyer miles you are entitled to for the Singapore-operated flights. You will earn a set number of Virgin America points depending on the route.

My Take

This is a great promo for free Virgin America points if you already have a flight booked on Singapore between now February 28 with a Virgin America operated leg. But it’s not going to be worth booking such a flight.

Further Reading

Virgin America has an incredible chart, so I want to earn its points where possible.

20k Points Roundtrip to Hawaii, 45k to Asia, 55k to Australia

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for 35k Roundtrip

Full Terms & Conditions

Hat Tip Dorron

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

0

American Airlines Buy Miles Promotion

American Airlines is offering bonus miles on all AAdvantage miles purchases through January 31. As with past promotions, the bonus miles awarded are scaled. Buying 40,000 (or more) miles will yield a 15k bonus. Buying lesser quantities will result in fewer bonus miles being awarded.

The full promotion chart can be found below.

American seems to be running these deals fairly regularly. I’ve analyzed their fall and holiday buy miles promotions here and here.

How do I get in on this deal?

Simply go to American’s purchase miles page here and enter your AAdvantage information. You will then be taken to a payment screen for processing. Remember that these buy miles transactions are processed through Points.com and not American directly. If you are a Citi AAdvantage cardholder, these purchases will not be eligible for the double miles bonus.

Anything new about this promotion?

I touched on this in a previous post, but American quietly raised the annual limit of purchasing miles per account from 40,000 to 60,000.

That’s great, should I go for the maximum 60,000 miles purchase?

Absolutely not! Purchasing 60k miles will get you 75k total miles (including the bonus) for $1,808.75. You are buying miles for 2.41 cents. From a cents per mile standpoint, there are smarter purchase options on this chart. Buying 25k will get you 33k miles for $774.06, or 2.34 cents. We can do even better, though.

The “sweet spot” of American’s holiday award chart is buying 40k miles. Buying 40k will yield 55k total miles for $1,217.50, or 2.21 cents.

According to the Mile Value Leaderboard, we value AAdvantage miles at 1.77 cents. This promotion is still too expensive to buy miles speculatively (without a specific award redemption in mind). It’s not even close to the lucrative US Airways share miles promotion in October where you could effectively purchase miles for 1.1 cents. We wrote up (and fully leveraged) that deal in this post, Buy US Airways Miles for 1.1 Cents through 100% Share Miles Bonus.

Interestingly enough, American’s own site lays out the best use for their current buy miles promotion: “Buying miles is the easy way to top up your account to get the award you want.”

I don’t know if I’m close to an AAdvantage award. What are some good uses for American’s miles?

Though Scott just wrote up a big issue with American miles (see: American Airlines Miles’ Fatal Flaw?), there are plenty of great redemption opportunities available, especially with their huge route network to Europe.

Using American miles is also a great way to get to Tahiti and Bora Bora on partners Hawaiian and Air Tahiti Nui. For a complete breakdown, check out the post Getting to Tahiti with American Miles.

Scott discussed how you can leverage AAdvantage miles to get to Europe for only 20k miles in economy all summer! You can even get free oneways on American awards. Just be sure to follow their strict routing rules. For complete information, check out Scott’s post, Master Thread: Free Oneways on American Airlines Awards.

Virgin America Buy Elevate Points Promotion

According to this thread on FlyerTalk, Virgin America is running a promotion through January 31 where you can receive up to a 50% bonus when purchasing Elevate Points.

To purchase Elevate Points, simply go to Virgin America’s site here. The complete bonus promotion chart can be found below.

What is the maximum number of Elevate Points I can purchase?

You can purchase up to 20,000 points which will yield 30,000 points, including the 50% bonus. The total cost for the 30k points would be $1,040. You would be buying Elevate Points for approximately 3.46 cents.

Note that the annual limit on purchases is 20,000 Elevate Points.

What does 30k Elevate Points get me?

Elevate Points appears to have a fixed value when redeeming on Virgin America. You can typically find between 1.6-2.3 cents in value, so buying points speculatively doesn’t make sense if you are going to use them on Virgin America directly.

Back to the drawing board. What are some good redemptions for Elevate Points?

Scott actually wrote a comprehensive post on Virgin America and last month. You can read his analysis here, Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for 35k. In that post he proclaimed that Virgin America might have the best award chart in the world. You can redeem your Elevate Points on Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia, and even Hawaiian Airlines. Be very aware of fuel surcharges on Virgin Atlantic/Australia, but using your Elevate Points on Hawaiian can be extremely lucrative.

There’s evidence to back up that bold claim, too. As Scott wrote in his post, 20k Points Roundtrip to Hawaii, 45k Roundtrip to Asia, 55k Roundtrip to Australia, it’s tough to beat Virgin America’s fantastic award chart on Hawaiian.

Though I couldn’t find a published partner award chart, you can actually go to Virgin’s site here and plug in your city pairs to find out how many Elevate Points you need for a specific redemption. For example, I plugged in Los Angeles <-> Honolulu.

You don’t even need to play around with Virgin’s partner award tool, though! Scott was even helpful enough to piece together Virgin America’s partner chart with Hawaiian. You can check the oneway/roundtrip pricing below:

Purchasing small amounts might be beneficial, especially if you are planning to island hop on a Hawaiian vacation. Buying 3,500 Elevate Points for $130 will get you a oneway interisland award on Hawaiian. In some cases, that is cheaper than buying the ticket outright.

Will you be taking advantage of this promotion?

I’m leaning towards sitting this one out, but Scott and I each try to travel to Hawaii annually, and sometimes more than once a year. I’m also looking to book an award on Virgin Australia in the next 18 months, so I will probably attempt to accumulate a stash of Elevate Points in the near future. When I figure out a strategy to accumulate and leverage them to the fullest, you will read about it here first.

Besides this purchase promotion, what are some other ways to bank Elevate Points?

You can fly on Virgin America, but earning Elevate Points is attached to the cost of your airfare as opposed to the distance flown. You earn 5 Elevate Points per $1 on your base fare. Unless you live near their hubs in Los Angeles and San Francisco and fly pricey segments frequently, it will be tough to earn enough Elevate Points for an aspirational award.

American Express Membership Rewards is a transfer partner of Virgin America at a ratio of 2:1. That unfavorable ratio usually makes most transfers a bad deal. A 50% transfer bonus was recently offered by AMEX which could make sense for some awards. If AMEX ever offered a 100% transfer bonus in the future, I would pounce on it.

You can sign up for the Virgin America Visa Signature card, though it’s currently only offering 10k points after first purchase. In the past, there have been 20k first purchase offers, so I would probably sit this one out for the time being.

Starpoints, the currency of the Starwood Preferred Guest program, aren’t a Virgin America transfer partner, so that’s not a viable option.

Recap

American Airlines is running yet another purchase miles promotion. Even with the bonus, you shouldn’t be buying miles speculatively. If you need to top off your balance to reach an award ticket threshold, then I would definitely take a look.

Virgin America is also offering a bonus on Elevate Point purchases. You can book some solid awards on Virgin America’s sister airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia, but you need to be aware of the high fuel surcharges.

The best use of Elevate Points is on Virgin America’s partner, Hawaiian Airlines. The award chart is extremely favorable, especially if you are flying to Hawaii from the West Coast, building an award that includes inter-island travel , or flying from Hawaii <-> Tahiti. Best of all, there aren’t any fuel surcharges! Hawaiian has a solid economy product but their first class product probably isn’t worth the mileage premium when redeeming.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

Virgin America might have the best award chart in the world. Last week I covered the amazing deals to, from, and within Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines using Virgin America points. See 20k Points Roundtrip to Hawaii, 45k Roundtrip to Asia, 55k Roundtrip to Australia.

That discovery made me investigate Virgin America’s partner award charts more closely. Virgin America lists two other partners on which you can redeem: Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia.

Yes, the Virgin A’s are three separate airlines that have all licensed the Virgin brand name. Virgin America has hubs in San Francisco and Los Angeles; Virgin Atlantic has a hub in London; and Virgin Australia has hubs in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane.

I’ve covered the foreign Virgin A’s before because both have fantastic business class products.

See How to Book Flat Beds to Australia at Peak Times without Surcharges on Virgin Australia with Delta SkyMiles.

See Hawaiian Devalues its Virgin Atlantic Chart.

But I’ve never seen a way to get on their premium products for anywhere near as cheap as Virgin America’s chart.

For only 35,000 Virgin America points, you can fly roundtrip from New York, Newark, Boston, Washington DC, and Chicago to London.

Miami is 40k roundtrip. Dallas and the west coast–Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, and Vancouver–cost 50k roundtrip.

Of course, the issue is the Taxes & Fees–namely the fuel surcharges. You will pay only 35,000 points for the award, but you will pay over $1,000 in cash.

Still this is a deal that I think is very worthy of consideration. Normally business class costs 100k roundtrip to Europe. You can get a nice business class like United, US Airways, or Austrian for under $300 out of pocket in government taxes if you are flying to London.

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class is better than those business class products from what I’ve read. Not to mention the Clubhouses look better than a standard business class lounge by a mile.

So is the extra $700-$800 out of pocket worth the better product and saving 65k points? That depends on how points rich and cash rich you are, but for many people the answer will be yes.

Or to look at it another way: if you valued a roundtrip Upper Class ticket at $2,000 (a fraction of its cost), and you had to pay 35,000 points and $1,000, you’d be getting about 3 cents per point in value–pretty fantastic!

You can take a look at all the possibilities to redeem Virgin America points on Virgin Atlantic flights here. You’ll generally find complete steals in points with annoying surcharges.

There is no chart, only dropdown boxes to choose a departure and arrival city.

From playing around a bit, I can tell that each segment adds to the total price, so LAX to Johannesburg equals LAX to London plus London to Johannesburg since the trip would route that way. Oneway awards are available for about 60% of the roundtrip points needed.

Virgin Australia

Virgin America points can also be redeemed on Virgin Australia flights. While not quite as spectacular as Virgin Atlantic Upper Class, Virgin Australia business class gets lots of praise too for its fully flat beds.

Virgin Australia is one of the few bright spots of the Delta SkyMiles program because award availability is spectacular, and Delta doesn’t charge surcharges on the awards making the out of pocket price 150k SkyMiles and $150.

Unfortunately Virgin America does collect surcharges, but the award price in miles is a steal compared to Delta’s price.

The US–Los Angeles or San Francisco–to Australia–Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane–is only 80k points and $850. That’s 70k fewer points than a SkyMiles redemption though it will cost though $700 more.

Saving 70k points at the cost of $700 extra is like paying one cent per point to buy points, something that I have advocated before. Again this deal may not be for everyone, but for some, the deal is too good to pass up.

Like the Virgin Atlantic awards, no chart is published. Instead the Virgin Australia page uses the same dropdown boxes. Oneway awards are available for about 60% of the roundtrip points needed.

How to Get Virgin America Points

There are three main ways to get Virgin America points to take advantage of its favorable chart for Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia redemptions.

Like all airlines, you can earn points by flying butt-in-seat miles. Virgin points are earned at a rate of 5 per $ on your base fare. They are not earned the way that legacy-carrier miles are earned–based on the distance of your paid flights’ routings.

Butt-in-seat is probably only viable for people who live near LAX and SFO–Virgin’s hubs.

The easiest way for most people is probably the Virgin America Visa Signature card from Barclay’s.

The card comes with 20k Elevate points on first purchase. That’s more than half the points needed for a roundtrip flight in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class from New York, Newark, Chicago, Washington DC, and Boston to London.

The card comes with a very low $49 annual fee, which is more than offset by the $150 annual companion ticket discount code. And unlike a lot of companion ticket discounts, this one is actually easy to use. It is valid on any roundtrip published airfare, purchased 14 days in advance as long as the cardholder is on the itinerary.

Finally, the card is issued by Barclay’s, which is great, since you can get it in addition to other offers from the other banks with more rewards cards. And it has no minimum spend to get the points, which is great if your spending is being spread thin by the ever-growing minimum spends on most cards.

I should also mention that 20k is the highest bonus I’ve ever seen on this card–the application page notes it is double the usual bonus–so I am not expecting a bigger bonus any time soon.

Application Link: 20k Virgin America Visa Signature Card

The last option to get Elevate points is through a transfer from Membership Rewards. AMEX points transfer at a 2:1 rate, meaning 2,000 Membership Rewards gets 1,000 Virgin America points.

That means you could get the card and 20k points, then transfer 30k Membership Rewards to 15k Elevate points to make 35k total Elevate points, enough for a roundtrip in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class.

In November, there was a 50% transfer bonus to from Membership Rewards to Virgin America, which made the transfer rate 4:3. At that rate, you could get in premium cabins for even fewer points.

Virgin America is not a transfer partner of SPG.

How to Book

Virgin America partner awards need to be booked by phone by calling 877.FLY.VIRGIN (877.359.8474). Researching Virgin Australia space can be done online at delta.com. I don’t know a place to research Virgin Atlantic space online.

Recap

Virgin America may have the world’s best award chart. In addition to its partnership with Hawaiian Airlines, Virgin America partners with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia.

Unfortunately it collects surcharges on awards on the Virgins, but the point prices are so low that the awards can still be a great deal. Virgin Atlantic Upper Class starts at 35k roundtrip, and Virgin Australia business starts at 80k.

These awards would normally cost 100k and 150k respectively.

People with Virgin America miles have a new cheapest way to get into Upper Class. If you don’t have any miles, consider the Virgin America credit card or a Membership Rewards transfer.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

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