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The Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard® is offering up to 90,000 bonus miles until June 9, but there are quite a few strings attached.

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The bottom line is that you earn 127,500 Virgin Atlantic miles after spending $25,000 in the first year on the card. The offer breaks down like this:

25,000 Immediate Miles after First Purchase & Annual Fee

  • 20,000 Flying Club bonus miles after your first retail purchase
  • Earn 2,500 Flying Club miles for each authorized user you add to the card up to 5,000 Flying Club bonus miles
  • The card has a $90 annual fee that is NOT waived the first year.

This is 25,000 total miles just for opening the card, adding two authorized users, making one purchase, and paying the $90 annual fee.

  • How can you earn the last 65,000 bonus miles?
  • What are the best uses of Virgin Atlantic miles?
  • Should you open this card?

Miles as Soon as You Spend $12,000 within 6 Months

  • 50,000 additional Flying Club bonus miles after you spend at least $12,000 in qualifying purchases within 6 months of your account open date

We’re up to 75,000 bonus miles. Plus the card earns 1.5 miles per dollar on all purchases, so you’d have 93,000 Virgin Atlantic miles after spending $12,000 on the card.

Miles in a Year

  • Earn 7,500 bonus miles upon anniversary if you spend $15,000 in a year on the card
  • Earn 15,000 bonus miles upon anniversary if you spend $25,000 in a year on the card
  • The card has a $90 annual fee that you’d have to pay again to get these anniversary miles.

The first anniversary bonus threshold is only $3,000 beyond the minimum spending requirement, so that seems like a no-brainer if you’ve gotten this far. You’d get 12,000 miles for that $3,000 in spending (4,500 for the normal spending and 7,500 bonus) or 4 miles per dollar.

The last 7,500 bonus miles would cost another $10,000 in spending, so the return isn’t nearly as good.

If you spent $25,000 on the card in the first year (and $12,000 was in the first six months, and you added two authorized users), your total haul would be 127,500 Virgin Atlantic miles.

  • 90,000 for the various bonuses
  • 37,500 for $25,000 * 1.5 miles per dollar on all spending

You would also have paid $180 in annual fees.

How to Use Virgin Atlantic Miles

Awards booked with Virgin Atlantic miles have fuel surcharges whenever the equivalent cash ticket would have fuel surcharges. Here are the best uses of Virgin Atlantic miles.

From a previous post:

1. Among the Cheapest Economy Awards to Europe (in Miles)

The first reason to get Virgin Atlantic miles is that economy class awards to Europe require far fewer miles than competitors’ charge. From Boston, New York, Washington, and Chicago, you only need 17,500 Virgin Atlantic miles for a one way flight to the UK on Virgin Atlantic flights.

And taxes and and fuel surcharges on the one way from the US to Europe are only $98!

Combine a one way from the eastern US to Europe for 17.5k Virgin Atlantic miles plus $98 and return from a low tax country to the US on a one way award with United or American miles for a very cheap European vacation.

I wrote more about searching Virgin Atlantic award space, the fuel surcharges you’ll see, and booking the space in Huge Deal: 13k Miles to Europe This Summer.

2. Incredible Value Partner Awards

Virgin Atlantic has several airline partners.

Each has its own award chart, and the values can be good, especially with this transfer bonus. Best of all, many of the partners don’t collect fuel surcharges on their flights, so Virgin Atlantic doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on award tickets on those airlines!

I called Flying Club at (800) 365-9500 and priced out several awards.

The call was fairly smooth although the agent told me that Atlanta to Buenos Aires on Delta wasn’t bookable with Virgin Atlantic miles. When I pressed him to double check, he came back with the news that it indeed is bookable. As always, you may know more than the phone agents, so be polite but firm.

Award prices including unavoidable government taxes (none include fuel surcharges):

[Update 10/8/14, these taxes will be slightly higher now since the new tax on flights departing the USA is $5.60 one way instead of $2.50 per flight.]

  • Atlanta to Buenos Aires in roundtrip economy on Delta: 45k miles + $77.32
  • New York to London in roundtrip economy on Delta: 40k miles + $190.60
  • Atlanta to Los Angeles in roundtrip economy on Delta: 25k miles + $5
  • New York to Paris in roundtrip economy on Delta: 60k miles + $90.66
  • New York to Honolulu in roundtrip First on Hawaiian: 130k miles  + $5
  • New York to LAX in roundtrip Main Cabin Select on Virgin America: 50k miles + $5 from Tuesday to Sunday over Thanksgiving

I learned a few key things about partner awards from the call:

  • Delta awards have no fuel surcharges, just the same government taxes as booking with Delta miles.
  • The Delta award chart is way underpriced to Southern South America. Buenos Aires for 45k Virgin Atlantic miles roundtrip is a steal.
  • There are no fuel surcharges on Hawaiian Airlines award flights.
  • The Hawaiian award chart says economy roundtrips are “from 40,000 miles” and first is “from 80,000 miles.” Those prices only refer to roundtrips from the western US. The roundtrip price to/from JFK is quite a bit higher.
  • There are no fuel surcharges on Virgin America award flights.
  • Not all Virgin America flights have award space that Virgin Atlantic has access to. There’s no way to check without calling Virgin Atlantic that I know of. Before calling, I didn’t know what to expect with respect to Virgin America space since Virgin America’s program is revenue-based and doesn’t include a concept of “award space.”
  • The Virgin Atlantic/US Airways partnership is dead, so you can’t use Flying Club miles to fly US Airways.

3. Virgin Atlantic Upper Class

Virgin Atlantic’s Business Class–called Upper Class–is one of the best in the world with many folks comparing it to First Class. I am anxious to fly it.

Virgin Atlantic offers its Flying Club members the best award availability, but the catch is the fuel surcharges (plus departing London taxes) of around $1,000 per roundtrip award in Upper Class.

While the out-of-pocket is a big drawback, the miles prices are very low. New York and Chicago to London are only 80k miles roundtrip in Upper Class and Los Angeles and San Francisco to London roundtrip in Upper Class are only 100k miles.

If you want to avoid fuel surcharges, Delta miles can be used to book Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for 125k miles plus taxes and no fuel surcharges. But Delta SkyMiles members don’t have access to the same award availability as Virgin Atlantic Flying Club members.

4. Transfers to Hilton Points

Virgin Atlantic miles transfer to Hilton points at a 1 mile to 1.5 points rate. I’ve described transferring my own Virgin Atlantic miles to Hilton points in Transferring Virgin Atlantic Miles to Hilton HHonors Points.

I wouldn’t make this transfer. If you do, though, make sure to use the Hilton points at Category 1 and 2 properties.

Should You Get the Virgin Atlantic Credit Card

Probably not. I know the headline bonus miles number is humungous, but the miles aren’t very valuable and the spending requirement is high.

Only get the card if you have gotten other, better cards already, you can easily meet the big spending requirement on this card, and you can get good value from one of the few truly good uses of the card’s miles.

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Waikiki Sunset

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You can get both the Citi Prestige and Citi ThankYou Premier, each with 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after spending $3,000 in the first three months, as long as you apply at least eight days apart.

Meet both minimum spending requirements, and you’ll have at least 106,000 ThankYou Points, in one account if you follow the simple steps to combine your accounts.

Here are the top eight ways I would use the 106,000 point sign up bonus for flights in Economy and First Class to Hawaii, Europe, South America, or anywhere else in the world.

1. ~$2,300 in American Airlines Flights

Each of the 106,000 points can be used like cash toward any American Airlines or US Airways flight at a rate of 1.6 cents per point. That’s ~$1,700 worth of American Airlines or US Airways flights.

And on every one of those flights, you’ll earn American Airlines miles because the airline sees your ticket as a cash ticket. The exact number of miles is determined by where you actually fly, but 25,000 American Airlines miles is a reasonable estimate. That’s enough miles to redeem for one way cross-country in American Airline’s new flat bed Business Class or one way in economy to Europe, Asia, or South America at off peak prices. Redeeming these 25,000 miles well should be worth around $600.

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American’s Flat Bed Cross-Country Business Class

That’s about $2,300 in American Airlines flights from the 106,000 original ThankYou Points. I covered this topic more thoroughly in Get $2,800 in American Airlines Flights in Five Steps from Only Two Cards. (The extra $500 in that title comes from the $250 Air Travel Credits on the Citi Prestige.)

2. Four Roundtrips to Europe or Israel

You can transfer 100,000 ThankYou Points to AirFrance Flying Blue miles and book four roundtrip Promo Awards to Europe.

IMG_20131004_140450
Head to Munich for Oktoberfest for 25,000 miles

Every month, Air France releases a list of American cities. You can fly from the listed cities to anywhere in Europe or Israel for as little as 12,500 Flying Blue miles + taxes + a $55 fuel surcharge each way. Usually you have one month to book awards that must be flown 1-4 months in the future.

Right now, Promo Awards are bookable for summer travel, so the list isn’t as good as usual. But in June and July when Fall travel becomes bookable as Promo Awards, I’d expect to see more cities offered like New York, Dallas, Houston, Washington, Miami, and other places where Air France and KLM fly.

Award space is usually widely available during the Promo Awards dates, and because Flying Blue groups Israel with Europe, you can also fly to Israel for as little as 25,000 miles + taxes + $110 roundtrip.

If your city isn’t on the Promo Awards list, you still have great options to Europe with ThankYou Points. You can transfer 110,000 ThankYou Points to Singapore KrisFlyer miles and book two roundtrips to Europe in United economy with NO fuel surcharges. Singapore has access to the United Saver award space on united.com, so I was easily able to book myself Washington DC to Madrid for 27,500 Singapore miles + $20 last month.

3. Two Roundtrips to Buenos Aires or Rio

You can transfer 90,000 ThankYou Points to Virgin Atlantic miles and book two roundtrips in Delta economy to Southern South America including Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. Delta would charge 120,000 miles for the same award space.

Virgin Atlantic will have access to any Delta award space to Southern South America that you can find for 30,000 miles one way on delta.com. Search from your home airport to South America or your home airport to Atlanta and Atlanta to South America separately if necessary.

I don’t want to over-sell or under-sell this award space. It isn’t available every day, but there is plenty even at great times to travel if you are flexible. For instance, here is the available space in orange to Rio de Janeiro in September and October.

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 1.51.34 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 1.51.39 PM

Here is the space in orange to Buenos Aires in November and December.Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 1.51.55 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 1.52.21 PM

To book the space you find on delta.com with Virgin Atlantic miles, call Virgin Atlantic. Expect to pay 45,000 Virgin Atlantic miles and about $80 in taxes per person for a roundtrip.

4. Four Roundtrips to Hawaii (120k)

You can transfer 120,000 ThankYou Points to Air France Flying Blue miles and book four roundtrip awards to Hawaii with Delta award space. Delta would charge 180,000 miles for the same award space.

Waikiki Sunset
Waikiki Sunset

You can initially search on delta.com or airfrance.us; the latter is where you’ll eventually book.

Award space is more available than you might think, especially if you search in winter. Even though I think winter is the best time to visit Hawaii for a contrast between 40 degrees at home and 80 degrees at the beach in Hawaii, it is the low season.

Here is award space from Los Angeles to Honolulu for four people in March. All the orange days that say 22,500 will have space that is bookable for 15,000 miles one way on airfrance.us. Search from your home airport to all four major Hawaiian islands to find your dream award space.

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 2.03.22 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 2.03.45 PM

5. Two Roundtrips in First Class (flat bed) to Hawaii (120k)

You can transfer 120,000 ThankYou Points to Singapore miles and book two roundtrips in United First Class to Hawaii. You would need 160,000 United miles to book the same award space.

All United First Class seats from Newark and Washington DC to Hawaii are flat beds and some flights from Houston and San Francisco also feature beds. I’ve flown all four routes on flat beds, and it’s very nice to be able to get some great sleep on flights that are often longer than flights from the East Coast to Europe.

To book United flat beds to Hawaii with Singapore miles, search united.com for Saver award space then call Singapore. In addition to the miles, you’ll just pay about $11 in taxes roundtrip per person.

If you’re not sure whether your flight will have seats or beds, click View Seats on united.com. These squares mean regular recliner seats.

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 2.18.24 PM

These icons mean beds.

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 2.22.09 PM

Right now the flat bed award space isn’t fantastic to Hawaii, though there is some via San Francisco on the daily 767-400ER flight with flat beds in First Class. United tends to open up more award space in the last few weeks before departure, though, and Singapore doesn’t charge a fee for booking within three weeks of departure like some airlines. Waiting may be your best bet.

6. Six One Ways to London

7. Four One Ways to London in Premium Economy (110k)

Transfer 105,000 ThankYou Points to Virgin Atlantic miles for six one ways to London in Virgin Atlantic economy or 110,000 ThankYou Points for four one ways in Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy, which looks a lot like domestic First Class in the United States.

Award space is fairly good in both cabins and is searchable and bookable on virginatlantic.com.

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 2.26.04 PM

Here is the award space for three people in October from Washington DC to London.Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 2.26.43 PM

So why did I phrase this as six and four one ways instead of three and two roundtrips?

Not only do these awards have fuel surcharges, but there is a gigantic tax for departing London.

For economy, one way to London costs 17,500 miles + $134.60. That’s $129 in fuel surcharges, and $5.60 in taxes.Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 2.27.25 PM

The return costs the same miles + $323. That represents a fuel surcharge plus almost $200 in taxes for departing London.Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 2.27.29 PM

Three roundtrips would cost 105,000 miles + $1,373.

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 2.27.42 PM

Six one ways to London would cost the same miles but only $808 in taxes and fuel surcharges. Then move onto somewhere else in Europe with the $570 in savings and return with a different type of miles to save on taxes and fuel surcharges.

We see the same story for Premium Economy redemptions. You pay 27,500 miles + $235 going east…
Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 2.28.51 PM …but more than $300 extra heading west.Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 2.28.55 PM

I can make a strong case for paying 27,500 miles + $235 one way in Premium Economy. Most airlines charge 27,500 miles or more in regular economy, and Premium Economy is a much bigger seat with more legroom, and more freebies. It’s worth paying an extra $200, I think.

But the return is too much. Fly back from the continent with miles that don’t collect a fuel surcharge.

8. Three Roundtrips to Peru

You can transfer 105,000 ThankYou Points to Flying Blue miles to fly three roundtrips to Peru or anywhere else in Northern South America on Delta flights. Delta would charge 135,000 miles for the same award space.

Search on airfrance.us and book there with no fees or fuel surcharges.

Bottom Line

You can get both the Citi Prestige and Citi ThankYou Premier, each with 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after spending $3,000 in the first three months, as long as you apply at least eight days apart. Meet both minimum spending requirements, and you’ll have at least 106,000 ThankYou Points, and probably more since both offer 3x and 2x category bonuses.

You have a ton of options with 106,000+ ThankYou Points. You can use them like cash toward American Airlines flights or transfer the points to Singapore, Flying Blue, or Virgin Atlantic miles. Great awards are available to Hawaii, Europe, and South America; or when using the points like cash you can fly any flight to anywhere.

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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 an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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American Express Membership Rewards transfers to Virgin Atlantic miles will come with an automatic 25% transfer bonus from now through April 30, 2015. We last saw a 35% bonus in November 2014.

This transfer bonus allows you to fly:

  • One way from the US to London for only 14k Membership Rewards and $131.
  • One way from the US to London in Premium Economy for 22k Membership Rewards + $231.
  • Roundtrip from the US to Buenos Aires (or anywhere else in South America) for 36k Membership Rewards and $77.
  • Tons of other great routes for low mileage, taxes, and fees.

Virgin Atlantic is a London-based longhaul carrier best known for its Upper Class cabins and Clubhouse lounges. (Do not confuse it with Virgin America or Virgin Australia, which are all independent airlines.) It is not part of any alliance, so its dozen airline partners span the globe and all the alliances.

  • Should you transfer Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic?
  • What are the key features of Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club?
  • How can you get to Europe for 14k Membership Rewards and to South America roundtrip for 36k Membership Rewards?
  • How can you get Membership Rewards?

Until April 30, 2015, you can transfer increments of 1,000 American Express points to 1,250 Virgin Atlantic miles automatically at membershiprewards.com.

 

There are three main reasons you would want Virgin Atlantic miles.

1. Among the Cheapest Economy and Premium Economy Awards to Europe (in Miles)

The first reason to get Virgin Atlantic miles is that economy class awards to Europe require far fewer miles than competitors’ charge. From Boston, New York, Washington, and Chicago, you only need 17,500 Virgin Atlantic miles (14k Membership Rewards) for a one way flight to the United Kingdom.

And taxes and fees on the one way from the United States to Europe are only $131!

Combine a one way from the eastern United States to Europe for 14k Membership Rewards plus $131 and return from a low tax country–like Spain or Switzerland–to the United States on a one way award with United or American miles for a very cheap European vacation.

I wrote more about searching Virgin Atlantic award space, the fuel surcharges you’ll see, and booking the space in Huge Deal: 13k Miles to Europe This Summer.

Or you can fly one way from parts of the United States to the United Kingdom in Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy for only 27,500 miles (22k Membership Rewards) and $231.

Premium Economy on Virgin Atlantic is more akin to United First Class on domestic flights than United Economy Plus. It’s not just a big seat; Premium Economy comes with all the amenities in this promotional video.

2. Incredible Value Partner Awards

Virgin Atlantic has several airline partners.

Screen Shot 2014-05-12 at 3.20.02 AM

Each has its own award chart, and the values can be good, especially with this transfer bonus. Best of all, on many partners, Virgin Atlantic doesn’t collect any fuel surcharges!

Last year I called Flying Club at (800) 365-9500 and priced out several awards.

The call was fairly smooth although the agent told me that Atlanta to Buenos Aires on Delta wasn’t bookable with Virgin Atlantic miles. When I pressed him to double check, he came back with the news that it indeed is bookable. As always, you may know more than the phone agents, so be polite but firm.

Award prices including unavoidable government taxes (none include fuel surcharges):

  • Atlanta to Buenos Aires in roundtrip economy on Delta: 45k miles (36k MR) + $77.32
  • New York to London in roundtrip economy on Delta: 40k miles (32k MR) + $190.60
  • Atlanta to Los Angeles in roundtrip economy on Delta: 25k miles (20k MR) + $11.20
  • New York to Paris in roundtrip economy on Delta: 60k miles (48k MR) + $90.66
  • New York to Honolulu in roundtrip First on Hawaiian: 130k miles (104k MR) + $11.20
  • New York to LAX in roundtrip Main Cabin Select on Virgin America: 50k miles (40k MR) + $11.20 from Tuesday to Sunday over Thanksgiving

I learned a few key things about partner awards from the call:

  • Delta awards have no fuel surcharges, just the same government taxes as booking with Delta miles.
  • The Delta award chart is way underpriced to Southern South America. Buenos Aires for 36k Membership Rewards roundtrip is a steal. If you transferred Membership Rewards to Delta miles to book the exact same seats, you’d need 60k Membership Rewards.
  • There are no fuel surcharges on Hawaiian Airlines award flights.
  • The Hawaiian award chart says economy roundtrips are “from 40,000 miles” and first is “from 80,000 miles.” Those prices only refer to roundtrips from the western US. The roundtrip price to/from JFK is quite a bit higher.
  • There are no fuel surcharges on Virgin America award flights.
  • Not all Virgin America flights have award space that Virgin Atlantic has access to. There’s no way to check without calling Virgin Atlantic that I know of. Before calling, I didn’t know what to expect with respect to Virgin America space since Virgin America’s program is revenue-based and doesn’t include a concept of “award space.”

3. Virgin Atlantic Upper Class

Virgin Atlantic’s Business Class–called Upper Class–is one of the best in the world with many folks comparing it to First Class. I am anxious to fly it.

Virgin Atlantic offers its Flying Club members the best award availability, but the catch is the fuel surcharges (plus departing London taxes) of around $1,000 per roundtrip award in Upper Class.

While the out-of-pocket cost is a big drawback, the miles prices are very low. New York and Chicago to London are only 80k miles (64k Membership Rewards) roundtrip in Upper Class and Los Angeles and San Francisco to London roundtrip in Upper Class are only 100k miles (80k Membership Rewards).

Roundtrip Miles Prices to UK with Flying Club Miles listed Economy, Premium Economy, Upper Class from left to right

If you want to avoid fuel surcharges, Delta miles can be used to book Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for 125k miles plus taxes and no fuel surcharges. But Delta SkyMiles members don’t have access to the same award availability as Virgin Atlantic Flying Club members.

4. Other uses?

Did I miss any great uses of Virgin Atlantic miles? These small foreign programs get so few expert eyeballs on them, so I know that many have hidden gems. Hopefully I’ve exposed some with the partner flights in this post. If you know of others, share them in the comments please.

Getting the Miles

Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards both transfer 1:1 to Virgin Atlantic miles. Ultimate Rewards have never had a transfer bonus, and I like to use my Ultimate Rewards with United miles, so I strongly favor transferring Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic miles if you want Virgin Atlantic miles.

Membership Rewards are earned by all Platinum and Gold cards.

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Right now, there is also a “90,000 mile sign up bonus” (not really, for reasons explained here) on the Virgin Atlantic credit card.

Recap

The 25% transfer bonus from Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic has some highly valuable uses including cheap one ways to Europe on Virgin Atlantic, access to better award space in Upper Class with low mileage outlays, and partner awards at very low mileage prices with no fuel surcharges.

Have any of the award possibilities piqued your interest?

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Earn up to 20 free hotel nights after meeting spending $2,500 in the first 90 days on the Club Carlson Visa.

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Citi ThankYou Points now transfer to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles at a 1:1 rate.

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 2.09.20 AMThat makes one hotel and 10 airline partners for Citi ThankYou Points earned on the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card and Citi Prestige® Card.

The Citi ThankYou® Premier Card comes with 50,000 bonus points: 20,000 after spending $2,000 in the first three months and 30,000 more after spending $3,000 in the first three months of the second year. Its awesome category bonuses are changing April 19. The definition of travel is expanding, and gas is being added as a 3x category.

The Citi Prestige® Card has a healthy 30,000 point bonus after spending $2,000 in the first three months and offers 3x points on air travel and hotels plus 2x points on dining and entertainment. But this card is really about the perks: American Airlines and Priority Pass lounge access including guests, $250 in airfare credits each calendar year, and free hotel nights.

Virgin Atlantic instantly becomes one of the top three transfer options for ThankYou points, along with Singapore miles for Singapore Suites or travel in the Western Hemisphere and Flying Blue miles for Promo awards to Europe and some awards on Delta.

There are three main uses for Virgin Atlantic miles:

1. Among the Cheapest Economy and Premium Economy Awards to Europe

Economy

Virgin Atlantic economy class awards to Europe require far fewer miles than competitors’ charge. From Boston, New York, Washington, and Chicago, you only need 17,500 Virgin Atlantic miles for a one way flight to the United Kingdom. (Actually only 13,125 miles until January 22, 2015.)

There are modest fuel surcharges on the award, so taxes and fees on the one way from the United States to Europe are $135.

Combine a one way from the eastern United States to Europe for 18,000 ThankYou Points plus $131 and return from a low tax country to the United States on a one way award with United, American, or Delta miles for a very cheap European vacation.

I wrote more about searching Virgin Atlantic award space, the fuel surcharges you’ll see, and booking the space in Transatlantic Award: 13,125 Miles One Way All Summer Long.

Premium Economy

You can fly one way from parts of the United States to the United Kingdom in Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy for only 27,500 miles and $231.

Premium Economy on Virgin Atlantic is more akin to United First Class on domestic flights than United Economy Plus. It’s not just a big seat; Premium Economy comes with all the amenities in this promotional video.

Considering most programs charge 30,000 miles one way in economy, this is a steal in my opinion even with the fuel surcharges.

2. Incredible Value Partner Awards

Virgin Atlantic has several airline partners.

Screen Shot 2014-05-12 at 3.20.02 AM

Virgin Atlantic has a separate award chart for each, and the values can be good, especially with this transfer bonus. Best of all, on many partners, Virgin Atlantic doesn’t collect any fuel surcharges!

Last year I called Flying Club at (800) 365-9500 and priced out several awards.

The call was fairly smooth although the agent told me that Atlanta to Buenos Aires on Delta wasn’t bookable with Virgin Atlantic miles. When I pressed him to double check, he came back with the news that it indeed is bookable. As always, you may know more than the phone agents, so be polite but firm.

Award prices including unavoidable government taxes (none include fuel surcharges):

  • Atlanta to Buenos Aires in roundtrip economy on Delta: 45k miles + $77.32
  • New York to London in roundtrip economy on Delta: 40k miles + $190.60
  • Atlanta to Los Angeles in roundtrip economy on Delta: 25k miles + $11.20
  • New York to Paris in roundtrip economy on Delta: 60k miles + $90.66
  • New York to Honolulu in roundtrip First on Hawaiian: 130k miles + $11.20

I learned a few key things about partner awards from the call:

  • Delta awards have no fuel surcharges, just the same government taxes as booking with Delta miles.
  • The Delta award chart is way underpriced to Southern South America. Buenos Aires for 45,000 ThankYou Points roundtrip is a steal. You’d need 60,000 Delta miles for the same award.
  • There are no fuel surcharges on Hawaiian Airlines award flights.
  • The Hawaiian award chart says economy roundtrips are “from 40,000 miles” and first is “from 80,000 miles.” Those prices only refer to roundtrips from the western US. The roundtrip price to/from JFK is quite a bit higher.
  • There are no fuel surcharges on Virgin America award flights.
  • Not all Virgin America flights have award space that Virgin Atlantic has access to. There’s no way to check without calling Virgin Atlantic that I know of.

3. Virgin Atlantic Upper Class

Virgin Atlantic’s Business Class–called Upper Class–features fully flat beds with direct aisle access.

Virgin Atlantic offers its Flying Club members the best award availability in Upper Class, but the catch is the fuel surcharges (plus departing London taxes) of around $1,000 per roundtrip award in Upper Class.

While the out-of-pocket cost is a big drawback, the miles prices are very low. New York and Chicago to London are only 80k miles roundtrip in Upper Class and Los Angeles and San Francisco to London roundtrip in Upper Class are only 100k miles.

Roundtrip Miles Prices to UK with Flying Club Miles listed Economy, Premium Economy, Upper Class from left to right

If you want to avoid fuel surcharges, Delta miles can be used to book Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for 125k miles plus taxes and no fuel surcharges. But Delta SkyMiles members don’t have access to the same award availability as Virgin Atlantic Flying Club members.

4. Other Uses?

Did I miss any great uses of Virgin Atlantic miles? These small foreign programs get so few expert eyeballs on them, so I know that many have hidden gems. Hopefully I’ve exposed some with the partner flights in this post. If you know of others, share them in the comments please.

Getting the Miles

Citi ThankYou Points earned on the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card and Citi Prestige® Card now transfer 1:1 to Virgin Atlantic miles.

Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards both transfer 1:1 to Virgin Atlantic miles. American Express ran transfer bonuses of 30% and 35% to Virgin Atlantic last year. Ultimate Rewards have never had a transfer bonus, and I like to use my Ultimate Rewards with United miles, so I strongly favor transferring Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou Points to Virgin Atlantic miles if you want Virgin Atlantic miles.

The Virgin Atlantic credit card offers “90,000 bonus miles” if you jump through a lot of hoops.

Bottom Line

Citi has added major value to its ThankYou program three times since I got my Citi ThankYou® Premier Card. First by adding airline transfer partners including Singapore, then by adding Air France Flying Blue as a partner, and now by adding Virgin Atlantic Flyinc Club. These continuous additions of value are one reason I plan to get the Citi Prestige® Card very soon.

Virgin Atlantic miles offer super cheap economy awards to Europe (13,125 miles until tomorrow and 17,500 miles normally), Premium Economy awards to Europe (27,500 miles), and Upper Class awards to Europe (40,000 miles.) Unfortunately all of these awards have fuel surcharges, but the miles prices may be low enough to justify the out-of-pocket cost.

Virgin Atlantic miles can also be used to book awards on several partners. Delta, Hawaiian, and Virgin America flights booked with Virgin Atlantic miles have no fuel surcharges, and some of the Delta awards are steals, like 45,000 miles roundtrip to Buenos Aires.

My big wish is that Citi ThankYou Points will eventually add another transfer partner, one with which Citi has a very close relationship already, American Airlines miles.

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

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Virgin Atlantic is offering a 25% discount on economy awards to the United Kingdom booked by January 22. You can book awards even in the peak of summer for as low as 13,125 Virgin Atlantic miles each way.

You probably have Virgin Atlantic miles because Virgin Atlantic is a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and SPG Starpoints. Twenty-thousand Starpoints always transfer to 25,000 Virgin Atlantic miles. Membership Rewards offers occasional transfer bonuses like the 35% bonus in October 2014.

Prices

Virgin Atlantic awards do have fuel surcharges, so a one way to the United Kingdom costs $135 out of pocket. A roundtrip costs $454 plus the miles because of the fuel surcharges and punitive aviation taxes when departing the UK.

After the 25% discount, one way awards between these cities and the United Kingdom cost:

  • Boston: 13,125 miles
  • New York (JFK/Newark): 13,125 miles
  • Chicago: 13,125 miles
  • Washington: 13,125 miles
  • Atlanta: 13,125 miles

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  • Miami: 15,938 miles
  • Orlando: 15,938 miles
  • Las Vegas: 15,938 miles
  • Los Angeles: 15,938 miles
  • San Francisco: 15,938 miles

Booking

The discounts are hard-coded into search results, so to book your discounted award, start on the search screen, and select “Spend Your Miles.”

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Search results are color-coded. A red line underneath the date means there is Economy award space. A white line means Premium Economy award space. A purple line means Upper Class award space.

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On the calendar above, the 7th has award space in all three cabins, while the 8th only has award space in Premium Economy and Upper Class.

The current 25% off sale only applies to Economy.

If you book one way awards, you will pay half the price of a roundtrip award in miles each direction, but taxes and fees are way higher westbound.

Eastbound has $134.60 in taxes and fuel surcharges.

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 11.16.33 PMWestbound has $318.90 in taxes and fuel surcharges because of the UK’s Air Passenger Duty.

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That puts the total on a roundtrip at $453.50.Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 11.34.29 PM

Because of the departure tax leaving the United Kingdom, I would use these awards only for one way flights to the United Kingdom, similar to how I recommend using Flying Blue Promo Awards.

Hat Tip View from the Wing

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I’ve covered what I think are the underpriced awards on the United (6) and American Airlines (5) award charts. But I also keep a keen eye on foreign, obscure programs for gems on their award charts.

With the proliferation of transferable points like Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints, Americans have access to cheap awards through tons of foreign programs.

Here are five underpriced awards on other award charts and how to get the miles needed to book the awards.

1. Singapore Awards Between Hawaii and the Americas

Singapore Airlines puts Hawaii and Central America–you know, those two places that are thousands of miles apart–into one region. This leads to awards “within” the region to price out at a ridiculously cheap 17,500 miles each way and 30,000 miles in Business Class.

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Roundtrip Award Prices

Similarly, Hawaii to South America is only 25,000 miles each way in economy and 40,000 miles in Business Class.

This is huge even if you don’t live in Hawaii because roundtrip Singapore Airlines awards allow for one free stopover and up to three more stopovers for $100 each.

That means you can book a roundtrip from Hawaii to South America with a stopover at your home airport in both directions for 50,000 miles + $100 + taxes. That would give you a roundtrip to South America plus two one ways to and from Hawaii on three separate trips.

Full details:

Singapore miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints.

2. Virgin Atlantic Awards to Southern South America

Virgin Atlantic has a number of partners including Delta. On Delta, to anywhere in South America costs only 45,000 Virgin Atlantic miles roundtrip or 90,000 roundtrip in Business Class.

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Compare that to the 60k or 125k Delta miles the same flights to Southern South America would cost.

Everyone disparages Delta award availability, but I find decent economy award space to South America on the carrier.

Virgin Atlantic miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints.

3. Promo Awards to Europe with Flying Blue Miles

Every month, Air France Flying Blue offers awards to Europe for 25% and 50% off from select cities. Here are the current offers.
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There are fuel surcharges, but I think the deal is still too good to pass up in economy.

I also really like Promo Awards from Brazil to Europe because flights leaving Brazil have no fuel surcharges by law. These enable a THINK BIG trip like your home airport to Brazil to France to your home airport.

Full details on Promo Awards: Fly to Europe or Israel for 12,500 Miles

Flying Blue miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points, American Express Membership Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints.

4. Alaska Awards to South Africa on Cathay Pacific

Alaska Airlines charges a very reasonable 70,000 miles one way between the United States and Asia on Cathay Pacific First Class.

 

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It charges the same amount to Africa from the United States in Cathay Pacific First Class.Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 1.01.45 PM

Hong Kong to Johannesburg is now served by a plane without First Class, but you can still get 16 hours in First Class from the USA to Hong Kong plus 13 hours in Business Class more to Johannesburg for only 70,000 Alaska miles. If you love flying, this is the deal for you.

Alaska miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints. You can also get Alaska Airlines miles from their churnable personal and business credit cards.

5. Virgin Atlantic Awards to Europe in Economy and Premium Economy

Virgin Atlantic economy class awards to Europe require far fewer miles than competitors’ charge. From Boston, New York, Washington, and Chicago, you only need 17,500 Virgin Atlantic miles for a one way flight to the United Kingdom.

And taxes and fees on the one way from the United States to Europe are only $131!

Combine a one way from the eastern United States to Europe for 17,500 Virgin Atlantic miles plus $131 and return from a low tax country to the United States on a one way award with United or American miles for a very cheap European vacation.

I wrote more about searching Virgin Atlantic award space, the fuel surcharges you’ll see, and booking the space in Huge Deal: 13k Miles to Europe This Summer.

You can also fly one way from parts of the United States to the United Kingdom in Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy for only 27,500 miles and $231.

Premium Economy on Virgin Atlantic is more akin to United First Class on domestic flights than United Economy Plus. It’s not just a big seat; Premium Economy comes with all the amenities in this promotional video.

Virgin Atlantic miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points, American Express Membership Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints. Plus there is the “90k offer” on the Virgin Atlantic credit card.

Your Turn

Did I miss any of your favorite awards on the obscure foreign award charts? Tell me about it in the comments.
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Virgin Atlantic is a London-based airline that serves or has plans to serve 12 American airports. Virgin Atlantic releases a ton of award space in Upper Class between the United States and Europe in the last days and weeks before departure.

Detroit begins 6/1/15, Atlanta begins 10/27/14
Detroit begins 6/1/15, Atlanta begins 10/27/14

You can book Virgin Atlantic Upper Class with Delta miles. Delta currently charges 125,000 miles roundtrip to Europe in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class.

Last week, I looked at some of Virgin Atlantic’s new flights and asked whether booking Virgin Atlantic Upper Class was the best use of SkyMiles.

Starting January 1, 2015, you’ll be able to book Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for 62,500 Delta miles one way. Delta does not collect fuel surcharges on Upper Class flights.

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Virgin Atlantic Upper Class is among the world’s best business classes because it features a fully flat bed, direct aisle access from every seat, an onboard bar, and fantastic lounges, especially in London.

I was daydreaming about flying Virgin Atlantic Upper Class home from Europe next summer, and I wondered: Does Virgin Atlantic release a lot of last minute award space on its routes?

I figure that if I am in Europe, and I do want to fly Virgin Atlantic Upper Class home, I’d book the ticket at the last minute to maintain maximum flexibility.

  • Does Virgin Atlantic release a lot of last minute award space on its routes?
  • How can you search and book Virgin Atlantic award space?
  • How can you save money when booking Virgin Atlantic award space?

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I recently received an email about changes to the Virgin Atlantic route network.

Virgin Atlantic is a London-based carrier that is not a member of any of the three major alliances, but does have a partnership with Delta.

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 9.19.16 PM

Using 125,000 Delta miles for a roundtrip in Upper Class from anywhere in the United States to anywhere in Europe is a fantastic use of SkyMiles.

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Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Marketing

I checked a few of the Virgin Atlantic routes for award space for May 2015 and found award space nearly every day on one route, many of those days featuring two award seats in Upper Class, bookable with Delta miles with no fuel surcharges.

Virgin Atlantic serves 11 cities in the United States from London and the rest of Europe from there.

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  • How is award space in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class?
  • How can you book it with Delta miles?
  • How can you greatly reduce taxes on awards that involve Virgin Atlantic Upper Class?

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Virgin Atlantic is back with another incredible discount on its economy awards to the United Kingdom.

For about 13k miles plus $100 one way, you can go from Boston, New York, Washington DC, or Chicago to London, Manchester, Glasgow, or Edinburgh.

For about 16k miles plus $100 one way, you can go from Miami, Orlando, Las Vegas, Los Angeles or San Francisco to London, Machester, Glasgow, or Edinburgh.

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Roundtrip prices including miles, taxes, and fuel surcharges. Don’t worry, the out-of-pocket cost listed is incorrect.

The downside to Virgin Atlantic awards is that fuel surcharges are collected, but there are ways to take advantage of this deal while keeping your out-of-pocket cost to a minimum.

How can you book these 13k awards? What are the restrictions? How can you minimize fuel surcharges? How is award space? How can you get Virgin Atlantic miles for the trip?

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American Express Membership Rewards transfers to Virgin Atlantic will come with an automatic 30% transfer bonus from now through November 30, 2013. This transfer bonus allows you to fly:

  • One way from the US to London for only 14k Membership Rewards and $97.
  • Roundtrip from the US to London for 31k Membership Rewards + $191.
  • Roundtrip from the US to Buenos Aires (or anywhere else in South America) for 35k Membership Rewards and $77.
  • Tons of other great routes for low mileage, taxes, and fees.

Virgin Atlantic is a London-based longhaul carrier best known for its Upper Class cabins and Clubhouse lounges. (Do not confuse it with Virgin America or Virgin Australia, which are all independent airlines.) It is not part of any alliance, so its dozen airline partners span the globe and all the alliances.

Should you transfer Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic? What are the key features of Flying Club? How can you get to Europe for 14k Membership Rewards and to South America roundtrip for 35k Membership Rewards? How can you get Membership Rewards?

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A few weeks ago, Delta and Virgin Atlantic announced an enhanced partnership that included the option to redeem either type of miles for flights on the other carrier. For me this meant one thing, I could use my stash of Delta miles to fly Virgin Atlantic Upper Class.

I’ve been studying award availability on Virgin Atlantic flights on delta.com, and I can now report the gold mine routes for Upper Class award space from the US to the UK.

And the best part about the space is that it always prices out at 100k SkyMiles roundtrip–the same price as the regular Delta business product–with no fuel surcharges, just unavoidable government taxes.

How can you fly Virgin Atlantic Upper Class?

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Wyndham is giving away one million United miles as four 250k mile prizes. Sign up is easy.

You can earn 1k to 10k Virgin Atlantic miles for referring people to the program. This is especially valuable since 13k Virgin Atlantic miles is enough for a one way flight from New York to London.

Membership Rewards is offering a 20% bonus on transfers to Hawaiian miles through June 27.

Points Hound has a 100k Hawaiian Miles giveaway running through June 21.

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I’ve been posting about award space to Europe for this summer because that’s what my Award Booking Service clients want. In that vein, Just Another Points Traveler just posted about a great deal that I have to pass on:

From New York to London–this summer–from 13,000 Membership Rewards or Ultimate Rewards plus $98. See how to take advantage of this amazing deal and how that stacks up against my best deals to Europe after the jump.

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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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According to Delta’s press release and media outlets such as the New York Times, Delta Airlines and Virgin Atlantic are forming a new strategic partnership. Delta is acquiring a 49% stake in Virgin that was previously held by Singapore Airlines, who cozied up with Virgin in 2000.

On a pure deal standpoint, Delta got a cheaper price than Singapore. Singapore initially invested over $900 million to acquire the 49%. Delta is paying $360 million for that same stake. The two actually haggled over the same 49% stake two years ago but could not agree on a price.

Delta even released a promotion video on YouTube about the announcement.

Anti-trust approval needs to be given by the US government, so the agreement probably won’t be officially finalized until the end of 2013. With that being said, this is potentially exciting news for travelers to Europe.

Delta is clearly trying to benefit from Virgin Atlantic’s coveted slots at London-Heathrow, which is now operating at full capacity. With that being said, it’s probably North American frequent flyers who will benefit the most from this venture.

First, and most importantly, this partnership could lead to lucrative SkyMiles redemptions on Virgin Atlantic and vice-versa. Virgin’s route map to London from the United States is far more comprehensive than Delta. Right now, Delta only offers nonstop service to London-Heathrow from five cities: Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis, and New York-JFK.

Virgin, on the other hand, really expands Delta’s coverage. They fly nonstops from Washington-Dulles, Miami, Orlando, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas, to name a few. FlyerTalkers in the Delta forum are already excited.

Is Delta’s partnership with Virgin Australia an indication of how it will relate to Virgin America?

There’s always hope!

As Tashir wrote in his post, Delta Still Not Charging Surcharges on Virgin Australia Awards and Space to Australia over Christmas, Delta SkyMiles redemptions on Virgin Australia (Virgin America’s sister airline) are a great value. The award space to Australia is surprisingly ample, even during peak travel times like Christmas and New Year’s.

If Delta can translate this availability to Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia’s sister airline, then getting to Europe from the United States could be quite a bit easier. More nonstops to London will be possible and the value of your SkyMiles should be a bit higher, depending on how much award inventory is released and the taxes and fees associated with the tickets.

Since Hawaiian Miles can be redeemed surcharge-free on Virgin Atlantic, we can hope the same is true with SkyMiles.

Also, if you want to see the SkyMiles earning potential on Virgin Australia flights, check out the chart below. It might give an indication on how SkyMiles will be earned on Virgin Atlantic flights.

I’ve heard about Virgin’s great lounges. What’s your take on that?

Also mentioned in the press release, Delta and Virgin will have reciprocal frequent flyer benefits and shared access to Delta Sky Clubs and Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses for elite members. Virgin’s Clubhouses are well known for their food and upscale atmosphere. I’m pretty excited at the potential to test out the Clubhouse at Washington-Dulles. For a complete list of Clubhouses in North America, check out the list here.

It’s still unclear, though, how the reciprocal agreement will work. Will Delta Medallion members have Clubhouse access when flying on Virgin Atlantic flights? Do they need to be flying Upper Class? Will SkyClub members have access anytime? We need to know more before calling this a definitive win for SkyMiles members.

Have you written about Virgin Atlantic in the past?

Actually, yes.  In my recent post, AMEX/Virgin Atlantic Transfer Bonus, I discussed the 35% bonus on Membership Rewards points transferred to Virgin Atlantic’s frequent flyer program through December 29th. Sadly, this wasn’t a great deal. Virgin imposes the dreaded sky-high fuel surcharges on all award flights, so your ticket booked with miles could end up costing over $1,000!

Scott actually wrote how to avoid this in his post, Redeem for Virgin Atlantic Upper Class without Surcharges, by instead transferring Membership Rewards to Hawaiian miles. However, this work around isn’t really a loophole anymore. As Scott detailed in his recent post, Hawaiian’s Virgin Atlantic Chart Devalued, the substantial increase in the amount of Hawaiian miles required to book Virgin awards really turns this into a poor use of Hawaiian miles.

With the newly announced partnership between Delta and Virgin Atlantic, I can see both frequent flyer programs’ miles getting a slight boost in value. Those with substantial Membership Rewards balances in particular stand to benefit, as they retain the flexibility to transfer to either airline depending on which will offer the better reciprocal redemption options.

More details will be coming in the coming months as to the exact parameters of their partnership, and I’m certainly excited to hear more.

 Recap

Delta has acquired a 49% stake in Virgin America. Details are still being hammered out and the whole deal probably won’t be finalized until the end of 2013. That shouldn’t stop us from speculating on how this impacts frequent flyers, though.

Delta SkyMiles members stand to benefit in a big way. SkyMiles are currently bringing up the rear on the Mile Value Leaderboard, but redemptions on Virgin Atlantic using SkyMiles could be big news for Delta loyalists.

The announcement of reciprocal lounge access for elites shouldn’t be overlooked, either. Virgin Atlantic elites are probably getting the short end of the stick in this deal. Delta Sky Clubs are decent but nothing to write home about. Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses, on the other hand, are renowned for their food, cocktails, and overall atmosphere.

Airline partnerships like this mean less industry competition, which almost always equates to higher airfares. However, I’m cautiously optimistic that Delta SkyMiles members will see better award redemption options to Europe.

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