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.
Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 12.38.02 PM

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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The Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard® is offering up to 90,000 bonus miles until December 19, 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?

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

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This transfer bonus allows you to fly:

  • One way from the US to London for only 13k Membership Rewards and $131.
  • One way from the US to London in Premium Economy for 21k Membership Rewards + $231.
  • Roundtrip from the US to Buenos Aires (or anywhere else in South America) for 34k 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 13k Membership Rewards and to South America roundtrip for 34k Membership Rewards?
  • How can you get Membership Rewards?

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?

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?

11 31

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.

Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 1.28.36 AM
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?

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?

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.

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.

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.

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook to make all your wildest dreams come true.

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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.

Virgin Atlantic-35% Bonus on Membership Rewards Transfers

According to the American Express Membership Rewards website here, Virgin Atlantic is offering a 35% bonus when transferring Membership Rewards into Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles.

This offer is available through December 29th. Transfers must be made in increments of 1,000 Membership Rewards. The minimum transfer will yield 1,350 Flying Club miles.

 Is this a good deal?

Unfortunately not. Virgin Atlantic features an incredible onboard product and great club lounges. However, they impose extremely hefty fuel surcharges on flights…so hefty that it isn’t even worth a redemption for most travelers.

Scott has actually written several articles about Virgin Atlantic’s frequent flyer program in the past. In his post, Redeem for Virgin Atlantic Upper Class without Surcharges, he detailed how you could avoid those sky high surcharges by using Hawaiian Airlines miles to book Virgin Atlantic awards instead of Virgin’s own miles! There are several ways to amass Hawaiian miles quickly, including transferring Membership Rewards. In many cases it made sense to transfer to Hawaiian instead of Virgin to save hundreds of dollars out of pocket.

Sadly, 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.

So I should avoid Membership Rewards transfers to Virgin altogether?

Not necessarily! Virgin Atlantic miles are still valuable. Virgin miles can be transferred to Hilton HHonors points at a ratio of 1:2. That means 1 AMEX point becomes 2.7 HHonors points during this Virgin Atlantic transfer bonus. Membership Rewards actually transfer directly to HHonors at a much worse 1:1.5 ratio.

We’ll be rolling out our hotel point valuations soon, but provisionally let’s value one Hilton point at 0.4 to 0.6 cents. At 0.4 cents, these transfers would value one Membership Rewards at 1.08 cents. That’s a pretty awful because Membership Rewards are worth much more than that.

At 0.6 cents, the the implied valuation of one Membership Reward is 1.67 cents, still too low, but getting reasonable if you are topping off for a specific AXON or GLON redemption.

For further reading, check out Scott’s post Transferring Virgin Atlantic Miles to HHonors Points. You can also read more about these transfers on Virgin Atlantic’s website here.

Keep in mind the minimum transfer is 10,000 Virgin Atlantic miles and they must be converted to HHonors in increments of 5K. If you are in desperate need of HHonors points, you will yield far more points by using Virgin Atlantic as the middle man in this transaction. Move your Membership Rewards points to Virgin Atlantic and then convert them to HHonors. Check out the math on a sample transfer below:

15,000 Membership Rewards –> 22,500 HHonors points OR

15,000 Membership Rewards–>20,250 Virgin Atlantic miles (with 35% bonus)

20,000 Virgin Atlantic miles–>40,000 HHonors points

By routing through Virgin Atlantic you net 17,500 more HHonors points! That’s a nifty 77% bonus!

How long does it take for Virgin Atlantic Miles to convert to HHonors points?

Virgin’s website states that transfers can take up to 30 days, but reports on FlyerTalk vary from a week to two weeks. If you have a specific hotel redemption in mind, be warned that this is not instantaneous!

I have tons of Membership Rewards points, where should I transfer them?

Scott actually tackled this question in a previous post, What to Do with an American Express Annual Fee Coming Up and Unused Membership Rewards. Membership Rewards are inherently valuable due to their flexibility. If you have a specific award redemption in mind, the ability to transfer to airlines such as Delta, Singapore, British Airways, or even Virgin Atlantic makes them much more useful than just holding, for example, only Delta Skymiles.

Your best option is to keep your Membership Rewards, but if you have to transfer due to an upcoming annual fee, British Airways Avios have some good sweet spot redemptions, especially on normally expensive short haul trips. For more reading, make sure to check out Scott’s posts, How Much Are Avios Worth? The Value of British Airways Avios as well his recent entry Avios Awards within South Africa.

Referencing the Mile Value Leaderboard, we value Membership Rewards at 1.79 cents. Avios are a slight step down at 1.70 cents, which is the option value lost when you transfer a flexible point to a specific program.

United Airlines to Raise Club Membership Fee By $25

According to this thread on FlyerTalk and United’s own website, United will be raising the price of all membership rates by $25, effective January 1st. Three year membership terms will also be discontinued. The new rates beginning next year are below.

As I’ve stated before, lounge access can be a huge benefit when traveling, especially in bad weather or when your flight experiencing mechanical delays or cancellations.

The fact that United is raising prices is a bit surprising. As I detailed in a previous post, Elite Status Offers for Delta/US Club Memberships, purchasing a US Airways Club membership actually allows you access to all United clubs (and vice versa). US Airways’ standard one year membership fee is $450, $25 cheaper than United’s new pricing chart. If you are looking for access to United lounges, buying a club membership with US Airways seems like an easy decision.

Recap

Virgin Atlantic is offering a 35% bonus on all Membership Rewards transfers. While this may seem like a great deal, Virgin has run transfer promotions in the past. 35% isn’t even the most generous bonus they have offered in the past, as they just wrapped up a 40% bonus in September.

Still, if you need to top off an account or potentially boost your HHonors balance, this might make sense. We aren’t advocating you transfer speculatively, though. Membership Rewards are valuable due to their flexibility–they transfer to a variety of carriers. Retaining that flexibility is important if you don’t have a specific redemption in mind at this time.

United is raising the price of their Club memberships by $25. The standard price for a one year lounge membership is $450 with the other three legacy carriers, so it will be interesting to see if they follow suit and nudge their prices upward. US Airways club membership remains $25 less expensive and includes access to United lounges as well. If you are in the market for a United Club membership, save the $25 and join up with US Airways.

According to this blog post and this thread on FlyerTalk, Hilton has just announced their “Any Weekend, Anywhere Sale” where you receive between 15-40% off the best available room rate for weekend stays booked between now and January 31, 2013. Hotels in the Asia-Pacific region have an extended booking deadline of February 14, 2013.

Stays must be completed by December 31, 2013. Eligible weekend stays will also earn double stay credit towards Hilton elite status. With this promotion, you will be able to earn Hilton Silver status with only two weekend stays (a total of four weekend nights). You can grab Hilton Gold status with eight weekend stays (sixteen total weekend nights). Hilton elite status details can be found here.

This promotion is actually a slight tweak over last year’s “Any Weekend, Anywhere Sale” where instead of earning double elite credit, you received 1,000 Hilton HHonors points per stay.

Details of the promotion can be found here and here. Terms and conditions, along with a helpful calendar that outlines eligible weekends throughout the various regions, can be found here.

How do I book this deal?

The best way is to visit  Hilton.com or HHonors.com. Plug in your destination city and the weekend that you want to book.  Then click on Special Rate Code and enter “PGAWB2.” You should then see all available hotels. Click on the specific hotel to see if they are participating in the weekend promotion.

Which hotels are participating?

A list of hotels participating can be found here and is searchable by continent and region. Note that North American hotels aren’t able to be readily displayed. Hilton’s website can be buggy. I hope this is resolved quickly.

Is this a good deal?

On the surface, this looks like a very intriguing promotion. Weekends are defined as Thursday-Sunday, so you have a bit of booking flexibility in what constitutes a weekend stay.

You can also reach elite status twice as fast with this deal. I have greatly enjoyed my Hilton Gold status that came when I signed up for the American Express HHonors Surpass card. During stays at Hilton properties, I have received free internet, complimentary continental breakfast, and the occasional room upgrade. The benefits are nothing earth shattering, but it’s nice to be treated as more than just a regular walk-up guest.

However, I have to advise staying away from this promotion unless you have specific and firm plans for a future weekend stay (e.g. a destination wedding). The terms and conditions state that “full non-refundable prepayment is required at the time of booking” to take part in this promotion.

The best part about booking a hotel room in advance is the flexibility to cancel if plans change or prices in the area fall. When you lock in to a non-refundable rate, you are at the mercy of the hotel and have little recourse if you need to cancel. At MileValue, we are definitely not fans of fully prepaid hotel rates. Receiving 15% off a room rate is not enough of an incentive for me to book a prepaid rate.

Another reason to stay away is that a seven-day advance purchase is necessary. That’s not a deal breaker, but it further inhibits flexibility in finding the absolute best hotel rate.

Would you advise taking part in this promotion to earn elite status twice as fast?

Absolutely not! It’s just too easy to attain Hilton status through other means besides hotel stays. You should only book hotel stays speculatively if you are very close (within 2-4 stays) to the next elite tier. As I mentioned above, the American Express Hilton HHonors Surpass card gives Hilton Gold status for the first year of card membership and comes with a $75 annual fee. The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Visa comes with Hilton Gold status for the life of the card. It carries a $95 annual fee. Both cards award top-tier Diamond status for spending $40,000 on the card in a calendar year.

Though not currently available, Hilton in the past has awarded Gold elite status for simply registering your Visa Signature card and staying three times at Hilton properties. The old promotion page can be found here. Examples of Visa Signature cards include the Chase British Airways Visa and the Citi Platinum AAdvantage Visa. Both cards are actually written up in our Best Credit Card Offers by Absolute Value page.

Is this promotion stackable with any other offers?

Yes. Hilton is also running another fourth quarter promotion where you earn up to 15,000 Virgin Atlantic miles through qualifying stays through December 31st. Registration is required and can be done here. Full terms and conditions are directly below the registration page.

Why are Virgin Atlantic miles so useful? They actually transfer to HHonors points at a ratio of 1:2. The minimum transfer is 10,000 Virgin Atlantic miles and they must be done in increments of 5K. For the complete breakdown on how to do this, check out Scott’s post, Transferring Virgin Atlantic Miles to HHonors Points.

If you have a lot of upcoming Hilton stays, you can boost your HHonors balance quickly with the Virgin Atlantic promotion.

Recap

At first glance, Hilton appears very generous in offering double stay credit during 2013 weekends. However, the discount rates associated with this promotion must be prepaid, a huge negative when dealing with hotel bookings.

If you have an upcoming weekend at a  Hilton property, it’s certainly in your best interest to check the promo pricing, but you should also research AAA rates and other rates that allow you to cancel and rebook if prices fall. Fully prepaid rates greatly inhibit your flexibility if travel plans change, so be careful!

Also, elite status is readily available through credit cards and the occasional Visa promotion. If your end goal is to become a Hilton Silver, Gold, or even Diamond member, there are far less expensive and time consuming ways to achieve it than speculatively booking rooms through this promotion.

Four months ago I broke the news that you could redeem Hawaiian Miles for Virgin Atlantic Upper Class without fuel surcharges, thus saving thousands of dollars. See Redeem for Virgin Atlantic Upper Class without Surcharges.

You still can, but the party may be over. The old chart was a solid value and simple to figure out.

The new chart, hat tip to Gary, is much worse.

I don’t have any information on what North America East and West are. But this is a huge devaluation since the west coast to London went from 100k to 160k.

Not many people had 100k Hawaiian Miles anyway, so this was mainly a play on transferring Membership Rewards. To that end, the only way I see this deal becoming viable again is through a Membership Rewards transfer bonus to Hawaiian Miles, which I don’t think has ever happened.

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