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Transfers of Citi ThankYou Points to Virgin Atlantic miles will have a 25% bonus through August 23, 2015.

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You must transfer ThankYou Points in 1,000 point increments, so until August 23:

  • 1,000 ThankYou Points = 1,250 Virgin Atlantic miles

This is huge news as it is the first transfer bonus of Citi ThankYou Points to an airline partner. American Express Membership Rewards has historically run transfer bonuses, including to Virgin Atlantic, though Chase Ultimate Rewards never has.

Getting ThankYou Points

If you can’t decide between the Premier and the Prestige, check out Comparison Table of Citi Preferred vs. Premier vs. Prestige

Three Reasons Why You 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 ThankYou Points) for a one way flight to London.

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 ThankYou Points 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 Limited Time to Europe: 14k Points.

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 ThankYou Points) 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.

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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 TY Points) + $77.32
  • New York to London in roundtrip economy on Delta: 40k miles (32k TY Points) + $190.60
  • Atlanta to Los Angeles in roundtrip economy on Delta: 25k miles (20k TY Points) + $11.20
  • New York to Paris in roundtrip economy on Delta: 60k miles (48k TY Points) + $90.66

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 ThankYou Points roundtrip is a steal. The same award would cost 60,000 Delta miles.
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 40k miles (32k ThankYou Points) one way in Upper Class and Los Angeles and San Francisco to London in Upper Class are only 50k miles (40k ThankYou Points) one way.


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

Right now award space is excellent in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for two people who want to fly May and June 2016. For instance, here is Atlanta to London’s calendar. Dates with a purple line underneath have two Upper Class award seats. That’s every day except May 5.

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If you want to avoid fuel surcharges, Delta miles can be used to book Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for 62.5k miles one way plus taxes and no fuel surcharges.

Bottom Line

There’s a 25% transfer bonus from Citi ThankYou Points to Virgin Atlantic miles through August 23, 2015.

You can quickly get 106,000 ThankYou Points, which would transfer to 133,500 Virgin Atlantic miles, by getting two cards:

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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.

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Award Space is widely available for two passengers on several routes to London in May and June 2016.

This is an excellent use of Delta SkyMiles because these awards cost 62,500 SkyMiles each way per person, despite Delta’s big devaluation last week. The award space is also an excellent use of ThankYou Points transferred to Virgin Atlantic miles during the current 25% transfer bonus. Some of the Upper Class award space goes for as little as 32,000 ThankYou Points each way per person.

About Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic flies from 12 American cities to London.

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It also flies from the United States to Manchester, Glasgow, and Belfast.

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Booking Virgin Atlantic Awards

You can book Virgin Atlantic flights with Virgin Atlantic miles or Delta SkyMiles. The advantage of booking with Virgin Atlantic miles is that you need way fewer miles. Here is the roundtrip award chart to the United Kingdom with Virgin Atlantic miles. One way awards cost half the number of miles.

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The drawbacks are that Virgin Atlantic awards booked with Virgin Atlantic miles have fuel surcharges and the prices are valid only to London, not the rest of Europe.

When booked with Delta, there are no fuel surcharges, and you can connect in London to other cities in Europe. All Delta awards that fly Virgin Atlantic cost 62,500 miles one way in Upper Class between the United States and Europe.

Fuel Surcharges

Just how big are the fuel surcharges?

Virgin Atlantic awards booked with Delta miles have no fuel surcharges. Virgin Atlantic awards booked with Virgin Atlantic miles have big fuel surcharges.

  • One way awards in economy to London have fuel surcharges of $129.
  • One way awards in Premium Economy to London have fuel surcharges of $229.
  • One way awards in Upper Class to London have fuel surcharges of $414 or $452, depending on flight length.

 

 

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Product

 

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class offers a flat bed, Clubhouse access, and access to an onboard bar.

 

Award Space Picture

I searched on delta.com for award space for two passengers in Business Class (Upper Class) on direct routes served by Virgin Atlantic. Here’s what you want the search box to look like to get a five-week calendar view of award space for two passengers on the direct flight only.

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On many routes from the eastern United States, I found award space nearly every day.

Atlanta

All days that say “62,500” have award space for two passengers in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class that you can book with Delta or Virgin Atlantic miles.

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New YorkScreen Shot 2015-07-20 at 1.13.57 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-20 at 1.14.02 PM
MiamiScreen Shot 2015-07-20 at 1.15.15 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-20 at 1.15.20 PM
ChicagoScreen Shot 2015-07-20 at 1.15.38 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-20 at 1.15.44 PM
BostonScreen Shot 2015-07-20 at 1.16.35 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-20 at 1.16.39 PM
DetroitScreen Shot 2015-07-20 at 1.16.55 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-20 at 1.17.00 PM
Washington DCScreen Shot 2015-07-20 at 1.18.19 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-20 at 1.18.25 PM

But the award space really falls apart on western routes. It is very sparse from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas to London.

 

Booking the Awards

First decide which miles to book with. If you want to burn Delta miles, or you hate fuel surcharges, book with Delta miles. If you have a cache of Virgin Atlantic miles or ThankYou Points, book with Virgin Atlantic miles. If you have both, figure out the cents-per-miles that each redemption offers, and choose the better one.

Book with Delta miles on delta.com and Virgin Atlantic miles on virgin-atlantic.com.

Pay your award taxes (and fuel surcharges if you use Virgin Atlantic miles) with the Citi Prestige® Card. The first $250 in award taxes, fuel surcharges, airfare, or airline fees per calendar year are refunded to you as a statement credit. If you’ve already maxed out the statement credit, you will still earn 3x ThankYou Points on the award taxes and fuel surcharges.

 

Bottom Line

There is great award space for two passengers in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for two passengers in May and June 2016 on many routes from the eastern United States to London.

You can book the award space with 62,500 Delta miles plus taxes or 40,000 Virgin Atlantic miles plus taxes plus fuel surcharges. Right now there is a 25% transfer bonus from ThankYou Points to Virgin Atlantic miles.

This a great way to burn Delta miles in the face of the newest devaluation or to get great value from Citi ThankYou Points.

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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.

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Cash is great because it can buy everything from travel to your basic necessities. But sometimes miles are better. There are a lot of things I can easily do with miles that I would never do with cash (at least until my bank account had a few more zeroes.)

Dream big with your miles. Better yet, dream big before your miles. Then get the right miles to turn that dream into a reality. Here are five dreams, five things I can do with miles that I wouldn’t do with cash.

  1. Fly Singapore Suites, a double bed in the sky
  2. Fly Lufthansa First Class and access the First Class Terminal
  3. Fly Etihad First Class for its shower, couch, and bed
  4. Fly Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy to London for a big upgrade from economy
  5. Hop around South America to 11 cities on one award with Asia Miles

1. Singapore Suites Los Angeles to Singapore: $8,700 or 92,000 miles + $276

Singapore Suites is famous for its double bed. The two middle seats in the 1-2-1 configuration can have their divider lowered to form an enclosed double bed that no other First Class cabin matches.

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Singapore is also famous for its food and wine selections and service from the Singapore girls. I flew Singapore First Class and would love to fly Suites Class, but I wouldn’t pay $8,700 for the one way flight from Los Angeles to Singapore.

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 6.13.23 PM Instead I’d pay 91,375 Singapore miles + $276 (or less to fly Los Angeles to Tokyo or New York to Frankfurt.)Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 6.14.22 PM

Singapore miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi, Chase, AMEX, and SPG, so getting just two cards like the Citi Prestige and Citi ThankYou Premier with 50,000 ThankYou Points each after spending $3,000 in the first three months is enough to fly one way anywhere that Singapore Suites flies.

2. Lufthansa First Frankfurt to Washington: $8,700 or 40,000 points + $300

Lufthansa First Class is the most widely available excellent product between the United States and Europe.

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Within two weeks of departure, Lufthansa releases a lot of First Class award space to partners. If you can only fly Lufthansa First Class one way, fly it home from Europe via Frankfurt, where Lufthansa has an entire First Class Terminal. Spend a few hours at the buffet, a la carte restaurant, cigar room, and in the bathtubs with your own Lufthansa rubber ducky.

I flew Lufthansa First Class from Frankfurt to Washington DC once. I never would have done that if my only option were to pay $8,730 one way.

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Luckily you can book the same flight for 50,000 Asiana miles (40,000 SPG points transfer to 50,000 Asiana miles) + ~$300 in taxes and fuel surcharges.

3. Etihad A380 First Class New York to Abu Dhabi: $16,700 or 90,000 miles + $6

Etihad begins flying its A380 from New York to Abu Dhabi on December 1, 2015. Award space has been intermittently very good and completely non-existent on the route. (Right now, it is non-existent.)

When space was very good last month, I booked myself an award from India to Los Angeles with the longest part in First Class on the Etihad A380. I am eager to fly in am enclosed suite with a couch/bed and seat. The amount of space is unreal. Plus the cabin features a shower, only the second airline that offers that.

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I’m not an oil sheik, so I can’t pay the $16,653 one way fare from New York to Abu Dhabi.

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But the same flight can be had for 90,000 American Airlines miles + $5.60, what you can get from two credit cards. Or you can connect anywhere in the Middle East or Indian Subcontinent for zero extra miles.

4. Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy Washington DC to London: $2,800 or 22,000 points + $235

Flying Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy from the United States to London is like flying domestic First Class within the United States. You get the bigger seat with more leg room and more recline, better food, free drinks, and better service.

Virgin Atlantic charges quite a premium, though, at $2,764 one way.

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 6.34.47 PM

Why pay that when the seat can be booked with 27,500 Virgin Atlantic miles + $234.60? Especially right now when Citi ThankYou Points have a 25% transfer bonus that makes the award cost 22,000 ThankYou Points + $234.60.

You can get enough points for two people by opening either the Citi Prestige or Citi ThankYou Premier with 50,000 ThankYou Points each after spending $3,000 in the first three months.

5. 11 City Tour of South America: thousands of dollars or 85,000 miles + a few hundred dollars

Yesterday I broke down the Asia Miles award chart and rules. Asia Miles allows you to book 11 city awards. I recommend going to South America to avoid the fuel surcharges you’d normally pay on Asia Miles awards.

Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 6.56.24 PMWhile booking a trip like this with cash would cost thousands of dollars–I’d estimate around $5,000–the same trip would cost 85,000 Asia Miles + taxes–I’d estimate around $300.

Asia Miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi, AMEX, and SPG, so getting just two cards like the Citi Prestige and Citi ThankYou Premier with 50,000 ThankYou Points each after spending $3,000 in the first three months is enough to fly an Asia Miles award with up to 20,000 miles of flying!

Bottom Line

Everything is bookable with cash, but sometimes the price is so outrageous that only multi-millionaires would consider the ticket a good value.

With miles, the premium cabins and the mega-awards are democratized. Open one or two credit cards and enjoy the nicest cabins in the world like Singapore Suites, Etihad First Class, and Lufthansa First Class; the biggest adventures in the world like an 11 city trip in South America; or the simple pleasure of a little more space and comfort in Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy.

What’s an amazing thing you’ve done with miles that you wouldn’t have done with cash?

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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.

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

With the 25% transfer bonus from Citi ThankYou Points to Virgin Atlantic miles, one way awards to London start at 14,000 ThankYou Points. Flat bed Upper Class awards start at 32,000 ThankYou Points.

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Virgin Atlantic flies from 12 American cities to London.

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It also flies from the United States to Manchester, Glasgow, and Belfast.

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You can book Virgin Atlantic flights with Virgin Atlantic miles or Delta SkyMiles. The advantage of booking with Virgin Atlantic miles is that you need way fewer miles. Here is the roundtrip award chart to the United Kingdom with Virgin Atlantic miles. One way awards cost half the number of miles.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 3.02.18 PM Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 3.02.35 PM

The drawback is that Virgin Atlantic awards booked with Virgin Atlantic miles have fuel surcharges. When booked with Delta, there are no fuel surcharges, and I compare using the two types of miles below.

Questions answered in this post:

  • What are the award prices with Virgin Atlantic Miles?
  • How are the Premium Economy and Upper Class Products?
  • What are the fuel surcharges on the awards? What route has almost none?
  • How do you search Virgin Atlantic Award Space?
  • How do you transfer ThankYou Points to Virgin Atlantic miles? Is the transfer instant?
  • How do you book the Virgin Atlantic awards?
  • Should you use Delta or Virgin Atlantic miles to book Virgin Atlantic flights?

Award Prices in Miles

Virgin Atlantic charges unusually few miles from the United States to the United Kingdom–and that’s the only place in Europe that you can fly Virgin Atlantic, which is a longhaul carrier.

There are two award bands–one for nearer cities and one for farther cities.

From the following cities, you can fly a one way award to the United Kingdom for 17.5k/27.5k/40k Virgin Atlantic miles in economy/Premium Economy/Upper Class:

  • Atlanta
  • Boston
  • Newark
  • New York-JFK
  • Washington-Dulles
  • Chicago

That’s 14k/22k/32k Citi ThankYou Points. From most of those cities, the next cheapest economy option to Europe in miles is spending 20,000 American Airlines during its off peak award window. But this 14,000 ThankYou Point price is available for travel any time of year as long as you transfer your ThankYou Points before the transfer bonus ends on August 23, 2015.

Similarly spending only 22,000 ThankYou Points for Premium Economy is incredible compared to paying 30,000 United/Delta/American miles to Europe in regular economy. Premium Economy on Virgin Atlantic is like flying domestic First Class.

Finally paying 32,000 ThankYou Points for a one way in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class to Europe is outrageously good. That’s basically what most airlines charge for economy, and you’re getting a flat bed, Clubhouse access, and access to an onboard bar.

From the rest of the United States, you can fly a one way award to the United Kingdom for 21.25k/35k/50k Virgin Atlantic miles in economy/Premium Economy/Upper Class:

  • Miami
  • Orlando
  • Las Vegas
  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco

That’s 17,000 ThankYou Points one way in economy, 28,000 ThankYou Points one way in Premium Economy, and 40,000 ThankYou Points one way in Upper Class.

Oddly, Detroit to London is not on the award chart at all, and the booking form explicitly says you cannot use miles to book the flight. This is particularly strange since Detroit to London was just part of an award sale on Virgin Atlantic.

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Fuel Surcharges

The miles prices are the good news. The fuel surcharges are the bad news.

  • One way awards in economy to London have fuel surcharges of $129.
  • One way awards in Premium Economy to London have fuel surcharges of $229.
  • One way awards in Upper Class to London have fuel surcharges of $414 or $452, depending on flight length.

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I consider fuel surcharges on awards a junk fee and a cash grab. I am never happy to pay them, but I am not foolish enough never to pay them.

Even after the fuel surcharges, Virgin Atlantic awards have significant value, especially during the 25% transfer bonus from ThankYou Points.

I’d rather fly Chicago to London for 22,000 ThankYou Points (transferred to Virgin Atlantic) and $234 in Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy than 28,000 ThankYou Points (transferred to Singapore Airlines) and $5 in United economy. The $229 extra is a small price to pay for more space, better food, and saving 6,000 ThankYou Points (which I value at $108.)

As always, use your ThankYou Points only if you are getting enough value for them. I’d only use ThankYou Points if I were getting at least 1.6 cents of value since you can always use ThankYou Points like cash to buy American Airlines tickets at a rate of 1.6 cents per point.

How do you figure what value the award is giving you for your ThankYou Points?

Use this simple expression:

(A – B) / (C + D)

  • A: Value of the award. Important: this is the lesser of the cash price and your subjective value.
  • B: Taxes and fuel surcharges on the award
  • C: ThankYou Points used on the award
  • D: Miles you would earn if you purchased the award ticket with cash

This will spit out the dollar value you are getting for your miles. If that number is greater than 0.016, and you can book the dream award now, transfer ThankYou Points to Virgin Atlantic miles and book.

Hong Kong

Awards to Hong Kong have very low fuel surcharges, which is useful if Hong Kong to London can be part of a round-the-world trip for you. The awards cost just 25k/40k/60k miles in economy/Premium Economy/Upper Class with taxes plus fuel surcharges of $49.

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That’s 20,000, 32,000, and 48,000 ThankYou Points + $49 during the 25% transfer bonus.

Why are all the prices mentioned one way to the United Kingdom?

Flying out of the United Kingdom incurs humungous taxes, about $300 one way in Premium Economy or Business Class, as I covered today in List of Award Taxes from Major Cities in Europe, So You Return from Low Tax Countries. I would only ever book Virgin Atlantic flights to London with Virgin Atlantic miles. Then I’d return from a low tax country in Europe on a separate award with a different type of miles.

Searching Award Space

Award space is not great, but it is present on all routes I checked in all cabins. The best award space is in economy and Premium Economy.

To search award space one month at a time, fill in the search form on the Virgin Atlantic home page and select “Spend your miles.”
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Results look like this. At the bottom of each date are colors that signify award space.
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Red is economy, white is Premium Economy, and purple is Upper Class.Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 3.52.00 PM

Find a date that has the award space you want and click Continue.Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 3.53.58 PM You’ll see the miles needed and the total in taxes and fuel surcharges. If you click Flight Info, you can see the aircraft.

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You can find seat maps on Seat Guru. Most of the planes, including the 787-9 Dreamliner, have Upper Class in a 1-1-1 configuration. I’d pick and A seat since G and K share an aisle. I’d pick a seat up front to avoid the noise from the bar behind 10G.

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Source: http://www.seatguru.com/airlines/Virgin_Atlantic_Airways/Virgin_Atlantic_Airways_B787-900.php

Transferring ThankYou Points to Virgin Atlantic Miles

Sign into thankyou.com and go to the page listing the 11 airline transfer partners.
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You can transfer in increments of 1,000 points and receive 1,250 miles.

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Two (1, 2) FlyerTalkers report their Virgin Atlantic miles posting in less than 24 hours. It’s unlikely, but award space could disappear in that time. Have a back up plan to use the miles if that happens.

Booking the Awards

When your miles post, head back to Virgin-Atlantic.com, rerun your search, and book there. Use a card with no foreign transaction fees, since purchases from foreign airlines often code as a foreign transaction even when denominated in dollars.

Pay your award taxes and fuel surcharges with the Citi Prestige® Card. The first $250 in award taxes, fuel surcharges, airfare, or airline fees per calendar year are refunded to you as a statement credit. If you’ve already maxed out the statement credit, you will still earn 3x ThankYou Points on the award taxes and fuel surcharges.

Use Delta Miles Instead?

Delta miles can book Virgin Atlantic award space in economy and Upper Class, but not Premium Economy. Awards cost 30,000 Delta miles one way in economy and 62,500 Delta miles in Upper Class.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 4.37.01 PM

There are two advantages to using Delta miles.

  1. No fuel surcharges on the awards
  2. You can connect to Delta/Alaska flights in the United States and SkyTeam partners in London.

Do the math–add the out of pocket costs to the number of miles or points used times your value of those miles or points–to see whether you get a better deal with Delta miles or ThankYou Points transferred to Virgin Atlantic miles.

  • You’ll almost certainly get a better deal in economy with ThankYou Points transferred to Virgin Atlantic miles because you save 16,000 or 13,000 miles for only a $129 fuel surcharge.
  • You’ll definitely get a better deal in Premium Economy with ThankYou Points transferred to Virgin Atlantic miles, since Delta miles can’t book that cabin.
  • In Upper Class, it will come down to which route you want and how much you value ThankYou Points vs. Delta miles.

Getting Thank You Points to Transfer to Virgin Atlantic Miles

These two cards offer over 106,000 ThankYou points total for meeting their minimum spending requirements. You can get both as long as you apply at least eight days apart.

Bottom Line

Yes, Virgin Atlantic awards have fuel surcharges, but they also have incredibly low miles prices. During the 25% Citi ThankYou Points to Virgin Atlantic mile transfer bonus, you can book these awards for even cheaper.

Use these deals to fly one way to Europe, then return home on a separate award with a different type of miles from a low tax country.

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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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I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

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.

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 9.51.22 PM

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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