Sweetspots with Virgin America Elevate Points: 35,000 Points Roundtrip to Europe in a Flatbed

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

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

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

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

Virgin America Flights vs. Partner Redemptions

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

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

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

Routing Rules

One Way Pricing

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

Stopovers and Open Jaws

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

Sweetspots for Redemptions on Virgin America

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

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Sweetspots for Partner Redemptions

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

  • 20,000 Virgin America Elevate Points (40,000 ThankYou Points) is a roundtrip in Economy between the western United States and Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines
  • 3,000 Virgin America Elevate Points (6,000 ThankYou Points) is a one way Economy interisland flight on Hawaiian Airlines
  • 3,600 Virgin America Elevate Points (7,200 ThankYou Points) is a one way in Economy on Singapore Airlines within Southeast Asia (like Bangkok to Singapore for example, or Singapore to Bali)

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

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

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

How to Find Award Space and Book Partner Redemptions

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

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

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

Transfer Bonuses

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

Transferring ThankYou Points to Virgin America Elevate Points

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

How ThankYou Points Work

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

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

How to Get ThankYou Points

Right now the Citi Prestige® Card comes with 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening.

 Bottom Line

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


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

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16 COMMENTS

  1. 40k TY points for an economy ticket on Hawaiian airlines is not a good deal. Paid RT flights from SFO can be easily purchased for ~$400 over next couple months, so this would mean less than 1cpm redemption value. Alaska Airlines redemption using BA is still 25k points, which is a far superior redemption value. You failed to mention Virgin America flies to Hawaii now. At an average value of 2.2cpm redeeming on VX for a $400 flight is ~18k points, which would be preferable to the 20k redemption on Hawaiian for cheaper flights.

    I think most people would consider 70k miles + $1100 for a 6 hr flight both ways to be a very poor use of miles for a pretty average business class product. I actually think if you really want to book a one way ticket from SFO-LHR for 30k points (60k TY) + $458 is a more decent deal.

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