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