Virgin Atlantic

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The Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard® is offering up to 90,000 bonus miles 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 and paying $180 in annual fees. The offer breaks down like this:

25,000 Immediate Miles after First Purchase, Adding Authorized Users, and Paying 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.

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 Next 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.

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 for a one way flight to London.

And taxes and fees on the one way from the United States to Europe are only $135!

Combine a one way from the eastern United States to Europe for 17,500 Virgin Atlantic miles plus $135 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.

Virgin Atlantic has frequent 30% off sales on awards between the United States and Europe. One is happening now through September 22. It offers one way in economy to London for 12,250 miles and one way in Premium Economy for 19,250 miles. If you transfer speculatively during a 25% transfer bonus from ThankYou Points (like this one that ended last April) and another 30% off sale comes up in the future, you” pay only 10,000 ThankYou Points one way to London or 16,000 ThankYou Points one way in Premium Economy. That’s un-freakin-beatable!

Here are the sweet spots on the Virgin Atlantic award chart.

2. INCREDIBLE VALUE PARTNER AWARDS

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

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

  • Atlanta to Buenos Aires roundtrip in Economy Class on Delta: 45,000 miles + $99
  • Los Angeles to Auckland roundtrip in Business Class on Air New Zealand: 125,000 miles + $69
  • London to New York roundtrip in Economy Class on Delta: 40,000 miles + $186

Here are the sweet spots on the partner award charts.

3. VIRGIN ATLANTIC UPPER CLASS

Virgin Atlantic’s Business Class–called Upper Class–is world class.

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 one way in Upper Class and Los Angeles and San Francisco to London in Upper Class are only 50k miles one way.


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

Right now award space is excellent in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for two people who want to fly next summer. For instance, here is Atlanta to London’s calendar. Dates with a purple line underneath have two Upper Class award seats (which is every day in May except one).

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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.

Should You Get the Virgin Atlantic Credit Card?

Probably not. I know the headline bonus miles number is humungous, but the miles are not as valuable as American, United, or Alaska miles, and the spending requirement is huge.

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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For the next 11 months, you can fly from the Eastern United States to London for 13,000 Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards, or ThankYou Points plus $135. Or you can fly in Premium Economy that looks a lot like domestic First Class for 20,000 points and $265. From other parts of the country, you’ll pay only a few more miles.

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On some routes, award space is WIDE OPEN year round, including the heart of summer. Here is the award space for July 2017 from New York to London. Days with a red, white, and purple line–every single day–have award space in economy, Premium Economy, and Upper Class.

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Virgin Atlantic Awards

Virgin Atlantic flies to the UK from 12 US cities and offers great prices for award tickets in economy, Premium Economy, and Upper Class.

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The normal prices are only:

  • 17,500+ miles in economy to London, depending on starting city
  • 27,500+ miles in Premium Economy to London, depending on starting city
  • 40,000+ miles in flat bed Upper Class to London, depending on starting city

Two Week Sale on Economy and Premium Economy Awards

Until September 22, 2016, Virgin Atlantic is discounting the miles price of economy and Premium Economy awards between North America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, India, Africa, and Asia and the UK by 30%. Upper Class awards are not discounted during this sale. Discounted award prices (one ways bookable for half the miles price):

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The cheapest awards are from Boston, New York, Newark, Washington-Dulles, Atlanta, Detroit, and Chicago at 12,250 miles one way in economy and 19,250 in Premium Economy. The rest of the country is 14,875 miles one way in economy and 24,500 in Premium Economy.screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-3-25-48-am

Book now to lock in the rate; you can book travel through August 11, 2017 at the discounted prices. There are also discounts to the rest of the world to and from London (roundtrip prices in economy, half price for one way.)

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Out-of-Pocket Price

Virgin Atlantic awards have fuel surcharges. You cannot avoid them.

Virgin Atlantic roundtrip awards will feature a departure from Great Britain, which will incur exorbitant taxes. You can easily avoid those departure taxes by using this sale to book one way awards to London only. Then use a different type of miles to return from a low tax city in Europe. You see more of Europe for very few miles and very low out of pocket expense.

For instance, a one way award from New York, Newark, Boston, DC, Atlanta, Detroit or Chicago to London will cost 12,250 miles + $135 in economy or 19,250 miles + $235 in Premium Economy, even over the heart of summer.

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The Western cities and Florida cost more miles, but have the same out-of-pocket charges.

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Those are manageable out-of-pocket prices that are very much worth paying to save a ton of miles over awards using other miles.

But let’s look at a return from London to the United States. Now a one way in economy is at least 12,250 miles + a ridiculous $238 and a one way in Premium Economy is 19,250 miles + an insane $393. On longer flights, it’s $258 and $411 in taxes and fuel surcharges in addition to the miles.

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By the way, here is Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy. Think “Domestic First Class,” and you won’t be too far off.

Strategy to Lower or Eliminate Out-of-Pocket Price

To reiterate, just book the eastbound to London during this sale. Book the westbound return from somewhere cheaper in Europe with a different type of miles, perhaps United or American. (Get between London and Europe on a train or a low cost carrier.)

You can even eliminate the out-of-pocket cash needed by paying for the Virgin Atlantic Award with your Chase Sapphire Reserve or Citi Prestige.

The Sapphire Reserve offers a $300 travel credit each calendar year to offset the first $300 in travel expenses you put on the card. If your taxes and fuel surcharges are less than $300, the entire amount will be credited back on your statement. If they are more than $300, $300 will be credited back.

The card also comes with 100,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months.

The Citi Prestige Card offer a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year that offsets your first $250 in spending on airlines with the card. Taxes and fuel surcharges on an award ticket definitely count. If your taxes and fuel surcharges are less than $250, the entire amount will be credited back on your statement. If they are more than $250, $250 will be credited back.

The card also comes with 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after spending $4,000 in the first three months, which can be transferred to Flying Blue miles.

Is This The Best Deal to Europe?

Other than WOW Air’s $99 fares from Baltimore, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco to Iceland, this is the best deal to Europe.

Here are some almost-as-good deals to Europe (copied from my list of the best awards between all regions):

Upper Class?

Luxury lovers will want to know about the prices in Upper Class to Europe on Virgin Atlantic, since Upper Class is a fantastic business class product.

Unfortunately the current 30% discount does not apply to Upper Class, so the fuel surcharges and miles required to fly Upper Class are about triple economy. At those prices, I don’t think Upper Class is a great deal. For instance, New York to London is 40k miles + $420, and Los Angeles to London one way is 50k miles + $464 in Upper Class.

Getting the Miles

Virgin Atlantic is a 1:1 transfer partner of ThankYou Points, Ultimate Rewards, and Membership Rewards plus Virgin Atlantic issues an American credit card with a “90,000 mile” sign up bonus.

I think the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the best credit card offer ever.

It offers an astounding 100,000 Ultimate Rewards after $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 to United, British Airways, Singapore, Korean, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, and more.

One hundred thousand points is enough for eight one way flights from the Eastern United States to London.

Recap

Europe is within reach for as little as 12,250 miles one way if you book in the next two weeks for trips for the next 11 months.

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 foreign 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.

People disparage 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, Citi ThankYou Points, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints.

3. Promo Awards to Europe, Israel, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, or the Canary Islands 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 to cities in North America.

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Oddly Flying Blue also classifies Israel, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and the Canary Islands as a part of Europe, so sometimes you can find award prices as low as 12,500 Flying Blue miles (50% off) to these distant destinations.

There are fuel surcharges, but I often 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 Europeflying blue 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 in Cathay Pacific First Class.Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 4.58.42 PMIt charges the same amount to Africa from the United States in Cathay Pacific First Class.

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Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific Hub) 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 Atlanta, Boston, New York, Washington DC, Chicago, or Detroit, 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 $134.60!

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Combine a one way from the eastern United States to Europe for 17,500 Virgin Atlantic miles plus $135 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.

You can also fly one way from Atlanta, Boston, New York, Washington DC, Chicago, or Detroit to London to in Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy for only 27,500 miles and $264.60.

I wrote more about searching Virgin Atlantic award space, the fuel surcharges you’ll see, and booking the space in Sweetspots with Virgin Atlantic Miles: Awards to Europe for as Little as 10,000 Points.

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, Citi ThankYou Points, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints. Plus there is the “90k offer” on the Virgin Atlantic credit card.

Purchasing the Award

Pay the taxes and surcharges for these awards with your Citi Prestige® Card.

The Citi Prestige® Card offers a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year that offsets your first $250 in spending on airlines with the card. Taxes on an award ticket definitely count.

The card also comes with 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after spending $4,000 in the first three months, which can be transferred to 12 types of airline miles or used like cash toward the purchase of any ticket. And tomorrow (8/31) is the last day to get the Prestige to be eligible for the American Airlines lounge access benefit!

Your Turn

Did I miss any of your favorite awards on the obscure foreign award charts? Tell us about it in the comments.

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Virgin Atlantic begins service between London and Seattle at the end of March 2017, and there is a ridiculous amount of flat bed Business Class award space on the route throughout the spring and summer.

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Here are the daily flight schedules:

  • Seattle –> London, 7:10 pm – 2:00 pm
  • London –> Seattle, 11:00 am – 1:20 pm

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Product

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

Award Space

Seattle -> London

Here is the color coded key to understanding virginatlantic.com’s award search calendar:

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Over two thirds of the days in April have SIX Upper (Business) Class award seats open.

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There are six Upper Class award seats available every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of May.

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Every Saturday, a couple Thursdays, and a Sunday in May open up if you change the calendar to two travelers.

In June you seem the same pattern as May of every Monday through Wednesday with six Upper Class award seats available.

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If you change the June calendar to two travelers, pretty much every single day of June has Upper Class space.

July’s got the Monday through Wednesday pattern for six available, same as the previous two months, plus a couple Saturdays and a Thursday.

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Changing July’s calendar to two travelers shows Upper Class award space for every single day.

 

London -> Seattle

Space for the return is sufficient, just not as ridiculously plentiful as the outbound. Calendars for six travelers during April – July were sparser, but lower that traveler count to four or two and you have plenty of options, especially if you can travel Monday through Wednesday.

The other factor to consider on the return is that leaving London will have high departure taxes of over $300) no matter what miles you use or airline you fly. So instead, perhaps use Avios or a low-cost carrier to hop somewhere else in Europe and return home with a different type of miles from a low tax country. Have United miles? There’s heaps of Star Alliance Business Class award space returning to the US from Vienna over this coming summer.

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 BIG fuel surcharges (between somewhere in the $400 range) 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.

I don’t live in Seattle… can I still utilize this award space?

Yes, if you are booking with Delta miles. Tack on an Alaska Airlines flight in Economy or Business (Alaska is partners with Delta). As long as it’s the least expensive award space available, it shouldn’t change the price of the Delta award. I would say you could tack on a Delta flight in the same manner, but One Mile at a Time claims the pricing will go haywire for reasons I’m not so sure about. But it’s SkyMiles after all, so anything is possible, or not possible…

If you try, let us know how it goes in the comments.

Booking the Award

You can search for award space on virginatlantic.com or delta.com. If booking with Virgin Atlantic miles, you can book on their site as well. If booking with Delta miles, you can try pricing it out on delta.com, which should work fine as long you’re booking just the main segment between Seattle and London. But if you’re adding any domestic connections to get to Seattle or fly onwards from London, the pricing will likely be funky and you’ll need to call Delta SkyMiles (1-800-323-2323) to make sure you pay no more than 62,500 each way for Upper Class.

Pay the taxes and surcharges with your Citi Prestige® Card.

The Citi Prestige® Card offers a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year that offsets your first $250 in spending on airlines with the card. Taxes on an award ticket definitely count.

The card also comes with 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after spending $4,000 in the first three months, which can be transferred to 12 types of airline miles or used like cash toward the purchase of any ticket.

Bottom Line

There is a seriously large amount of flat bed Upper Class Virgin Atlantic award space between Seattle and London over next spring and summer. The best way to book it is probably with 62,500 Delta miles and no fuel surcharges one way.

Don’t have any Delta miles? Transfer SPG Points (and remember, you get a 5,000 mile bonus for every SPG Point transfer in increments of 20,000) or Membership Rewards 1:1 to Delta SkyMiles.

Hat Tip One Mile at a Time

Let’s talk about transferring ThankYou Points to airline partners for redeeming on domestic awards. This is part one in a series that will allow you to master redeeming awards within the United States, no matter what kind of points or miles you might have.

“How to Maximize Domestic Award Redemptions” Series Index

  • How to Maximize Domestic Award Redemptions Series: ThankYou Points (this post)
  • How to Maximize Domestic Award Redemptions Series: Ultimate Rewards
  • How to Maximize Domestic Award Redemptions Series: Membership Rewards (future post)
  • How to Maximize Domestic Award Redemptions Series: SPG Points (future post)
  • How to Maximize Domestic Award Redemptions Series: Conclusions About Best Overall Miles for Domestic Awards (future post)

Citi ThankYou Points are transferable to one hotel and 12 airline programs. Folks who have a Citi ThankYou® Premier, Citi Prestige®, or Citi Chairman card can transfer Citi ThankYou Points at a 1:1 ratio to (click links for posts on basics and sweetspots of that program):

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You can also transfer 1,000 ThankYou Points to 1,500 Hilton HHonors points, and 1,000 ThankYou Points to 500 Virgin America Elevate points.

Redeeming ThankYou Points for a Fixed Value on Revenue Tickets

You can also redeem ThankYou Points on cash flights for a fixed value. ThankYou Points earned by the Citi ThankYou® Premier are worth 1.25 cents each on any airline. ThankYou Points earned by the Citi Prestige® can be redeemed on any airline for 1.33 cents.

ThankYou Points earned solely from the Citi ThankYou® Premier cannot be redeemed for 1.6 cents on American and codeshare partners, but if you also have the Citi Prestige® Card along with the Premier, you can pool the points and redeem them like you would ThankYou Points earned from the Prestige.

As you’ll see with some of the examples below (or the examples in any of the Citi ThankYou transfer partners’ sweetspot articles, linked above), it is possible to redeem your ThankYou Points for a higher value than 1.33 cents each. But 1.33 cents is decent, and it could be worth investigating if you can’t get more than 1.33 cents of value per mile transferring to an airline partner or using a different type of point or mile completely (not to mention you will also earn butt-in-seat miles redeeming ThankYou Points this way, which you wouldn’t by redeeming miles).

Redeeming ThankYou Points for fixed value is obviously going to be better in cases when you can book the flight with plenty of notice, there’s a fare sale, or any other factor that makes the cash price cheaper.

For example, take the flight below:
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This economy flight between Dallas and Philadelphia costs $130 to book out of pocket, which translates to 9,775 ThankYou Points if you redeem them for a fixed value of 1.33 cents each. I got that number by dividing the price (130) by .0133.

In the case of this example, it would cost less ThankYou Points to redeem them on this American Airlines flight for 1.33 cents each then it would transferring them to any of the airline transfer partners.

Now let’s get into some of the higher value redemption options on awards within the United States when transferring your ThankYou Points to one of their 12 partner loyalty programs.

Qantas Club

Qantas is a part of oneworld Alliance along with American Airlines. The strength in Qantas’ redemption charts is the price of short distance flights, since their award pricing is based on distance flown and not regions. For example, here is Qantas’ chart for flying American Airlines:

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You can fly American Airlines flights under 600 miles for only 8,000 Qantas miles. For perspective, American Airlines charges 7,500 American Airlines miles for direct flights of 500 miles or less, and United charges 10,000 United miles for flights of 700 miles or less.

Qantas is also partners with Alaska Airlines, so you can use Qantas miles on Alaska flights. Again, the strength in the chart is short distance flights.

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Flying Blue

Both Flying Blue (Air France/KLM) and Delta are part of the Skyteam Alliance. It costs 30,000 Flying Blue miles + standard taxes/fees (no fuel surcharges) to fly roundtrip in Delta economy between the mainland United States and Hawaii. You can also book one way Flying Blue Awards for half the price of a roundtrip (in this case, 15,000 Flying Blue miles).

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Delta charges 45,000 miles roundtrip between the mainland United States and Hawaii.

Stopovers are not allowed on one way Classic Flying Blue Awards. It is not clear how may stopovers you can have on a roundtrip, but definitely at least one. Travel is Free also reported that you have to call Flying Blue (1 800 375 8723) if you’d like to include stopovers as a part of your roundtrip award.

**BONUS** 

There is currently a glitch with Flying Blue’s award prices between the mainland United States and Kauai (LIH) specifically. While it should be priced at 15,000 Flying Blue miles, it’s actually priced at 12,500.

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Read Flying Blue Glitch: 12,500 Miles to Kauai to learn more.

Singapore Krisflyer

Singapore Airlines and United are fellow members of Star Alliance. You can redeem Singapore Krisflyer miles between the continental United States and Hawaii on United flights for 17,500 miles each way in economy and 30,000 miles in First with no fuel surcharges. United charges 22,500 and 40,000 miles respectively for the same flights! (Get the flat bed in first!)

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(click to enlarge)

You can also fly within the United States on United Business Class for 20,000 Krisflyer miles each way.

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Virgin Atlantic doesn’t have flights within the United States, but they are partners with Delta.

For 45,000 Virgin Atlantic miles you can fly Delta One roundtrip within the United States, which is 5,000 miles less than what Delta charges for it. It must be booked as a roundtrip however, as Virgin Atlantic partner redemptions will cost the roundtrip price even if you book a one way.

You can redeem Virgin Atlantic miles on Hawaiian or Delta flights to Hawaii from the mainland as well, but you can find better deals (like those stated above) redeeming Krisflyer or Flying Blue miles.

Virgin America

Virgin America is also a Citi ThankYou Point transfer partner, but the transfer ratio is 2:1 which normally wipes out the value– unless there is a transfer bonus, in which it might behove you to take advantage.

Bottom Line

Just because Citi ThankYou Points don’t have any 1:1 transfer partners that are American loyalty programs does not box you out from using ThankYou Points on domestic awards. There are transfer partners that open you up to the majority of American award space (Singapore can book United flights, Qantas can book American Airlines and Alaska Airlines, and Flying Blue can book Delta). Singapore will probably provide you the highest value redemptions overall domestically (not to mention internationally), but there are handful of good options, especially to Hawaii.

In light of the news that American Airlines is changing to a revenue-based award earning structure, and the fact that all three major US carriers now abide by a revenue-based award earning structure, I am writing a series of posts about when and where you should diversify the award miles you earn through paying for airfare. This post is Part 3, and discusses when and to where you should diversify your award earning when flying paid tickets on Delta flights. 

“When & Where You Should Diversify Revenue Ticket Miles” Series Index

In January of 2015, Delta switched to a revenue-based award earning structure that is much like the structure American Airlines’ is adopting come this August.  The amount of Delta miles you earn flying Delta flights is based on two things: the ticket price less any government imposed taxes or fees, and the elite status you have with the airline.

A revenue-based award earning structure is worse for folks who fly far, cheap tickets and better for people who fly short, expensive tickets. That is, at least, if we’re talking about crediting to Delta SkyMiles. But it is not obligatory to do that–you can enter your frequent flyer number with any United partner instead.

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 5.16.51 PMIn your mind, this fact should pose two questions.

  1. When should I choose to credit my award miles to Delta?
  2. If not Delta, then who?

I’m going to dive into both questions here to help equip you with the knowledge to make these decisions in the future.

Note that this post is specifically referencing the award miles earned from flying Delta flights. The amount of Delta miles you can earn flying a SkyTeam Alliance or other partner airline will be based on flight distance and the purchased fare class– see Delta’s website for partner-specific information.

When Should I Choose to Credit my Award Miles to Delta?

The simple answer to this question: Not when you’re buying a cheap economy ticket, but maybe if you’re buying an expensive premium cabin ticket. Delta’s revenue-based award earning system rewards those who generate more revenue for Delta, point blank.

The more correct answer to this question is: when the math works out, and when you’re not chasing or trying to maintain status. Before I go any further, let me explain what I mean by the latter part of that sentence.

The value of status miles will factor into the decision too (in Delta’s case, they are called Medallion Qualification Miles), if you’re trying to get or maintain Delta status. For example, even if a Delta Diamond Medallion elite earns fewer Delta redeemable miles by crediting their butt in seat miles to Delta over Alaska Airlines, he might still prefer it to boost his Medallion Qualification Mile balance.

But if you’re not concerned with status, then all that should matter to you is the math.

The Math

To figure out how many Delta miles you’ll earn flying their planes, use the following equation:

Status multiplier x (ticket price – government-imposed taxes/fees) = award miles earned

The status multiplier depends on what tier elite status you have with the airline:

  • 5x– SkyMiles member
  • 7x – Silver Medallion
  • 8x – Gold Medallion
  • 9x – Platinum Medallion
  • 11x– Diamond Medallion

We know the ticket price is how much delta.com tells us the flight costs.

But how can we isolate the government-imposed taxes and fees from that price? ITA Matrix. If you’re not familiar with ITA Matrix, here’s how to use it— it will show you the breakdown of a ticket by base fare, fuel surcharges, and government-imposed taxes and fees.

Look at this breakdown of a roundtrip Delta ticket between Seattle and the Zurich:Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 6.21.55 PM

This is a good example of the kind of cheap revenue ticket readers of this blog would buy, because it’s an example where you might be better off paying for the flight in cash rather than using miles that could be put towards higher value redemptions.

The dollar amounts outlined in the red rectangle are the government-imposed taxes and fees (sum =$114.56). Fuel surcharges are always labeled as either YR and YQ (in this case YR). Fare 1 and 2 are the base fares in each direction of the roundtrip.

Now we can plug in our equation.

5 x (595.56 – 114.56) = 2,405

So, assuming you are just a normal SkyMiles member without status, you would earn 2,405 Delta miles for flying about 13,750 miles on a Delta plane.

Even if you are a Diamond Medallion elite, you would only earn 5,291 Delta miles on this ticket.

But let’s say you purchased a Business Class ticket on the same flight, which costs $5,054.06 (oh yea, now I remember why I collect miles!). Your equation would look like this:

5 x (5,054.06 –114.56) = 24,698

Then you would certainly want to credit those miles to Delta, because you cannot beat that crediting to any other partner. It is easy to see how this system rewards those that spend more. But I assume the majority of us will find ourselves with something closer to the first equation’s answer most of the time.

Conclusion

When it comes time for you to make this decision, plug your own numbers in. Compare this first solution to the number you get from multiplying the distance you will fly by the percentage that corresponds to your fare class, which you can gather from the table in the “If Not Delta, Then Who?” section below.

If the first solution is greater than the second solution, stick with Delta. Otherwise, read on to see your options for crediting to other partners.

If Not Delta, Then Who?

I compared award earning charts when flying Delta from the following partners to see whose is the most lucrative:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • Alitalia
  • Air France
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Hawaiian
  • Korean Air
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin Australia

I chose those loyalty programs because they have at least some valuable redemption options. The table below is the analysis of my comparison:

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 1.20.45 PM
(click to enlarge)

Conclusion

Again, the following conclusion is not considering the incentive of status. If you’re aiming for or trying to maintain status with one of Delta’s partner airlines, than perhaps the elite qualifying miles earned from crediting to that partner matter more to you than redeemable miles.

That being said, the best alternative airline to credit miles to when flying Delta is going to depend on what type of miles you value more– Alitalia, Alaska, Virgin Atlantic, and Virgin Australia all offer good earning rates on discounted economy fares (which are the most common types of tickets people like you and I buy). Click here to read about the top 11 most valuable miles to me.

I would choose to credit my miles earned from flying the discounted fare example above, between Seattle and Zurich (fare class V), to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan because I value those miles much more than Alitalia, Virgin Atlantic, or Virgin Australia miles.

If your fare class is not one associated with a discounted economy ticket, then check out the table above to see the best option for you depending how much you value the miles from the top earning loyalty programs.

Best Card to Buy Airfare With

Your top choice for buying Delta tickets should be the Citi Prestige® Card, since it comes with a $250 Air Travel Credit every calendar year that applies to airfare. If you haven’t used the credit yet, buy the fare with your Prestige, and you will receive an offsetting credit on your next statement.

Even if you’ve already used your $250 credit for this year, the card offers 3x on all airfare purchases, which is a higher category bonus than what any of the Delta’s co-branded cards offer for buying their own plane tickets (2x).

See my review of the Citi Prestige Card which explains its many components like its annual $250 Air Travel Credit, 50,000 point sign up bonus, access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges, 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels, and a $450 annual fee.

Bottom Line

If you’re like me and only spend cash on the cheapest of airfares, then it is very likely you will not want to credit the miles you earn from flying Delta to SkyMiles since the airline uses a revenue-based award earning structure. If you haven’t started an account with Alaska Airlines’ frequent flyer program Mileage Plan, then do so today. Out of Delta’s partners, it is likely the most valuable program to funnel your miles into.

If you want to jumpstart that Alaska miles collection, sign up for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card. Earn 30,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 within the first three months of opening the account.

While I can not directly link to Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

Today (May 11, 2016) is the last day to take advantage of the 30% discount on Virgin Atlantic economy awards that brings the price of an award between select U.S cities and London down to only 12,250 Virgin Atlantic miles and $134.60 in taxes and fuel surcharges.

If you stack that Virgin Atlantic economy sale with the current deal American Express is offering– a 30% transfer bonus of Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic through May 31, 2016–then you can book an award to London for only 10,000 Membership Rewards +$134.60!! Book now, but not as a roundtrip.

Why You Shouldn’t Book Awards Departing Britain

It can cost upwards of $300 in departure taxes to leave Europe on an award from London. That is atrocious and can easily be avoided by returning home from a low tax country instead. You can use British Airways Avios or a low cost carrier to get to the low tax country.

Low Tax Countries

I’ve ordered the cities from cheapest to most expensive.

  • Oslo: $31.70
  • Istanbul: $32.50
  • Warsaw: $33.80
  • Stockholm: $36.30
  • Dublin: $39
  • Belfast: $42.20
  • Geneva: $42.90
  • Venice: $43.40
  • Barcelona: $43.50
  • Shannon: $43.60
  • Copenhagen: $43.80
  • Lisbon: $47.40
  • Amsterdam: $48
  • Madrid: $48.40
  • Brussels: $50
  • Milan: $50
  • Zurich: $56.50
  • Rome: $60
  • Hamburg: $82.70
  • Vienna: $87
  • Munich: $94.80
  • Frankfurt: $112.10
  • Berlin: $119.20

Cheapest Award Space From Low Tax Countries in Europe

I searched to find the cheapest award space from Europe to the United States– in economy and in First Class–that you can pair with your Virgin Atlantic Award to London. Depending on whether you want to keep up the savings or treat yourself to something more luxurious on your way home, here are two of the cheapest options doing either:

Dublin, Ireland to Philadelphia – 20,000 Alaska Miles + $54

Spend New Years in Europe and save money on the way home by flying American Airlines economy back to the U.S. from Dublin after the holidays. There are 24 days in January with award space for two people that you can book for only 20,000 Alaska Airlines miles and $54 in taxes per person.Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 6.24.30 PMThe calendar barely changes if you modify the search for up to four people.

If you don’t have Alaska miles, you can also book the same space with Etihad miles for the same price. Both Alaska Mileage Plan and Etihad Guest program maintained the pre-American Airlines devaluation prices between the US and Europe, as well as the prior American Airlines Off Peak dates to Europe. You can fly between the US and Europe for that same price anytime between October 15 and May 15.

If you don’t live in Philadelphia and want to book this with Alaska miles, you can add another leg to get to your hometown without changing the mileage price as long as it’s on American Airlines or Alaska and is economy Saver space. You can also add a leg flying American Airlines to get to your hometown on an Etihad award without changing the mileage price, under the same conditions.

You can search for award space on aa.com or alaskair.com. If using Alaska miles you will need to book on alaskaair.com, and if using Etihad miles you will need to call Etihad Guest at (1 888 8 ETIHAD, available 24/7).

Oslo, Norway to Chicago – 50,000 Asiana Miles + $192.54

Pamper yourself after trotting around Europe with a luxurious Lufthansa First Class flight experience on the way home. You can fly it for 50,000 Asiana miles plus taxes and fuel surcharges that amount to $192.54 between Oslo and Chicago (fuel surcharges are much lower Europe to USA than vice versa on Lufthansa flights.)

Asiana is 1:1 transfer partner of SPG Starpoints.

Getting into Lufthansa First Class is a gimme if you can book at the last minute. Unfortunately Lufthansa doesn’t release its First Class award space to partners until about 15 days before departure, but once it does, space is quite available. If you’re comfortable booking the return last minute, it’s a great deal for First Class.

For example, here is a Lufthansa Business Class award from Oslo to Chicago in about two weeks:

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 8.37.58 PM
$247.60 CAD in taxes/fees = $192.54 USD in taxes/fees

This search result is from aeroplan.com, but the taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges there should equal what Asiana charges. For instance, this Oslo to Chicago one way award costs 247.60 Canadian Dollars ($192.54) out of pocket. (Ignore the 70,000 mile price, Asiana charges 50,000 miles.)

If you don’t live in Chicago, you can add a leg on United to your hometown without affecting the mileage price. It can be in any cabin since your transatlantic flight is First Class, just make sure it’s Saver space.

You can search for Lufthansa award space on aeroplan.com, like I did above, or on united.com (probably easier on united.com as you don’t need an account). To book with Asiana miles you will need to call 800-227-4262 (I’ve booked myself two Asiana awards– here is my experience).

How to Get the Miles

For the American Airlines flight from Dublin you’ll need 20,000 Alaska Airlines miles or Etihad miles.

The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature cards (personal and business) both offer 25,000 miles just for signing up. The business card requires you to purchase one item to qualify for the bonus.

While I can not directly link to the current Alaska Airlines Visa Signature, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

Etihad miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of ThankYou Points. The Citi Prestige® Card earns 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $4,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open

You could also transfer SPG Starpoints to Etihad at a 1:1 ratio. See links for cards that earn SPG Starpoints below.

For the Lufthansa First Class flight you’ll need 50,000 Asiana miles.

SPG Starpoints transfer to Asiana at a 1:1 ratio. The SPG cards from American Express currently offer 25,000 bonus Starpoints for spending $3,000 and $5,000 respectively in the first three months of card membership.

Bottom Line

Virgin Atlantic has a sale on economy awards between London and North America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, India, Africa, and Asia that ends today. You can book awards to London from the U.S. for as little as 12,250 Virgin Atlantic miles and $134.60 in taxes and fuel surcharges.

If you have Membership Rewards from American Express, you can stack that sale with the 30% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic to make that mileage price drop to 10,000 Membership Rewards. This transfer bonus lasts through May 31, 2016 so if you miss the opportunity today for the Virgin Atlantic economy sale, you can still book an economy award to London for 13,000 Membership Rewards through May 31.

For the return trip, fly back to the U.S. from Dublin in American Airlines economy for only 20k Alaska or Etihad miles, or from Oslo in Lufthansa First Class for only 50k Asiana miles. Departing from either city will avoid the high departure taxes you would incur on an award returning from London.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is one the best travel cards on the market at the moment. It ranks #4 out my Top 10 Travel Credit Cards for May 2016.

Quick Facts

  • Sign Up Bonus: 55,000 Ultimate Rewards after $4,000 in spending in the first three months and adding an authorized user on the card
  • Category Bonuses: 2x on travel and restaurants
  • Value of Ultimate Rewards: Worth 1.25 cents toward the purchase of any cash ticket OR can be transferred to any of these six airlines and four hotels for higher value:
    • British Airways
    • Korean Air
    • Singapore Airlines
    • Southwest Airlines
    • United Airlines
    • Virgin Atlantic
    • Hyatt Gold Passport
    • IHG
    • Marriott Rewards
    • Ritz-Carlton Reward
  • Global Acceptance: Chip technology and no foreign transaction fees
  • Annual Fee: $0 for the first 12 months, $95 per year afterwards

There are 10 reasons why I am a fan of the Chase Sapphire Preferred.  

1. You will earn 50,000 Ultimate Rewards for the sign-up bonus.

2. You will earn 5,000 Ultimate Rewards after adding an authorized user.

3. Ultimate Rewards transfer to a variety of airline frequent flyer programs that employ three different types miles.

4. You can get that sign-up bonus again after a little more than 24 months.*

5. It makes your Chase Freedom and Freedom Unlimited card MUCH more valuable

6. Transfer Ultimate Rewards to Virgin Atlantic to fly to Europe for only 17,500 miles!

7. The card is accepted globally with no foreign transaction fees.

8. No annual fee collected the first year.

9. Baggage delay insurance

10. A live human being picks up the phone when you call Sapphire Preferred’s customer service.

Top 10 Reasons to Get the Sapphire Preferred

1. You will earn at least 54,000 Ultimate Rewards with the sign-up bonus and the spending it takes to unlock it. 

I value Ultimate Rewards at 2 cents each, so to me 54,000 Ultimate Rewards are worth $1,080.

You will more than likely earn even more than that if any of your spending is in restaurants or on travel, since those categories earn 2x for ever dollar spent.

2. You will earn 5,000 Ultimate Rewards after adding an authorized user. 

Definitely do this. The authorized user does NOT get a credit check. The authorized user is NOT disqualified from opening their own Sapphire Preferred and getting their own sign up bonus. The extra card is sent to you, and need not ever be used to earn you the 5,000 points. That brings the my sign-up bonus valuation to $1,180:

 $1,080 + (5000 x .02) = $1,180

Not to mention your authorized user can help you reach that minimum spending requirement much faster than you could on your own.

3. Ultimate Rewards transfer to a variety of airline frequent flyer programs that employ three different types miles.

Out of the airline transfer partners’ frequent flyer programs, four use region-based miles, one uses distance-based miles, and one uses airline points. You can read more about the different types of miles here.

It’s important to diversify across the types of miles because they all have different strengths. You want to have the best mile for the job, and you want to use the types of miles in concert.
Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 12.37.57 AM

4. You can get that sign-up bonus again every 24 months.*

You can get the bonus on the same Chase card once every 24 months. This 24-month clock starts when you got the last bonus (which may be up to three months after you got the card).

5. It makes your Chase Freedom and Freedom Unlimited card MUCH more valuable.

The Chase Freedom and Freedom Unlimited are marketed as cash back cards. The Freedom earns 5x spending on rotating category bonuses (as well as 1x on normal sepdning) and the Freedom Unlimited earns 1.5x on all spending. But in fact, the card earns points that can be converted to cash back or can be converted, through a process I call the Freedom Two Step, to much more valuable airline miles and hotel points.

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 12.38.01 AM

The basic idea is that while the Freedom’s Ultimate Rewards do not transfer to airline and hotel partners, if you have a Sapphire Preferred or Ink Plus, you can transfer the points to those cards’ accounts, and from there to airlines and hotels. Having a Sapphire Preferred turns the Freedom and Freedom Unlimited into the most valuable cards for non-bonused spending. No other cards come close to offering 1.5 United/Korean/Singapore/BA/Southwest/Hyatt miles or points per dollar (Freedom Unlimited) or definitely not 5 United/Korean/Singapore/BA/Southwest/Hyatt miles or points per dollar on non-bonused spending.

6. Transfer Ultimate Rewards to Virgin Atlantic to fly to Europe for only 17,500 miles

You can fly Virgin Atlantic economy from Atlanta, Boston, New York, Washington DC, Chicago, or Detroit to London for 17,500 miles and $134.60 in taxes and fees (yes, there are fuel surcharges).

Using American Airlines miles, United miles, or Delta miles, the same flight would cost you 30,000 miles. I think it is worth saving 12,500 miles for $129 in fuel surcharges. That’s like buying miles for 1 cent each.

With the Ultimate Rewards you earn from the sign-up bonus + spending to get the sign-up bonus + adding an authorized user (59,000), you could fly to London three times and still have miles left over.

7. The card is accepted globally with no foreign transaction fees.

The Sapphire Preferred’s chip technology provides added security so you can feel safe trotting around the globe with it. And you won’t pay any pesky foreign transaction fees that can really kill the value of your awards (on many cards these fees amount to 3% of every transaction– yikes!).

When you travel as much as I do, cards with foreign transaction fees get very little to no love. And all those foreign frequent flyer programs you transfer your points to to book awards? You need a card like the Sapphire Preferred to put the taxes and fees on, unless you want to pay 3% on top.

8. No annual fee collected the first year.

The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year that your account is open. Most cards with as many perks as the Sapphire Preferred do not waive the annual fee.

9. Baggage delay insurance

This screenshot is from the Sapphire Preferred’s Featured Benefits page:
Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 6.17.49 PM

That is stellar travel protection, offering a nice silver lining to an otherwise aggravating situation. I don’t have any personal experience with this but I did meet someone traveling in Argentina who held a Sapphire Preferred card. She was without her luggage for about a week, but an extra $100 in her budget every day made for some quality souvenirs and a good time shopping.

10. A live human being picks up the phone when you call Sapphire Preferred’s customer service.

Every Sapphire Preferred card has a customer service phone number on the back. When you call, you are not put through 19 prompts and transfers until you reach an actual (helpful) human being. A short recording plays that informs you the call will be recorded, and then a person that speaks English natively picks up. This is something that all companies–not just credit cards–could learn from in these days of never ending menus to get to a person who can solve your problem.

*Chase 5/24 Rule 

I put an asterisk by reason #4 because of a rule Chase enforces that must be considered before you apply for their cards, whether it’s for the first time or as a repeat. Make sure you haven’t opened five credit cards (any cards from any bank) within the last 24 months, or your application for the Sapphire Preferred will be denied. This is called the Chase 5/24 rule.  If you can’t remember if you’ve opened five cards in the last two years, check by requesting a credit report from one of the three national credit bureaus:

The dates in which you opened and closed accounts should be listed on all of them. You are entitled to one free credit report from each bureau per year.

Bottom Line

I am a big fan of the Chase Sapphire Preferred for numerous reasons–the high value and diversified reward earning potential, lack of foreign transaction fees and impressive customer service are just a few.

What do you love about your Chase Sapphire Preferred?

While I can not directly link to the current Sapphire Preferred offer, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

American Express is offering a 30% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic through May 31, 2016. For the next four weeks, 1,000 Membership Rewards will transfer to 1,300 Etihad Guest Miles.

 

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 3.39.04 AM

This is huge news because there is also currently a 30% discount on Virgin Atlantic economy awards through May 11, 2016. Combining this transfer bonus with that sale means you can book awards from the Eastern United United States to London for 10,000 Membership Rewards plus $135 with great availability for the next 11 months if you act right now. From other parts of the country, you’ll pay only a few more miles.

On some routes, award space is WIDE OPEN year round, including the heart of summer 2016. Here is the award space for July 2016 from New York to London. Days with a red line underneath have award space that can be booked for 10,000 Membership Rewards one way.

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 3.26.05 PMVirgin Atlantic Awards

Virgin Atlantic flies to the UK from 12 US cities and offers great prices for award tickets in economy, Premium Economy, and Upper Class.

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 3.34.52 PM

The normal prices are only:

  • 17,500+ miles in economy to London, depending on starting city
  • 27,500+ miles in Premium Economy to London, depending on starting city
  • 40,000+ miles in flat bed Upper Class to London, depending on starting city

Two Week Sale on Economy and Premium Economy Awards

Until May 11, 2016, Virgin Atlantic is discounting the miles price of economy awards between North America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, India, Africa, and Asia and the UK by 30%. Neither Premium Economy nor Upper Class awards are discounted during this sale. Discounted award prices (one ways bookable for half the miles price) originating in the US:

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 2.44.51 PM

Book now to lock in the rate; you can book travel through April 3, 2017 at the discounted prices.

Transfer Bonuses

ThankYou Points and Membership Rewards (1:1 transfer parters of Virgin Atlantic) have both offered transfer bonuses of 25% to 35% to Virgin Atlantic miles in the past.

This is the first time we have see a concurrent transfer bonus and award sale.

Right now you can transfer 10,000 Membership Rewards to 13,000 Virgin Atlantic miles. The Membership Rewards will instantly appear as Virgin Atlantic miles, and you can use 12,250 to book a one way award from Boston, Newark, New York, DC, Atlanta, Detroit, or Chicago to London.

You’d only need 12,000 Membership Rewards for a one way from Miami, Orlando, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Los Angeles to Newark.

There are similar deals to Manchester and Glasgow.

Out-of-Pocket Price

Virgin Atlantic awards have fuel surcharges. You cannot avoid them.

Virgin Atlantic roundtrip awards will feature a departure from Great Britain, which will incur exorbitant taxes. You can easily avoid them by using this sale to book one way awards to London only. Then use a different type of miles to return from a low tax city in Europe. You see more of Europe for very few miles and very low out of pocket expense.

For instance, a one way award from New York, Boston, DC, Atlanta, Detroit, or Chicago to London will cost 12,250 miles + $135 in economy, even over the heart of summer.

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 5.29.16 PM

That is a manageable out-of-pocket price that is very much worth paying to save a ton of miles over awards using other miles.

But let’s look at a return from London to the United States. Now a one way in economy is 12,250 miles + a ridiculous $257.Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 3.22.36 PMScreen Shot 2016-04-26 at 5.31.37 PM

Strategy to Lower or Eliminate Out-of-Pocket Price

To reiterate, just book the eastbound to London during this transfer bonus and sale. Book the westbound return from somewhere cheaper in Europe with a different type of miles, perhaps United or American. (Get between London and Europe on a train or a low cost carrier.)

You can even eliminate the out-of-pocket cash needed by paying for the Virgin Atlantic Award with your Citi Prestige® Card.

The Citi Prestige® Card offer a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year that offsets your first $250 in spending on airlines with the card. Taxes and fuel surcharges on an award ticket definitely count. If your taxes and fuel surcharges are less than $250, the entire amount will be credited back on your statement. If they are more than $250, $250 will be credited back.

The card also comes with 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after spending $4,000 in the first three months, which can be transferred to Flying Blue miles.

Application LinkCiti Prestige® Card

Is This The Best Deal to Europe?

Other than WOW Air’s $99 fares from Baltimore, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco to Iceland, yes.

Here are some almost-as-good deals (copied from my list of the best awards between all regions):

Upper Class?

Luxury lovers will want to know about the prices in Upper Class to Europe on Virgin Atlantic, since Upper Class is a fantastic business class product.

Unfortunately the current 30% discount does not apply to Upper Class, so the fuel surcharges and miles required to fly Upper Class are about triple economy. At those prices, I don’t think Upper Class is a great deal unless you are miles poor and cash rich at the moment. For instance, New York to London is 40k miles (31,000 Membership Rewards) + $420, and Los Angeles to London one way is 50k miles (39,000 Membership Rewards) + $458 in Upper Class.

Searching for and Booking the Award

You can search award space one month at a time right on the Virgin Atlantic home page. You don’t even need to be a member of the Flying Club to search. Just fill in the search form and select “Spend your miles.”

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Whatever space you find this way is bookable with Flying Club miles, there are no blackout dates for this sale. You can also book right on virginatlantic.com.

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.

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Bottom Line

Europe is within reach for as little as 12,250 miles one way if you book in the next week for trips for the next 11 months. Membership Rewards has a concurrent 30% transfer bonus. That means you can book awards to Europe for 10,000 points + $135 one way. Where will you go this summer?

9

Here’s a great deal to Europe with miles: you can fly from the Eastern United States to London for 13,000 Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards, or ThankYou Points plus $135. From other parts of the country, you’ll pay only a few more miles.

On some routes, award space is WIDE OPEN year round, including the heart of summer 2016. Here is the award space for July 2016 from New York to London. Days with a red, white, and purple line have award space in economy, Premium Economy, and Upper Class.

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 3.26.05 PMVirgin Atlantic Awards

Virgin Atlantic flies to the UK from 12 US cities and offers great prices for award tickets in economy, Premium Economy, and Upper Class.

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 3.34.52 PM

The normal prices are only:

  • 17,500+ miles in economy to London, depending on starting city
  • 27,500+ miles in Premium Economy to London, depending on starting city
  • 40,000+ miles in flat bed Upper Class to London, depending on starting city

Two Week Sale on Economy and Premium Economy Awards

Until May 11, 2016, Virgin Atlantic is discounting the miles price of economy awards between North America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, India, Africa, and Asia and the UK by 30%. Neither Premium Economy nor Upper Class awards are discounted during this sale. Discounted award prices (one ways bookable for half the miles price) originating in the US:

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 2.44.51 PM

Book now to lock in the rate; you can book travel through March 27, 2017 at the discounted prices.

Transfer Bonuses

This is not the first time we’ve seen Virgin Atlantic run a very similar sale. In just February of this year, they were offering the same 30% discount on Economy and Premium Economy awards between the same cities and London.

ThankYou Points and Membership Rewards (1:1 transfer parters of Virgin Atlantic) have both offered transfer bonuses of 25% to 35% to Virgin Atlantic miles in the past.

You can stack a transfer bonus and an award sale though they haven’t overlapped in the past.

For example, if last summer’s 25% transfer bonus of ThankYou Points happens again, you could transfer 10,000 ThankYou Points to Virgin Atlantic miles, and those 12,500 Virgin Atlantic miles (10,000 x 1.25) would be enough to book a one way award to London today! Although this kind of speculative transferring always comes with the risk that either the 30% off sale doesn’t happen again (which wouldn’t be so bad considering the normal rate would run you just 5,000 more miles), or you can’t find award space.

Out-of-Pocket Price

Virgin Atlantic awards have fuel surcharges. You cannot avoid them.

Virgin Atlantic roundtrip awards will feature a departure from Great Britain, which will incur exorbitant taxes. You can easily avoid them by using this sale to book one way awards to London only. Then use a different type of miles to return from a low tax city in Europe. You see more of Europe for very few miles and very low out of pocket expense.

For instance, a one way award from New York, Newark, Boston, DC, or Chicago to London will cost 12,250 miles + $135 in economy, even over the heart of summer.

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That is a manageable out-of-pocket price that is very much worth paying to save a ton of miles over awards using other miles.

But let’s look at a return from London to the United States. Now a one way in economy is 12,250 miles + a ridiculous $257.Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 3.22.36 PMScreen Shot 2016-04-26 at 5.31.37 PM

Strategy to Lower or Eliminate Out-of-Pocket Price

To reiterate, just book the eastbound to London during this sale. Book the westbound return from somewhere cheaper in Europe with a different type of miles, perhaps United or American. (Get between London and Europe on a train or a low cost carrier.)

You can even eliminate the out-of-pocket cash needed by paying for the Virgin Atlantic Award with your Citi Prestige® Card.

The Citi Prestige® Card offer a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year that offsets your first $250 in spending on airlines with the card. Taxes and fuel surcharges on an award ticket definitely count. If your taxes and fuel surcharges are less than $250, the entire amount will be credited back on your statement. If they are more than $250, $250 will be credited back.

The card also comes with 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after spending $4,000 in the first three months, which can be transferred to Flying Blue miles.

Application LinkCiti Prestige® Card

Is This The Best Deal to Europe?

Other than WOW Air’s $99 fares from Baltimore, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco to Iceland, yes.

Here are some almost-as-good deals (copied from my list of the best awards between all regions):

Upper Class?

Luxury lovers will want to know about the prices in Upper Class to Europe on Virgin Atlantic, since Upper Class is a fantastic business class product.

Unfortunately the current 30% discount does not apply to Upper Class, so the fuel surcharges and miles required to fly Upper Class are about triple economy. At those prices, I don’t think Upper Class is a great deal unless you are miles poor and cash rich at the moment. For instance, New York to London is 40k miles + $420, and Los Angeles to London one way is 50k miles + $458 in Upper Class.

Getting the Miles

Virgin Atlantic is a 1:1 transfer partner of ThankYou Points, Ultimate Rewards, and Membership Rewards plus Virgin Atlantic issues an American credit card with a “90,000 mile” sign up bonus.

The Citi Prestige® Card is offering 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $4,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.

The Sapphire Preferred Card offers 50,000 bonus points for spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.  While I can not directly link to the current Sapphire Preferred offer, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

Searching for and Booking the Award

You can search award space one month at a time right on the Virgin Atlantic home page. You don’t even need to be a member of the Flying Club to search. Just fill in the search form and select “Spend your miles.”

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Whatever space you find this way is bookable with Flying Club miles, there are no blackout dates for this sale. You can also book right on virginatlantic.com.

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.

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Bottom Line

Europe is within reach for as little as 12,250 miles one way if you book in the next week for trips for the next 11 months. Where will you go this summer?

Hat Tip PointsCentric

Transfers of Citi ThankYou Points to Virgin Atlantic miles will have a 25% bonus through 11:59 PM ET today (April 6, 2016.)

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This is a fantastic deal that sets up a chance to book one way awards to Europe for 10,000 ThankYou Points + $135.

You must transfer ThankYou Points in 1,000 point increments, so until April 6:

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

Getting ThankYou Points

Three Reasons Why You Want Virgin Atlantic Miles

For details on the current award space picture of three sweet spots on the Virgin Atlantic chart, see Please Do Be Tempted by Virgin Atlantic Transfer Bonus.

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 $135!

Combine a one way from the eastern United States to Europe for 14k ThankYou Points plus $135 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.

Virgin Atlantic has frequent 30% off sales on awards between the United States and Europe. One just ended February 24. If you transfer now speculatively with a 25% transfer bonus and another 30% off sale comes up in the future, you” pay only 10,000 ThankYou Points one way to London or 16,000 ThankYou Points one way in Premium Economy. That’s un-freakin-beatable!

Here are the sweet spots on the Virgin Atlantic award chart.

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!

 

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

  • Atlanta to Buenos Aires roundtrip in Economy Class on Delta: 45,000 miles (36k TY Points) + $99
  • Los Angeles to Auckland roundtrip in Business Class on Air New Zealand: 125,000 miles (100k TY Points) + $69
  • London to New York roundtrip in Economy Class on Delta: 40,000 miles (32k TY Points) + $186

Here are the sweet spots on the partner award charts.

3. VIRGIN ATLANTIC UPPER CLASS

Virgin Atlantic’s Business Class–called Upper Class–is world class.

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 11:59 PM ET today (April 6, 2016.)

Waikiki Sunset

You can get both the Citi Prestige with 40,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months and the Citi ThankYou Premier with 40,000 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 96,000 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 86,000 point sign up bonus for flights in Economy and First Class to Hawaii, Europe, South America, or anywhere else in the world.

1. ~$2,136 in American Airlines Flights

Each of the 96,000 points can be used like cash toward any American Airlines flight at a rate of 1.6 cents per point. That’s $1,536 worth of American Airlines 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.

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 2.22.23 PM
American’s Flat Bed Cross-Country Business Class

That’s about $2,136 in American Airlines flights from the 96,000 original ThankYou Points. I covered this topic more thoroughly in Get $2,600 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, Israel, or North Africa

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

IMG_20131004_140450
Head to Munich for Oktoberfest for 25,000 miles

Every month, Air France releases a list of American cities. You can fly from the listed cities to anywhere in Europe, Israel, Morocco, or Tunisia 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.

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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 (90k)

You can transfer 900,000 ThankYou Points to Air France Flying Blue miles and book four roundtrip awards to Hawaii with Delta award space. Delta would charge 135,000 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.

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5. One and a Half Roundtrips in First Class (flat bed) to Hawaii (900k)

You can transfer 90,000 ThankYou Points to Singapore miles and book one-and-a-half roundtrips in United First Class to Hawaii. You would need 120,000 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.

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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 (105k)

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.

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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 (105k)

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 a huge sign up bonus ThankYou Points after spending $4,000 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 96,000 ThankYou Points, and probably more since both offer 3x and 2x category bonuses.

You have a ton of options with 86,000+ 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.

  • Application Link: Citi Prestige
  • Application Link: Citi ThankYou Premier

A recent post by View from the Wing said not “to be tempted” by the current 25% transfer bonus from Citi ThankYou Points to Virgin Atlantic miles. His argument was that there are so few good uses of Virgin Atlantic miles that he had to dig “deep in the barrel” to come up with any.

Well I dug for 15 seconds to find two great uses to South America and Europe. My message: do be tempted by the transfer bonus.

Top of the Barrel Use #1: South America for 40% Off

Go to delta.com and search for economy award space from your home airport to Southern South America, places like Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. On the search results, check the box “Delta Only” and update the results.

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Now any roundtrip you find for 60,000 Delta miles plus taxes can be booked for 45,000 Virgin Atlantic miles and the same taxes.

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During the 25% transfer bonus, that’s 36,000 ThankYou points, basically a 40% discount on Delta’s already fair price.

Top of the Barrel Use #2: Europe for 10k Points

If you live in one of the dozen cities served by Virgin Atlantic, go search for award space in economy over the heart of summer.

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 3.12.55 PM You’ll find that most Eastern cities to London are 17,500 miles + $135 one way.Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 3.13.19 PM Western cities are a little more, 21,250 miles + $135.Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 3.14.42 PM

During the 25% transfer bonus that’s 14,000 or 17,000 ThankYou Points + $135 for one way to Europe. (The return is a worse deal, so return with a different type of miles.) And you can do even better!

There are frequent 30% off award sales, like the one that ended a few weeks ago, that bring the one way price from the Eastern United States down to 12,250 miles one way. If you transfer 10,000 ThankYou Points to 12,500 Virgin Atlantic miles now and wait, it is very likely–though by no means guaranteed–that another such sale will come along, and you can book a one way award to Europe for those 10,000 points + $135 in taxes and fuel surcharges.

Is This Transfer Bonus for Everyone?

Of course not! Virgin Atlantic runs what I think of as a niche frequent flyer program. It has some great uses like the two listed here and a few more here and here, but for most awards it represents poor value. That must be why View from the Wing is urging you not to be tempted by the transfer bonus. But I think that completely misunderstands transfer bonuses.

There hasn’t been a transfer bonus for at least several years that was a good deal without a specific high value use in mind. (The last one I did just because it was such a good deal was one between Delta and Membership Rewards in 2011 or so. You transferred 50k MR to 50k Delta and got 15k MR back as I recall.)

Transfer bonuses are only ever a good deal if you have a high value use in mind, usually an immediate high value use. There are immediate high value uses for this transfer bonus. If one works for you, be tempted to transfer. If not, don’t transfer.

Getting ThankYou Points

The Citi Prestige® Card comes with 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $4,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.

My review of the Citi Prestige Card which explains its many benefits like $250 in airfare or airline fee credits per calendar year, access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges, and 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels.

Application Link: Citi Prestige® Card

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

Virgin Atlantic has many award charts when redeeming its Flying Club miles. There is one award chart to fly Virgin Atlantic and separate award charts for each of its partners (scoll to page 2). This is a post about sweetspots with Virgin Atlantic miles when redeeming awards on partner airlines. 

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles are easy to accrue. Virgin Atlantic is a 1:1 transfer partner of ThankYou Points, Ultimate Rewards, and Membership Rewards plus Virgin Atlantic issues an American credit card with a “90,000 mile” sign up bonus. Using your Virgin Atlantic miles to book with one of these partners can yield high value awards:

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Routing Rules

One Way Pricing

According to the Flying Club’s terms and conditions page of Virginatlantic.com: “Partner Rewards flights, except for Virgin Australia, are only valid for round trip travel between the destinations specified by the Reward provider using the routes stipulated by the relevant Reward provider. Members can redeem one-way Reward flights with partner airlines, however the full redemption levels as listed on our website will apply, unless specified on the Participating Company page.”

In other words, one way partner awards can be booked but not for half the price of a roundtrip. It will cost the same as it does to take the roundtrip.

Stopovers and Open Jaws

The information is incomplete on the Virgin Atlantic website, and I didn’t test them out. I believe stopovers and open jaws are possible when redeeming Virgin Atlantic miles on some partners (like Air New Zealand) and not possible on others. Share your experiences in the comments.

Two other rules you’ll want to pay attention to when booking awards with their partners:

  1. Partner airline bookings are not accepted within 72 hours of departure
  2. You cannot mix and match partner airlines on a single itinerary.

While some rules are inhibiting, there are some highly valuable sweetspots on their partner award charts. Each partner airline has it’s own award chart, which can be accessed from the links on the second page of this Flying Club Spending details PDF. 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! This is a refreshing difference from redeeming awards with Virgin Atlantic miles on the airline’s own planes, which I covered in part 1 of this Virgin Atlantic post.

Sweetspots on Partner Redemption Charts

  • Atlanta to Buenos Aires roundtrip in Economy Class on Delta: 45,000 miles + $99
  • Los Angeles to Auckland roundtrip in Business Class on Air New Zealand: 125,000 miles + $69
  • London to New York roundtrip in Economy Class on Delta: 40,000 miles + $186

Atlanta to Buenos Aires in roundtrip Economy Class on Delta: 45,000 miles + $99.06 in taxes

60,000 miles is United, American, and Delta charge to travel in Economy roundtrip between the US and Southern South America. (The current off peak season rate for an American Airlines flight is 40,000 miles roundtrip in Economy, however the devaluaation of American Airlines’ miles on March 22 will end that deal.) That makes this a pretty sweet deal.

Los Angeles to Auckland in roundtrip Business Class on Air New Zealand: 125,000 miles + $69.16 in taxes

United charges 160,000 miles roundtrip for the same award space. It currently costs 125,000 American Airlines miles to fly roundtrip between the US and New Zealand in Business Class, but that price will jump up to 160,000 on March 22. The lack of fuel surcharges on the redemption is great news as well considering Air New Zealand flights have high fuel surcharges.

Air New Zealand was notorious for never releasing any Business Class award space between the US and New Zealand, but that has changed, but now they are releasing the space within 90 days of departure.

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12 to 15 hours on a Boeing 777’s world-class flat bed? More than fine by me

London to New York in roundtrip Economy on Delta: 40,000 miles + $185.96 in taxes

The key here is that the flight originates in London. You can fly the same round trip route originating in New York but it will cost 60,000 miles instead of 40,000, which debunks the sweetspot status. Flights originating in London flying to all of the following cities are also 40,000 miles in Economy: Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Salt Lake City (the Salt Lake City route doesn’t start until May 2016).

Theoretical Sweetspots

  • London to Beijing in roundtrip First Class on Air China: 75,000 miles + estimated $285 in taxes + estimated $400 in fuel surcharges
  • San Francisco to Hong Kong roundtrip in Business Class on Singapore Airlines: 110,000 miles + estimated $77.56 in fuel surcharges

What do I mean by theoretical? I do not have tangible proof that you can book these awards at the moment. But they are theoretically bookable.

London to Beijing in roundtrip First Class on Air China: 75,000 miles + an estimated $285 in taxes + an estimated $400 in fuel surcharges 

Nearly $700 is a lot of out of pocket expense to pay for an award. But 75,000 miles for First Class is incredibly cheap. When I called in and spoke to a Flying Club representative, however, he told me that his computer was giving him an error message that until further notice, Virgin Atlantic miles cannot be used to redeem awards on Air China. This FlyerTalk thread showed evidence to the contrary, that perhaps the problem between the two airlines had been solved. But I spoke to multiple different Flying Club representatives and they all delivered the same message that it was not possible, until further notice. If anyone has had a successful experience booking an Air China award with their Virgin Atlantic miles, please let us know in the comments. That “until further notice” the agents kept tacking on gives me hope.

San Francisco to Hong Kong roundtrip in Business Class on Singapore Airlines: 110,000 miles + an estimated $78 in taxes

There are also amazing prices listed for Singapore Airlines First (Suites) Class. Unfortunately Singapore doesn’t release longhaul Business or First Class award space to Virgin Atlantic, so you can’t book these sweet spots.

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Singapore Airlines Business Class

Transfer Bonuses

ThankYou Points and Membership Rewards have both offered transfer bonuses of 25% to 35% to Virgin Atlantic miles, so there is a potential for more of these types of promotions in the future. If you had transferred 100,000 ThankYou Points to Virgin Atlantic miles during last summer’s 25% transfer bonus, your resulting 125,000 Virgin Atlantic miles would be enough to book that roundtrip Business class trip between Los Angeles and Auckland!

Other Useful Tips I Learned From a Prior Call with Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club:

  • Delta awards have no fuel surcharges, just the same government taxes as booking with Delta miles
  • There are no fuel surcharges on Hawaiian Airlines award flights.
  • The Hawaiian award chart says a First Class roundtrip is “from 80,000 miles.” That price only refers to roundtrips from the western US. The actual roundtrip price between New York and Hawaii is 130,000 miles in First Class.
  • There are no fuel surcharges on Virgin America award flights.

Where to Search Award Space for Each Virgin Atlantic Partner

In regards to Virgin America, not all of their 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.”

Transferring ThankYou Points to Virgin Atlantic Miles

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

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 3.48.11 PM

How to Book Awards with Virgin Atlantic’s Partners

Once your miles post, call the Flying Club at 1 (800) 365-9500. This is the US’s office’s contact number, but if it’s after hours you will be automatically transferred to the UK office which is open 24/7.

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.

Getting Citi ThankYou Points to transfer to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

The best card to rack up Virgin Atlantic miles is the:

Bottom Line

Virgin Atlantic miles are easy to collect and can be valuable for booking awards with their 12 partners. There are some great deals on Delta’s, Air New Zealand’s, Air China’s, and Singapore Airlines’ charts, and transfer bonuses make those deals even sweeter. You can get away without paying fuel surcharges on many partner airlines, and ones that do charge them have very low mileage price tags that make up for it.

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

Virgin Atlantic has many award charts when redeeming its Flying Club miles. There is one award chart to fly Virgin Atlantic and separate award charts for each of its partners (scroll to page 2). This is a post about sweetspots with Virgin Atlantic miles when flying Virgin Atlantic planes. There will be another post to follow that covers sweetspots on its partner award charts.

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles are easy to accrue. Virgin Atlantic is a 1:1 transfer partner of ThankYou Points, Ultimate Rewards, and Membership Rewards plus Virgin Atlantic issues an American credit card with a “90,000 mile” sign up bonus. There are a few valuable sweetspots on its award chart flying Virgin Atlantic metal. Virgin Atlantic also frequently runs great sales and promotions. Another nice perk– their miles don’t expire until three years of inactivity. That’s a longer time period than most programs.

Routing Rules

One Way Pricing & Open Jaws

One way Virgin Atlantic awards that fly Virgin Atlantic cost half the price of roundtrip awards. Since you can book one way awards, a roundtrip can have two open jaws.

Stopovers

The Virgin Atlantic award chart prices awards to and from London. If you want to connect in London, but start and end somewhere else, say Los Angeles to Lagos, you basically pay for two awards: Los Angeles to London + London to Lagos.

That means that technically the answer is that yes you can get a free stopover flying Virgin Atlantic awards on Virgin Atlantic flights, but you won’t get a good deal on awards with a connection or stopover.

Fuel Surcharges

Virgin Atlantic awards unfortunately always include fuel surcharges on their own flights. I am never happy to pay them, but I am not foolish enough to never pay them. Even after the fuel surcharges, some of their awards have significant value thanks to low mileage prices.

Sweetspots

Here are some Virgin Atlantic deals I particularly like:

  • Economy from Atlanta, Boston, New York, Washington DC, Chicago, or Detroit to London: 17,500 miles + $134.60
  • Premium Economy from Atlanta, Boston, New York, Washington DC, Chicago, or Detroit to London:  27,500 miles + $234.60
  • Economy Class from Hong Kong to London: 25,000 miles + $22
  • Upper Class from Shanghai to London: 50,000 miles + $277

Economy from Atlanta, Boston, New York, Washington DC, Chicago, or Detroit to London: 17,500 miles + $134.60

Using American Airlines miles, United miles, or Delta miles, the same flight would cost you 30,000 miles. I think it is worth saving 12,500 miles for $129 in fuel surcharges. That’s like buying miles for 1 cent each.

Premium Economy from Atlanta, Boston, New York, Washington DC, Chicago, or Detroit to London: 27,500 miles + $234.60

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. For fewer miles than competitors charge for an economy award ticket, I think of the $229 fuel surcharge like an upgrade fee for economy to Premium Economy. I’d pay that.

Economy Class from Hong Kong to London: 25,000 miles + $22

That’s a lot of flying (12+ hours) for the price tag. Using American Airlines miles, United miles, or Delta miles, the same flight would cost you anywhere from 35,000 to 55,000 miles.

Upper Class from London to Shanghai: 50,000 miles + $277

Virgin Atlantic’s Business Class–called Upper Class–is the best cabin on the plane. It offers offers a flat bed, Clubhouse access, and access to an onboard bar. American, United, and Delta will charge 75,000 to 80,000 miles one way on the route after American’s devaluation next month.

Did You Notice Something?

You’ll notice that three out of the four of those listed sweetspots fly to London, instead of from London. That’s because there are massive taxes on flights leaving Great Britain that you have to pay on awards. Avoid them by booking one way to London with Virgin Atlantic miles, taking a train or low cost carrier flight to the continent, and continuing your journey from a low tax country.

Sales and Promotions

Virgin Atlantic will occasionally run sales like the 30% off of Economy and Premium Economy awards between North America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, India, Africa, and Asia and the UK that is happening right now that lasts until February 24, 2016 (good for travel dates through January 25, 2017). If you book your award in the next week, you can fly the first sweetspot mentioned (east coast US to London in Economy) for only 12,250 Virgin Atlantic miles. The Premium Economy award on the same routes would only be 19,250 miles.

ThankYou Points and Membership Rewards have both offered transfer bonuses of 25% to 35% to Virgin Atlantic miles.

You can stack a transfer bonus and an award sale though they haven’t overlapped in the past.

If you had transferred 10,000 ThankYou Points to Virgin Atlantic miles during last summer’s 25% transfer bonus, your 12,500 Virgin Atlantic miles would be enough to book a one way award to London today!

Searching Award Space

You can search award space one month at a time right on the Virgin Atlantic home page. Fill in the search form 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.

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Find a date that has the award space you want and click Continue.

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You’ll see the miles needed and the total in taxes and fuel surcharges (note these mile prices in the photo are calculated with the current 30% off sale previously mentioned). 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 an A seat since G and K share an aisle. I’d also 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 12 airline transfer partners.

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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.

Getting Citi ThankYou Points to transfer to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

The best cards to rack up Virgin Atlantic miles are the:

Bottom Line

Virgin Atlantic miles are valuable for booking Virgin Atlantic flights. There are some great deals on the normal chart, and regular award sales and transfer bonuses make those deals even sweeter. There are fuel surcharges on Virgin Atlantic awards that fly Virgin Atlantic flights, including occasionally large ones on Upper Class awards, but sometimes the miles price is so low that the surcharges are worth paying.

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