50% Bonus on Transfers from American Express to Virgin America (Biggest in Over 3 Years): Worth It?

American Express is offering a 50% bonus on transfers from Membership Rewards to Virgin America Elevate through March 10.

American Express Membership Rewards transfer bonuses to Virgin America are somewhat frequent. For instance,

American Express hasn’t offered a 50% transfer bonus since November 2012 though.

Normally American Express points transfer 2:1 into Virgin America.

My rule of thumb is that Virgin America’s points are deflated, that one Virgin America point is worth about 2 points in a European airline frequent flyer program.

You can use the points for about 2.2 cents apiece towards travel on Virgin America, or for fixed-point redemptions on their partners. Their points are reasonably good for redeeming on partners (with fuel surcharges). Transferring to Virgin America to redeem on Virgin America doesn’t get great value.

Where this does get a little bit interesting is partner redemptions. They do have partners, none of which offer out of this world value but some of which can be strategically useful, for instance:

  • Emirates. New York – Dubai roundtrip on Emirates is 95,000 points plus ~ $1400 in taxes/fees. New York-Milan roundtrip on Emirates is 59,000 points and ~ $670 in taxes/fees. One-way awards are permitted.
  • Virgin Atlantic. JFK-London in Virgin Upper Class is 35,000 points roundtrip plus ~ $1000 in taxes/fees.
  • Virgin Australia. Los Angeles – Sydney is 80,000 points roundtrip in business class (compare to 160,000 Delta miles). Short-haul business class within Australia is quite reasonable.
  • Singapore Airlines. Short-haul regional business class on Singapore can be quite attractive, eg. Singapore – Bangkok roundtrip is 13,000 points and ~ $45 in taxes/fees
  • Hawaiian. Hawaiian Airlines West Coast – Hawaii is 20,000 points roundtrip in coach. First class is 50,000 points. And no fuel surcharges apply.

Whether you should take advantage of this offer hinges on the extent to which these and similar redemptions are appealing and match your plans, in my view. But for most folks I’d advise against.

Terms and conditions:

Minimum transfer is 200 Membership Rewards points. Redeem for this exclusive offer from 12:00 a.m. CT on February 10, 2016 to 11:59 p.m. CT on March 10, 2016, to receive 50% additional Elevate points. Additional Elevate points will be awarded at the time of transfer. For each conversion of points into the Frequent Flyer program of a U.S. airline, a fee of $0.0006 per point, with a maximum fee of $99, will be charged to your Card account. We charge this fee to offset the federal excise tax we must pay on such conversions. The fee may be more or less than the actual amount of the excise tax we pay on any individual conversion. We may offer you the option to redeem points to cover this fee.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary, do you see any value in making a transfer to use for Singapore on a route like JFK-FRA? The prices look great at 20/59/90k and $147. I know you mentioned short haul business for SQ above but this seems like a particularly attractive option as well, no?

  2. Gary wrote:
    “But for most folks I’d advise against. Unless they want easy Virgin America elite status bundled in (and can actually use it).”

    Could you explain the elite status comment and how to achieve it with this MR transfer? I thought that this transfer did not affect or include Status points, which determines elite status on VX.

    If there’s an easier way to gain status on VX than BIS, I’d appreciate any advice or suggestions. I’m Thanks!

  3. @Gary:
    What are the fuel surcharges (if any) on the LAX-SYD partner redemption on Virgin Australia in business class?—it’s the only one you don’t specifically mention in your post, and it’s also the most intriguing and useful one for me.
    Also, can you book one-way awards on that route using Virgin America miles?

  4. How do you check availability for Virgin Australia to use VA points 80K rount trip? I have a reservation with Delta but if I can book for half the points I would .

  5. Typically, programs devalue their award chart soon after these kinds of promotion or miles purchase offers. So, probably Virgin America is planning to devalue specially if bloggers keeps saying they are “deflated” compared to their competitors..

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