American Express is offering a 25% bonus on transfers to Virgin America through October 10. They’re also offering Virgin America Elevate Gold status for large enough Membership Rewards transfers.
With the 25% transfer bonus offer you get 125 Virgin America points for 200 Membership Rewards points, instead of getting just 100.
This isn’t unusual, they’ve had a 40% transfer bonus to Virgin America more than once. Four years ago they even even ran a 50% transfer bonus. They ran the 25% bonus plus Gold status last year at this time.
Is It Worth Transferring Points to Virgin America?
Normally American Express points transfer 2:1 into Virgin America. A 25% bonus is significant, but it’s important to understand how Virgin America points can be valued.
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.
Real value comes from the new option to transfer Starwood points one-to-one into Virgin America Elevate (with 5000 bonus points for transferring 20,000).
And this gets interesting with 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 100,000 points plus ~ $1410 in taxes/fees. New York-Milan roundtrip on Emirates is 55,000 points and ~ $1090 in taxes/fees. One-way awards are permitted.
- Virgin Atlantic. JFK-London in Virgin Upper Class is 35,000 points roundtrip plus ~ $1150 in taxes/fees.
- Virgin Australia. Los Angeles – Sydney is 80,000 points roundtrip in business class plus ~ $130 in taxes/fees (compare to 190,000 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 ~ $51 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. Unless they want easy Virgin America elite status bundled in (and can actually use it).
Virgin America Gold Status for Transferring 80,000 Points
Gold is Virgin America’s top tier status. When you transfer 80,000 or more Membership Rewards points to Virgin America by October 31, Virgin America will upgrade that Elevate account to Gold through end of 2017. This can be across multiple transfers, and just needs to total 80,000 points.
In order to be upgraded to Gold Status, transfer 80,000 or more Membership Rewards points to Virgin America during the eligibility period from 12:00 a.m. CT on September 8, 2016 to 11:59 p.m. CT on October 31, 2016. Status will be awarded for qualifying Card Members within 14 days of transfer of 80,000 points and will remain in effect until January 1, 2018. For questions about the status of your upgrade, call 1-877-FLY-VIRGIN (1-877-359-8474)
- Golds earn 100% bonus on paid travel
- Golds receive complimentary upgrades to Main Cabin Select 24 hours out, and can purchase first class upgrades within that window as well.
- Golds get complimentary access to the Virgin America Loft lounge at LAX
- Naturally there’s priority check-in, boarding, baggage, and security
- Twice a year Golds get 25% off an economy ticket
- Free checked bags, free award redeposit, and waived telephone booking fees
- Partner benefits: priority check-in, boarding and security with Virgin Atlantic and those benefits plus priority luggage and lounge access in Australia with Virgin Australia.
Of course if you want the status from transferring points, it’s better to do it by October 10 while the 25% bonus is in effect rather than after!