Category Archives: Virgin America

40% Membership Rewards Transfer Bonus to Virgin America

There is currently a 40% transfer bonus on Membership Rewards transfers to Virgin America. The normal rate is 200 Membership Rewards to 100 Elevate points.

Until September 30, 200 Membership Rewards transfer to 140 Elevate points.

What are the sweetspots on the Virgin America chart that might make a transfer worthwhile?

Continue reading

Which Virgin America Credit Card Sign Up Bonus is Right for You?

Barclay’s issues a Virgin America Visa Signature card that I’ve written about before because of Virgin’s incredible award chart. This card has never had an eye-popping number as the sign up bonus, but the 20k point sign up bonus at the time was deceptively good because of some redemption options for Virgin America points on Hawaiian Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.

Hawaiian

Virgin Atlantic

Well that 20k point sign up disappeared, and the normal 10k sign up bonus returned.

But now there are two different sign up bonuses floating around: 20k and 10k + a free roundtrip. Both are intriguing, but which one is right for you?

20k Elevate Points

This page about an expired Virgin America/Visa Signature/USA Ski Team promotion has an application link to a 20k Virgin America offer after first purchase.

  • 20k Elevate Points after first use
  • $150 off a companion ticket each year
  • 3x points on Virgin America purchases
  • $49 annual fee

The $150 companion discount is actually worth about $150 too. The terms and conditions allow the discount to be applied to pretty much any roundtrip ticket purchased at least 14 days out.

Hat Tip Daraius

10k Elevate points + a Free Roundtrip

Barclay’s has temporarily sweetened the normal 10k offer to include a free roundtrip ticket on Virgin.

So this offer breaks down like this:

  • 10k Elevate Points after first use
  • A free roundtrip flight anywhere Virgin America flies until 7/11/13 (blackout dates apply) after $1,000 in spending in the first 90 days
  • $150 off a companion ticket each year
  • 3x points on Virgin America purchases
  • $49 annual fee

So this offer is identical to the 20k offer in every way except that this offer has an extra free roundtrip and 10k fewer points, plus this offer requires $1,000 in spending to unlock all components of the bonus.

Which is more valuable: 10k Elevate points or a free roundtrip on Virgin America?

Elevate points are worth about 2 cents. Here are a few screenshots showing a roundtrip from Los Angeles to Boston on Virgin and its cost in cash versus points.

Using the MileValue Mile Value Calculator, this itinerary gets 2.07 cents worth of value per point.

That means an extra 10k points is worth $207. That makes the free roundtrip pretty clearly the more valuable perk if you can use it well, since cross country trips normally cost $300 or more.

Can you use it well?

The free roundtrip code comes 4-6 weeks after spending the $1,000. That means you will get the code around April or May if you get the card and meet the spending requirement immediately. That would give you about two months to fly a roundtrip anywhere Virgin America flies.

Opportunity Cost

The opportunity cost of a card is what you give up to get it. When you get a great American Express personal card, that means you can’t get a different American Express personal card until later.

But this card is issued by Barclay’s, which has only two or three cards worth getting. That means there isn’t much opportunity cost to getting this card.

Which Card for You?

If you want to use your Virgin America points on one of its partners like Hawaiian, Virgin Atlantic, or Virgin Australia, then you want the version with as many points as possible, the 20k sign up bonus.

Application Link: Virgin Atlantic Visa Signature with 20k points

If you want to use your Virgin America points on Virgin America and you want to take a roundtrip flight between May and July, you are better off with the 10k points plus free roundtrip.

Application Link: Virgin Atlantic Visa Signature with 10k points and free roundtrip on Virgin

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Double Dip Opportunity with Singapore and Virgin America

Singapore has recently entered a codesharing partnership with Virgin America to allow more passengers to connect to Singapore flights leaving Los Angeles and San Francisco.

To celebrate the partnership, you can earn both Singapore miles and Virgin America points for the codeshared flights from now until February 28, 2013.

To earn the double dip, you must register your flights in advance here. You have to provide a KrisFlyer and Elevate number, so you must be crediting the flights to those programs.

You will earn KrisFlyer miles equal to the distance of the Virgin America flight plus whatever other KrisFlyer miles you are entitled to for the Singapore-operated flights. You will earn a set number of Virgin America points depending on the route.

My Take

This is a great promo for free Virgin America points if you already have a flight booked on Singapore between now February 28 with a Virgin America operated leg. But it’s not going to be worth booking such a flight.

Further Reading

Virgin America has an incredible chart, so I want to earn its points where possible.

20k Points Roundtrip to Hawaii, 45k to Asia, 55k to Australia

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for 35k Roundtrip

Full Terms & Conditions

Hat Tip Dorron

American Airlines & Virgin America: Complete Buy Miles Analysis

American Airlines Buy Miles Promotion

American Airlines is offering bonus miles on all AAdvantage miles purchases through January 31. As with past promotions, the bonus miles awarded are scaled. Buying 40,000 (or more) miles will yield a 15k bonus. Buying lesser quantities will result in fewer bonus miles being awarded.

The full promotion chart can be found below.

American seems to be running these deals fairly regularly. I’ve analyzed their fall and holiday buy miles promotions here and here.

How do I get in on this deal?

Simply go to American’s purchase miles page here and enter your AAdvantage information. You will then be taken to a payment screen for processing. Remember that these buy miles transactions are processed through Points.com and not American directly. If you are a Citi AAdvantage cardholder, these purchases will not be eligible for the double miles bonus.

Anything new about this promotion?

I touched on this in a previous post, but American quietly raised the annual limit of purchasing miles per account from 40,000 to 60,000.

That’s great, should I go for the maximum 60,000 miles purchase?

Absolutely not! Purchasing 60k miles will get you 75k total miles (including the bonus) for $1,808.75. You are buying miles for 2.41 cents. From a cents per mile standpoint, there are smarter purchase options on this chart. Buying 25k will get you 33k miles for $774.06, or 2.34 cents. We can do even better, though.

The “sweet spot” of American’s holiday award chart is buying 40k miles. Buying 40k will yield 55k total miles for $1,217.50, or 2.21 cents.

According to the Mile Value Leaderboard, we value AAdvantage miles at 1.77 cents. This promotion is still too expensive to buy miles speculatively (without a specific award redemption in mind). It’s not even close to the lucrative US Airways share miles promotion in October where you could effectively purchase miles for 1.1 cents. We wrote up (and fully leveraged) that deal in this post, Buy US Airways Miles for 1.1 Cents through 100% Share Miles Bonus.

Interestingly enough, American’s own site lays out the best use for their current buy miles promotion: “Buying miles is the easy way to top up your account to get the award you want.”

I don’t know if I’m close to an AAdvantage award. What are some good uses for American’s miles?

Though Scott just wrote up a big issue with American miles (see: American Airlines Miles’ Fatal Flaw?), there are plenty of great redemption opportunities available, especially with their huge route network to Europe.

Using American miles is also a great way to get to Tahiti and Bora Bora on partners Hawaiian and Air Tahiti Nui. For a complete breakdown, check out the post Getting to Tahiti with American Miles.

Scott discussed how you can leverage AAdvantage miles to get to Europe for only 20k miles in economy all summer! You can even get free oneways on American awards. Just be sure to follow their strict routing rules. For complete information, check out Scott’s post, Master Thread: Free Oneways on American Airlines Awards.

Virgin America Buy Elevate Points Promotion

According to this thread on FlyerTalk, Virgin America is running a promotion through January 31 where you can receive up to a 50% bonus when purchasing Elevate Points.

To purchase Elevate Points, simply go to Virgin America’s site here. The complete bonus promotion chart can be found below.

What is the maximum number of Elevate Points I can purchase?

You can purchase up to 20,000 points which will yield 30,000 points, including the 50% bonus. The total cost for the 30k points would be $1,040. You would be buying Elevate Points for approximately 3.46 cents.

Note that the annual limit on purchases is 20,000 Elevate Points.

What does 30k Elevate Points get me?

Elevate Points appears to have a fixed value when redeeming on Virgin America. You can typically find between 1.6-2.3 cents in value, so buying points speculatively doesn’t make sense if you are going to use them on Virgin America directly.

Back to the drawing board. What are some good redemptions for Elevate Points?

Scott actually wrote a comprehensive post on Virgin America and last month. You can read his analysis here, Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for 35k. In that post he proclaimed that Virgin America might have the best award chart in the world. You can redeem your Elevate Points on Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia, and even Hawaiian Airlines. Be very aware of fuel surcharges on Virgin Atlantic/Australia, but using your Elevate Points on Hawaiian can be extremely lucrative.

There’s evidence to back up that bold claim, too. As Scott wrote in his post, 20k Points Roundtrip to Hawaii, 45k Roundtrip to Asia, 55k Roundtrip to Australia, it’s tough to beat Virgin America’s fantastic award chart on Hawaiian.

Though I couldn’t find a published partner award chart, you can actually go to Virgin’s site here and plug in your city pairs to find out how many Elevate Points you need for a specific redemption. For example, I plugged in Los Angeles <-> Honolulu.

You don’t even need to play around with Virgin’s partner award tool, though! Scott was even helpful enough to piece together Virgin America’s partner chart with Hawaiian. You can check the oneway/roundtrip pricing below:

Purchasing small amounts might be beneficial, especially if you are planning to island hop on a Hawaiian vacation. Buying 3,500 Elevate Points for $130 will get you a oneway interisland award on Hawaiian. In some cases, that is cheaper than buying the ticket outright.

Will you be taking advantage of this promotion?

I’m leaning towards sitting this one out, but Scott and I each try to travel to Hawaii annually, and sometimes more than once a year. I’m also looking to book an award on Virgin Australia in the next 18 months, so I will probably attempt to accumulate a stash of Elevate Points in the near future. When I figure out a strategy to accumulate and leverage them to the fullest, you will read about it here first.

Besides this purchase promotion, what are some other ways to bank Elevate Points?

You can fly on Virgin America, but earning Elevate Points is attached to the cost of your airfare as opposed to the distance flown. You earn 5 Elevate Points per $1 on your base fare. Unless you live near their hubs in Los Angeles and San Francisco and fly pricey segments frequently, it will be tough to earn enough Elevate Points for an aspirational award.

American Express Membership Rewards is a transfer partner of Virgin America at a ratio of 2:1. That unfavorable ratio usually makes most transfers a bad deal. A 50% transfer bonus was recently offered by AMEX which could make sense for some awards. If AMEX ever offered a 100% transfer bonus in the future, I would pounce on it.

You can sign up for the Virgin America Visa Signature card, though it’s currently only offering 10k points after first purchase. In the past, there have been 20k first purchase offers, so I would probably sit this one out for the time being.

Starpoints, the currency of the Starwood Preferred Guest program, aren’t a Virgin America transfer partner, so that’s not a viable option.

Recap

American Airlines is running yet another purchase miles promotion. Even with the bonus, you shouldn’t be buying miles speculatively. If you need to top off your balance to reach an award ticket threshold, then I would definitely take a look.

Virgin America is also offering a bonus on Elevate Point purchases. You can book some solid awards on Virgin America’s sister airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia, but you need to be aware of the high fuel surcharges.

The best use of Elevate Points is on Virgin America’s partner, Hawaiian Airlines. The award chart is extremely favorable, especially if you are flying to Hawaii from the West Coast, building an award that includes inter-island travel , or flying from Hawaii <-> Tahiti. Best of all, there aren’t any fuel surcharges! Hawaiian has a solid economy product but their first class product probably isn’t worth the mileage premium when redeeming.

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for 35k

Virgin America might have the best award chart in the world. Last week I covered the amazing deals to, from, and within Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines using Virgin America points. See 20k Points Roundtrip to Hawaii, 45k Roundtrip to Asia, 55k Roundtrip to Australia.

That discovery made me investigate Virgin America’s partner award charts more closely. Virgin America lists two other partners on which you can redeem: Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia.

Yes, the Virgin A’s are three separate airlines that have all licensed the Virgin brand name. Virgin America has hubs in San Francisco and Los Angeles; Virgin Atlantic has a hub in London; and Virgin Australia has hubs in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane.

I’ve covered the foreign Virgin A’s before because both have fantastic business class products.

See How to Book Flat Beds to Australia at Peak Times without Surcharges on Virgin Australia with Delta SkyMiles.

See Hawaiian Devalues its Virgin Atlantic Chart.

But I’ve never seen a way to get on their premium products for anywhere near as cheap as Virgin America’s chart.

For only 35,000 Virgin America points, you can fly roundtrip from New York, Newark, Boston, Washington DC, and Chicago to London.

Miami is 40k roundtrip. Dallas and the west coast–Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, and Vancouver–cost 50k roundtrip.

Of course, the issue is the Taxes & Fees–namely the fuel surcharges. You will pay only 35,000 points for the award, but you will pay over $1,000 in cash.

Still this is a deal that I think is very worthy of consideration. Normally business class costs 100k roundtrip to Europe. You can get a nice business class like United, US Airways, or Austrian for under $300 out of pocket in government taxes if you are flying to London.

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class is better than those business class products from what I’ve read. Not to mention the Clubhouses look better than a standard business class lounge by a mile.

So is the extra $700-$800 out of pocket worth the better product and saving 65k points? That depends on how points rich and cash rich you are, but for many people the answer will be yes.

Or to look at it another way: if you valued a roundtrip Upper Class ticket at $2,000 (a fraction of its cost), and you had to pay 35,000 points and $1,000, you’d be getting about 3 cents per point in value–pretty fantastic!

You can take a look at all the possibilities to redeem Virgin America points on Virgin Atlantic flights here. You’ll generally find complete steals in points with annoying surcharges.

There is no chart, only dropdown boxes to choose a departure and arrival city.

From playing around a bit, I can tell that each segment adds to the total price, so LAX to Johannesburg equals LAX to London plus London to Johannesburg since the trip would route that way. Oneway awards are available for about 60% of the roundtrip points needed.

Virgin Australia

Virgin America points can also be redeemed on Virgin Australia flights. While not quite as spectacular as Virgin Atlantic Upper Class, Virgin Australia business class gets lots of praise too for its fully flat beds.

Virgin Australia is one of the few bright spots of the Delta SkyMiles program because award availability is spectacular, and Delta doesn’t charge surcharges on the awards making the out of pocket price 150k SkyMiles and $150.

Unfortunately Virgin America does collect surcharges, but the award price in miles is a steal compared to Delta’s price.

The US–Los Angeles or San Francisco–to Australia–Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane–is only 80k points and $850. That’s 70k fewer points than a SkyMiles redemption though it will cost though $700 more.

Saving 70k points at the cost of $700 extra is like paying one cent per point to buy points, something that I have advocated before. Again this deal may not be for everyone, but for some, the deal is too good to pass up.

Like the Virgin Atlantic awards, no chart is published. Instead the Virgin Australia page uses the same dropdown boxes. Oneway awards are available for about 60% of the roundtrip points needed.

How to Get Virgin America Points

There are three main ways to get Virgin America points to take advantage of its favorable chart for Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia redemptions.

Like all airlines, you can earn points by flying butt-in-seat miles. Virgin points are earned at a rate of 5 per $ on your base fare. They are not earned the way that legacy-carrier miles are earned–based on the distance of your paid flights’ routings.

Butt-in-seat is probably only viable for people who live near LAX and SFO–Virgin’s hubs.

The easiest way for most people is probably the Virgin America Visa Signature card from Barclay’s.

The card comes with 20k Elevate points on first purchase. That’s more than half the points needed for a roundtrip flight in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class from New York, Newark, Chicago, Washington DC, and Boston to London.

The card comes with a very low $49 annual fee, which is more than offset by the $150 annual companion ticket discount code. And unlike a lot of companion ticket discounts, this one is actually easy to use. It is valid on any roundtrip published airfare, purchased 14 days in advance as long as the cardholder is on the itinerary.

Finally, the card is issued by Barclay’s, which is great, since you can get it in addition to other offers from the other banks with more rewards cards. And it has no minimum spend to get the points, which is great if your spending is being spread thin by the ever-growing minimum spends on most cards.

I should also mention that 20k is the highest bonus I’ve ever seen on this card–the application page notes it is double the usual bonus–so I am not expecting a bigger bonus any time soon.

Application Link: 20k Virgin America Visa Signature Card

The last option to get Elevate points is through a transfer from Membership Rewards. AMEX points transfer at a 2:1 rate, meaning 2,000 Membership Rewards gets 1,000 Virgin America points.

That means you could get the card and 20k points, then transfer 30k Membership Rewards to 15k Elevate points to make 35k total Elevate points, enough for a roundtrip in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class.

In November, there was a 50% transfer bonus to from Membership Rewards to Virgin America, which made the transfer rate 4:3. At that rate, you could get in premium cabins for even fewer points.

Virgin America is not a transfer partner of SPG.

How to Book

Virgin America partner awards need to be booked by phone by calling 877.FLY.VIRGIN (877.359.8474). Researching Virgin Australia space can be done online at delta.com. I don’t know a place to research Virgin Atlantic space online.

Recap

Virgin America may have the world’s best award chart. In addition to its partnership with Hawaiian Airlines, Virgin America partners with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia.

Unfortunately it collects surcharges on awards on the Virgins, but the point prices are so low that the awards can still be a great deal. Virgin Atlantic Upper Class starts at 35k roundtrip, and Virgin Australia business starts at 80k.

These awards would normally cost 100k and 150k respectively.

People with Virgin America miles have a new cheapest way to get into Upper Class. If you don’t have any miles, consider the Virgin America credit card or a Membership Rewards transfer.

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20k Points Roundtrip to Hawaii, 45k Roundtrip to Asia, 55k Roundtrip to Australia

Reader @bitachu gave me an incredible tip the other day–at trivia night in Honolulu of all places–check out Virgin America’s award chart for flights on Hawaiian Airlines.

Basically the chart is incredible and presents huge opportunity for mainlanders and Hawaiians alike whether they want to go to Hawaii or beyond.

Instead of just listing the chart, they have you type in your departure and arrival cities and spit out the number of Elevate points you need to book the award.

Nonetheless, I think I’ve figured out the underlying chart. Basically, it’s a chart-plus-segment mechanism. Every segment adds to the cost of the award in much the same way British Airways Avios awards work. But instead of being distance based, it is region based.

Here’s what I’ve worked out:

Virgin America’s chart for redemptions on Hawaiian Airlines

Each cell shows the oneway/roundtrip award price in Virgin America Elevate points for a direct flight from the region listed along the top to/from Hawaii. Example: JFK to Honolulu is 20k/35k oneway/roundtrip in economy class. JFK-HNL is 45k/80k in first class for a oneway/roundtrip.

As you can see, the oneway price is 50-60% of the roundtrip price for all regions and for both economy and first class redemptions.

Each connection adds to the price. Example: interisland flights cost 3k each as you can see on the chart. That means that JFK to Maui would be 23k/41k oneway/roundtrip in economy class because you have to route JFK to Honolulu, Honolulu to Maui (20k/35k + 3k/6k).

All Hawaiian Airlines flights–except interisland flights–fly through either Oahu (HNL) or Maui (OGG). Here are wikipedia’s lists of Hawaiian’s flights to/from those airports, so you can figure out if you can take advantage of the direct-flight prices listed above.

Hawaiian’s flights to/from OGG

Hawaiian’s flights to/from HNL

I define the regions like so:

  • Hawaii: Honolulu, Kahului, Lihue, Kona, Hilo
  • Western US: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oakland, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle
  • JFK: New York
  • Japan/Korea: Fukuoka, Osaka, Sapporo, Seoul, Tokyo
  • Aus/Phillipines: Brisbane, Sydney, Manila
  • South Pacific: Pago Pago, Pape’ete

This chart is incredible

In my post The Cheapest Ways to Get to Hawaii, I noted that British Airways Avios can get you to Hawaii for only 25k Avios roundtrip on American and Alaska flights from the west coast. This chart gets you to Hawaii from more places in the western US for 20k points roundtrip.

The cheapest way to take an interisland flight was 5k United miles. It is now 3k Virgin America points.

The cheapest way to get from the US to Australia was 75k American miles roundtrip. It is now 65k Elevate points, and you can stop one or both ways in Hawaii.

Asia is now insanely cheap for Hawaiians at 35k roundtrip, down from 50k United miles.

Of course, at MileValue, we aren’t fooled by the headline number since all miles and points have different values. Virgin America’s loyalty program is basically a fixed-value program when redeeming for Virgin America flights. The Points Guy finds that you get about 1.6 – 2.3 cents per point from such redemptions depending on the exact flight and route.

Let’s assume a 2 cent value for Virgin points. All the deals I mentioned above are still better deals than the next best deal, using mile valuations from the Mile Value Leaderboard.

Other Notes about the Chart

If your award would require an interisland flight, only the economy price is listed online. Virgin America seems unable to book Hawaiian Airlines first class on domestic flights (though I believe that first class exists on the flights.)

I assume that you could actually fly the long segment in first and add on the interisland flight in economy class for the sum of the price of those two flights. I haven’t booked any Virgin America/Hawaiian awards, though, so I can’t say for sure.

Generally, booking first class awards on the Virgin American/Hawaiian chart is probably not worth it. Hawaiian’s first class product on all flights that leave Hawaii is a recliner with 42″ of pitch. That means 4″ more leg room than most domestic first class. I would not pay more than double the economy class price for that type of seat.

By contrast, economy class on Hawaiian is awesome. As they proudly announce, Hawaiian is the only domestic carrier to provide free meals (!) with a free glass of wine (!!). I just flew Hawaiian from Los Angeles to Honolulu last week; the pasta and cake were quite tasty, and the price was right.

cheesy pasta, chocolate cake, salad, and a glass of wine

The A330s offer an individual screen with movies and TV for purchase. And the crew has more Aloha spirit than your average economy crew. For these reasons, I would look to redeem Elevate points for Hawaiian economy awards not Hawaiian first.

On all redemptions, the out-of-pocket cost will be only government taxes, which are estimated relatively accurately on Virgin’s site.

How to Get Virgin America Points

There are three main ways to get Virgin America points to take advantage of its favorable chart for Hawaiian redemptions.

Like all airlines, you can earn points by flying butt-in-seat miles. Virgin points are earned at a rate of 5 per $ on your base fare. They are not earned the way that legacy-carrier miles are earned–based on the distance of your paid flights’ routings.

Butt-in-seat is probably only viable for people who live near LAX and SFO–Virgin’s hubs.

The easiest way for most people is probably the Virgin America Visa Signature card from Barclay’s.

The card comes with 20k Elevate points on first purchase. That’s enough points for a roundtrip direct flight from Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oakland, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, or Seattle to Hawaii.

Or if you live in Hawaii, it’s enough for a roundtrip to Tahiti or Samoa or almost seven interisland flights.

The card comes with a very low $49 annual fee, which is more than offset by the $150 annual companion ticket discount code. And unlike a lot of companion ticket discounts, this one is actually easy to use. It is valid on any roundtrip published airfare, purchased 14 days in advance as long as the cardholder is on the itinerary.

Finally, the card is issued by Barclay’s, which is great, since you can get it in addition to other offers from the other banks with more rewards cards. And it has no minimum spend to get the points, which is great if your spending is being spread thin by the ever-growing minimum spends on most cards.

I should also mention that 20k is the highest bonus I’ve ever seen on this card–the application page notes it is double the usual bonus–so I am not expecting a bigger bonus any time soon.

Application Link: 20k Virgin America Visa Signature Card

The last option to get Elevate points is through a transfer from Membership Rewards. AMEX points transfer at a 2:1 rate, meaning 2,000 Membership Rewards gets 1,000 Virgin America points.

 That means that if you are transferring in Membership Rewards, you basically need to double the prices in the award chart. That takes the deals from a great deal to a bad deal in most cases.

In November, there was a 50% transfer bonus to from Membership Rewards to Virgin America, which made the transfer rate 4:3. At that rate, you only need to increase the award-chart prices by 33%, which leaves some good deals.

Virgin America is not a transfer partner of SPG.

How to Book

Most Virgin America reps have probably never booked a Hawaiian award, so you should do your own research first. You can search Hawaiian’s award space on aa.com.

I would recommend using this technique because AA has an easy-to-use award calendar and because the space AA can book should exactly match the space Virgin America can book.

You can even search only Hawaiian flights by unchecking the boxes for other airlines on the search results.

I would not recommend using hawaiianair.com to search because sometimes the space available to Hawaiian Miles members does not match the space available to partners.

When you’ve found the space, call 877.FLY.VIRGIN (877.359.8474) to book.

Recap

Virgin America has an incredible award chart for its partnership with Hawaiian Airlines. Economy class to/from Hawaii starts at 20k points roundtrip from the western US. Oneway awards cost 50-60% of roundtrip awards.

People with Virgin America miles have a new cheapest way to get to Hawaii in a fantastic economy class product. If you don’t have any miles, consider the Virgin America credit card or a Membership Rewards transfer.

Southwest, Virgin America, and Spirit Cyber Monday Deals

Today only, there are some great deals on the non-legacy carriers.

Southwest

Southwest is offering oneway flights on Christmas Eve for $100 or less oneway. This could considerably cut down on your holiday fares, if you can combine the fare with a cheap oneway home. The full list of cities and T&C are here.

Here’s LAX’s list of sub-$100 destinations.

Atlanta, Nashville, and Chicago stand out as steals. Here’s Chicago’s (MDW) list:

The discounted fares can also be purchased with fewer points. LAX to Atlanta is under 6,000 Rapid Rewards oneway.

Virgin America

Virgin America is offering 10% off specific routes between December 4 and March 6 using code CYBER10. See the full list of routes and terms and conditions here.

On top of that, if you are among the first 3k bookers, you will get free wi-fi on the flight. I just got the email about this minutes ago, so I think you have a good chance of that.

Virgin America is my second-favorite domestic in-flight experience behind JetBlue and just ahead of Hawaiian.

Spirit

Spirit has three deals that all expire at 11:59 PM ET today.

Take $50 off roundtrip travel November 28 and December 18 with promo code “50OFF”. Full terms and conditions, and book here.

Take $35 off roundtrip travel between December 19 and March 6 with promo code “35OFF”. Full terms and conditions, and book here.

Take $24 off roundtrip travel between March 7 and August 31 with promo code “24OFF”. Full terms and conditions, and book here.

You have until tomorrow at 11:59 PM ET to join the $9 fare club and take advantage of these $19.80 oneway fares. (Full T&C) Here are the options from New York:

There are a ton of options for the cheap fares, but you have to fly on select Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and you have to join the $9 fare club, which costs $60 per year, but grants benefits like exclusive sales and discounted bag fees.

Recap

Southwest, Virgin America, and Spirit are all having deals that end today that are worth looking at. Please factor in baggage fees when booking. Southwest allows two free checked bag, a free carry on, and a free personal item. Virgin allows one free checked bag, a free carry on, and a free personal item. Spirit allows a free personal item, but charges for checked bags and even your bigger carry on!

Can I Get a Refund on My Virgin America Flight for No Good Reason?

A few months ago I bought a ticket to the Chicago Seminars frequent-flier conference. I immediately booked my flights from LAX to Chicago.

On the way there, I went with a direct flight to Midway, so I could have easy access to the city for a night with friends before the conference.

On the return, I went with a Virgin America flight from O’Hare. Not only is the conference right next to O’Hare, but Virgin America has a better coach product than American or United.

At the time of booking, I snagged a good front aisle seat, 5D. I put the reservation out of my mind–until I got an email from Award Wallet telling me about a change to my reservation.

The change was the most minor change I’ve ever been made aware of–my seat was changed from 5D to 12D.

But I figured, I would slightly like to cancel this and rebook on American. The price was $8 less on American–$141–than I paid originally plus I had free gift certificates on American plus I’d rather earn AAdvantage miles than Elevate miles.

So I called Virgin America, and I informed the agent I would like to cancel.

I said that when I booked I had decided the flight was worth the money with such a great seat being a deciding factor. Now that my seat had been changed and the value proposition worsened, I wanted to cancel. I explained that I thought Virgin America had changed the rules of the game after I had put up my money. I said I felt like Virgin America was taking advantage of me.

(To be clear, I do not think I had a valid reason to cancel my ticket without incurring the cancellation fee, but I wanted to see if I could talk them out of charging me the fee.)

The agent explained that this was not a valid reason for a free cancellation. She said she could cancel the ticket for a $100 fee. Or I could go online and cancel for a $75 fee.

I couldn’t overcome the resistance, so I asked to speak to a supervisor.

I was connected without objection or delay. The supervisor seemed to understand my complaint already because I barely opened my mouth when she said that she would cancel my flight without a fee “as a one-time courtesy.”

I WON! Or did I?

The $149 I had spent would be deposited into my Virgin America travel bank, which means I would have one year to spend the money on Virgin America flights.

Although Virgin America seems to be a great airline with one of its hubs in my home town (SFO is the other), I don’t think there’s any chance I’ll fly Virgin America in the next year.

I trotted out all my same arguments to the supervisor that not only should the cancellation be free, but the $149 should be refunded to my credit card.

She wouldn’t budge.

In the end, since I don’t want want a $149 gift certificate to Virgin America at all, I kept the reservation in tact.

Recap

Award Wallet constantly monitors the reservations it knows about. It picks up minor changes and will send you an email about them.

You can cancel a non-refundable reservation on any airline if they make the slightest change. If the agent hassles you, politely ask for a supervisor.

You’ll usually hear from the supervisor that the fee is waived as one-time courtesy. Thank them for the courtesy, but expect to be offered the courtesy whenever any minor changes are made.

Free First Class Next Month: Signing Up for Airline and Hotel Programs

Hey there, you’re reading an outdated post! The updated series from March 2013 can be found here.

This is the second post in a monthlong series. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

In just a few days, you’ll be earning hundreds of thousands of frequent-flier miles and hotel points, and you need a place to put them. Below are the bare minimum programs you need to be a member of as a US-based traveler, and as you get more involved with the miles game, you’ll probably sign up for more.

By signing up for these programs, you’ll be able to take advantage of every major miles promotion, and you’ll be able to fly domestically and internationally for free and stay for free once you get there.

Each one should just take a moment to sign up for. Don’t skip any even if you’ve never flown the airline or don’t want to go where it flies. We often use one airline’s miles to fly its partners. For instance, I just used my British Airways miles to fly from LA to Honolulu on American Airlines.

If you already have an account, then instead of signing up, just activate your account online. Write down your username or number and passwords all in one place, we’ll need them again very soon.

Airlines

AirTran (recently bought by Southwest, so joining unlocks a trick with Southwest points)

American Airlines

British Airways

Delta Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines

Southwest Airlines

United Airlines (if you had a Continental Onepass account, United automatically rolled that into a Mileage Plus account)

US Airways

Hotels

Club Carlson

Hilton

Priority Club

Starwood

If you fly any other carriers like Virgin America or JetBlue, you should also sign up for their programs, but if you don’t fly them, you can stick to the eight listed airlines. If you’re an avid couchsurfer, you can skip signing up for the hotels.

Continue to Post 3.

Nuggets 7.25.12

I’m rebooting the Free First Class Next Month series. It will basically be the same content as before, but the posts will be enhanced, updated, and reordered to improve them. See directly below this post for post #1.

My dad uncovered my first loyalty card ever. I would guess this is from about 1993, but I’m not sure.

Even as a little kid, I was earning miles.

Type in your name and email address here for a 20% off code for you (and a companion if you like) on a Virgin America flight. You must fly between August 28 and November 14.

Frequent Miler has info on how to exploit 40x SkyMiles on purchases at PetCareRX. It’s like getting 50% off their perhaps inflated prices, or you can do things the Frequent Miler way and buy and resell items to buy points cheaply.

View from the Wing says you can get 3,000 American Airlines miles on a one day Avis rental now through 8/31. Since 3,000 AA miles are worth over $50, this is an incredible deal.

The Points Guy says you can earn 2,500 Membership Rewards for watching a Bose TV demo. If you’re near a store, why not pop in and earn about $40 worth of miles for 15 minutes of your time.

The cheapest way to fly: an 11 year old boy snuck through an airport and onto a plane to Italy without a passport or ticket.

The Five Types of Frequent Flier Miles

There are five basic types of frequent flier miles. I’ll detail each, including how best to take advantage of them. Then I’ll explain why it’s important to diversify across the types (not just across frequent flier programs.)

1) Region-to-region based miles. American, Delta, United, US Airways, etc

Region-to-region miles are the most common type of miles. These miles can be redeemed according to award charts, so a flight from North America to Europe costs a certain amount of miles regardless of where in North America and where in Europe and regardless of the (valid) routing. These miles are earned by buying paid tickets. The earnings depends on how many miles your paid ticket’s routing is.

Strategy: Buy cheap paid tickets, possibly with circuitous routings to earn miles. Redeem the miles for expensive tickets, especially premium classes, and especially to expensive-to-reach airports within a region. For instance these miles are put to better use to fly into Seville, Spain compared to flying into London. Also, many of these programs allow free stopovers, free open jaws, and even free oneways for no additional miles. Exploit those opportunities.

2) Fixed-value miles. Southwest, JetBlue, Virgin America

“Revenue-based” might be a more appropriate name since the value varies slightly because of taxes and other factors. The miles price of a ticket is based on the cash price of a ticket regardless of where the flight goes. Some airlines have a minimum amount a flight can cost in points, JetBlue at 5,000 oneway, and some have a maximum, Southwest at 19,200 roundtrip. These miles are earned by buying paid tickets at a set ratio of miles earned per dollar spent on the ticket, again regardless of where or how far the flight goes. Fixed-value miles are the only type that allow you to book any flight with miles; there is no need to worry about availability.

Strategy: Use the miles for cheap tickets. A roundtrip from LA to Vegas could be under 5,000 Rapid Rewards points, while it would cost 25,000 miles using region-to-region miles. The best way to earn the miles is by flying expensive tickets. If a last-minute fare between LAX and Vegas is going for $400 on United and Southwest, buy from Southwest. It will earn you six times the $400 for 2,400 Rapid Rewards points, while the United ticket will earn 1,000 miles.

3) Distance-based miles. British Airways Avios

Miles are earned in the same way as region-to-region miles, by flying paid tickets and earning one Avios per mile flown. Miles needed for an award are calculated by adding up the miles needed for each flight on an award. The miles needed for each flight are calculated by the distance of the flight. All flights within a certain band, 0-650 miles say, cost 4,500 Avios. Flights from 651-1151 cost 7,500 Avios and so on.

Strategy: Use the miles for short hops between expensive city pairs. Quito to Lima for 7,500 Avios plus taxes is a steal, for instance, because airfare between those cities can cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars.

4) Credits for flights. Airtran, vestiges of Southwest’s old program

One credit is earned per paid oneway whether that oneway is Tampa to Atlanta or Tampa to Las Vegas. A certain number of credits (8 for Airtran) equals a free oneway, whether it’s from Tampa to Atlanta or Tampa to Vegas.

Strategy: Buy cheaper, probably shorter flights to earn credits. Use the credits on more expensive, probably longer flights. For example eight roundtrips from Tampa to Atlanta on Airtran earns a roundtrip from Tampa to Las Vegas. Airtran and Southwest have merged, and both credit programs are being completely replaced by Southwest’s fixed value scheme. But while they last, there are some great earning and redemption opportunities.

5) Transferable Miles. Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, SPG Starpoints

These points are not earned by flying at all. Each program has different transfer partners with different transfer ratios.

Strategy: Keep the miles in the transferable points program until you have a redemption in mind unless a transfer bonus is ending that is too good to pass up. That allows you to maintain the option value of having many transfer options, and it allows you to use the miles for their most profitable use: topping up accounts that are just short of a dream award.

Those are the five types of miles; did you notice they all have different exploitation strategies? That’s why it’s so important to diversify across the types of miles. You want to have the best mile for the job, and you want to use the types of miles in concert.

For instance, imagine you live in Las Vegas, and you want to take a dream vacation to Peru, Chile, and Argentina in business class. You recognize that you want to use region-to-region miles for your main award, since they offer the best value for a trip between the US and South America, especially in business class. But you can’t find any award space out of Las Vegas, only Los Angeles. For the $120 roundtrip flight between Vegas and LA, you’ll want to use fixed-value miles. On Southwest, these flights would be about 6,000 points many days of the week.

Then from Los Angeles, you can fly to Lima and return from Buenos Aires in business class with region-to-region (probably American Airlines) miles. Once you’re in South America, British Airways’ distance-based Avios will almost certainly be the best option for travel among the South American cities. Using the different types of miles in concert unlocks all of their best value redemptions.

Another reason to diversify among the miles is the same reason you should diversify any type of asset: the same returns with lower variance. Changes in the airline industry affect different types of miles differently, so a hedge against those changes is to hold all types. For instance, higher fares this year have devalued fixed-value miles–it takes me more points to fly the same routes–but has had no effect on region-to-region or distance-based miles–I can still fly the same routes for the same price. This has, in turn, increased the cash value of region-to-region and distance-based miles.

This post had two main points: use the right mile for the job by understanding the best uses of each type and diversify your mile holdings not just across programs but across mile types.

Follow me on twitter @milevalue

Save $15 on Any Roundtrip Virgin America Flight Booked and Flown by 6/13

Amazon Local (think Groupon) is offering a $25 credit on Virgin America for $10 at this link. Virgin America’s route map is here if you want to see where it flies.

Virgin America is a more pleasant coach flying experience than the legacy carriers for domestic travel. Beyond its catchy ad campaigns, Virgin America also offers a personal touch screen TV at every seat and one free checked bag each way.

The $25 credit must be used for roundtrip travel that is completed by June 13. But if for whatever reason you don’t use it by June 13, only $15 of the credit expires. The $10 you paid for it never expires, so you can’t lose with this promotion.

I’m going to Europe in a few weeks, so I can’t exploit this free $15. Can any of you?

Terms & Conditions:

• In order to receive the full value, travel must be booked and completed by June 13, 2012. If you book after June 13, 2012, you will only be entitled to the paid value of $10 to spend toward a round-trip domestic flight; the paid value does not expire

• Voucher is valid for $25 off newly booked, non-refundable, round-trip travel in the main cabin on Virgin America within the Domestic U.S.; not valid for one-way trips, multi-city itineraries, First Class, Main Cabin Select, Main Cabin Refundable, or previously booked travel

• Voucher is only valid for itineraries booked for a single traveler • Fares, routes, fees and schedules are subject to change without notice

• Voucher may only be used towards base ticket price and may not be used towards government-imposed taxes and fees

• Not valid for travel on May 25 or May 28, 2012

• Seats are limited and subject to availability

• Limit 2 vouchers per customer

• Limit 1 voucher per booking

• Customers must be at least 15 years of age to book a flight

• Voucher may only be used for bookings made on virginamerica.com and cannot be combined with any other offers

• If travel is changed or cancelled by customer, savings from voucher will no longer apply

• Virgin America will accept one (1) piece of checked baggage up to 50 pounds for $25 for each ticketed guest traveling within the U.S. The fee per guest for each additional checked bag up to 50 pounds from the second (2) to the tenth (10) is $25. Additional fees apply to baggage exceeding these weight limitations, and other baggage restrictions may apply

• Voucher is available for use immediately after purchase