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.