Membership Rewards 30% Transfer Bonus to Virgin Atlantic Means 14k Point Awards to Europe and 35k Roundtrips to Argentina

American Express Membership Rewards transfers to Virgin Atlantic will come with an automatic 30% transfer bonus from now through November 30, 2013. This transfer bonus allows you to fly:

  • One way from the US to London for only 14k Membership Rewards and $97.
  • Roundtrip from the US to London for 31k Membership Rewards + $191.
  • Roundtrip from the US to Buenos Aires (or anywhere else in South America) for 35k Membership Rewards and $77.
  • Tons of other great routes for low mileage, taxes, and fees.

Virgin Atlantic is a London-based longhaul carrier best known for its Upper Class cabins and Clubhouse lounges. (Do not confuse it with Virgin America or Virgin Australia, which are all independent airlines.) It is not part of any alliance, so its dozen airline partners span the globe and all the alliances.

Should you transfer Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic? What are the key features of Flying Club? How can you get to Europe for 14k Membership Rewards and to South America roundtrip for 35k Membership Rewards? How can you get Membership Rewards?

Until November 30, 2013, you can transfer increments of 1,000 AMEX points to 1,300 Virgin Atlantic miles automatically at membershiprewards.com.

There are four main reasons you would want Virgin Atlantic miles.

1. Among the Cheapest 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 Membership Rewards) for a one way flight to the UK.

And taxes and fees on the one way from the US to Europe are only $98!

Combine a one way from the eastern US to Europe for 14k Membership Rewards plus $98 and return from a low tax country to the US 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 Huge Deal: 13k Miles to Europe This Summer.

2. Incredible Value Partner Awards

Virgin Atlantic has several airline partners.

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!

I just called Flying Club at (800) 365-9500 and priced out several awards.

The call was fairly smooth although the agent told me that Atlanta to Buenos Aires on Delta wasn’t bookable with Virgin Atlantic miles. When I pressed him to double check, he came back with the news that it indeed is bookable. As always, you may know more than the phone agents, so be polite but firm.

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

  • Atlanta to Buenos Aires in roundtrip economy on Delta: 45k miles (35k MR) + $77.32
  • New York to London in roundtrip economy on Delta: 40k miles (31k MR) + $190.60
  • Atlanta to Los Angeles in roundtrip economy on Delta: 25k miles (20k MR) + $5
  • New York to Paris in roundtrip economy on Delta: 60k miles (47k MR) + $90.66
  • New York to Honolulu in roundtrip First on Hawaiian: 130k miles (100k MR) + $5
  • New York to LAX in roundtrip Main Cabin Select on Virgin America: 50k miles (39k MR) + $5 from Tuesday to Sunday over Thanksgiving

I learned a few key things about partner awards from the call:

  • Delta awards have no fuel surcharges, just the same government taxes as booking with Delta miles.
  • The Delta award chart is way underpriced to Southern South America. Buenos Aires for 35k Membership Rewards roundtrip is a steal.
  • There are no fuel surcharges on Hawaiian Airlines award flights.
  • The Hawaiian award chart says economy roundtrips are “from 40,000 miles” and first is “from 80,000 miles.” Those prices only refer to roundtrips from the western US. The roundtrip price to/from JFK is quite a bit higher.
  • There are no fuel surcharges on Virgin America award flights.
  • Not all Virgin America 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.”
  • The Virgin Atlantic/US Airways partnership is dead, so you can’t use Flying Club miles to fly US Airways.

3. Virgin Atlantic Upper Class

Virgin Atlantic’s Business Class–called Upper Class–is one of the best in the world with many folks comparing it to First Class. I am anxious to fly it.

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 is a big drawback, the miles prices are very low. New York and Chicago to London are only 80k miles (62k Membership Rewards) roundtrip in Upper Class and Los Angeles and San Francisco to London roundtrip in Upper Class are only 100k miles (77k Membership Rewards).

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

If you want to avoid fuel surcharges, Delta miles can be used to book Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for 100k to 125k miles plus taxes and no fuel surcharges. But Delta SkyMiles members don’t have access to the same award availability as Virgin Atlantic Flying Club members.

4. Transfers to Hilton Points

Virgin Atlantic miles transfer to Hilton points at a 1 mile to 2 points rate. I’ve described transferring my own Virgin Atlantic miles to Hilton points in Transferring Virgin Atlantic Miles to Hilton HHonors Points.

But my transfer happened when Hilton points were worth quite a bit more before their recent devaluation.

During this transfer bonus, you can get up to 2.6 Hilton points per Membership Reward, but I still think that’s a bad trade. I value Membership Rewards around 2 cents, and I value Hilton points around 0.4 cents, which makes 2.6 Hilton points worth about 1 cent.

5. Other uses?

Did I miss any great uses of Virgin Atlantic miles? These small foreign programs get so few expert eyeballs on them, so I know that many have hidden gems. Hopefully I’ve exposed some with the partner flights in this post. If you know of others, share them in the comments please.

Getting the Miles

Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards both transfer 1:1 to Virgin Atlantic miles. Ultimate Rewards have never had a transfer bonus, and I like to use my Ultimate Rewards with United miles, so I strongly favor transferring Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic miles if you want Virgin Atlantic miles.

Membership Rewards are earned by all Platinum and Gold cards including:

Recap

The 30% transfer bonus from Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic has some highly valuable uses including cheap one ways to Europe on Virgin Atlantic, access to better award space in Upper Class with low mileage outlays, and partner awards at very low mileage prices with no fuel surcharges. You can also transfer the points to Hilton, but I generally don’t recommend that.



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33 Responses to Membership Rewards 30% Transfer Bonus to Virgin Atlantic Means 14k Point Awards to Europe and 35k Roundtrips to Argentina

  1. I wish you asked about more partner redemptions besides Hawaiian and delta =\

    • I also asked about Virgin America and US Airways. I looked at all of the partners, and I identified the ones I thought were good value. What other charts do you see good value on?

      • I just wanted to know if any of the four Far East airlines had any good redemptions =]
        I’d actually prefer flying there than Europe =p

  2. Hi Scott,

    A very interesting post as usual – thanks.
    Can you comment on :

    We have 400K Ultimate Rewards pts & nearly 200K MR’s between my wife & I
    – planning on using your booking services for a trip to SIN or Beijing from the E Coast
    - interested in SIN Suites & 1st class
    - would you advise at this stage to transfer the MR’s to Virgin Atlantic to take advantage of the current bonus?

    I see they have Singapore Airlines & Air China as partners
    - maybe we could use the Virgin Atlantic transferred miles on these 2 partners ?

    Any advice appreciated.

    • Virgin Atlantic partners with Singapore, but like all Singapore partners has ZERO access to Singapore Suites. The only way into Singapore Suites is with Singapore miles. You’ll transfer the MR directly to Singapore and look for space JFK-FRA-SIN on the A380. You’ll only have enough for one way, so you’ll use the UR to transfer to United for the other direction. I wouldn’t make any transfers yet. UR –> United is instant. MR –> Singapore takes under 48 hours.

  3. I’m pricing IAD-LHR and JFK-LHR online and taxes are $131.50. Any ideas?

  4. Do you have any experience booking award seats on Virgin Australia using Virgin Atlantic miles? Is it the only way to call Virgin Atlantic and check whether they have access to Virgin Australia award seats on certain days?
    Thanks

    • You can search Virgin Australia space on delta.com. If Delta has it, Virgin Atlantic will.

      • This might be the first time I’ve ever heard delta.com recommended as a place to search. :) I think Scott has covered this in previous posts, but you just have to remember that the calendar only corresponds to Delta flights and won’t show a Saver award even if Virgin Australia has space available.

  5. On a related not, if you do an AA one way award for the return trip and you live in (or close) a city that is an AA hub you can take advantage of the 20k one way Economy Off Peak award and add a free one way to places like HNL or the Caribbean….. :)

  6. Presumably, taking advantage of something like ATL-EZE on Delta requires the space to exist at the Saver level, which of course Delta has little of (trying to plan a BR trip for April… if Delta was cooperating, this would be great!)

  7. I was planning to fly from CHS to STL on Delta for 25000 skymiles in November. Virgin Atlantic’s site won’t let me enter STL into their search box. Can I still book this Delta flight through Flying Club with a phone call? I’d really like the 30% discount!

    • You can only search Virgin Atlantic on Virgin Atlantic. You have to call up to book any partner. (Search in advance on delta.com, and V. Atl. will have access to all Saver space.)

  8. Might this be a way to transfer MR to SPG at a slightly better rate than normal? (last I checked) Direct MR-SPG was 3:1, while VA miles-SPG was 2:1. So this would yield a bit better than that? I value SPG pretty decently, especially when compared to HHonors.

    • So that would be 1.54 MR to 1 SPG. Starting to not be so horrible, but still a bit higher than I’d want. Creative idea!

    • How do you convert VA to SPG? What site do you use?

      • Good question. I was just doing the math on the numbers she provided, but I don’t see anywhere to convert Virg Atl miles to SPG points.

        • Okay, now I feel like I’m losing my mind. I swear I’d looked into this transfer and found how to do it awhile ago (it was my reason for getting a flying club account in the first place). I believe it required a call to do the final transfer, but now I’m not seeing it. If I find it again, I’ll get you the info.

  9. As usual, great info !! Thanks

  10. If our family of five wants to go to Europe next summer, and only have 54K MR, do you suggest we make 42 MR to VA exchange now for three one ways LAX to London? We also have UR, Delta, United, Avios, SPG and more on the way via credit card sign ups you’ve suggested in your fabulous free credit card review for hubby and me.

  11. When using Virgin Atlantic miles to fly on ANA or Singapore Airlines, are there fuel surcharges? Also, when using Virgin Atlantic miles to fly on Delta, do you get a stop-over and/or open jaw like on regular Delta redemptions?

  12. Pingback: Membership Rewards 20% Transfer Bonus to Avios through December 31, 2013 | milevalue.com

  13. Have you tried pricing out VAustralia awards as far as taxes/fees go? Coach round trip to Australia is 94k miles, which is less than what Delta charges. I can get the CC signup bonus, top it up with ~45k UR points and it’ll be enough.

    • I haven’t. Those flights have fuel surcharges, but Delta doesn’t collect them on awards, so I can’t even guess what Virgin Atlantic does.

  14. Another use might be to back into Hilton points – might well not apply over there though as different CC rewards etc. In Aus it’s 1 to 1 AMEX MR points to Hhonors and a good trick is to go through VS first and get double instead..

  15. I see Virgin Atlantic charge for coach $450 in tax nyc-lon

  16. Hi There,

    I am new to miles transfer. I am intrigued by your post regarding Buenos Aires, but I do not understand how to do it. I have AMEX points now, what is the most efficient way for me to use them to book a trip to Buenos Aires? Do you offer consulting services?

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