25% Bonus on American Express to Virgin Atlantic Transfers

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While this certainly isn’t as exciting as the 50% British Airways transfer bonus, it beats nothing at all. While transfer bonuses are generally a good thing, I see two big catches: 1) Virgin charges enormous fees on award tickets and 2) the T&C state that “bonus miles will be posted to your Flying Club account within 14 days after the transfer.” While I bet they post quicker than that in reality, not having an immediate bonus can put a major damper on your travel plans as award seats can easily disappear within a moments notice.

As mentioned, Virgin Atlantic has really high fees, so I could only ever see redeeming for Upper Class (business class) redemptions, which are 90,000 miles roundtrip from the East coast (full award chart here). I suppose if a coach ticket is expense enough to purchase, it may make sense to pay the monster fees/surcharges, but I just have a personal thing against paying$500+ for an economy award.

Virgin is running an economy and premium economy sale, so check that out here. Economy awards start at 29,500 roundtrip, which would only be 23,600 Amex points. I priced out a dummy award for travel this weekend in it came to 29,500 miles and $531 in taxes and fees. I priced that ticket out as a purchase and it was over $1,800. So basically those 23,600 Amex points would save you $1,800-$531= $1,269/23,600= 5.4 cents per point. That’s pretty darn good for a coach award! Of course this is all based on paying $1,800+ for a coach ticket to Europe, which you can usually avoid if you book in advance. That being said, fares this summer are pretty high, so you should do the math to see if transferring to Virgin makes more financial sense for you. I’m generally impressed with Virgin’s award availability and your best bet to check it is to sign up for a Flying Club account– you don’t need any miles in your account to price out awards.

However, if you want to do east coast to London in Upper Class on Virgin, you can transfer as few as 63,000 points to ANA, which is a Membership Rewards transfer partner. While ANA is in the Star Alliance, they have a partnership with Virgin Atlantic and their award chart is distance based. JFK/BOS-LHR comes in just under the threshold for 63,000 miles for business class – an excellent deal. Not only that, but ANA charges less than Virgin Atlantic, so you make out on both fronts.

Check out this dummy Upper Class award JFK-LHR; 90,000 miles and $800 in taxes and fees! Yikes – that’s even more than British Airways!

The only real reason why I’d transfer Amex points to Virgin is for upgrades or last minute awards that are heinously expensive and I couldn’t wait the 2 days for the points to transfer to ANA.  While Virgin makes it expensive, there are deals to be had, but check out your other options before making a transfer.

I won’t be taking advantage of this promotion, but I’m sure others will. Do you have thoughts on their frequent flyer program, Flying Club? Am I being too harsh?

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