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Amex recently announced that Virgin America would be joining the Membership Rewards program, but they didn’t release what the transfer ratio would be (most airline partners transfer at 1:1). The partnership was supposed to go live on October 5, 2011, but it seems like it’s already up, because I logged into Membershiprewards.com and noticed they are now listed at the very end of their airline transfer partners.
And unfortunately the ratio is 100 Elevate = 200 Amex, so a disappointing 2:1 ratio. This is not a great deal because Elevate is a fixed value loyalty program, which mean you can redeem points for any flight and they are worth between 1.6 and 2.1 cents each towards airfare. So if you transfer Amex to Virgin America, you are valuing your Amex points at .8 and 1.05 cents a piece, which is very low. I conservatively value mine at 2 cents a piece and you can purchase points directly from Amex for 2.5 cents.
In fact, you can use Pay With Points and redeem them for 1 cent a piece (1.25 if you have the Platinum card) – and the kicker is that those tickets accrue Elevate points as if you purchased them with cash (5 points per dollar).
So in essence, I would never recommend transferring to Elevate at the 2:1 ratio unless you need to top up your Elevate account to get an award. I suspect they will run a transfer bonus to create excitement around the new partnership (and make people forget that Continental left the program on September 30th), but it would need to be 100% or more for me to get excited about it and I doubt that’s going to happen.