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Virgin America 40% Bonus on Purchased Points – Worth It? (Generally, No)

by on April 30, 2013 · 3 comments

in Buy Miles Promotions, Virgin America

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Now through May 7, 2013, Virgin America is offering a bonus of up to 40% on purchased Elevate points. While not as generous as last October’s 50% bonus, this could still be something to consider if you’re a (very) few points short of a specific redemption.

Virgin 40 bonus

Buy 500 – 2,000 points to get a 20% bonus
Buy 2,500 – 5,000 points to get a 30% bonus
Buy 5,500+ points to get a 40% bonus

You can buy or receive up to 20,000 Elevate points per calendar year. The thing to keep in mind is, Elevate points cost an astounding 5.2 cents each, and you can usually only get a value of about 2.3 cents out of them at most when redeeming, so I wouldn’t suggest doing this unless you’re very close to an award redemption.

The Elevate program is a hybrid fixed value/ traditional frequent flyer programs – when you redeem on Virgin America you can use points for any flight, but when redeeming on partners there is an award chart and availability is limited.

When you redeem for Virgin America flights, you’ll get between 1.6 and 2.3 cents’ value per point, depending on which day of the week you travel. So a roundtrip itinerary from LAX-JFK might cost $400.

LAX JFK 400

But the same itinerary would only be 18,500 points + $5 – not too bad at nearly 2.2 cents per point.

LAX JFK Virgin 185

If you were to buy those points with this promo, you’d need to purchase 13,500 to score the full 40% bonus and get a total of 18,900, and that would cost you $702. Just buy the ticket instead.

On the negative side, booking expensive tickets in Main Cabin Select or First Class, gets very pricy. That same LAX-JFK in first class might cost $3,840.

Virgin LAX JFK First 3800

But would require an astounding 178,000 points (versus just 50,000 on other carriers like United).

Virgin LAX JFK First 178k

Not only can you purchase nowhere near that amount of points, but you’d be paying a lot to do so, so I wouldn’t suggest even going for the max bonus here.

Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia are both partners and you can use the calculator on this page to figure out how many points you’ll need. A sample Los Angeles to Sydney itinerary in business class costs 80,000 points and $849 in taxes and fees. If you are buying miles at 5.2 cents apiece, you are essentially purchasing that flight for $4,160 + $849 = $5,009.

elevate-lax-syd

Not great considering those flights are generally around the $5,000. Plus, you are subject to award availability and you don’t earn miles on award redemptions, not to mention the fact that Virgin America only lets you buy up to 20,000 points per calendar year (28,000 with this 50% bonus), so you’re not getting anywhere even close to the award threshold.

I’m not really excited about this at all, but there could be value for those who are looking for a few extra Elevate points on a specific upcoming award itinerary. However, remember that Virgin America is also an American Express transfer partner at a (less-than-stellar) 2:1 ratio, but they have run a couple transfer bonuses, which can make the value proposition a little bit more enticing, and certainly much better than purchasing the miles outright.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

roger April 30, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Question – I have to book 3 tickets to London, from NY. I have a Barclaycard, Mariott Visa, and a Delta AMEX. Which would you use? Which one will give best bang for the buck? Thanks

Muerl April 30, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Question about Using Virgin American miles on Virgin Australia, do you get things by segment? IE if you book MEL-LAX-BOS do you use the set price for the MEL-LAX leg then the variable price for LAX-BOS or can you put the whole thing together at once price?

welovekimberly May 1, 2013 at 5:17 pm

Delta

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