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It’s been a little while since we’ve seen an Amex transfer bonus, but through April 30, American Express is offering a 30% bonus on transfers to Virgin America Elevate points.
Normally points transfer at the lackluster ratio of 2 Amex points to 1 Elevate point, but with this promo, you can transfer 200 Amex points to get 130 Elevate points instead. This bonus is hard-coded so there is no need to register for it.
The last two Amex transfer bonuses to Virgin America were 40%, and they have been as high as 50% in past, so I might hold off on this one and see if anything better comes down the pike in the next few months.
Elevate is a fixed-value rewards program where you can use points to purchase any open seat on a flight at a value of between 1.6-2.3 cents per point depending on the fare and itinerary. With the normal transfer ratio, that means you are getting between 0.8 and 1.15 cents per American Express Membership Rewards point – a low value which doesn’t make much sense at all considering you can use Amex’s Pay With Points feature to purchase Virgin America flights at 1 cent per point (1.25 cents per point for Business Platinum cardholders) and you earn Elevate points on those flights – you don’t earn points when redeeming for flights using Elevate points.
So, it would really never make sense to transfer Amex points into Elevate unless there was a lucrative transfer bonus. In my opinion, a 100% transfer bonus where you could get points at a 1:1 ratio would be great. However, with the 30% bonus, at least you’re getting between 1.04-1.5 cents per Amex point in value.
Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia are both partners of Virgin America and you can use the calculator on this page to figure out how many points you’ll need.
Roundtrip from JFK to London on Virgin Atlantic would cost you 15,000 points + $450 (or so – taxes can come in lower from time to time) in economy, 25,000 points + $760 in Premium Economy, and 35,000 points + $1,130 in Upper class.
So in terms of this promo, you’d need to transfer 24,000 points (instead of 30,000) for economy, 39,000 points (instead of 50,000) for Premium Economy, and 54,000 points (instead of 70,000) for Upper Class.
Redeeming points for flights on partner Virgin Australia from LAX-SYD looks like this:
For business class, you’d need 80,000 points + $920 – so with this promo, instead of transferring 160,000 Amex points, you’d only need 124,000. Decent but not great, especially considering those fuel surcharges. Still, it’s something to consider since these tickets usually go for around $6,000.
Virgin America and Emirates also announced a new partnership back in October where you can earn and redeem Elevate points on Emirates, and Emirates Skywards miles on Virgin. You can calculate the Elevate points you’ll need for Emirates redemptions here, but roundtrip New York JFK to Dubai would require 45,000 Elevate points (70,000 Amex points during the transfer bonus) and $720 in taxes and fees, while Business Class would be 95,000 Elevate points (147,000 Amex points during this promo) plus $1,410 in taxes and fees.
So I’m not tempted by this transfer bonus because the value of Elevate points are essentially capped at about 2.3 cents each, but it’s still nice to squeeze 30% more value out of each Amex point if you were considering an immediate transfer and can’t wait to see if we get another better bonus in the future. And with a little planning, you can get some pretty good values on flights by redeeming on Virgin America’s partners that slightly edge out the other point redemption options available.