Virgin America 60% Bonus on Purchased Points – Worth It?

Feb 24, 2014

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Now through March 14, 2014, Virgin America is offering bonuses of up to 60% on purchased miles. Unlike some past Virgin buy miles promos, which were just a flat bonus no matter how many points you purchased, this one is tiered in the following way:

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 8.26.51 AM

Buy 500 – 2,000 points to get a 30% bonus
Buy 2,500 – 5,000 points to get a 45% bonus
Buy 5,500+ points to get a 60% bonus

So ordinarily, Virgin America Elevate points cost about 5.2 cents each, but with this promo, the price comes down as low as 3.25 cents per point, and you can purchase up to a maximum of 20,000 points (plus the 60% bonus for a total potential of 32,000 points).

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.

Virgin America Redemptions

When you redeem for Virgin America flights, you get between 1.6 – 2.3 cents of value per point depending on the itinerary. So while you can get some good deals on economy redemptions, it doesn’t make as much sense with First Class redemptions. For example, this itinerary from LAX to Cancun in March would cost $351 plus taxes and fees.

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 8.49.47 AMOr it would cost 15,800 plus taxes and fees.

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 8.50.16 AMSo you’re getting about 2.2 cents per point in value. With this promo, to get those 15,800 points, you’d need to buy 10,000 Elevate points and score a 60% bonus for a total of 16,000 Elevate points.

So a $460 JFK-LAX economy flight might be as low as 20,000 points. The benefits of this quasi-fixed-value redemption system is that you can book any flight and you don’t have to worry about a horrible redemption where you get little value out of your points. On the negative side, booking expensive tickets, especially in first class, gets very pricy. That same JFK-LAX in first class might cost $3,450, which would require 150,000 points (versus just 50,000 on other carriers like United).

Redeem on Partners

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.

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 8.58.58 AMSo even if you were just going for an Economy redemption, you’d need to purchase 9,500 points + 5,700 bonus for a total of $494 and pay the $450 taxes/surcharges on top of that – coming in at nearly $1,000. While this might be cheaper than some economy tickets, you should definitely do the math and look around for cheaper purchased tickets.

At 3.25 cents apiece, you’d be paying the equivalent of about $1,140 for the points necessary for an Upper Class ticket plus the $1,130 in taxes/fees for about $2,270 total. That could be well below the $4,000-$5,000 Virgin Atlantic normally charges for Upper Class tickets, but again, shop around and make sure that airfares are high enough to justify a points purchase instead of just purchasing tickets.

On the other hand, redeeming points for flights on partner Virgin Australia from LAX-SYD looks like this:

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 9.08.43 AMSo for that economy ticket requiring 40,000 points plus $820 in taxes and fees, you’d be paying the equivalent of $2,120. Not a great deal. For business class, you’d need 80,000 points + $920 for a total cost of $3,520 in terms of the value proposition of this promo. Tickets can go for upwards of $6,000 on this route, but that’s still a lot of cash to shell out – and remember, you can only buy up to a total (max plus bonus) of 32,000 points, so you’re nowhere even near the redemption level here.

I’m probably not going to take advantage of this myself, but there could be value for those who are looking to use Elevate points on premium partner awards. Remember that Virgin America is also an American Express transfer partner, albeit at a 2:1 ratio, so that is probably a better way to top up your Elevate account. Amex has also run a couple transfer bonuses recently (the last was a 40% transfer bonus in January), which can make the value proposition a little bit more enticing.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
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15.99%-22.99% Variable
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Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
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