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Ending soon: How I booked 13 hours in business class for 37,000 points with this transfer bonus

Sept. 27, 2022
7 min read
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Having been at college for over a month now, my desire to travel has made me miss this past summer's fast-paced trips. So while now may not be the right time to for me to jump continents and take off exploring, it doesn’t mean I can’t start planning for next summer.

As luck would have it, this month American Express announced 12 limited-time transfer bonuses with some of its most powerful transfer partners. In turn, this effectively puts many of the best Amex Membership Rewards redemptions on sale. Most of these transfer bonuses end Sept. 30.

With Japan inching closer to reopening, I wanted to see if I could maximize the 30% transfer bonus with Virgin Atlantic to book my first trip to Asia.

Let's take a look at how I did it — and why you might want to do the same.

Virgin Atlantic’s ANA sweet spot award chart

One of the best possible ways to redeem Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points is on ANA due to its extremely reasonable award chart. As you can see, from the West Coast to Japan is only 90,000 points, not one-way, but round-trip.

RouteEconomy classBusiness classFirst class
Domestic Japan15,000 points.--
Japan-South Korea18,000 points.35,000 points.50,000 points.
Japan-China/Guam/Hong Kong/Philippines/Taiwan23,000 points.45,000 points.60,000 points.
Japan-Malaysia/Myanmar/Singapore/Thailand/Vietnam40,000 points.65,000 points.80,000 points.
Japan-Hawaii/India/Indonesia45,000 points.70,000 points.90,000 points.
Japan-Australia/Canada/Western USA60,000 points.90,000 points.110,000 points.
Japan-Europe/Central and Eastern USA/Mexico65,000 points.95,000 points.120,000 points.

Now that we can book one-way award tickets, the prices come out to half the round-trip rate. This means that you can book Los Angeles to Tokyo in first class for just 55,000 points. That's less than half of what some other loyalty programs charge.

Although first class sounds unbelievable, when business class from Tokyo to my home airport of Dulles International Airport (IAD) became available, I knew I could not turn down the opportunity — especially while Amex is offering a 30% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic.

How I booked ANA business class for 37,000 Amex points

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Having found a one-way ticket from Tokyo to Washington, I knew I needed 47,500 points. This is half of Virgin’s award chart 95,000-point price from the East Coast to Japan.

Earning Virgin points is easy enough with its extensive list of transfer partners. You can transfer nearly all major reward currencies to Virgin, including American Express Membership Rewards, Bilt Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Capital One miles and Marriott Bonvoy.

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AMERICANEXPRESS.COM

Luckily, this is where Amex’s 30% transfer bonus was able to help me. For every Membership Rewards point I transferred, I got 1.3 Flying Club points. Note that this transfer bonus ends Sept. 30, so act quickly if you want to take advantage of it for your own trip to Japan.

Flying Club points neededTransfer bonusMembership Rewards points needed
47,500.30%.36,600.

Since you can only transfer in intervals of 1,000, transferring 37,000 Membership Rewards points was just enough for me to book the ticket. So, I logged in to American Express, entered my Flying Club information, keyed in 37,000 points and the transfer was submitted.

AMERICANEXPRESS.COM

How I booked the flight

While I was able to use my preferred Star Alliance award search engine to find the availability on United, unfortunately, it is not possible to book ANA awards booking online with Virgin Atlantic. (TPG’s Katie Genter does an excellent job of explaining how to find ANA award availability here).

UNITED.COM

After finding the availability, I called Virgin Atlantic to confirm. Despite the long wait times noted on the website, I could get through to an agent very quickly. The agent confirmed that an award seat was available and told me that 47,500 miles were required to book.

Unfortunately, the taxes and fees for the reservation were higher than usual. Due to high fuel prices, the ticket cost $409.27 in addition to the points. This is more than the typical sub-$150 in taxes and fees pre-pandemic, but it was worth it for nearly 13 hours in business class.

The agent could not hold award space for ANA, but most transfers are instant, allowing you to transfer points and confirm the ticket while on the phone.

Unfortunately, this time the transfer wasn't instant for me and I had to wait five hours for the points to appear in my account.

Once the points were in my account, I called Virgin Atlantic and booked my tickets in minutes.

Bottom line

GOOGLE.COM/FLIGHTS

Despite the transfer delay, I was able to book a ticket that would have cost nearly $8,500 for 37,000 Membership Rewards points, plus the taxes and fees. This means that I got an insane 22 cents per Membership Rewards point, 11 times higher than TPG’s current valuation of 2 cents per point.

Not only will I be able to fly back from my first trip to Asia in style, but I will be able to do so for fewer miles than what United charges for a seat in economy on the same route (despite higher taxes and fees).

UNITED.COM

Even better, ANA offers one of the world’s best business-class products and booking through Virgin Atlantic’s sweet spot is something I have always wanted to test. Having American Express add a transfer bonus this month was the cherry on top of a sundae, and an offer I simply could not refuse.

Featured image by ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
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  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees