Update 6/30: The AMEX transfer promotion ends today!
Update: 6/22: The Citi transfer promotion ends today!
Update, 5/19: You can now also get a 30% bonus when you transfer Citi ThankYou points to Virgin Atlantic through 6/22. You can transfer points from cards like the Citi Premier and Citi Prestige .
Originally posted on 5/6:
You can login here get a 30% bonus when you transfer American Express Membership Rewards Points to Virgin Atlantic until 7/1. The miles typically transfer instantly.
In general, Virgin Atlantic charges high fuel surcharges that kill the value of many of their awards.
For example a round-trip coach ticket from JFK to London on Virgin Atlantic is just 20K miles (under 16K AMEX points), but the taxes and fuel surcharges add $472. Premium Economy is 35K miles+$794. Business class is 95K miles and you’ll also owe $1,544 in taxes and fuel surcharges. Ouch.
If you only need a one-way ticket from NYC to London it’s not as bad. 10K miles+$149 in coach, 17.5K miles+$249 in premium economy, or 47.5K miles+$624 in business class.
You can save money by booking travel on 2 one-way trips. A one-way ticket from London to NYC is 10K miles+$263 in coach, 17.5K miles+$452 in premium economy, or 47.5K miles+$583 in business class.
Or for example a round-trip coach ticket from JFK to Tel Aviv on Virgin Atlantic (service begins 9/25) is just 38K miles (under 30K AMEX points), but the taxes and fuel surcharges add $517. Premium Economy is 67K miles+$547. Business class is 151K miles and you’ll also owe $1,253 in taxes and fuel surcharges.
If you originate in Tel Aviv then the round-trip coach ticket from Tel Aviv to JFK on Virgin Atlantic is 38K miles plus $461. Premium Economy is 67K miles+$557. Business class is 151K miles plus $547.
If you only need a one-way ticket from NYC to Tel Aviv you’ll pay 19K miles+$240 in coach, 33.5K miles+$255 in premium economy, or 75.5K miles+$608 in business class.
You can save money by booking travel on 2 one-way trips. A one-way ticket from Tel Aviv to NYC is 19K miles+$249 in coach, 33.5K miles+$297 in premium economy, or 75.5K miles+$292 in business class.
Transfer to Hilton:
You can transfer increments of 10K Virgin Atlantic miles into 15K Hilton points. That means the equivalent of 7,692 ThankYou points can become 15K Hilton Honors points.
Flying on Delta:
There are some notable sweet spots on partner airlines:
Virgin Atlantic miles can be a bargain for flying on Delta. They often have saver award space, even when there’s none available on Delta.com!
If you have problems typing in your desired airport you will need to click the location icon as shown below and manually search for your destination by country and state. If your destination still isn’t available you will have to call Virgin Atlantic to book award travel to that destination.
If the option to search for miles isn’t available you also may need to try selecting another airport, click on pay with miles, and then switch the airport. For example NYC to LAX didn’t work for me at first, but I switched the destination to San Francisco, clicked on pay with miles, and then switched back to Los Angeles.
On the search page you can select one-way or round-trip, exact dates, flexible within 1 week, or within 5 weeks. You can also change the class of service by clicking on “Show advanced options.” When you are viewing the award calendar you can toggle it to show direct flights only.
Here’s what’s fascinating. In general, partner airlines can only book saver awards.
If you search for JFK to TLV on 7/8 on Delta.com you’ll see that the award costs 160K miles. There’s a reason they’re called Skypesos.
But you can redeem 40K Virgin Atlantic miles for that same flight! That’s under 31K AMEX points with a 30% bonus!
Here is the Virgin award calendar for direct flights from JFK to Tel Aviv:
And here is the Delta award calendar for nonstop flights from JFK to Tel Aviv:
Want to fly business class nonstop from JFK to Paris?
Unfortunately, there are fuel surcharges to fly on Delta to London, but other destinations should have no fuel surcharges.
Note that the website charges extra for flights with connections. You can try calling Virgin Atlantic at 800-365-9500 to see if they can price the award without the extra pricing for taking a connecting flight.
Flying on ANA:
ANA is an incredible Japanese airline with great first class suites that have very comfortable beds and amazing service. I reviewed them here towards the end of the 4th part of my Island Hopper adventure.
You only need 110K miles to fly round-trip from the west coast to Japan or 120K miles to fly round-trip from the east coast to Japan in first class. That’s under 85K AMEX points or under 93K AMEX points respectively, thanks to the 30% bonus.
Virgin Atlantic now collects fuel surcharges on ANA, but they are relatively low.
Here is the Virgin Atlantic award chart for travel on ANA:
Unfortunately, you do need to call Virgin Atlantic to book travel on ANA at 800-365-9500. You can search for ANA award space on United.com.
Round-trip travel is required on ANA awards.
You can fly in ANA first class to Tokyo/Narita from Chicago, Houston, JFK, Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Washington DC.
You can fly in ANA first class to Tokyo/Haneda from Chicago, JFK, or Los Angeles.
United charges a whopping 220K miles to fly round-trip from the US to Japan in ANA first class, but you can call Virgin Atlantic to book travel for under 93K AMEX points!
Search for first class saver awards on United.com and then call Virgin Atlantic to book:
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AMEX cards with transferable points include:
- AMEX Blue Business Plus
- AMEX Platinum Business
- $595 annual fee, up to 75K points welcome bonus, earn 1.5 points per dollar on $5K+ transactions, $200 in annual airline fee credits, $200 in annual Dell credits, 1 year WeWork Global Office Space, Marriott and Hilton Gold status, 35% points rebate on paid airfare redemptions, Global Entry/Pre-check, AMEX Global lounge collection access.
- For rates and fees of the AMEX Platinum Business Card, please visit here.
- AMEX Gold Business Card
- AMEX Gold Consumer Card
- $250 annual fee, 40K points welcome bonus, $100 in annual airline fee credits, earn up to 4 points per dollar.
- AMEX Platinum Consumer Card
- $550 annual fee, up to 60K points welcome bonus, earn 5 points per dollar on airfare, $200 in annual airline fee credits, up to $200 in annual Uber credit, up to $100 in annual Saks credit, Marriott and Hilton Gold status, Global Entry/Pre-check, AMEX Global lounge collection access.
- AMEX Everyday Preferred Consumer Card
- $95 annual fee, up to 20K points welcome bonus, earn between 1.5-4.5 points per dollar everywhere with 30+ monthly transactions.
- AMEX Everyday Consumer Card
- No annual fee, up to 15K points welcome bonus, earn between 1.2-2.4 points per dollar everywhere with 20+ monthly transactions.
Are you targeted? Will you transfer points from AMEX to Virgin Atlantic to take advantage of this bonus? What other award sweet spots do you take advantage of?