Starting tomorrow and through December 29, the U.S. American Express Membership Rewards program is offering a 35% bonus on transfers to Virgin Atlantic.

The bonus offer should show up at by sometime mid-morning on November 27th.

While it’s a good opportunity to top off an existing Virgin Atlantic account that already has a decent mileage stash (I have a bunch of points from signing up for Bank of America’s Virgin Atlantic American Express about six months ago, and I usually credit my one-day Avis rentals to Virgin for the 1000 miles per rental), it’s not necessarily a great deal otherwise.

Not only does Virgin Atlantic add fuel surcharges onto its award tickets, e.g. a San Francisco – London business class roundtrip will currently add $896 in fuel surcharges in addition to already hefty taxes for departing the U.K. in a premium class of service, but their award chart isn’t always the least expensive way to access awards on their flights. Which means you may be able to get awards on Virgin for a similar number of Amex points even without a bonus.

For instance, New York JFK – London in Virgin’s Upper Class is only 63,000 miles roundtrip when booked through American Express Membership Rewards transfer partner ANA. Using the transfer bonus to Virgin right now is a better deal — because the 80,000 Virgin miles the award will cost will only take 60,000 Amex points with this bonus.

But it’s an example of how you can get deals similar to what’s offered with the bonus, even when one isn’t running.

Meanwhile, a 30% bonus on Membership Rewards transfers to British Airways comes December 3rd. So the two major U.K. airlines will be head-to-head in the American transfer game for a short while.

Update: Lucky reminds that Virgin Atlantic points currently transfer to Hilton HHonors at 1:2, meaning with this bonus you can move Amex points to Virgin to Hilton and effectively get 2.7 Hilton points per Membership Rewards point. I wouldn’t do this. Since I value a Hilton point at half a cent apiece, I’d be getting only 1.35 cents per Amex point. Not good.

Ben and I had a long debate on the value of HHonors points, he values them at 0.8 cents, meaning he things he gets 2.16 cents per point out of the deal. Not really what I’m looking for out of my Membership Rewards redemptions, but marginally acceptable.

Since Ben is wrong about the value of HHonors points, don’t do it unless you specificaily need to top off a Hilton HHonors account at the margin for an award you’re going to be redeeming in the near-term.

  1. Nick E said,

    Couldn’t this be a good opportunity to transfer MR points to Hilton HHonors by “laundering” them through Virgin and getting a much better rate? 50,000 MR points = 67,500 VS miles = 135,000 Hilton HHonors points, much better than the 75,000 you’d normally get through a direct transfer.

  2. Jimmy said,

    Don’t you think it’s time to let this “value of a HH point” Just die.Ben does enough crazy stuff find something new.Just read hie trip reports.

  3. Hoang N said,

    Question: can you transfer HHonor pts to miles ??

  4. Gary said,

    @Hoang N – you can but a bad deal. In this case I’m talking about transferring (Virgin Atlantic) miles to Hilton HHonors points

  5. Preacher said,

    Are there surcharges charged for the transfer, like there are for US-based airlines? And can I transfer my points to my son’s VATL account?

  6. ffi said,

    No fees
    Yes to anyone

  7. worldtraveler2018 said,

    Gary, do you know if the 35% bonus miles will post right away or you have to wait 6-8 weeks like in some bonus offers?

  8. Gary said,

    @worldtraveler2018 – should post along with the regular miles rather than waiting for a bonus later

  9. Bob S. said,

    I guess the question is what is the best use of AMEX MR.
    I have 310,000 MR points and need to do something with them. I see the best choices as transfers to AVIOS and Hilton.

    Where is the best transfer option for AMEX MR.

  10. Gary said,

    @Bob S the best thing is to hold them until you’re ready to book an award ticket, the best use will be through the program which has availability that matches your needs at the time you are ready to book.

  11. tom said,

    How does this promo stack up historically for MR-VS transfers. Is 35% as good as it gets? Are bonus for VS fairly regular?
    I have only been paying attention recently and it seems that usually these MR transfer promos are just BA or DL.

  12. Gary said,

    @tom – Virgin hasn’t had recent transfer offers (though Virgin America has). BA has been pretty consistent recently but sadly there haven’t been any with Delta this year,

  13. collector said,

    If you have a specific Amex AXON Hilton award redemption, this Amex points to virgin atlantic to HH transfer could be enticing. In this case, Hilton cat 5 or 6 hotels only cost 47k amex points; cat 7 hotels cost 54k amex points.

  14. Mini Points: Free Holiday Inn Resort Night & Amex Transfer Bonus - Mommy Points said,

    […] According to those “in the know”, beginning today through December 29th there will be a 35% transfer bonus from the American Express Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic.  This would not even be a blip on my radar except for the fact that there is a very favorable transfer ratio from Virgin Atlantic to the Hilton HHonors program.  I get lots of emails about how to best make use of a large Membership Rewards balance, and transferring to the HHonors program via Virgin Atlantic is usually one of the options I suggest.  I personally prefer to use most of my MR points in the British Airways Avios program (especially during a BA transfer bonus time) on domestic American Airlines flights, but if you have a Hilton redemption in mind this can be a good transfer to consider. […]

  15. Travel Summary – 11/27/12 | Travel Summary said,

    […] also found out that Amex will have a 35% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic! That’s an 80% bonus on Hilton […]

  16. Round Up of Points and Miles Deals - Just Another Points Traveler said,

    […] The normal transfer rate to HHonors (when going via Virgin Atlantic) is 1:2, but with this bonus you will be getting 2.7 HHonors points for every 1 Membership Reward point.  HHonors points are not near as valuable as some other types of points for most redemptions, but this can still be a good way to boost your HHonors balance if you are looking to empty out your Membership Rewards into a hotel program. You can learn more about the transfer bonus by following Gary’s post here. […]

  17. 33% Bonus on Transfers of American Express Points to Hilton - View from the Wing said,

    […] December 29, American Express is offering a transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic. And Virgin Atlantic points transfer to Hilton at a ratio of […]

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