American Express is offering a 30% bonus on transfers to Virgin America through April 30.
This isn’t unusual, they had a 40% transfer bonus to Virgin America in January of this year and also in the latter half of September 2013. Both of those offers, of course, were better.
A year ago they even ran a 50% transfer bonus.
Should you transfer?
Normally American Express points transfer 2:1 into Virgin America. A 30% bonus is significant, but it’s important to understand how Virgin America points can be valued.
My rule of thumb is that Virgin America’s points are deflated, that one Virgin America point is worth about 2 points in a European airline frequent flyer program.
Their points are reasonably good, then, for redeeming on partners (with fuel surcharges).
You can use the points for about 2.2 cents apiece towards travel on Virgin America, or for fixed-point redemptions on their partners.
Transferring to Virgin America to redeem on Virgin America doesn’t get great value, you’re only getting a bit over 1.5 cents per point of value out of this offer.
Where this does get a little bit interesting is partner redemptions. They do have partners, none of which offer out of this world value but some of which can be strategically useful, for instance:
- Emirates. New York – Dubai roundtrip on Emirates is 95,000 points plus ~ $1400 in taxes/fees. New York-Milan roundtrip on Emirates is 59,000 points and ~ $670 in taxes/fees. One-way awards are permitted. Still, Alaska Airlines is generally a better partner for one-way awards and Japan Airlines a better partner for roundtrip.
- Virgin Atlantic. JFK-London in Virgin Upper Class is 35,000 points roundtrip plus ~ $1000 in taxes/fees.
- Virgin Australia. Los Angeles – Sydney is 80,000 points roundtrip in business class and over $900 in taxes/fees (compare to 160,000 Delta miles but no fuel surcharges). Short-haul business class within Australia is quite reasonable.
- Singapore Airlines. Short-haul regional business class on Singapore can be quite attractive, eg. Singapore – Bangkok roundtrip is 13,000 points and ~ $45 in taxes/fees
- Hawaiian. Hawaiian Airlines West Coast – Hawaii is 20,000 points roundtrip in coach, so the credit card gets you that. First class is 50,000 points. And no fuel surcharges apply.
Whether you should take advantage of this offer hinges on the extent to which these and similar redemptions are appealing and match your plans, in my view.
But for most folks I’d advise against.
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