Virgin America’s Elevate frequent flyer program is running an 80% bonus promotion on their points (they call them points, not miles) today only from 3PM EST to 11PM EST. They normally sell points for a very expensive 5.2 cents each (one of the most expensive among all loyalty programs), so this 80% bonus brings the price down to 2.89 each. You can buy a maximum of 36,000 points per year including this promotion.
If you’re looking to fly on Virgin America only, this is a deal you should absolutely not take advantage of because you will lose money on your travel. The Elevate program, like Southwest’s program, determines the award price based on the actual cash price of the ticket. This is usually not good for points people like us because we generally prefer fixed price awards, where the cash cost of the actual ticket could be very high while the points cost would still be low. If this concept confuses you, read this post: Points, Miles, and Credit Cards: A Primer for True Beginners.
For those of you looking to fly on Virgin America’s partners, there is some value here. They partner with several big international carriers like Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and Virgin Australia.
Specifically, Drew from Travel Is Free pointed out earlier this week that Virgin America is not charging fuel surcharges on Singapore Airlines awards. The redemption rates for their short New York JFK to Frankfurt FRA are:
- Economy round trip: 20,000
- Business Class round trip: 59,000
- SUites Class round trip: 90,000
Note that one way prices will be more than half the price of a round trip, so a round trip award makes the most sense here. As Drew points out in his post, the Economy price is very cheap. Those 20,000 points would cost you $578 through this 80% bonus promotion, which is a great deal when there are only minimal taxes/fees being added. Here’s the normal price of a round trip for random dates:
Unfortunately you can’t buy enough points to cover all your premium cabin travel, but just for fun let’s just assume you could. Drew dismisses the premium cabin awards as being too expensive, but I think they are still excellent value for many people if it was possible to buy them all. Business Class would be $1705 + taxes/fees round trip if you could buy all the points needed, which is still expensive but much cheaper than the normal cost of the flight:
Similarly for Suites class, the cost would be $2,601 + taxes/fees, whereas the retail price of the flight is:
Keep in mind that American Express Membership Rewards transfers to Virgin America Elevate at a dismal ratio of 2:1, so topping up your account is possible but not always advisable. Also remember that American Express has run 3 bonuses this year for transfers to Virgin America, one for 30%, one for 40%, and one for 50%. A 50% bonus would make the ratio 2:1.5, which isn’t terrible to top up your account for an award.
The one unfortunate thing is that Virgin America does not have the same award inventory that Singapore Airlines offers its own KrisFlyer members, so it might be tough to snag seats in premium cabins (particularly First/Suites). There may be other shorter routes to/from Singapore that are worth the price of buying these points – you can check award redemption charts and estimated taxes/fees for Virgin America Elevate rewards on Singapore Airlines here.
Another flight that might be worth a look for those willing to pay premium cabin prices is the Los Angeles LAX to Sydney SYD route on Virgin Australia. It’s generally very difficult to find good/cheap/nonstop flights to Australia, but on the Virgin America award chart the cost is 80,000 points plus $926 taxes/fees for round trip Business Class. That breaks down to $3,238 if you were able to buy all the points through this promotion (which you can’t – I’m just illustrating). The normal cost of that flight is:
So if you have a lot of Virgin America points already or have a lot of American Express points that you’re willing to transfer, this may actually be a worthwhile deal. I don’t think I will be buying, but I can see how premium cabin travelers might be at least interested in giving this bonus promo a look.
Feeling Shady? Other Ways to Get Virgin America Points
- Creating an account gets you 500 points for free. Easy. Make sure you read the next two bullet points before doing anything.
- You can transfer 500 points for $10. That means you can have a friend create an account and transfer you the points for an effective cost of 2 cents per point (cheaper than this promotion!). Do this too many times and you’ll likely be banned from the program. You can transfer 30K points per account at the same 2 cents per point cost.
- You can get 7,500 points just by flying on Virgin America one time by 12/31/14 if you sign up through this link. There’s also a referral possibility in that link that will earn the referrer and referee 7,500 points after the first flight. I’d love to refer you if you’re interested since there’s no cost to you – just let me know in the comments or via email.
Or you can get
creative shady. Refer a friend, then find a cheap flight for your friend to fly on so you get 7,500 points (you’ll then have 8K total including 500 for signing up for an account). Your friend will get 7,500 for flying (plus 500 bonus for the account), then transfer those to your account for $160, and you’re already at 16K for just $160 plus the cheapest flight you could find. Rinse and repeat!
Note that this is a highly grey (or even black) area, so be careful if you attempt this.