American Express is promoting a new offer to transfer your Membership Rewards points to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club with a 30% bonus through November 30, 2017. That means every 1,000 Membership Rewards points will earn 1,300 Flying Club miles instead of the normal 1-to-1 ratio. (Learn how to transfer your Membership Rewards points.)
While Virgin Atlantic has some decent service to London, I wouldn’t recommend you use your Membership Rewards points for that. The carrier surcharges and taxes are so high that there are better ways to get to Europe. For example, use United Airlines miles to book an award with no fuel surcharges, or book an airline that doesn’t pass through London so you can avoid the high passenger duty on business and first class travel.
Instead, use Virgin Atlantic to travel east. Flying Club offers some excellent prices on award travel with ANA. Carrier surcharges are still collected but are low on most transpacific routes, typically under $200. (I know Cathay Pacific charges only $50, so I consider ANA a bit high relatively speaking.) You can book a round-trip business class award for 90,000 to 95,000 or a first class award for 100,000 to 110,000 miles from most cities in North America. It’s a distance-based award chart that means lower prices for those starting on the West Coast.
ANA and Virgin Atlantic have a complicated relationship because they’re not in the same alliance. You can’t book ANA awards on the Virgin Atlantic website, and the award chart isn’t even published. You can still find ANA award space by looking at the United Airlines website and then calling Virgin Atlantic at 1-800-365-9500. Ben at One Mile at a Time has a great overview of the process for using Flying Club miles to travel on ANA.
Membership Rewards puts out regular promotions for transferring your points to different partners. For this reason, I recommend that you stockpile them and wait until a promotion before you do anything with your points. Then you can stockpile them in a loyalty program like Flying Club and wait to redeem them later when you actually need to fly. There is the additional risk that the award chart could be devalued in the meantime, but that should be countered by the ability to stretch your points 20-30% further.