Amex Is Offering Virgin Atlantic Transfer Bonuses…But They’re Targeted (USA)


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No sooner has Amex’s 40% transfer bonus to British Airways and Iberia ended we get a new transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic….only this bonus isn’t nearly as friendly.

Personally I’m not seeing any kind of bonus in my Membership Rewards account but Doctor of Credit has seen offers of bonuses ranging between 10% and 20% and at least one commenter has claimed he/she is seeing a bonus of 30% in their account.

There was a 30% non-targeted Amex bonus for transfers to Virgin Atlantic running from August through the middle of September so it’s a little surprising to see this latest offer appear….but let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth.

I value Virgin Atlantic miles at around 1 cent each and Membership Rewards points at 1.5 cents each so logic would seem to dictate that you shouldn’t consider a bonus under 50%…but things aren’t quite that simple.

Yes, accepting a 30% bonus (for example) would technically see you converting points I value at 1.5 cents to 1.3 cents of Virgin Atlantic miles but that isn’t quite as idiotic as it may sound – there’s a very specific way to get a lot of value out of Virgin Atlantic miles which makes transfers like these very enticing.

The key here is Virgin Atlantic’s partnership with ANA.

Here’s the Virgin Atlantic ANA award chart which is where we need to start:

The mileage costs shown above are for roundtrip travel as Virgin Atlantic doesn’t allow one-way bookings on ANA.

Here’s what that award chart means in practical terms:

  • New York to Tokyo will cost 95,000 miles/120,000 miles (Business Class/First Class)
  • Los Angeles to Tokyo will cost 90,000 miles/110,000 miles
  • Europe to Tokyo will cost 95,000 miles/120,000 miles

Those are pretty good deals in their own right but when you factor in the Amex transfer bonus things look even better.

Here’s how many Membership Rewards Points the three above example trip convert to assuming a 30% transfer bonus from Amex:

  • New York to Tokyo: 74,000 MRP/93,000 MRP (Business Class/First Class)
  • Los Angeles to Tokyo: 70,000 MRP/85,000 MRP
  • Europe to Tokyo: 74,000 MRP/93,000 MRP

To put things in context, the best non-stop, roundtrip Business Class fare I can find for travel between New York and Tokyo from now through the end of the booking period is over $6,000….

…while that same trip can be booked for just 74,000 Membership Rewards Points.

That’s staggeringly good value….even when you add in the surcharges that are appended to Virgin Miles award bookings.

I’m not about to claim that you would be getting 7 – 8 cents/point in value out of a booking like this because most readers would never pay $6,000+ for this trip in the first place….but it’s deals like this that can be the difference between going on a trip or staying home.

Bottom Line

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles aren’t particularly versatile and you’ll get stung for annoying surcharges when using them so it’s a terrible idea to transfer MR points to Virgin Atlantic speculatively.

The best way to get a lot of value out of Virgin Atlantic miles is to use them for premium cabin bookings on ANA but there are other reasonable uses out there too so make sure you look into your options.

The key here is to make sure the awards you want to book are available before you process a points transfer and that the math of transferring points and using them for flights stacks up when compared to the cash cost of a booking.

Follow that advice and you shouldn’t go too far wrong.

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