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For those who weren’t able to make the most of Amex’s September Virgin Atlantic transfer bonus, Chase has been offering its own transfer bonus since early October. There are, however, less than 4 days left to get in on this deal so if a 30% bonus for transfers between Ultimate Rewards and Virgin Atlantic makes sense for you, you’re running out of time to get this locked in.
How & when is this a good deal?
Let’s get one very important thing out of the way first: Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points are not very versatile and awards booked with these points can attract seriously high surcharges. This, however, doesn’t mean that Virgin Atlantic points should be ignored.
There are three very specific ways I like to get value out of Virgin Atlantic points – two involve booking a partner airline and the other, rather amazingly, involves booking with Virgin Atlantic itself.
My favorite Virgin Atlantic partner
My favorite Virgin Atlantic partner is Japan’s ANA and that’s because you can get some truly outsized value when you use Virgin’s Flying Club points to book premium cabin ANA awards.
Note: The mileage costs shown in the table above are for roundtrip travel.
In practical terms this is what the award chart means:
- New York to Tokyo will cost 95,000 points/120,000 points (Business Class/First Class)
- Los Angeles to Tokyo will cost 90,000 points/110,000 points
- Europe to Tokyo will cost 95,000 points/120,000 points
Those are pretty good deals in their own right, but when you factor in the Chase transfer bonus they start to look even better.
Here’s how many Ultimate Rewards Points are required for the three trips I just listed above (once you account for the 30% transfer bonus that Chase is currently offering):
- New York to Tokyo: 74,000 UR/93,000 UR (Business Class/First Class)
- Los Angeles to Tokyo: 70,000 UR/85,000 UR
- Europe to Tokyo: 74,000 UR/93,000 UR
To put things in context, the best non-stop, roundtrip Business Class fares you’ll usually find for travel between New York and Tokyo run between $4,000 and $6,000, while that same trip can be booked for just 74,000 Ultimate Rewards Points.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that ANA awards are getting increasingly more difficult to find (please don’t push through any transfers before you check that awards are available on dates that work for you) and you’ll have to pay some surcharges too (fortunately, these are nowhere near as bad as the surcharges that Virgin Atlantic charges on a lot of other awards).
Using Virgin Points on Delta
Using Virgin Atlantic points to fly Delta to/from the UK isn’t great value as the surcharges are prohibitive, but if you can find Delta One awards for one-way travel between the US and anywhere in Europe that isn’t the UK, the surcharges and the number of points required are and that’s a great combination to find.
With the 30% transfer bonus that Chase is currently offering, you can book a USA – Europe one-way Delta One fare for just ~38,500 Ultimate Rewards points, and considering how much Delta will charge for the same award, that’s an incredibly good deal.
You can also use Virgin points to book Delta awards for travel to everywhere else that Delta flies without incurring enormous surcharges but as Virgin Atlantic now uses a distance-based chart for these Delta awards,…
…the value on offer isn’t as good as it once was (when it was a zonal chart).
The one Virgin Atlantic redemption that I like
The ridiculous surcharges Virgin Atlantic adds to its award bookings make most of them a colossal waste of time (at least, that’s how I feel about them) but there is one very specific redemption that’s pretty good.
Virgin Atlantic’s older Premium Economy cabin is amongst my favorite Premium Economy cabins available (it’s considerably more spacious than the newer PE cabin found on the A350s and the A330-900s) and you can get excellent value when you book one-way Premium Economy awards from the US to the UK.
The surcharges combined with the high departure taxes out of the UK make a roundtrip Premium Economy award uneconomical but you can book a one-way Premium Economy award out of Los Angeles for just 27,500 points and $325.30 in off-peak season (it goes up to 37,500 points during peak season which I try to avoid)…
….which, in terms of Ultimate Reward points, is equivalent to just 22,000 points + the taxes and fees.
It’s even cheaper (from a points perspective) if you fly from the East Coast on an off-peak season date:
17,500 Flying Club points can be had for just 14,000 Ultimate Rewards points while the 30% transfer bonus is in effect and 14,000 points + $325.30 isn’t a bad deal for a comfortable Premium Economy transatlantic flight.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points aren’t particularly versatile (certainly not as versatile as Ultimate Rewards points) and you can get hit hard for surcharges when using them, so it’s a bad idea to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to Virgin Atlantic speculatively.
The best way to get a lot of value out of Virgin Atlantic points is to use them for select premium cabin bookings on ANA or on Delta and for one-way Premium Economy awards departing the US for the UK. The issue is finding availability!
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.
If you do all that you’re unlikely to go far wrong.