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This Virgin Atlantic 30% transfer bonus is about to end (and this may be a good time to transfer)

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The Citi ThankYou program is offering cardholders a 30% bonus on transfers to the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club though 16 March 2024 (TOMORROW), and while ordinarily this would be an offer that would only work for a relatively small number of people, right now, this transfer bonus could be a lot more useful than normal.

The transfer bonus offer

Per Citi:

Limited Time Offer: Transfer ThankYou Points to Virgin Atlantic and receive 30% Bonus Virgin Points. Offer is valid for Point Transfers to Virgin Atlantic completed by 11:59 PM ET March 16, 2024.

Note: Ordinarily, transfers from Citi to the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club are instantaneous but that is not guaranteed.

What makes this interesting?

Under normal conditions, this would be where I would remind readers that Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points are not very versatile and that awards booked with these points will often attract seriously high surcharges that make the awards uneconomical.

All of that is still true, but there’s another offer right now that makes this transfer bonus a little more interesting that it would otherwise be, and that’s the offer that sees Virgin Atlantic transatlantic awards discounted by 50% through the end of June.

In brief…

  • Book by 20 March 2024.
  • Travel between 14 March and 30 June 2024.
  • Save 50% on Reward Seats. All US routes. All cabins.
  • The sale is valid for departures from the US or the UK.

Key to keep in mind is that it’s only the points element of Virgin’s awards that are being discounted and not the horrendous surcharges, but if you need to make a transatlantic booking for travel before the end of June, it’s still worth running the numbers to see if stacking these two offers could work for you.

Potential bookings

Assuming a 30% bonus for transferring points from the Citi ThankYou program to the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, this is the number of ThankYou points (together with the number of dollars) that you would need to book the following one-way awards:

Business Class (off-peak/peak travel)

  • New York/Boston to London (LHR): 19,000/23,000 Citi Points + $997.80
  • West Coast to London (LHR): 26,000/30,000 Citi Points + $997.80
  • Miami (MIA) to London (LHR): 19,000/23,000 Citi Points + $997.80

Premium Economy (off-peak/peak travel)

  • New York/Boston to London (LHR): 6,800/11,000 Citi Points + $452.80/$477.80
  • West Coast to London (LHR): 11,000/15,000 Citi Points + $452.80/$477.80
  • Miami (MIA) to London (LHR): 9,000/13,000 Citi Points + $452.80/$477.80

Note: These are not hypothetical costs, these are real life examples of bookings that are available right now.

I value Citi ThankYou points at 1.5 cents each so for me, this is the effective cost of each of those award bookings:

Business Class (off-peak/peak travel)

  • New York/Boston to London (LHR): $1,283/$1,343
  • West Coast to London (LHR): $1,388/$1,448
  • Miami (MIA) to London (LHR): $1,283/$1,343

Premium Economy (off-peak/peak travel)

  • New York/Boston to London (LHR): $555/$643
  • West Coast to London (LHR): $618/$703
  • Miami (MIA) to London (LHR): $588/$668

Roundtrip award bookings attract truly ridiculous surcharges on Virgin Atlantic so I wouldn’t even begin to consider some of these awards without the 50% saving and 30% transfer bonus, but with the two deals rolled together, some of these costs would be acceptable.

Sure, If I didn’t have to fly on a specific date, I may be able to find cash fares that match or beat the one-way costs listed above, but because an award booking would afford me more flexibility than the cash fare, the award booking would be a better choice.

Note: Don’t forget that Virgin Atlantic offers elite status credits on award bookings.

Other ways this transfer bonus may work for you

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.

Here’s the Virgin Atlantic award chart for redemption on ANA:a table with numbers and text

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, but when you factor in the Citi transfer bonus they look even better.

Here’s how many ThankYou Points are required for the three trips I just listed above (once you account for the 30% transfer bonus that Citi is currently offering):

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

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 ThankYou 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 good value as the surcharges are prohibitive. If, however, 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 low and that’s a great combination to find.

a close-up of a white card

With the 30% transfer bonus that Citi is currently offering, you can book a USA – Europe one-way Delta One fare for just ~38,500 ThankYou points, and considering how much Delta will charge for the same award, that’s an incredibly good deal.

an airplane with rows of seats
Delta One Business Class Suites Boeing 777-200 – Image Delta

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,…

a table of points with numbers

…the value on offer isn’t as good as it once was (when it was a zonal chart).

Bottom line

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points aren’t particularly versatile (certainly not as versatile as ThankYou points) and you can get hit hard for surcharges when using them, so it’s a bad idea to transfer ThankYou points to Virgin Atlantic speculatively.

Ordinarily, the only real 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 (if you can find availability), but for bookings made by 20 March, some readers may also be able to get a reasonable amount of value from combining the current 30% transfer bonus with the 50% saving that Virgin Atlantic is currently offering on select award bookings.

Whatever path you’re considering, 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.

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