How to Maximize the New 35% Membership Rewards Transfer Bonus

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Periodic transfer bonuses are one of the things that I love the most about the American Express Membership Rewards program.  They take the points you have earned on cards like The Amex EveryDaySM Preferred Credit Card from American Express or  American Express(R) Premier Rewards Gold Card and make them stretch even further when transferring to hotel and airline partners.  You never know when a transfer bonus may pop up, but it can make sense to act when they do become available.

From today (10/15) until November 30th you can get a 35% bonus on Membership Reward points transferred to Virgin Atlantic

This means that for every 1,000 Membership Reward points you transfer, you get 1,350 Virgin Atlantic miles.  This is higher than the last two transfer bonuses to Virgin Atlantic that were 30% bonuses, but do some research before deciding if this points transfer will work for your travel plans.

Virgin Atlantic miles can be tough to maximize as some award prices are high compared to other programs and they charge fuel surcharges for many flights, but there are some uses that can be worth considering.

Redeem for Virgin America Flights:

Round trip flights on partner Virgin America start at 10,000 miles round trip for some short routes and cost 25,000 miles round trip in economy on some longer routes like Los Angeles – Orlando and Las Vegas – New York.  With the 35% transfer bonus, that would be around 19,000 Membership Reward points for a longer domestic round trip flight.

While these flights won’t have fuel surcharges, they will have to be booked over the phone with Virgin Atlantic and I’ve read that this isn’t always the simplest process in terms of availability.  There are some decent values to be had, but you may have to have some flexibility to be able to put them into use.

Virgin Atlantic Award Chart

Redeem for Delta Flights:

You can also use your Virgin Atlantic miles for flights operated by partner Delta Airlines.  Flights in the continental United States, Alaska, and Canada are just 25,000 miles round trip in economy or 45,000 round trip in domestic first.  That isn’t bad factoring in the 35% transfer bonus from Membership Rewards at 19,000 Membership Reward points for a round trip.

To Hawaii, flights are 40,000 miles round trip on Delta in economy and 75,000 in domestic first.  With the 35% transfer bonus that comes to around 30,000 Membership Reward points needed for a round trip award to Hawaii in Delta economy, which isn’t bad!  Of course, the biggest limiting factor there is limited availability on saver awards to Hawaii on Delta.  These awards also have to be booked over the phone with Virgin Atlantic.

Redeem for Hawaiian Airlines Flights:

You can redeem for flights to/from the United States mainland to Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines for 40,000 miles round trip in economy and 80,000 round trip in first.  Just like with Delta operated flights, that comes to around 30,000 Membership Reward points for economy round trip tickets, which again, is not bad to go from somewhere like JFK – Honolulu.

You can fly intra-Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines for 15,000 Flying Club miles which comes to about 12,000 Membership Reward points with the transfer bonus.  This is not a great value, but isn’t terrible either compared to rates in other programs.

Flights to Europe:

You can fly from New York to London for 17,500 Flying Club miles + $134 in taxes/fees in economy with availability being very good.  With the transfer bonus that is 13,000 Membership Reward points + $134, which I find to be very, very reasonable to get to Europe.  Coming back you would be charged the same number of miles but an extra $200 or so to depart from London.  You can book these flights on their website, which is very simple to use.  From cities further from London, like San Francisco, the miles prices is a bit higher at 21,250 miles each way + the same taxes/fees.  With the transfer bonus that is 16,000 Membership Reward points each direction.

If you want to fly in “Upper Class” it will cost you 40,000 miles each way (30k Membership Reward points with the transfer bonus) + $420 in taxes/fees New York – London and even more in fees and taxes on the return.  In other words, a bunch of fees to use your miles, though their Upper Class does look pretty swanky!

I have previously seen some discounted Virgin Atlantic reward tickets to Europe for as low as 25,000 miles round trip (plus taxes/fees), but I don’t see that option available currently.

Is it Worth it:

Virgin Atlantic miles are not very popular in the miles and points world for many reasons, but there are some decent values to be had, especially when factoring in a 35% transfer bonus.  Getting round trip domestic Delta flights for just 19,000 Membership Reward points is not bad – assuming you can find availability at the lowest level, which can be tough.  Flights round trip to Hawaii for 30,000 Membership Reward points round trip is also not bad especially from places away from the West Coast that are not a good value on Avios, with the limiting factor again being availability at the lowest level with both Delta and Hawaiian.

Transfers to Virgin Atlantic are not instant, but have historically gone relatively quickly (less than one business day) in some of the reports I have read.  I have not yet made a redemption from Virgin Atlantic, but there are some values within the program that have piqued my interest.

Are you considering taking advantage of the 35% transfer bonus?

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  1. IF you can find seats. Only way to check partner seats is to call up and ask. Even then you may need to wait a day or two as their availability is usually different to that the partner offers to its own flyers. Be very cautious before converting to VS. Only easy redemption’s are on VS metal with big YQ

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