Virgin Atlantic now a Chase Sapphire Preferred mile transfer partner – don’t ignore it

by on Mon April 8, 2013 • 1 Comment
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virgin-atlantic-new-plane-vaa-12313-530x330Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is now a full mile transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, the points program of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Ink Bold® Business Card, and Ink Plus® Business Card. You can transfer the points instantly, one for one, into your Virgin Atlantic account, just like Chase’s other partners (see how it works here).

This makes the current list very powerful:

  • United Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Korean Airlines
  • Amtrak
  • Hyatt
  • Marriott
  • IHG Hotels (Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, etc)
  • Ritz Carlton

We think Ultimate Rewards is a better overall program than its main competitor American Express Membership Rewards because United and Southwest are among the best values for domestic and global mileage redemption among U.S. carriers. Hyatt is a great option for hotel values, and British Airways and Virgin Atlantic give you full coverage for London, which is really important for a lot of New York based fliers – where American Express Membership Rewards has its biggest customer base. Overall, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the best credit card available for collecting points that can be used as airline miles.

Where to use and avoid using Virgin Atlantic miles

Good: Upgrades to London

  • Virgin Atlantic has one of the most attractive deals for upgrading economy class tickets to London among all of the nonstop carriers. You can buy a discount economy ‘M’ fare, which in May is running about $1,600 including all fuel surcharges and award fees, and upgrade for 40,000 miles roundtrip.
  • We did an analysis of upgrading to London and no other option had a better value for less cash outlay. Most other carriers require you to spend $2,000 or more, or outlay about 100,000 miles with less cash.

Good: Virgin America flights

  • This one’s a little tricky. You can’t see award availability online, but you can use Virgin Atlantic points for Virgin American flights with a pretty attractive award chart and very few taxes and fees.
  • For example, you can fly Virgin America’s flights up and down the West Coast for just 10-15,000 points ROUNDTRIP in economy.
  • You can also get into its great first class product (much better seat than any other carrier on short domestic flights) for 20,000 – 40,000 miles roundtrip on most West Coast flights. That includes LA to Cancun.
  • Its most popular New York to LA/San Francisco/Las Vegas flights are 25,000 miles roundtrip in economy, similar to what you’d find with United, Delta, and American…but giving you an extra option. You can also get first class on those flights for 75,000 miles roundtrip, versus 50,000 – 70,000 for American and United, and at least 80,000 for Delta.
  • This is also a better deal for Virgin America first class flights than Virgin America’s own miles, the ‘Elevate’ program. Virgin’s Elevate program charges for award tickets based on the cost in cash of a seat – with each point worth about 2 cents. So for first class, which can run over $2,000 on New York to West Coast flights, you’ll need over 100,000 points to get a free first class seat versus 75,000 Virgin Atlantic miles.
Virgin America rewards chart

ROUND TRIP Virgin America flights with Virgin Atlantic miles

Bad: Economy Class award flights

  • Virgin charges hefty fuel surcharges on most reward flights, so an economy class roundtrip will cost you $700 in fees, plus 38,500 – 45,000 miles.
  • You can usually buy a ticket in cash for about $900, so saving $200 by using that many miles is a very poor value.

Mediocre: Upper Class award flights

  • You can get to London in Upper Class for 80,000 – 100,000  miles roundtrip plus $1,300 in fees. Fine compared to a $3,000+ cash ticket, but you can use 100,000 miles and pay just $200 in fees on United, Delta or American.
  • Upgrading an economy ticket to Upper Class is a much better deal.

You can see a full list of Virgin Atlantic Flying Club airline award here – but beware most except Virgin America carry substantial fuel charges on awards.

Overall, this is probably good news for primarily New York based fliers. You get to London often, and this gives you another tool in that arsenal to get there more comfortable. It’s also good for West Coast based fliers, especially those in San Francisco, who can take advantage of generous Virgin America reward options.

 

 

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