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If you were poking around your American Express Membership Rewards account today, you may have noticed a new transfer bonus on to Virgin Atlantic.

30% Transfer Bonus: Amex to Virgin Atlantic

The bonus is 30%, so every 1,000 Membership Rewards points will get you 1,300 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles.

If you are in a cash crunch, you should avoid travel rewards credit cards until you are caught up. Here are our favorite credit cards for Intro 0% APR offers and for balance transfer offers

You might think this is a great opportunity to book flights on, well, Virgin Atlantic – but that’s really not the case (although, sure, you can!). The reason is that Virgin Atlantic will assess huge surcharges on their own awards.

In a real life example I posted on the MilesTalk Facebook group, I had two good choices for booking a Virgin Atlantic Upper Class flight to London.

Best options:

Delta: 86,000 miles + $5.60
Virgin: 47,500 miles + $624.20

With the Amex transfer bonus to Virgin so it would be 36,500 Amex + $624.20.

Rounding, I can pay 50,000 more Delta miles than Amex points to save $620.

I decided to go with Delta and save the cash.

The Best Uses of Virgin Atlantic Miles are, Not Surprisingly, on Other Airlines

This is almost always the case, by the way. You will almost always get a better deal using one program’s airline miles to fly on a partner airline.

ANA First Class for 85,000 – 93,000 Amex points

One that I’ve written about many times before is a round trip in First or Business Class on ANA.

For First Class, round trip, you’ll pay 85,000 Amex points from the West Coast or 93,000 Amex points from the East Coast. The transfer bonus will give you the 110,000 (West Coast) – 120,000 (East Coast) Virgin miles required for the trip.

You’ll need to find availability before calling Virgin Atlantic to put the flights on hold and I recommend the United website for that. Search the calendar view for premium availability and then look day by day for the ANA flights. Note you do have to book a round trip for this deal to work – so find flights both ways before calling.

Delta Business Class – For Less

Delta charges crazy amounts of miles on Delta operated routes. It used to be that if Delta was charging its lowest rate, that meant you could book on a partner, but lately I see less and less correlation. It can be the maximum price on Delta and show up on a partner – or if can be the lowest possible price on Delta and not be available to partners. The bottom line is always having options.

In this case, I could go from Amsterdam to NYC for 320,000 Delta miles (one way!)…. OR….

I can take the EXACT SAME seat on the same day for 50,000 Virgin miles instead of 320,000 Delta miles. And with this bonus, it’s just 39,000 Amex points!

(Note that to London, the price will vary with Virgin, from 47,500 to 57,500 miles, but they will also charge full surcharges where as Delta won’t charge them outbound to London)

To Asia, you can beat Delta’s “Standard” 85,000-95,000 rate each way (and up from there) and pay just 60,000 Virgin miles instead.  That’s 47,000 Amex points.

Lastly, Virgin can book Delta One Transcons (LAX/SFO-NYC) for just 22,5000 miles (if you can find space!) where Delta will charge a minimum of 64,000 miles.  That would be just 18,000 Amex points!

Bottom Line

While I never advocate a speculative transfer, it’s good to think now if you might have a use for these miles for one of the above scenarios. Just remember Virgin can change their award chart any time…

Need more American Express Membership Rewards points?

Here are Credit Cards That Earn American Express Membership Rewards Points

Will you transfer?

Let me know me here, on Twitter, or in the private MilesTalk Facebook group.

You can find credit cards that best match your spending habits and bonus categories at Your Best Credit Cards

New to all of this? My “introduction to miles and points” book, MilesTalk: Live Your Wildest Travel Dreams Using Miles and Points is available on Amazon and at major booksellers.

yottaWhat is Yotta Savings?: The Yotta Savigs account is a really fun way to earn interest at a higher rate than Marcus while having some fun each night when the Yotta prize ball drops. Currently, the statistical odds imply a net savings rate of between around 1% and 3% - at a time when banks like Marcus are offering a paltry 0.5%. Plus, it's fun! | Read my review of Yotta.

I got "in the game" in 2003 and since then I've collected literally millions and millions of frequent flyer miles and hotel points. I've flown around the world in first class seats that would cost $29,000 using frequent flyer miles and a few bucks in tax. And I've stayed in some of the finest hotels - all for free! A few years ago I realized many of my friends actually thought I was paying for these!! So I started sharing my tips. It's long been a passion, but when I hosted a session on Miles and Points at this year's South by Southwest festival, my love of the game intensified and this blog was born.


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