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The Virgin Atlantic Flying Club might not be the first program you think of when it comes to getting outsized value for your credit card rewards. One of the biggest issues with the program is the high taxes and fees you’ll pay for award flights to and through the U.K. on Virgin Atlantic planes. However, Virgin Atlantic miles can be an excellent option for booking flights with its partner airlines and I’ll show you five great opportunities for flights within the U.S. and overseas.
Right now the Bank of America Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard® has a limited-time sign-up bonus of up to 80,000 miles in the first year. For most, this offer will amount to a bonus of 60,000-65,000 miles because earning the extra miles and perks requires a huge amount of spending. You’ll earn 60,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first 90 days of account opening, 5,000 miles for adding authorized users (2,500 miles each for the first two authorized users) and up to 15,000 bonus miles each account anniversary (7,500 bonus miles after spending at least $15,000+ within the past cardmember year and another 7,500 bonus miles after spending a total of at least $25,000 within the past cardmember year).
Virgin Atlantic miles are easy to collect because they also transfer from many points programs associated with top travel credit cards like:
Virgin Atlantic award sweet spots
Many Virgin Atlantic partner awards (but not all) need to be booked over the phone (call 800-365-9500). When you need to call to book, you’ll find that it’s easier to search for the partner award seats first (using another airline’s website) rather than having the phone agent search for you. For Star Alliance flights (ANA and Air New Zealand), the United Airlines website is a great place to search.
1. ANA first class from the U.S. to Japan
Japan is my new favorite place in the world. I’m convinced I could spend the rest of my life there and never run out of interesting things to eat, see, and do. It’s also the cleanest and safest place I’ve ever been. To top it all off, Japan has some of the best airlines in the world.
If there is one sweet spot you should take advantage of this year, make it this one. This isn’t just one of the best ways to use Virgin Atlantic miles, it’s one of the best award sweet spots from any program. Here’s Virgin Atlantic’s partner award chart for round-trip flights with ANA:
The round-trip business- and first-class prices I highlighted aren’t typos. Exceptional miles and points deals like this are usually reserved for rewards that are extremely hard to earn, like Alaska Airlines miles. And even then, you’d need more miles to book similar flights.
You can easily earn the Virgin Atlantic miles you need to book these awards from as few as two credit card bonuses. That’s a steal when you realize business-class seats can run $7,000+ and first class can be more than double that. And the fees are typically reasonable, usually just $200-$300 round-trip.
2. Delta domestic flights
For some reason, Virgin Atlantic seems to have access to saver-level Delta awards that other partner airlines don’t. This makes Virgin Atlantic miles great for Delta domestic awards because the taxes are so low.
You can book one-way, nonstop Delta domestic awards for only 12,500 Virgin Atlantic miles in economy or 22,500 miles in domestic first class (i.e. domestic business class) for only ~$11 in fees round-trip.
The one drawback of using your Virgin Atlantic miles for Delta domestic awards is that you’ll pay per segment, which isn’t the case if you use Delta miles. So this is only a deal if you are flying nonstop.
3. Delta business class to Europe and Australia
Once Delta ditched their award chart, its prices started to vary widely. You can find one-way, business-class flights to Europe starting at 80,000 Delta miles, but that’s just the lowest price. It goes way up from there.
If you can find Delta business-class saver award seats, you can book them for only 50,000 Virgin Atlantic miles one-way from the U.S. to Europe and 75,000 miles one-way to Australia. And you can book business-class awards flights to Australia with Virgin Australia too. You’ll have to be flexible with your travel dates and your departure city, but you can find good business-class deals to Australia.
Currently, Virgin Atlantic doesn’t add fuel surcharges to Delta partner awards, which means your taxes and fees will be very reasonable. Although there were a couple of days this past year when fuel surcharges were being added to Delta partner awards, Virgin Atlantic claims it was an IT glitch. So we’ll have to see how long this one lasts.
4. Virgin Atlantic premium economy
Redeeming Virgin Atlantic miles for Virgin Atlantic flights is almost never a good deal because award flights to the U.K. have outrageous taxes and fees tacked on. Take look at the fees you’ll pay, in addition to the miles for these economy flights:
There is almost no reason to pay ~$470+ in fees (plus the miles) for an economy award flight when you can find cheaper cash flights with a quick Google Flights search. I always assumed all Virgin Atlantic awards were a no-go for me, but as Richard Kerr from The Points Guy notes, you can actually find good deals in Virgin Atlantic premium economy from the northeast U.S. to the U.K.
I did a quick search and found one-way Virgin Atlantic premium-economy awards for 17,500 miles + ~$225 in fees (off-peak award). These same flights were selling for $4,000+, which is steep for a premium-economy flight. But even if the ticket was $1,500 to $2,000, this is a good deal.
5. New Zealand Air business-class awards
Finding New Zealand Air business-class awards can be a waste of time, but at odd times chunks of award seats will be opened up to partners. New Zealand Air is part of the Star Alliance, so you can book awards with programs like United Airlines, Avianca or Air Canada. With those programs, one-way business-class flights on New Zealand Air to/from the U.S. cost 80,000-90,000 miles. But it only costs 62,500 Virgin Atlantic miles to book the exact same flight.
New Zealand Air flies to these U.S. destinations from Auckland:
- Los Angeles
- Honolulu (for only 45,000 miles one-way in business class)
- San Francisco
To book these awards you’ll have to call Virgin Atlantic and you’ll pay per segment, so connecting flights will cost more.
Best credit card for earning the miles you need
The best card to open if you want to amass a bunch of Virgin Atlantic miles quickly is the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
Not only does it have a big intro bonus (80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points), it has a reasonable minimum spending requirement ($5,000 within the first three months of account opening), and a manageable annual fee ($95). Normally with bonuses that big you’ll have to either pay a much higher annual fee or meet a massive minimum spending requirement.
But if you don’t qualify for business credit cards, you can earn a bonus of 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first three months with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.
Chase does have stricter application rules. It won’t approve you for any of their cards if you’ve opened 5 or more credit cards from ANY bank within the past 24 months. (Important exception: business credit cards from American Express, Bank of America, Chase, Citi, and Wells Fargo do not count toward your five credit card total.)
Virgin Atlantic miles have so many excellent uses and they are so easy to accumulate that you are doing yourself a disservice if you overlook this loyalty program.
Right now the Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard® has a limited-time sign-up bonus of up to 80,000 miles in the first year. You’ll have to jump through some hoops to earn the full bonus, so check out our full Virgin Atlantic credit card review to learn more.
If Virgin Atlantic miles can’t get you to where you want to go for you next vacation, then check out the best airline credit cards for earning frequent flyer miles.
Featured image By IanC66/Shutterstock.