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Change is the name of the game and when loyalty programs making changes the trend is always toward devaluing your miles or points. Last year Virgin Group announced that they are planning to launch a new loyalty program in 2019. The Virgin Group includes brands like Virgin Hotels, Virgin Mobile, Virgin Australia, Virgin Atlantic, and coming soon, the Virgin Voyages cruise line.
While we don’t know much about what the new program will look like, Virgin Group has said there will be “an expanded range of ways to collect and redeem miles.” Virgin Atlantic miles are already incredibly easy to earn because they transfer from most of the major flexible points programs:
If Virgin Atlantic miles are going to become easier to earn then you can expect a devaluation to not be too far behind. And it’s likely these negative changes will happen when the new program is launched.
Virgin Atlantic miles may not be the best credit card miles or points to earn, but they can get you some absolutely exceptional deals. And with the coming changes to the program I don’t expect these deals to be around all that much longer.
4 Credit Card Miles Deals With Virgin Atlantic That Could Be Disappearing Soon
It’s easy to overlook Virgin Atlantic because they tend to charge absurdly high fuel surcharges & fees on their award flights. And some of their best partner awards must be booked over the phone.
Still, you can find great deals with the program. Here are 4 of the best.
1. ANA First Class From the US 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. And it’s the cleanest safest place I’ve ever been to. 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! If I was a betting man, I’d put my money on this award sweet spot going away when the new Virgin loyalty program is launched.
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 & points deals like this are usually reserved for rewards that are extremely hard to earn, like Alaska Airlines miles. And even then, you’d still 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 2 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
Normally, when you use miles to book awards with partner airlines you’ll need to find the saver level, or cheapest awards. But for some reason, Virgin Atlantic has access to saver level Delta awards that other partner airlines don’t. This makes Virgin Atlantic miles a great use 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. Business Class). And all that 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 a while back their award prices started to vary widely. You can find one-way Business Class flights to Europe starting at 70,000 Delta miles, but that’s just the lowest price. And 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 US to Europe and 75,000 miles one-way to Australia! And you can book Business Class awards flights to Australia and New Zealand with other Virgin Atlantic partners too, like Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand.
You’ll have to 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 & fees will be very reasonable. Although there was 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 UK 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. So 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 US to the UK.
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+, while that is steep for a Premium Economy flight even if the ticket was $1,500 to $2,000 this is a good deal.
Easy Card Combos to Earn the Credit Card Miles You Need
As I said before, Virgin Atlantic miles transfer from most of the major flexible rewards programs.
The best card to open if you want to amass a bunch of Virgin Atlantic miles cheaply is the:
Not only does it have a highest public intro bonus (80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points), it has a reasonable minimum spending requirement ($5,000 within the first 3 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.
Or you can earn a 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards point bonus after spending $4,000 in the first three months with either of these cards:
But Chase does have stricter application rules. Chase 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 5 credit card total).
Another thing to consider is that Citi and AMEX often have transfer bonuses for Virgin Atlantic of up to 30%. So if you’re willing to wait for the next transfer bonus and hope it comes around before any potential negative changes take place, you could earn a good amount of AMEX Membership Rewards points with:
- The Business Platinum® Card from American Express – 75,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points after meeting tiered minimum spending requirements
- The Platinum Card® from American Express – 60,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points after meeting minimum spending requirements
- American Express® Gold Card – 35,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points after meeting minimum spending requirements (but you should be able to get a better offer if you’re referred by a friend)
And currently you can only earn transferable Citi ThankYou points with the:
- Citi Premier℠ Card – 50,000 ThankYou points after meeting the minimum spending requirement
But the Citi Prestige card will be re-launching soon (January 2019) and you can earn transferrable Citi ThankYou points with that card. We don’t know what bonus it will have (if any), but the highest I ever remember seeing it was 75,000 Citi ThankYou points (have you seen a higher bonus for the Citi Prestige card?). You could also earn Citi ThankYou points with a couple of new Citi cards:
But the ThankYou points you earn with these cards aren’t transferable unless you have either the Citi Prestige or Citi Premier card. And Citi’s application restrictions for these cards makes it difficult to get multiple Citi ThankYou points earning cards, unless you wait 24+ months between applications.
You could also earn Marriott points with cards like:
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
- Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express
But remember that Marriott points only transfer to Virgin Atlantic at a 3:1 ratio with a 15,000-point bonus (5,000 extra Virgin Atlantic miles) for every 60,000 Marriott points you transfer.
You could also open a Bank of America Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard®. The bonus is advertised at 90,000 miles, but to earn that amount you’d need to do an absolutely massive amount of spending on the card over the first year of having it. So it’s not practical for most people.
What are your thoughts on the coming Virgin Group loyalty program? Do you think these sweet spots will stick around or are they going the way of the dinosaur?
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