UPDATE: This bonus transfer opportunity is expired. This was extremely limited and the end date was unclear.
I was just browsing around the American Express’s Membership Rewards website (what else would I be doing on a Saturday morning!) and noticed that you can transfer your Amex Membership Reward points to Virgin America for a 50% bonus! Virgin America was just added as a partner to the program and I am sure this is a way to promote the partnership. The details are unclear on when this bonus will expire. It states is: “Transfer your Membership Reward points to your Virgin Elevate account this week and enjoy 50% more Elevate points!” I am not sure if this means that today is the last day as it is the end of the week, or if the promotion is meant to be for next week and is starting early? Either way, if you are interested in the promotion, I would probably not delay as the end date is unclear.
The typical transfer ratio is 200 Amex points = 100 Elevate points, so a 2:1 ratio (most of the other airlines are a 1:1 ratio). This is a pretty poor ratio and values Amex points pretty low. With this current promotion, you are instead able to redeem 200 Amex points for 150 Elevate points.
Like JetBlue and Southwest, Virgin America has a fixed point program. Essentially, take the fare value and multiply it by 46.51. That will equal the number of points needed to redeem for a free flight. This makes each point worth about 2.15 cents. Since the typical transfer ratio is 2:1, this means that each Amex point is equal to about 1.075 cents – a pretty low value for most. With the 50% bonus offer, this will bring each Amex point to be worth 1.613 points. While this is a much better value, it still could be a low value for those using their points for international flights. However, for domestic flights, this is not too bad of a value. Especially, with American Express losing some of their partner airlines over the past few years (Continental and Southwest), I am starting to question the value of American Express points.
The good thing about Virgin America is that there are no blackout dates or capacity control. If there is a seat available, it is yours. However, since the points are based on the fare price – if the fare price rises, so do the number of points needed to redeem.
If you do not currently have the American Express credit card, the business version of the card has a pretty decent offer at 50,000 points. The personal version of the card has a pretty low offer, so I currently would not recommend it. They have had decent offers in the past, so I would hold off. Read my prior blog post to learn more about the American Express Business Gold Rewards Credit Card offer.