American Express is running yet another great promotion with Virgin Atlantic, offering a 30% bonus when transferring Amex points to your Virgin account. This bonus is widely available so long as you've got a card that earns Membership Rewards like *amex platinum* or the *amex gold* – your co-branded Delta SkyMiles credit cards from American Express won’t do the trick, unfortunately.
This bonus is available through Sunday, Dec. 31, so you've only got a few days left to take advantage.
Read our guide on Amex transfer partners and how it works!
These transfer bonuses are basically free miles. And while you may not use Virgin Atlantic or know much about their Flying Club program, you should.
Virgin Atlantic points might have taken a hit recently when the airline gutted many remaining sweet spots to book Delta flights for fewer miles. But there are still savings to be had with this bonus, from short domestic Delta hops to the cream of the crop: an amazing flight to Europe in Delta One Suites for as low as 39,000 points. Other partnerships mean you can book first class flights to Japan or lie-flat seats to New Zealand for a fraction of what other airlines charge.
But while you may be tempted to cash in immediately, remember: These transfers are a one-way street – once you send points to Virgin, you can't get them back to your Amex account. That means you shouldn't transfer points to Virgin Atlantic (or any airline) until you know that flights you want to book are available.
The Basics on Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Atlantic is a quirky airline with a quirky frequent flyer program. The airline flies from several U.S. gateways to London-Heathrow (LHR), as well as between several international hubs like Dubai (DXB) and Hong Kong (HKG). But you’ll rarely see us recommend using Virgin Atlantic miles to fly Virgin Atlantic flights.
While its award chart offers some pretty decent rates for getting to Europe and back, the fees it charges on award tickets are exorbitant. You can expect to pay $500 or more for just an economy roundtrip ticket flying in and out of London-Heathrow. That’s simply not worth it.
Luckily, there are some incredible partnerships where you can save a ton of miles by booking with Virgin Atlantic, with far more reasonable fees. Add in this transfer bonus from American Express, and it’s a no-brainer. You can transfer points to a Virgin Atlantic account from Amex, Chase, Capital One, Citi, and even Bilt Rewards. All of them, including American Express, typically transfer on a 1:1 basis.
However, with this current 30% bonus, Amex is obviously your go-to. If you transfer 50,000 American Express Membership Rewards points, you’d get 65,000 Virgin Atlantic miles. These transfers can take up to a day or two to go through, though transfers often clear immediately.
One issue to watch for: Brand-new Virgin Atlantic accounts often experience a lag when transferring points. Do yourself a favor and create a Flying Club account now so you don't need to worry about it.
Virgin Atlantic’s website can be a tad difficult to navigate. Getting award flights to show up on a given route can take a few tries. One good trick is to search for airports by country or region and pick them, rather than manually typing in the city name or airport code.
And unfortunately, Virgin Atlantic made it even harder by removing a handy award calendar you could use to scroll through a month's worth of flights at a time. Fortunately, there's a workaround you can use to still pull this feature up.
Read our complete guide to using & maximizing Virgin Atlantic Flying Club!
So what can you book?
Major Delta Deals
Delta SkyMiles can be great … but they can also be a major pain, with award rates that can be obscenely expensive – especially if you want to fly business class.
Enter Virgin Atlantic. You can easily use Virgin Atlantic to book the exact same Delta flight and save a boatload of SkyMiles. The London-based airline offers a far more stable – and frequently cheaper – alternative to book Delta flights than using SkyMiles outright. And considering you can transfer Amex points to both airlines, that’s useful to keep in mind.
Some of these deals went a bit sour earlier this month when Virgin Atlantic unexpectedly raised award rates for many Delta flights. Many simple domestic flights, trips out to Hawaii, routes down to Mexico and the Caribbean, and even ultra-long flights to Asia and beyond now cost far more points than previously. Still, there are savings to be had elsewhere.
Case in point: It’s next to impossible to find decent rates flying Delta One business class using miles. The airline regularly charges 300,000 SkyMiles or more for a business class seat to Europe, including Delta One suites.
But with Virgin Atlantic, it's just 50,000 miles to fly Delta One to Europe. Unfortunately, Virgin Atlantic destroyed a similar sweet spot to get to Asia for just 60,000 miles a few years back.
But you'll have to be flexible, as finding these business class awards at such cheap rates through Virgin Atlantic has gotten much harder recently. But when you can, it's a steal.
No joke: Delta wants 340,000 SkyMiles for a business class seat on this flight from Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG) back to Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) next year. No thank you.
But if you wait for a Thrifty Traveler Premium alert, you can book that exact same flight – same day, same flight, same lie-flat seat – for just 50,000 points through Virgin Atlantic instead. That's right: Less than a quarter of the price. And with this 30% transfer bonus, just 39,000 points is all you need!
Read our full guide on how to book Delta flights via Virgin Atlantic!
But making this happen is easier said than done. Finding the award availability through Virgin Atlantic to actually book these Delta business class seats can be a chore – especially lately.
Still, we're always digging for when these flights pop up and alerting our members when they do … like earlier this month, when we spotted a raft of Delta business class award space from New York to Brussels (BRU), Frankfurt (FRA), and even Zurich (ZRH) for early next year bookable through Virgin Atlantic.
These seats are gone now, get the next award alert for open Delta One seats to Europe with Thrifty Traveler Premium!
Just remember: Never transfer points to Virgin Atlantic (or any airline) until you know the flights you want to book are available. These transfers are a one-way street – you can't get them back to your Amex account.
Read our full guide on booking Delta flights with Virgin Atlantic miles, and you'll be ready to start hunting for the deal of a lifetime!
Flying Delta economy to Europe using 30,000 Flying Club points each way is typically much, much easier – even over the busy summer months. For example, you can fly roundtrip from Detroit (DTW) to Amsterdam (AMS) next August for just 60,000 Flying Club points and under $100 in fees. Just 47,000 Amex points is all you'd need to transfer and book flights that would otherwise cost $1,400 or more!
One other great way to save some SkyMiles on Delta flights? Book the shortest domestic flights using Virgin Atlantic points. Despite many increases elsewhere, flights that measure in under 500 miles each way still cost just 7,500 points.
Delta is charging at least 16,000 SkyMiles for this same flight from Detroit (DTW) to Grand Rapids (GRR) … or 19,000 SkyMiles for the main cabin fare you get when booking through Virgin. Factor in the transfer bonus, and 6,000 Amex points is all you need to book through Virgin Atlantic instead!
Fly in Style with ANA
Japan is open, and everyone wants to get there. You can also use this transfer bonus to score an amazing deal on a trip to Japan on one of the world’s best airlines.
ANA is one of Japan’s flag carriers, and it lives up to its five-star reputation. Its first class cabin is spacious, private, and offers some of the best catering in the aviation world. And even ANA business class is outstanding, rivals Qatar Qsuites for #1 in the world, too.
Go figure Virgin Atlantic also has a sweet spot for booking ANA flights, and this transfer bonus makes it even sweeter. While Virgin Atlantic recently raised award rates to fly ANA first class, it's still easily the best way to book these flights.
A one-way flight in ANA first class flight from Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO) to Tokyo now costs 72,500 Virgin points – just 56,000 Amex points with this bonus. Or you could get from Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) or New York City (JFK) to Tokyo for just 66,000 Amex points. That’s still substantially less than what United charges for a one-way fare in business class.
Much like booking Delta One via Virgin Atlantic, finding award availability on ANA can be a chore. First Class availability is practically nonexistent these days, so focus on a business class booking. These days, booking within three weeks of departure seems to be your best bet.
You can't book these flights online through Virgin Atlantic, which means it requires a bit of extra legwork. You'll want to search for award availability through a site like United.com and then ring up Virgin Atlantic at 1-800-365-9500 when you're ready to book. On the plus side, you can now book these awards as one-ways.
Read our guide to booking ANA flights with Virgin Atlantic miles
Of course, ANA’s business class is nothing to scoff at either – especially if you can snag the brand new business class seats it calls “The Room” which are currently flying from New York City (JFK), Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), and Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) too.
Read our full review of flying ANA's The Room business class from Chicago to Tokyo!
Lucky for you, business class award rates weren't affected by Virgin's recent devaluation. That means you can book roundtrip flights to Tokyo in business class for as low as just 70,000 Amex points with this bonus – or transfer just 35,000 Amex points to Virgin for a one-way flight.
Fortunately, Virgin Atlantic has a reasonable $50 fee to cancel award tickets and get your miles back if plans change.
Fly Air New Zealand Business to Auckland
In normal times, finding a lie-flat seat all the way to Australia or New Zealand is like finding a needle in a haystack. But these aren't normal times.
Again and again and again, we've been unearthing outstanding award availability to use points to book business class on carriers like Air New Zealand. We did it again just this week, with wide-open award space flying from Houston-Intercontinental (IAH) to Auckland (AKL) next spring, summer, and fall.
And Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is the cheapest way to book these seats … by far.
The airline charges just 62,500 points each way for an Air New Zealand business class redemption between the U.S. and New Zealand. Factor in this 30% transfer bonus, and 49,000 Amex points are all you need to book!
Unfortunately, you also can't book these awards online at VirginAtlantic.com – you'll have to call the airline at 1-800-365-9500 and feed an agent the route and dates you want to book. Wait for the airline to confirm your flights are available before transferring your Amex points to Virgin. Don't worry: Those transfers should be instant.
This transfer bonus can unlock some of the best deals in the world of points and miles. Just make sure to use it before it ends on Sunday, Dec. 31.
Lead photo (CC BY 2.0): Delta News Hub via Flickr