As creatures of habit, we’re conditioned to believe that the typical fixed award rate for a transcontinental award is 12,500 miles. All of the major carriers (such as United, American Airlines, and British Airways) charge that for domestic awards from coast to coast. On peak travel dates, a standard award is double that, and it sure is a painful redemption to make…
Awards to Mexico from the US can sometimes be even higher. For instance, United charges 17,500 each way for awards to Mexico.
We tend to forget about other revenue-based carriers that have variable award charts (meaning that the amount of miles needed is determined by the actual cost of the ticket). Southwest, Jet Blue, and Virgin America are other airlines to consider for award travel, especially during a sale or transfer bonus.
I’ve only flown Virgin America once back in 2014 from Newark to Seattle and it was a pleasant experience. Another passenger even sent me a drink to my seat (it’s considered a “hip” airline). I wouldn’t hesitate to fly them again – they just haven’t been on my radar much because my focus has primarily been with Star Alliance and Oneworld partners.
However, it’s worth pointing out that there are several sweet-spot awards with Virgin America now, especially with the 50% transfer bonus from American Express Membership Rewards to Virgin elevate points until March 10, 2016.
I spent a few minutes playing around with itineraries and saw that there are some great redemptions out there on some popular routes over the next few months.
For instance, JFK to LAS is pricing out at 4,930 elevate points, which is only 6,600 Membership Rewards points.
For example, you could head to Cancun from LAX this weekend for 4,250 elevate points and $27.33 (5,800 Membership Rewards).
Also keep in mind that with this transfer, American Express charges a small excise tax offset fee of $0.0006 per point (with maximum fee of $99). They charge this fee to offset the federal excise tax that must be paid when you transfer points. The fee is very minimum. Transferring 6,600 points would cost you $3.96.
Getting Membership Rewards Points
As I mentioned earlier, Virgin America is a transfer partner of the American Express Membership Rewards program. I currently accumulate Membership Rewards points with my Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN. Other great Membership Rewards cards include The Platinum Card® from American Express, The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN, and the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express.
It’s also worth noting that some are receiving really high American Express sign-up bonuses with the Card Match tool (100,000 Platinum/50,000 Premier Rewards Gold). It’s YMMV; however, it might be worth trying before deciding to apply for the highest-public offer.
It’s always worth taking some time to look into other programs as there might be some sweet-spot redemptions instead of assuming that you’re always stuck paying 12,500 miles for a domestic award.
Have you booked a Virgin America award before? Are you considering taking advantage of the current transfer bonus?