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14 Best Ways To Redeem Virgin America Elevate Points for Max Value [2017]

Virgin Australia business class

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Virgin America doesn’t have the most well-known award program, but due to their recent merger with Alaska Airlines (making it the fifth largest airlines in the U.S.), the Elevate frequent flyer program has garnered a little more attention

As a result of the merger, members can now transfer points from their Virgin America Elevate accounts to their Alaska Mileage Plan accounts at a 1:3 ratio. Unfortunately, transfers do not work the other way around.

There are definitely some instances in which frequent flyers would want to use their Elevate points and get a great value! Let’s go over the best redemption options here.

 

Using Virgin America Miles With Airline Partners

Virgin America miles can be earned via a variety of credit cards, including Virgin America’s own co-branded credit card and any Membership Rewards-earning credit cards from American Express.

Virgin America is not part of an alliance, but it does have a number of airline partners. Additionally, remember you can now transfer your miles to Alaska Airlines and make use of Alaska’s award chart and partners.

Use VirginAmerica.com to price out awards on specific airlines. Then, you can use either ExpertFlyer or other airlines’ search engines to determine availability, and call 1-877-359-8474 to book an award.

Virgin America Credit Cards

There are 2 credit cards to help you build and use Virgin America points. Note that there is an annual fee of $49 for the basic card, and $149 for the premium card. These cards typically have a small sign-up bonus that comes along with them.

Another benefit that might be of interest is 20% off in-flight purchases, including entertainment.

Loyalty ProgramCredit Card Review
Virgin America Elevate Frequent Flyer ProgramVirgin America Visa Signature Card
Virgin America Premium Visa Signature Card

American Express Membership Rewards Credit Cards

Membership Rewards points can be transferred at a 2:1 ratio to the Virgin America Elevate program. The annual fee of each card varies, so choose one that has the most valuable benefits for you. Most cards also include a sign-up bonus, which makes the deal even sweeter!

Loyalty ProgramCredit Card Review
American Express Membership Rewards Loyalty ProgramThe Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express
The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express
The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Enhanced Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN
Gold Card from American Express
Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express
American Express® Green Card
Business Green Rewards Card from American Express OPEN
The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN
Blue from American Express®
Blue for Business® Credit Card from American Express
Mercedes-Benz Credit Card from American Express (review coming soon)

List of Virgin America Partners

Virgin America has 31 airline partners:

Virgin America Partners
Virgin AustraliaFiji Airways
AeromexicoHainan Airlines
Air ChinaHawaiian Airlines
Air New ZealandIceland Air
Air Tahiti NuiJapan Airlines
Alaska AirlinesKorean Air
Asiana AirlinesLATAM
Cathay PacificPhilippine Airlines
China AirlinesSATA International
China Eastern AirlinesScandinavian Airlines
China Southern AirlinesSingapore Airlines
El AlSouth African Airways
Emirates AirwaysSun Country Airlines
Etihad AirwaysTurkish Airlines
Ethiopian AirlinesUkraine International Airlines
EVA Air

Virgin America likely isn’t a program you are overly familiar with, but there are definitely some redemptions worth consideration, especially if you have easy access to miles via a Membership Rewards-earning credit card.

The 14 Best Ways To Redeem Your Virgin America Points

Compared to some other programs, Virgin America Elevate is a little bit tough to find quality information about. It’s not quite as easy to know what to expect when looking into flight options, so I’ve compiled a list of redemption options here for you!

1. Domestic Flights Within the Continental U.S. Starting at 5,000 Points One-Way

fly domestic virgin america elevate points
Virgin America’s economy class is definitely going to be more comfortable than most economy class cabins you are used to. Image courtesy of virginamerica.com.

Virgin America utilizes a revenue-based award chart on its own flights, which means a more expensive cash flight will require more reward points to book.

Fortunately, they offer plenty of cheap flights across the U.S., so keep an eye on those sales!

For example, let’s search for a one-way transcontinental flight from San Francisco to New York City. As mentioned earlier, the cost in miles correlates to the cost in dollars, so your results may vary.

The cheapest one-way non-stop Virgin America flight I’ve found costs $119, or just 5,079 Elevate program points. In comparison, most domestic programs require 12,500 miles to redeem this route.

In this case, Virgin America offers a terrific redemption option!

Hot Tip: When flying around the U.S., you can improve your travel experience by getting lounge access with The Platinum Card® from American Express or free Boingo WiFi with the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express.

2. Flights From the U.S. to Hawaii for 10,000 Points One-Way

Again, because there’s no strict award chart, the cost in miles will depend on how good of a deal you can find on flights.

Let’s look at flying from San Francisco to Honolulu. A one-way sale ticket in February costs $219 (or 10,234 Elevate points) in economy, which is a steal. In comparison, domestic airlines typically charge 20,000-22,500 miles for a one-way flight to the islands.

It’s possible to save half of your miles by booking a Virgin America-operated flight!

The same flight can be found for 40,724 Elevate points in first class, which is competitive with domestic airlines. Redeeming Elevate points on Virgin America-operated flights in not the only option for your points, however.

Virgin America partners with the following airlines: Alaska, Virgin Australia, Emirates, Hawaiian Airlines, and Singapore Airlines. Booking award seats requires contacting a call center at 1-877-359-8474.

It is possible to book most of the awards as one-ways and build a multi-city itinerary with stopovers and open-jaws, but they cost slightly more than half of a round-trip award.

3. Los Angeles to Sydney on Virgin Australia for 80,000 Points Round-Trip in Business Class

fly virgin australia business with virgin america points
Fly from Los Angeles to Sydney in style with Virgin Australia in business class! Image courtesy of virginaustralia.com.

The award for this city pair is rather generous! A round-trip flight costs 40,000 Elevate points in economy, 60,000 points in premium economy, and 80,000 in business class plus just $130 in surcharges.

However, award seats might not be available very far in advance; you can search for space on Delta.com.

One-way awards are priced slightly higher than half the cost of a round-trip award: a one-way costs 25,000 Elevate points in economy, 35,000 points in premium economy, and 45,000 points in business.

That same business class space booked with Delta Air Lines goes for 80,000 SkyMiles each way. The Virgin award, if you can get it, is clearly a winner for flying to Australia!

4. Intra-Australia Flights on Virgin Australia for 9,000 Points Round-Trip in Economy

A round-trip between Sydney and Cairns, the gateway to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, comes to 9,000 Elevate points in economy class and 17,000 points in business.

Flying one-way costs slightly more than half of the round-trip award, coming to 5,500 Elevate points in economy and 10,000 in business. To compare, Delta charges 22,500 SkyMiles each way in economy and 40,000 SkyMiles each way in business class between these cities.

The award chart for flights within Australia is basically distance-based. For example, flying 5 hours round-trip between Sydney (New South Wales) and Perth (Western Australia) costs 16,000 Elevate points in economy and 27,000 in business class.

A one-way award requires 9,500 Elevate points in economy and 16,000 in business class. Again, Delta requires 22,500 and 40,000 SkyMiles in these respective classes of service.

5. San Francisco to Dubai on Emirates for 115,000 Points Round-Trip in Business Class

Emirates Business Class with virgin america points
You’ll arrive at your destination well-rested when you fly Emirates business class. Image courtesy of emirates.com.

A round-trip flight between San Francisco and Dubai costs just 50,000 Elevate points in economy and 115,000 points in business class.

This seems pretty great at first glance! However, the carrier-imposed charges are rather steep on this route: $740 on economy flights and $1,410 on business flights. At these rates, you might be better off booking a flight with cash or using a different mileage currency.

One-way awards are available for 30,000 Elevate points in economy and 70,000 points in business class. The taxes also drop to $350 and $680, respectively.

What’s interesting is that when you book the same route originating in Dubai instead, the surcharges drop significantly!

For example, a round-trip in economy from Dubai to San Francisco adds just $280 in taxes and fees, compared to $740 in the opposite direction. One-way taxes drop to just $150.

Business class adds on $730 in taxes when originating in Dubai, instead of $1,410 when flying the opposite direction. One-way taxes on this route drop from $680 to $370.

6. Dubai to the Seychelles on Emirates for 45,000 Points Round-Trip in Business Class

fly emirates business class using virgin america points
Emirates business class is a luxurious way to travel! Image courtesy of emirates.com

It’s possible to fly between Dubai and the Seychelles—a route that often costs north of $1,000 for economy seats—using Elevate points. A round-trip flight costs 20,000 Elevate points plus $174 in economy and 45,000 points plus $420 in business.

For one-way flights, you’ll need 12,500 Elevate reward points in economy and 27,000 in business class. The taxes and surcharges cost $94 and $216, respectively.

7. U.S. to Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines for 20,000 Points Round-Trip in Economy

how to redeem hawaiian airlines miles
When fares are expensive, you’ll save points by redeeming on Hawaiian Airlines. Image courtesy of hawaiianairlines.com.

As seen earlier, flying between the mainland U.S. and Hawaii can be pretty cheap on Virgin America metal. However, because the cost in miles correlates to the cost in cash, you might not always be able to find a great deal.

Using Elevate program points to redeem for flights on Hawaiian Airlines-operated flights presents an opportunity to use a set number of points instead: 20,000 Elevate points in economy and 50,000 in business for a round-trip ticket between San Francisco and Honolulu, for example.

Flying from the East Coast becomes a little more costly. As per award chart, a round-trip ticket from New York City to Honolulu costs 35,000 Elevate points in economy and 80,000 points in business class.

This is still a pretty good deal, especially considering the taxes come to just $11.20 based on a round-trip booking.

8. Island Hopping Within Hawaii for as Few as 3,000 Points Round-Trip

Island hopping in Hawaii prices out the same for all the options. For example, Honolulu to Kona, Kona to Maui, or Maui to Lihue all cost just 3,000 Elevate reward points each way, or 6,000 points round-trip.

9. Honolulu to Tahiti on Hawaiian Airlines for 50,000 Points Round-Trip in Business Class

fly hawaiian airlines business using virgin america points
On a long haul flight, the splurge for Hawaiian Airlines business class is most likely worth it! Image courtesy of hawaiianairlines.com.

It is possible to fly from Honolulu to Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia, located on the island of Tahiti. Virgin America requires 25,000 Elevate points in coach and 50,000 points in business class, plus $58 in taxes.

One-way awards cost just 13,000 Elevate points in coach and 30,000 in business, plus just $5.60 in taxes. This is a perfect option for those looking to fly one-way to Tahiti and on to Japan, New Zealand, or Chile after that.

10. New York to Frankfurt on Singapore Airlines for 20,000 Points Round-Trip in Economy

fly singapore airlines business using virgin america points
Business class on Singapore Airlines is so nice, you’ll think you’re in first. It’s rare to find this space, but when you can it is bookable with Elevate points! Image courtesy of singaporeair.com

Flying between New York City and Frankfurt using Elevate points seems crazy at just 20,000 points plus $147 per round-trip booking, but that’s how much it costs. This is a killer deal considering it’s a transatlantic flight!

It would be even better if you could book Singapore Suites with your Virgin America points. Although business and first class seats are listed for 59,000 and 90,000 points, respectively, they are rarely available for booking with partner miles like Elevate points.

Instead, you’ll likely need to book these redemption using KrisFlyer miles or another of Singapore’s partners.

11. Los Angeles to Tokyo on Singapore Airlines for 24,000 Points Round-Trip in Economy

A flight between Los Angeles and Tokyo is listed at just 40,000 Elevate points plus $38 in economy. A one-way flight in economy costs slightly more than half that: 24,000 Elevate points and $20.

If you’re able to snag those business or first class seats, they require 95,000 and 130,000 Elevate points, respectively. But don’t hold your breath! Those seats are rarely, if ever, available to partners.

12. Houston to Moscow on Singapore Airlines for 60,000 Points Round-Trip in Economy

Redemptions like this cost about 60,000 points for a round-trip flight with most domestic frequent flyer programs. However, booking Houston to Moscow and back through Virgin America requires just 40,000 Elevate points plus $67 for a seat in economy.

Again, business class or first class might not be available for booking.

13. Short-Haul Flights Within Asia for Just 6,000 Points Round-Trip

Redeeming miles for short intra-Asia flights can be a great use of your rewards. Depending on the cash cost of the flight, you might save quite a bit!

For example, flying from Singapore to either Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh City, or Denpasar (Bali) requires just 6,000 Elevate points for round-trip flights, or 3,600 points for one-way flights.

Business class requires 13,000 points round-trip or 7,800 each way. First class costs 17,000 reward points round-trip or 10,200 one-way.

Additionally, premium seats are much easier to book on these short-haul flights than on long-haul flights mentioned earlier.

14. Transfer to Alaska at a 1:3 Ratio

As mentioned previously, it is possible to transfer your Virgin America miles to Alaska Airlines at a 1:3 ratio, but you won’t be able to transfer back in the other direction.

Alaska Airlines has a bunch of great redemptions, and this ability to transfer gives your miles even more value and flexibility!

transfer miles from virgin america to alaska airlines
Transfer your Virgin America points to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan and open the doors to even more flight redemption options!

Hot Tip: If you’re transferring to Alaska Mileage Plan, you can earn even more points by transferring from SPG. You could use cards like the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express.

In Conclusion

Even though you probably aren’t as familiar with the Virgin America Elevate program as you are with other airlines like United and American, there are clearly some good redemption options available.

It is definitely worth your time to consider these redemptions when you are ready to book your next trip, especially if you have American Express Membership Rewards points at your disposal!

Additionally, if you’re looking to earn some miles through credit cards that aren’t issued by the main 3 providers (American Express, Chase, and Citi), the Virgin America credit cards are also worth serious consideration.

Photo Credits:
Alaska Airlines Photo: Philip Pilosian/Shutterstock, Inc.

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FAQ

What are Elevate points?
Virgin America’s frequent flyer points program is called Elevate. The points you earn, redeem, and transfer are Elevate points.

What credit cards offer Virgin America Elevate points?
You can transfer points to a Virgin America Elevate account from American Express Membership Rewards or through Virgin America’s co-branded credit cards.

What are Virgin America Elevate points worth?
The value of Virgin America Elevate points depends on what kind of ticket you are redeeming with your points. Most people value Elevate points at around 1.2 cents per mile.

However, I can easily find redemption values upward of 5.5 cents per mile (e.g., a business class flight on Virgin Australia).

At 5.5 cents per mile, that’s like getting a $100 ticket for the equivalent of about 1800 Delta SkyMiles.

How many Elevate points do I need for a free flight?
You can book flights with Elevate points for as little as 3,000 points.

When do Virgin America Elevate points post in your account?
For Virgin America points earned through their co-branded credit card, Elevate points should appear in your account after the billing cycle in which you have earned them.

You can dispute missing frequent flyer miles you feel you should have earned by calling the number of the back of your credit card.

Reward point transfers from American Express Membership Rewards are generally instant.

Are Virgin America Elevate awards refundable?
Award tickets are refundable, but you must pay a $100 award re-deposit fee.

When do Virgin American Elevate points expire?
Virgin America Elevate points expire if you do not have activity in your account every 18 months.