Virgin Atlantic Miles: Citi ThankYou 30% Transfer Bonus: Business Class for 39K Points to Europe, 35K to South America, 97K to New Zealand, or First Class for 85K (RT) to Japan

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UPDATED: The AMEX MR 30% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic is gone.

A lot of people don’t take Virgin Atlantic miles seriously and I used to be one of them.

Virgin Atlantic is not everyone’s cup of tea. It adds god-awful scamcharges to award redemptions and its Upper Class is not all that awesome. Yes, the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at JFK was among my best lounge experiences ever, but up in the air it’s just OK. I did like the service and sexy uniforms, but I found my bed claustrophobic, the TV screen antiquated, and the bar area cramped and uncomfortable. I know, it’s kind of ridiculous to complain about any seat that allows you to transport yourself from one continent to another in a state of a horizontal bliss, but, oh well.

We’re nothing but spoiled brats, aren’t we? OK, don’t answer that.

But the thing is, you don’t need to use Virgin Atlantic miles for Virgin Atlantic flights. In fact, using Virgin Atlantic miles on Virgin Atlantic is a huge waste of miles and money. Our British cousins might’ve been conditioned long and hard into doling out hundreds if not thousands of YQ dollars for a supposedly free flight, but I choose to believe those airline announcements when they’re trying to appease us by saying “you have a choice.”

Because it’s true: you really do have a choice, and you’re better believe it.

The 30% Citi ThankYou transfer bonus turns a good redemption rate into a mind-blowing value

Citi ThankYou offers the 30% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic. This bonus is valid until October 13.

I’ve written extensively about some otherworldly award redemptions you can find by fortifying your travel on Virgin Atlantic partner airlines with the 30% transfer bonus. Virgin Atlantic miles can take you almost anywhere in the world. South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, South Pacific, you name it. The most difficult part is to make up your mind.

Use Virgin Atlantic miles for Business Class on Delta: 70,000 Citi points to South America, 77,000 points to Europe, or 93,000 points to Asia per ROUNDTRIP! 

You can fly in Business Class to Europe on Delta (and not just in Business, but in a new famous Delta suite if the stars align your way) for transferring 77,000 Citi points to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. To Hawaii for 58,000 Citi points. To South America for 70,000 Citi points. Here, take a closer look. (The table only mentions MR points, but that was before Citi offered the same transfer bonus.)

American Express Transfer Bonus

You can fly one-way on Delta for half the miles, but don’t originate your flight in Europe to avoid draconian surcharges

You won’t be able to book all of these, of course, so let’s manage our expectations. Getting a Business Class award on the premium transcontinental routes or to Hawaii is extremely difficult if not outright impossible. Economy awards are easy to find, though.

Europe and Asia, on the other hand, are doable even in Business Class. Just keep in mind that Virgin Atlantic doesn’t bother to list all countries and cities Delta flies to. You won’t find Madrid or Barcelona, Berlin or Frankfurt, Reykjavik or Rome – actually, it’s easier to list airports you can find on the Virgin Atlantic website than the ones you won’t. Delta’s page is a good starting point because Virgin has access to more Delta award space than other airlines due to the special nature of their relationship. That doesn’t mean, though, that all awards available on Delta’s website will be bookable with Virgin Atlantic miles.

How to search for Delta flights to cities not listed on the Virgin Atlantic website

I wish I could tell you to use Flying Blue to search for your Delta flights, as it was very easy in Flying Blue’s pre-devaluation days, but now their award calendar is screwed up beyond belief.

Just to demonstrate, let’s say we’re looking for a flight from New York to Dublin on March 26, 2019. Why? Because I did the search on the Virgin Atlantic website and know it must be available.

Virgin Atlantic Miles

With the bonus, you will pay 30% less for this flight — only 39,000 points!

When we search for the same flight on Flying Blue, the first thing we get hit with is this.

Virgin Atlantic miles

You know right away this is not “legit” because a Delta flight should only cost you a few bucks in taxes

Say what? But we know that a Delta award should be available, right? And there is no way you would have to pay 216.29 EUR in taxes and fees for a Delta award flight because there are no fuel surcharges on Delta flights originating in North America. Right?

That’s right. When we do know that this award should be available, all we need to do is ignore the listed price (because Flying Blue will keep pushing Air France and other partners first) and click on the date we need, but even then Flying Blue is hell-bent on giving us false information.

It’s only after we click “NEXT, SELECT FLIGHT” that the search engine relents and shows us the correct lowest-fare Delta flight.

Virgin Atlantic miles

Ignore the miles price — that’s for Flying Blue redemptions –but note the low fee

Now, it was easy for me to test this theory because I knew there was a good chance to find this Delta flight, but when you don’t know – do you have enough patience to click on every single date? If yes, then there is a good chance a flight available on Flying Blue will be available on Virgin Atlantic. Otherwise, you might try finding a bunch of flights on the Delta site first. Then call Virgin Atlantic and feed your flights to the agent until you get one that works. It might be the best approach because Virgin’s agents have gotten much better at finding partners awards in the last couple of years.

Use Virgin Atlantic miles to Africa in South African Airways Business Class by transferring 20,000 Citi points 

A year ago, I discovered a truly Unicorn redemption option to Africa (which was quickly “reprinted” by many other bloggers and without attribution most of the time). It was huge because you could (and still can) fly from Washington, DC to Dakar for 39,000 Citi points and from Dakar to Johannesburg for another 39,000 points in Business Class per roundtrip! You can fly to Johannesburg on the same plane after a 1-hour stop in Dakar, or you can have a stopover in Dakar – it’s up to you.

South African Airways Chart

You can still fly to Africa in Business Class for 40,000 miles per roundtrip, but Virgin Atlantic now adds around $600 in taxes and fees

Unfortunately, sometime in the last 12 months, Virgin Atlantic began adding a fuel scamcharge to this award to the tune of around $600. You may feel that it’s still a great deal (and it is!), but the magic is gone now. Sad!

UPDATE: DEVELOPING Use Virgin Atlantic miles in Business Class on Air New Zealand: transfer 97,000 Citi points for flight to Auckland

You can use 97,000 Citi points to fly on Air New Zealand in Business Class between the U.S. and New Zealand. And before you say that Air New Zealand award space is hard to find – that’s true, but hard doesn’t mean impossible. Air New Zealand awards haven’t shown on the United website for at least a week, but I believe it’s just a glitch. Call Virgin Atlantic to inquire.

Use Virgin Atlantic miles on ANA First Class to Japan

This is what people have been raving about for the last couple of years. You can fly to Japan for 85,000 Citi points in First Class from the West Coast and for 93,000 points from the East Coast per roundtrip. That’s quite insane – I just don’t know if there is a better term to describe this value!

Virgin Atlantic Miles

The flight to South Pacific you’re seeing here is to Rarotonga — it’s a fifth freedom Air New Zealand flight from LAX

Just do yourself a favor and don’t waste your Virgin Atlantic miles on Business Class travel. You can actually transfer AMEX points to ANA and get a similar value in Business (70,000 ANA miles in low season). The point difference between Business and First in Virgin Atlantic miles is not that big, so indulge yourself.

The Virgin Atlantic credit card (up to) 75,000-mile offer is back

Actually, the offer is up to 90,000 miles, but you only get the last 15,000 after paying the second annual fee, so I don’t count it. The first 25,000 miles are easy – 20,000 miles after the first purchase and 5,000 after adding 2 authorized users. However, to get 50,000 more you’ll need to spend $12,000 in the first 6 months. That’s a lot of spend, which is why I’ve never used this “reincarnation” of the card. Besides, this is a Bank of America card. You can only get 4 of those in the 24-month period. Yikes, but you decide!

But before you do, here is one more tidbit. The Virgin Atlantic credit card is the only card I know that offers Medical Evacuation and/or Repatriation of a covered person. As far as I can tell, even AMEX Platinum doesn’t mention repatriation (even though there are eyewitness accounts that it does pay for repatriation). Now, I have no idea how and if it really works in real life, but it also offers other travel protection benefits like Trip Delays and Trip Cancellation coverage. So if you want a peace of mind for $90 a year rather than $550, this card might be a keeper, I guess.

Can I have a stopover with Virgin Atlantic miles?

No. Not only can’t you have a stopover, but every connection will cost you more miles, and I believe you can’t have more than 2 segments to get to your destination. For example, a nonstop one-way flight between New York and Dublin costs 50,000 miles, but the same flight with a connection in Boston costs 72,500 miles. Under all circumstances try to avoid connections if humanly possible. If not, check whether getting a separate positioning flight would be cheaper, whether in miles or cash.

Let’s Recap

  • If you’re still on the fence about transferring your MR points to Virgin Atlantic, the deadline is tomorrow, September 12!
  • Consider transferring your miles if you’re interested in flying Business Class to Europe, Asia, or South America for up to 50% less than what it costs with other programs.
  • Use Virgin Atlantic miles on partners, such as Delta, ANA, or Air New Zealand.
  • Use Virgin Atlantic miles on nonstop or direct flights only (see this post). Every segment costs separately, so avoid them.
  • If you don’t live in or near one of the international hubs, you’ll have to use a positioning flight.
  • Don’t transfer speculatively for transcontinental U.S. and Hawaii premium flights — the award space is abysmal.

Share your stories of transferring your MR or TU points to Virgin Atlantic. How did it work out for you?

This post has been updated and republished to reflect that the AMEX 30% transfer bonus offer to Virgin Atlantic is dead

 

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8 Responses to Virgin Atlantic Miles: Citi ThankYou 30% Transfer Bonus: Business Class for 39K Points to Europe, 35K to South America, 97K to New Zealand, or First Class for 85K (RT) to Japan

  1. Bluecat says:

    Hi Andy, great article, as usual! (and a little bittersweet for me because I wish I could have read it last week)

    I just booked 4 RTs to S.A. on Delta and paid (handsomely) for that. I tried to use VA miles but SA never showed up. Stupid me never thought to call the agent and ask, like you suggest. Oh well, it’s only money…

    What I hate is all these little rules and tricks that you have to keep up on, or be able to find easily when it comes time to cash in. And that’s the hard part…if I try to Google something I think might work (e.g., “best credit card for buying airline ticket”, or “how to best use Virgin Atlantic awards”), I get “The Points Guy” articles.

    I suppose I could have paid one of those shyster award ticket services but (1) I like to control my own flight times as much as possible and (2) there’s no guarantee they know about all the tricks.

    🙁

    Anyway, every time you post, I learn something more about this hobby. Thank you for that!

  2. Bluecat says:

    BTW, Andy, regarding the travel protection of the VA credit card: for my upcoming trip to S.A. (and points south), I did a lot of research into which credit cards give coverage and which do not. It is a minefield! Many offer coverage ONLY if you charge the entire amount of the trip to the card (e.g. US BAnk altitude Rewards)—this sucks if you have a gift certificate. Some tempt you with 5x points (Amex Plat) but no trip cancellation or delay coverage. Most–probably ALL– require you to call the before you need medical evacuation or they won’t pay. Some give you something even if don’t charge (Amex Plat). It’s a hodgepodge and no one card does it all!

    My research told me to charge part of my trip on my Ritz Carlton (10K coverage) and part on my Citi Premier (which gives same coverage but better points than my Citi Prestige, if you can believe it!). It’s a mess.

    • Andy Shuman says:

      It’s true, nothing ain’t easy.

      Example: since I currently have AMEX Plat that doesn’t require using the card to get the Evacuation coverage, I usually use Citi Prestige for other travel protection benefits. However, each of these cards costs hundreds, so the Virgin Atlantic card at $90 is a viable alternative. Again, how it works in real life is another story, but oh well.

  3. HoKo says:

    Good Post Andy, nice succinct summary. A few questions:

    1. Thoughts on transferring some citi points speculatively? I don’t have any immediate uses for these miles (and have 90K avios burning a hole in my pocket that need to be used first).

    2. You mentioned “Just keep in mind that Virgin Atlantic doesn’t bother to list all countries and cities Delta flies to. You won’t find Madrid or Barcelona, Berlin or Frankfurt, Reykjavik or Rome – actually, it’s easier to list airports you can find on the Virgin Atlantic website than the ones you won’t.”

    We can still book flights to these cities, it will just require calling in to the virgin atlantic call center correct? (also IIRC I’ve seen other bloggers talking about ways to get the website to display cities that aren’t part of the normal list)

    3. I didn’t realize you were the first one to discover the Dakar redemption. Shame that people don’t give credit where credit is due.

    4. I am based in DCA/IAD – so if I was envisioning using this for TATL DL redemptions, it sounds like I would either need to pay separately for positioning flights (I guess JFK is gonna be my most logical DL gateway) or pay a lot more virgin atlantic miles? How much more would you expect it to cost to add a DCA-JFK segment to one of these awards?

    5. Have you considered creating a dedicated sweetspots section to your blog. i.e. best sweetspots to europe, to asia, to south america, etc.

    • Andy Shuman says:

      Thanks HoKO!

      1. Transferring speculatively is always a risk, but I do it all the time. My hope is that they would give us a warning before devaluation. Having said that, they started adding surcharges on South African without warning, and there are no guarantees it wouldn’t happen to other sweetspots.

      2. That’s correct. I don’t think there are ways around the shortage of destinations on the VS site, but I might be wrong.

      3. Well, that’s life. 🙂

      4. I don’t know, but flights to Europe routed from JFK via BOS add 22,500 miles to the ticket. I’d simply take a positioning flight with Avios or ride Amtrak.

      5. Yes, but things change. Devaluations, surcharges, still might though.

      • HoKo says:

        That’s exactly why we need a resource like that. I have blog posts from various bloggers bookmarked for lots of different sweetspots but there are many issues with doing it this way:

        1. Award chart devaluations
        2. YQ may be removed/added
        3. Award space trends can change – i.e. something that was a great sweetspot may still exist but finding space is nearly impossible
        4. I’ve had to come up with my own hierarchy on how to structure this content and it is far from perfect.

        I am constantly wasting time (1) figuring out the best sweet spots to wherever I am traveling to and (2) then trying to figure out if the blog post i stumbled across from 15 months ago is still valid or completely out of date/useless. (The only downside i see is that if this page becomes wildly popular it could be a one-stop shop for airlines to figure out where to target their devaluations next…perhaps you could hide it behind a password or limit it to newsletter subscribers or something along those lines…still not perfect but at least it prevents google’s spiders from indexing it).

        Ideally we need a dedicated resource page that looks something like this:

        Award Sweet Spots to Europe:

        Option 1: Use XYZ miles to fly ABC Metal
        Mileage Cost: 100K Miles RT
        Average Taxes/Fees/YQ: $150 RT
        Points that transfer to XYZ: UR,MR,TYP
        Add’l Notes: Award seats can be tough to find during summer months but are easily available in shoulder seasons. 787 business class is lie flat but 777 tends to have recliner style.

        Option 2: etc.

        Award sweet spots to Asia:

        Option 1:

        Option 2:

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