Should I go for the 30% transfer bonus to Virgin? Reader input requested.


The Amex Membership Rewards 30% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic ends Monday, May 22.  I’m tempted to take advantage of it, for several reasons:

  1. Virgin Atlantic miles are extremely valuable towards ANA first class flights.
  2. Virgin Atlantic miles can be quite valuable towards Delta flights.
  3. Virgin Atlantic miles can be valuable for Virgin Atlantic awards and upgrades if you don’t mind dealing with high fuel surcharges.
  4. Necker Island.  I want to go back.  See:  Is Necker Island really worth 1.2 million miles?

I thought I’d also want to collect Virgin Atlantic miles in order to book other Virgin Limited Edition properties (see: The Hunt for Virgin Duckies), but then I compared paid prices to award prices.  At most properties, you get only 1 cent per mile value.  So, if I transfer my Membership Rewards points with the 30% bonus and book these awards, I’d get only 1.3 cents per point value.  That’s not good.  The Mahali Mzuri property is one exception: it appears to offer 1.5 cents per mile value when you book 5 nights for 800,000 miles.  That would give me 1.95 cents per point value from my Membership Rewards points.  That’s not bad, but it does require a boatload of miles.

So, there are several reasons for transferring points, but none are for immediate use of the miles.  And that’s part of the problem.  If I transfer now, there’s no guarantee that there will be any good use for those miles by the time I’m ready to redeem them.  A bigger issue is that the Business Platinum card’s 50% pay with points rebate is going away.  Until it’s gone, it gives me a guaranteed 2 cents per point value.  Shouldn’t I use my points in that way while I can?

Hedging bets

I’m inclined to transfer approximately 1/3rd of my available Membership Rewards points to Virgin Atlantic right now.  And I’ll wait for the next Citi ThankYou transfer bonus (they offer a 25% transfer bonus fairly regularly).  Overall, I’d prefer to use up Citi points than Amex points.

On the other hand, while I wasn’t planning to go to Mahali Mzuri anytime soon, I couldIt looks and sounds awesome.  If I decide to go, I’ll need 800,000 Virgin Atlantic miles.  I currently have 231,000 miles, so I need 569,000 more. With the 30% transfer bonus, 438,000 Membership Rewards points would get me there.

What do you think?  These questions have been milling in the back of my mind since the transfer bonus appeared in April.  Now it’s time for me to decide!

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