Virgin America Elevate added as American Express Membership Rewards transfer partner

American Express has announced the newest partner to their Membership Rewards program, which is Virgin America Elevate. They’ll officially be a transfer partner as of October 5, 2011.

There’s no doubt that Membership Rewards needs new partners to remain a leading program, given that Continental OnePass will no longer be a partner as of September 30, 2011.

Unfortunately Virgin America being added as a partner is about as useful as a class about how to let people finish taught by Kanye West.

While the exact details of the redemption rates have not yet been published, the issue is that Virgin America bases their redemption rates on the revenue cost of a ticket. That means there’s no way to get a great redemption value. A $1,000 ticket will cost you about ten times as much as a $100 ticket.

The reason this is an issue is because American Express actually has a “pay with points” option, through which you can book any flight, and the number of points it charges you is based on the revenue cost of the ticket.

So the redemption value through transferring points will have to be considerably better for this to be even a little bit interesting.

American Express really needs some new transfer partners. They should be talking to programs like US Airways Dividend Miles. Given that US Airways consistently sells miles for less than 1.5 cents each, I can’t imagine they would be opposed to a partnership with Membership Rewards, which I imagine would pay them a similar amount for points. I also can’t imagine that Barclays has US Airways by their you-know-what quite as much as Chase has Continental and United by their you-know-what, so I doubt they’d have the power to stop it.

Filed Under: American Express, Virgin America
  1. I’d love to get some AA or US. But in a way, I’m happy that there’s no US because award availability is much worse than it was 2 years ago. I kind of wish US would stop handing out miles like candy. Maybe do it once every 2 years so only the heavyweights buy miles. Right now you have everybody and their mother buying miles from US. The *A award booking thread on the FT US forum is no fun anymore.

  2. @ infamousdx — I’m pretty sure Citi wears the pants in that relationship, so I doubt we’ll see that happen, unfortunately.

  3. this may become more useful when/if you can start redeeming elevate points for flights on V. Australia/Virgin Australia and Virgin Atlantic.

    Between Aeroplan and ANA, I think Amex has star alliance sufficiently covered. What I’d personally love to see is a transfer to Emirates Skywards.

  4. @ sanjay — I suspect the award chart will still be based on the cost of a revenue ticket, in which case a business class ticket on V Australia would likely cost about 1,000,000 points.

    @ Brian — That’s a good one, would LOVE to see Alaska.

  5. Maybe Miles & More? Another good thing would be for MR to improve the transfer ratios to hotel programs.

    I read on MP that Barclays’ deal with US is exclusive, so that may not be in the cards for a while.

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