As most of you are aware by now, Virgin America was recently bought out by Alaska Air. That means that very soon their frequent flyer program Elevate will cease to exist. And that is why one by one, flexible points programs have been dropping Virgin America as a transfer partner.
First SPG cut ties, which was big news due to 1:1 transfer ratio and all the sweet spots that were gone as a result. Then Citi dropped Elevate as well. The latter wasn’t that big of a deal because the ratio was quite poor (1,000:500). So, at this point, there is only one program that partners with Virgin America: Amex Membership Rewards. Granted, the transfer ratio is 200:100, but it could be useful in some circumstances. Let me show you one example.
An unexpected gift from Alaska program
Like most mileage junkies, I have a frequent flyer membership in every account under the sun. Avianca program? Got it. Qantas account? Got it as well. And so on and so forth. Mostly, I join these programs in order to be able to search alliance award availability, which at times is more accurate than what you can find on American carriers’ websites.
I don’t really chase 100 free miles in programs I’m unlikely to use within the next few years, though I tell readers to do it. Why? You never know when these puny miles will come in handy. I almost didn’t sign up for recent promo form Virgin Elevate that gave 1,000 free points for opting in email updates. But I’m glad I did. In fact, I’m kicking myself for not signing up every member of my family. But hindsight is 20/20.
So, few weeks ago I got an email from Alaska Mileage plan. It said that I would get free 10,000 Alaska miles since I have an active Virgin America Elevate account. All I had to do was link them, which I did. Since I also had 1,000 Elevate points from the promo, I transferred them to Alaska account at a rate of 1:1.3. So, I now had a total of 11,300 Alaska miles.
BTW, one of my readers mentioned that several of her kids didn’t get the bonus miles even though they had Virgin America Elevate accounts. She called Alaska, and they deposited them as a courtesy. You won’t know unless you ask.
AAdvantage+Alaska+Avios= flight for seven to San Francisco?
As most of you know, you need 12,500 Alaska miles for a one-way ticket on American Airlines (Alaska partner) for a flight within Continental US. And I have just the flight in mind. You see, we are planning to do a 3-week road trip with my in-laws in 2018, visiting many national parks out West. And we want to start our adventure in San Francisco. Yay!!!
Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I love San Francisco!
We’ll need to fly there from Florida, and American Airlines serves that route via connection. Originally, I planned to burn my Rapid Rewards points, but perhaps I won’t have to. Who knows, maybe we can find sAAver availability on American. Our schedule is flexible, so we can adjust our plans if needed, or even fly on different days. At the moment, I have a little over 62,000 American miles, which is almost enough for five one-way sAAver tickets.
But we have seven people. Assuming I can find seven seats, I can redeem Avios for one of the tickets. It will cost at least 17,500 miles because Avios program prices per segment. It’s not ideal, but I have 45,000 Avios with no plans to use them. For me, the main goal is to save money, period.
Alaska program may come in handy for that last ticket. But I need 12,500 miles, and I have 11,300. Obviously, I’m not going to sign up for Alaska credit card for such a puny amount, but maybe there are other ways to top off the account. Membership Rewards to the rescue.
I had 450 MR points, and decided to go ahead and convert most of them to 200 Elevate points.
Yes, you can have the 24 cents.
Sure, I could get them some other way, but I just don’t feel like thinking about it between now and June (the earliest time I can book tickets for our trip.) This is my “sanity” tax. And what about 1,000 Alaska miles I’m still missing? I’ll probably buy them if I find award availability on American. The miles are sold in 1,000-mile blocks (should post instantly). It costs $35, but would be totally worth it to save 17,500 Avios.
A note on Avios. If you find sAAver availability on AA.com on a connecting flight, but it’s not showing up on ba.com, search each leg separately and then call and book over the phone. They should waive the fee. This is a common problem with Avios online reservation system. You may also want to read this post on why Avios program can be a great deal for some.
Topping off my AAdvantage and Alaska accounts
I still need 150 AA miles in order to have enough for five tickets, so I’ve been putting small expenses here and there. I want to be ready in case we do end up finding award availability. And believe it or not, Orlando-San Francisco route isn’t looking too bad.
Sure, we may end up leaving at 6 AM, but I’ll take it if it helps me preserve my precious Southwest Rapid Rewards currency. I’m not swimming in points at the moment, so have to be flexible. I don’t believe in collecting miles via everyday spending without specific goal in mind, plus, we are talking about foregoing few bucks in cash back. And it sure beats having to buy 1,000 AA miles when the time comes.
The same principle applies when you do online shopping. Personally, I’ll be on a lookout for various Alaska shopping portal promos. Obviously, I’m not going to buy stuff just to get miles. But if I can kill two birds with one stone, then why not? Right now airline shopping portals are starting to run promos for Valentine’s Day, so hopefully, Alaska will join them soon. If it works out, great. If not, I’ll just buy 1,000 miles when the time comes. I’m not planning on losing any sleep over this.
But to me, it made sense to transfer some MR points now, before partnership with Virgin America goes the way of the dodo. If you are in a similar situation where you have some MR points and no SPG currency (the only transfer partner of Alaska), you may want to consider doing the same thing. Well, as long as it’s just few odd points to round off your balance for a specific (future) award. Your sanity is worth it
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Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.