This week I realized that Marriott Rewards MegaMiles ending April 30 offered a good value rebate when earning 2,000 Virgin America Elevate points on hotel stays. The current Marriott Rewards MegaMiles is ending soon, but keep this analysis of Virgin America Elevate points in mind for future opportunities with Marriott and other hotel chain frequent flyer bonuses.
This week I flew Virgin America for the first time in nearly two years. Checking my account I learned I had enough VX Elevate points for a west coast flight from SFO to places like San Diego, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
50% bonus on VX Elevate purchased points April 1-30.
There is a 50% bonus offer for Virgin America Elevate purchased points running April 1 to April 30 when buying 5,500 points or more. The regular purchase price is $52 per 1,000 points. This promotional offer reduces the price of points to $34.67 per 1,000 points.
After comparing the cash price to the redemption value of several VX flights I conclude the redemption value is relatively static at about $24 to $25 per 1,000 points. There is little leverage opportunity with Elevate since the cost in Elevate points for a reward flight correlates directly to the cash price.
Net effect is buying Elevate points is generally not a good value for most travelers, even with a 50% bonus offer.
Marriott Rewards MegaMiles and Virgin America (VX) Elevate Points
Marriott Rewards MegaMiles (Jan 1-April 30, 2012) allows members to earn 2,000 Virgin America Elevate points per stay, up to 50,000 points. With a relatively fixed redemption value for Elevate points at about $24 to $25 per 1,000 points, the value of each Marriott-brand hotel stay is $48 to $50 in VX flight credit with the 2,000 Elevate points per stay available during the Marriott Rewards MegaMiles.
Frequent flyers in some airline programs might find higher redemption value through other frequent flyer programs when the miles gained from Marriott stays place the frequent flyer within reach of a high value premium reward or a high-priced domestic ticket.
For example, I found reward ticket availability from Monterey, California to Aspen, Colorado for 12,500 United Mileage Plus miles for a $500 published fare. That is a $40/1,000 miles redemption value for UA miles. VX Elevate points do not allow this kind of high value redemption rate for certain routes or premium flights. There is a fixed redemption value for VX Elevate points.
Virgin America Elevate Hotel Partners
There are eight hotel partners for Virgin America Elevate. The regular miles earning rate is not particularly high for any of the hotel programs.
Hilton HHonors and Marriott Rewards are the only two major hotel loyalty program partners. These are the two loyalty programs with regular bonus miles offers where you might want to consider Virgin America Elevate based on the redemption value of about $25 per 1,000 Elevate points.
- Jetsetter (join and earn 250 Elevate points, plus 500 points after first purchase)
- Joie de Vivre (earn 1 point per dollar)
- Morgans Hotel Group (earn 650 to 1,000 points per stay depending on property. Most earn 800 points/stay.)
- One&Only Palmilla (through 12/18/2012 earn 2 points per $1; normally earn 1 point/$1)
- PlumpJack Resorts (500 points/stay)
- Wynn Las Vegas and Encore (750 points/stay)
- Hilton HHonors (earn 1 VX Elevate point per $2 HHonors spend or 250 points per stay at most brands; Hampton, Homewood and Home2 Suites earn 50 points/stay.)
- Earn 1 VX Elevate point per $2 in Marriott spend for room rate only at: AC Hotels, Courtyard, Edition, Fairfield Inn, Marriott Vacation Club, Residence Inn, SpringHill Suites and TownePlace Suites.
- Earn 1 VX Elevate point per $1 in Marriott spend on all qualifying charges at Marriott, Renaissance, JW Marriott, Autograph Collection.
- Earn 1 VX Elevate point per $1 in Marriott spend on room rate only at Ritz-Carlton.
Marriott Rewards MegaMiles offers 2,000 VX Elevate points per stay at any Marriott hotel brand, even if staying one night at a $50 Fairfield Inn. That changes the earning ratio from the regular 25 Elevate points for a $50 Fairfield Inn stay to 2,000 Elevate points during MegaMiles.
Checking Virgin America fares between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Diego revealed many one way fares in the $65 to $90 range. Three or four Marriott stays earns 6,000 to 8,000 Elevate points and $150 to $200 in award redemption credit. Virgin America Elevate has an advantage over airlines like United where the member needs more Marriott stays to reach the minimum 12,500 miles for a one-way award ticket. Virgin America Elevate one-way awards are under 4,000 points for many of the short-haul west coast flights.
2,000 VX Elevate points per stay is a good rebate value that I will keep in mind the next time there is a Marriott Rewards MegaMiles offer. Marriott MegaBonus at a free category 1-4 hotel night is capped at 2 free nights for most members.
Virgin America on the west coast is a nice flight choice with free TV channels. I watched The Daily Show and Colbert Report on my flight Monday night three hours before the show is broadcast on my cable at home.
I’ll be keeping my eye on ways to earn Elevate points through hotel stays and other partner activities since much of my travel is between San Francisco and Portland, Seattle, LAX and Las Vegas.
And I’ll be looking for that next Marriott Rewards MegaMiles opportunity.