Wow, Alaska sure has been in the news a lot lately!
One of the most pressing questions people had about the Alaska/Virgin merger was at what rate Virgin America Elevate points would convert into Alaska Mileage Plan miles. Virgin points are more valuable than Alaska miles on a per mile basis (it takes fewer points for a Virgin award than an Alaska award, but you also earn fewer Virgin points per flight than you would Alaska miles on a similar flight), so many people thought that a 1:1 transfer ratio would be too low.
Well, those with Virgin points won’t be disappointed. Alaska announced on Monday that Virgin Elevate points will transfer into Mileage Plan at the 1.3:1 ratio, which is pretty generous. However, the high transfer rates are only the beginning of the awesomeness.
Alaska Mileage Plan, while being objectively the best loyalty program of any US airlines, does not have relationships with any of the big credit card companies (like American Express or Citi), meaning you have to have an Alaska-branded credit card to get Alaska miles from credit card spend. However, Starwood Preffered Guest (the loyalty program of Starwood Hotels) Starpoints do transfer to Alaska.
While Alaska isn’t a transfer partner of any credit card companies, Virgin America is. They have relationships with both Citi and American Express, meaning you have plenty of options when it comes to flexible points transfers.
Well, now that you can transfer points between Elevate and Mileage Plan, you can (rather indirectly) transfer points between your Amex/Citi accounts and your Mileage Plan account. If you want to transfer your points, here’s how you do it:
- Citi: While the Citi partnership with Virgin America will be ending on January 22 (after which you will no longer be able to transfer points), you can still transfer Citi Thank You points to your Elevate account (though the points only transfer at a rate of 2 Citi points=1 Virgin Elevate point). This is how you do it:
- Go to the Citi Thank You website (www.thankyou.com), hover over the ‘More Ways to Redeem’ section in the navigation bar, and then select ‘Points Transfer.’
- Scroll down to the menu of possible transfer partners, then select to filter the result by ‘air.’ Find Virgin America Elevate.
3. Sign into your Citi account.
4. Select the amount of points you would like to transfer.
5. Finally, accept the terms of conditions, sit back, and wait. Transfers typically take a couple of days (though transfers to Air France/KLM Flying Blue are, interestingly enough, instant), though transfer times vary from person to person. Allow plenty of time for the transfer to complete itself.
- American Express: While the end of the Citi partnership was announced after the merger with Alaska was finalized, the AmEx relationship is still standing. AmEx points transfer 2:1 to to Virgin Elevate, so this is not the best deal. However, it’s what we got. Here’s how you do it:
- Go to this address to find the Virgin America partner page (for some reason, I couldn’t find the Virgin page on AmEx’s transfer partners website, though I was able to use the link on Virgin’s website. I provided this link instead.)
- Sign in to your AmEx account.
- Select the program you would like to transfer to. If you haven’t transferred points to this program before, you’ll have to officially link your two accounts. This is integrated into the process of transferring points, so you won’t have to start over.
- After you select the program, follow the instructions the website gives you on the completion of transfer.
Another option for getting Alaska miles is transferring Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Starpoints to Virgin America. Starpoints transfer to Elevate at a 1:1 ratio, and for each 20,000 points you convert you get an additional 5,000 point transfer bonus. You could just transfer to Alaska directly, though you would, by transferring to Virgin America, get an additional 1.3x miles when you transfer them to Alaska because of the higher value of Elevate points (it’s funny that SPG’s 1:1 transfer ratio seem to suggest that SPG points and Elevate points are worth the same, which isn’t exactly true, but works in our favor nonetheless). It is also worth noting that Starwood lets you transfer points within people living in the same household, so you can mooch off your family member’s large stash of Starpoints if necessary.
Here’s how you transfer Starpoints to Virgin America:
- Go to www.starwoodhotels.com and navigate to the Starwood Preferred Guest page (address www.starwoodhotels.com/preferredguest).
- Select ‘Book and Redeem,’ select ‘Redeem,’ then click ‘Travel’ in the navigation bar.
- Scroll down to the section labelled ‘Sky’s the Limit,’ click the down arrow for more details, then select ‘Learn more’
- Click the link which says ‘Transfer Starpoints to Air Miles’
- Log in to your account.
- Select airline you want to transfer your points to
- Enter your frequent flyer number and the amount of points you would like to transfer.
- Accept the terms and conditions and click the go button at the bottom of the screen.
Of the options mentioned above, Starwood points typically takes the longest to transfer. Transfer times vary pretty widely, though the transfer typically a few days (by a few I mean more than 2 but less than, say, 5), and, at the longest, a week (though this almost never happens). One thing worth noting (which has actually worked against me, given that my Starwood account was only recently reactivated) is that your account must have been active for at least 30 days for you to transfer points (and this includes transferring points between people in the same household, not just transferring to airlines).
Alaska Mileage Plan is a super great program, and these transfer opportunities make getting these really valuable miles super easy. While I don’t see Alaska being added being added as a transfer partner by any of the big flexible points programs (AmEx and Citi), you can still take get additional Alaska miles from the points you’ve already earned via these (slightly indirect) transfers. Tons of Alaska miles ahoy!