If you’re like me, a long time Virgin America customer with a handfull of Elevate points, you probably got an email in the last few days asking you to enroll in Alaska’s Mileage Plan with a nice sweet offer: 10k points or a $100 flight voucher. The first question is, which should you pick? You also have the option to roll your Virgin Elevate points into Mileage Plan points at 1.3 MP points per Elevate point. But should you do it? I spent some time crunching numbers trying to answer both questions.
10,000 Points or $100?
The question puts a clear value on the points: $100 per 10k points, or 1 cent per point. At one cent per point, are the points or the $100 more valuable? To answer this, I looked at a few Alaska flights to places I usually go – LA to Mammoth Lakes, or LA to NYC on Virgin (which can be purchased through Alaska now with MP points). The following flights are available over the next couple days:
Route, Price, Points, Point Value
LAX to Mammoth, $134, 12.5k, ~1.0c/pt
LAX to Mammoth, $145, 17.5k, 0.8c/pt
LAX to Mammoth, $134, 10k, 1.35c/pt
LAX to Mammoth, $84, 7.5k, 1.12c/pt
Route, AK Price, AK Points, AK Point Value, Virgin Price, Virgin Points, Virgin Point Value
LAX to NYC, $224, 20k, 1.1c/pt, $224, 10208, 2.2c/pt
LAX to NYC, $179, 12.5k, 1.4c/pt, $139, 6056, 2.3c/pt
LAX to NYC, $179, 12.5k, 1.4c/pt, $129, 5568, same
LAX to NYC, $179, 12.5k, 1.4c/pt, $139, 6056, same
LAX to NYC, $224, 20k, 1.0c/pt, $224, 10208, same
LAX to NYC, $129, 12.5k, 1.0c/pt, $129, 5568, same
LAX to NYC, $199, 20k, 1.0c/pt, $199, 8986, 2.2c/pt
I got a little lazy about calculating the point values in the bottom right there, but you get the idea, they’re all about the same – virgin doesn’t tier its points prices, so they tightly track a set value of around 2.2 or 2.3c/pt
Conclusion: Alaska points are worth usually a bit more than 1c/pt, so it’s better to take the 10k points than the $100.
But should I convert my points?
To answer this question, the virgin points value becomes more important. The question is, do your points have more value as Alaska points or Virgin points?
First, let’s ignore the price disparity between the Virgin LAX-NYC booked-on-AK and booked-on-virgin flights above. I’ve got 11221 Elevate points, which would be 14587 MP points after conversion. As Elevate points, assuming 2.3c/pt, they’re worth about $258. As MP points at 1.4c/pt (which is pretty generous), they’re worth about $204. On that basis, I probably won’t switch them over. But there’s a caveat: After switching my points, and with the 10k points I just got for free, I’ll suddenly have status on Alaska (and to a limited extent, it seems, Virgin). That might be worth it, so I may still switch over. Still need to decide.
For your consideration, the buy value for points is way higher than the sell value:
Airline, Points Qty, Cost to Buy, Value
Alaska, 10k, $295, 2.95c/pt
Virgin, 10k, $520, 5.2c/pt
Basically, don’t buy points to buy flights, or you get screwed.