Groupon is expanding their VIP membership program to additional locations, according to the company.

In a statement released today, they said that Groupon subscribers in Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus (Ohio), Minneapolis and Orange County (California), have been sent an invitation-only offer to try out the new Groupon VIP membership program for three months, free.

Groupon first began running test of the new VIP program last month (see our report here). After the free three-month trial, Groupon VIP memberships cost $29.99 per year.

As a VIP member, Groupon shoppers receive a 12 hour head start on deals before regular Groupon shoppers. VIP members will also be able to purchase deals after the regular closing time, and sometimes even after deals are sold out to regular members.

And what we here at CP feel may be one of the biggest benefits, VIP members will be able to convert the deals they bought, but have not used, into Groupon Bucks – even if the use-by-date on the deal has passed. The Groupon Bucks can then be used to purchase other deals.

Jeff Holden, senior vice president of product development at Groupon, said this about the new program:

“We’re continually innovating to improve the Groupon customer experience. In the case of VIP, we asked our customers ‘If you could wave a magic wand and change Groupon in any way, what would you ask for?’ The three main features of VIP were at the top of the list: early access to deals, ability to purchase closed or sold out deals and anytime-refunds.”

Groupon said they plan to eventually roll out the VIP program on a nationwide basis. They did not provide a timeframe for the rollout.