Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

“Is it better to collect Avios or Virgin Flying Club miles via Clubcard?”

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Over Easter, I will be answering a number of the reader questions that were submitted via this article.  If you didn’t take part this time, don’t worry as I will be re-running this feature in the Summer.  Feel free to expand on or critique my answer using the Comments section below!

Today’s question is from Danielle who asked:

I have just signed up to the Virgin Flying Club airmiles as they were offering bonus points of you had a Clubcard. I currently have about 19,000 miles and need 38,000 to travel to Chicago in July.

My partner has just signed up to Avios and seems to think its a better deal with the Clubcard.  What I want to know is whats better, Avios or Virgin airmiles? If you are only collecting miles via a Tesco Clubcard?”

Virgin Atlantic

For Danielle’s benefit, I have found a more male-focussed picture to accompany this article rather than the usual Virgin picture I use!

To be honest – in general – Avios are a more flexible currency than Virgin Flying Club miles.  Your partner is right to that extent.  For example:

You can redeem for European flights with Avios, which need only a small number (from 9,000 Avios return + £30 tax) which makes them ideal target redemptions for a Clubcard holder

BA has a wider long-haul network than Virgin

BA has a wider network of partner airlines than Virgin, especially now that Virgin has announced it will not be joining the SkyTeam alliance just yet

BA partners include Aer Lingus and airberlin, both of whom charge very low taxes on long-haul redemptions (see here and here)

You can redeem Avios for hotels or car hire at acceptable rates (0.6p-ish per Avios)

So, if I was building up a pot of airline miles via my Clubcard points with no particular goal in mind, then I would definitely want to be in Avios.  Virgin may have a higher conversion rate (250 miles vs 240 Avios per £1 of Clubcard vouchers) but that is not enough to win me over.

However, in your case, it is different.

You have a specific destination in mind, and of course there has been a 50% bonus on Tesco to Virgin transfers in recent months.  On that basis, it doesn’t make much difference which way you went.

That said, you will find – when you come to redeem – that if you had used Avios to Chicago on Aer Lingus via Dublin, or on airberlin via Berlin, your taxes bill would have been lower than redeeming on either BA or Virgin.

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Comments (22)

  • Danielle says:

    Thanks for this, I’m starting to wonder if I’ve set my target too high as I’m not sure Im going to reach my points target in time for the trip to America in July!

    Do you know if I can convert my point from virgin to Avois via clubcard or is it too late?

    • Rob says:

      You cannot transfer back from Virgin to Clubcard. If you already have some Virgin miles, best uses of them (apart from possibly a one-way to Chicago) would be a UK domestic (London to Manchester, Edinburgh, Aberdeen) for 7500 miles, a £50 Virgin voucher for 12,500 miles or 20,000 Hilton points for 10,000 Virgin miles.

  • Arabmoney says:

    another thing to note is virgin allows you to transfer to Hilton at 1:2; assuming a 50% transfer bonus is going on you could get a 1:7.5 points transfer from Clubcard to Virgin. If you manage to collect around 10k tesco clubcard points in a year that would be 75k hilton points which could be a couple nights in a category 7 hotel (off peak after devaluation) or more if you use a cash a points booking.

    • Rob says:

      Yes, before the devaluation I thought this may not be a bad deal … not sure if it still is. However, this is only because I tend to redeem for high-end places, and 80,000 points for the Conrad New York or a similar Hilton hotel is crazy, especially when (for eg) the InterContinental Times Square is only 50,000 Priority Club points. And (whilst these are obviously different loyalty schemes) the points have historically been worth the same and – until PC pulled out – had the same same exchange rate from Amex of 1:2.

      Put another way – I used to value Hilton at £5 per 1000. A £1 Tesco voucher would be 375 Virgin (with a 50% conversion bonus) and so 750 Hilton points. Those 750 were worth £3.75 using my valuation, so 375% bonus on the face value of the Tesco voucher. A great deal.

      Post devaluation, top-end Hilton properties only get you £3 per 1000 points I reckon (that Conrad New York room is probably £250 on average) so a £1 Tesco voucher is only getting you (even with a 50% Virgin bonus) £2.25 of Hilton stay. 225% of face value is not great for Tesco Clubcard vouchers … I’d be better off using them in Pizza Express!

      • Arabmoney says:

        you can get the conrad new york for 28000 + $125 using points and money which is a significantly better deal

        • Rob says:

          Actually, that isn’t bad at all. Perhaps some hotels will fight back against ludicrous category changes by doing good cash and points deals? If the room is £250 then that is over 0.5p per Hilton point, which was as good as it ever got. I would go back for 28k + $125.

  • onlysuites says:

    Virgin redemption’s YQ’s are worse then even BA’s. Tried a two leg one recently and the Taxes were $1,100

  • Rob says:

    Someone told me that the domestic redemptions have a £30 taxes cap, to match BA. Is this written down anywhere? I can’t find it.

  • Thunderbirds says:

    As someone with a stack of Avios (BA Executive Club) and Flying Miles I would, on balance, recommend Avios (though you don’t say whether your partner is with or BAEC). One thing worth doing is to watch out for the Flying Club reward flight sales, these are often very good. I think there was one last year where you could pick up a Premium Economy flight for the same Flying Club Miles as an Economy flight. You should check the Virgin web-site (and this one) regularly!

  • tom says:

    Regarding pure seat comfort (without the lounge, food , crew service e.t.c. ) which one is better , BA club world or VIRGIN upper class ? Which seat would be better for a night flight from ny?

    • Rob says:

      Not that simple! How tall are you and are you travelling alone? These are key issues.

      It is also aircraft dependant. Upstairs on a BA 747 is like flying in a private plane, downstairs on a B777 in Club World is a bit like sleeping in a church hall after your village has been flooded out. Virgin is also rolling out a new version of its seat on its latest deliveries.

      Both are fully flat, and both are light years ahead of, say, the Lufthansa sloping seat. I would be happy to fly either.

      • tom says:

        Thanks! So as I don’t know which aircraft I’ll get with BA I’ll go for the VIRGIN. unless the the CITY only business flight is definitely better than upper class virgin? Then I’ll aim for that one

  • tom says:

    How do I get in to that forum?

    • Rob says:

      I think there is a time delay after registration, no idea how long. They want to keep new deals ‘within the circle’ for a while after they have been posted. It was brought in for good reason a few years ago.

      • tom says:

        What a shame , will need to wait a while.. meanwhile you’ll have to bring to good stuff from there… what I did see there in the headings, is about tesco giving double CC POINTS for AMEX cards , is that still relevant?

  • Andy S says:

    For me it has to be Avios as they can be used on European flights. Only a few weeks ago a flew from LHR to BUD in club europe for £35 plus 13500 avios. Excellent value with a nice lounge at LHR T3 and very good service on board.