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A good deal? 30% bonus on Tesco Clubcard transfers to Virgin Flying Club

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Tesco has launched a 30% bonus on transfers of Tesco Clubcard points to Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club.  This means that you will receive 325 miles per £1 of Clubcard vouchers you convert, rather than the standard 250.

Full details are here.  The deals runs to March 31st, and the miles generally appear 1-2 days after initiating the transfer.

Virgin is also repeating its offer of bonus Virgin miles for opting-in for auto-conversion of your Clubcard points each quarter to Virgin.  This time, they have increased the bribe to 2,500 miles.

(Nothing stops you agreeing to this and then cancelling after one quarter!  If you have a dormant Clubcard account, you should set that up to auto-convert to Virgin Flying Club – based on last year, you will still receive the bonus miles even though nothing is being sent over.  You cannot earn this bonus if you have previously had an auto-convert bonus.)

This bonus is substantially worse than the 50% bonus offered last January and identical to the deal that ran last September.  It is another sign of a pick-up in the economy, with Virgin less desperate for the cash from Tesco.  I also would not bet on British Airways launching any sort of bonus.

Here is a reminder of some of the key features of Virgin Flying Club if you were considering doing a transfer:

1. Diversification

British Airways can fly you to pretty much anywhere that Virgin Atlantic can. However, that doesn’t mean they can get you Avios seats when you want them. Having a balance in another programme gives you more chance of getting seats on the dates you want them.

Both BA and Virgin allow one-way redemptions, so with a Virgin balance you could mix and match a trip as availability allows. Virgin also partners with Delta in the US and a number of other airlines.

However, Virgin and BA are both UK-focussed airlines, so you are likely to face an identical squeeze around UK school holidays. You may want to expand into Star Alliance and redeem on, say, Lufthansa if you want a better chance of seats at – say – UK half-term.

2. Fewer miles, cheaper taxes in Economy

Virgin recently announced lower taxes on Economy redemptions. These are quite aggressive – New York is £120 cheaper than BA. Virgin also requires fewer miles – New York is 35,000 in Economy vs 40,000 with Avios. However, Upper Class flights generally match BA in the miles and taxes required.

(BA also lets you redeem on carriers such as airberlin and Aer Lingus who charge minimal taxes, far less than even Virgin does.)

Virgin also runs occasional but fairly regular redemption sales, with big discounts on the miles needed for economy class redemptions.

Here is a sample of charges compared to BA:

New York £240 (British Airways: £359) 35,000 miles (40,000 Avios)

Barbados £237 (British Airways: £328) 45,000 miles (50,000 Avios)

Las Vegas £213 (British Airways: £356) 42,500 miles (50,000 Avios)

Johannesburg £362 (British Airways: £400) 50,000 miles (50,000 Avios)

Dubai £243 (British Airways: £335) 38,500 miles (40,000 miles)

3. Availability

I do not redeem on Virgin, so cannot comment on how easy or hard it is to get availability. In general, though, Upper Class cabins have fewer seats than BA Club World cabins, with subsequent squeezes on availability. Is it easy to get 4 Upper Class seats on Virgin for a family? I don’t know. It isn’t a problem with BA on many routes.

A random test showed that I could get 4 Upper Class seats to Dubai on various dates.  However, I would not expect to be able to get seats this late in the year for half term or Christmas, and I wasn’t disappointed.  It does seem possible though.

You can check availability on the Virgin website without having enough miles in your account to do the redemption.  You should spend some time researching your favourite routes before deciding whether to commit miles to Flying Club.

4. No 2-4-1 Amex voucher, but an upgrade voucher

There is no equivalent of the BA Amex 2-4-1 voucher. The Virgin credit card does give a 2-4-1 voucher but ONLY ON FLEXIBLE CASH TICKETS. You can, however, get a voucher with the Virgin credit card to upgrade Economy redemptions to Premium Economy for no extra miles. The two Virgin credit cards are reviewed here and hereTheir home page is here.

5. Fallback option of transferring to Hilton HHonors or IHG Rewards Club

Rare among airline schemes, Virgin lets you transfer miles out into Hilton HHonors (2:3) or IHG Rewards Club (the Holiday Inn etc scheme) at 1:1. There is a minimum transfer of 10,000 Virgin miles.  If you found yourself struggling to use your Virgin miles, you could also move them across.

(Note that the Hilton HHonors ratio above applies from 6 February.  I will post more about this tomorrow.  Until 6 February, the ratio is a better 1:2.)

A 30% transfer bonus does NOT make such transfers a great deal, however. 

I value Hilton HHonors points at 0.3p.  A £1 Tesco voucher gets you 325 Virgin miles which is 487 Hilton points.  At 0.3p, they are worth £1.46.  Terrible, less than 1.5x the face value of your Clubcard points.

Similarly, I value IHG Rewards Club points at 0.5p.  A £1 Tesco voucher gets you 325 Virgin miles which is 325 IHG Rewards Club points.  At 0.5p that, that is just £1.62 of value.  Avoid, unless you are just topping up your account.

6. Finally … a much improved cancellation policy

It used to be that if you had to cancel at 7+ days out, you lost 25% of your miles. If you cancelled within 7 days, you lost ALL your miles. BA, on the other hand, lets you cancel up to 24 hours before the flight with no penalty at all.

As I posted here, Virgin seems to have changed its rules. Whilst there has been no official announcement, the revised text is clearly on the website and is now very similar to BA. Thank goodness for that.

7. The Heathrow Clubhouse

The Virgin lounge at Heathrow, for Upper Class passengers, is widely regarded as one of the best airport lounges in the world. Get a haircut, have a massage, eat a proper meal, chill out in the audio or TV rooms or do one of many other (admittedly ‘boys toys’ type) activities. Well worth trying once in your life.

Note that, whilst full fare cash tickets in Upper Class also get a free chauffeur to and from the airport, reward tickets do NOT get this.

8. Easy to collect additional miles

It is now as easy to collect Flying Club miles as it is Avios. You can transfer from Tesco, Amex Membership Rewards and Heathrow Rewards, as well as all the major hotel schemes.  As I wrote here, some major hotel chains do not give Avios but do offer Flying Club miles.

There is a shopping portal similar to the Avios estore. There are also decent promotions, eg 5,000 miles for opening an ISA. There are also special sign-up bonuses on the two Virgin credit cards at the moment – 10,000 miles on the free one and 25,000 miles on the £140 version.

Conclusion

One of the emerging features is that Flying Club has a lot of offer the person who redeems in Economy. Lower taxes, fewer miles required and the ability to upgrade to Premium Economy for free via the credit card voucher.

You even get the option of selected long haul departures from Manchester, which BA abandoned long ago.

For business class redemptions, it is less clear cut. Smaller cabins, a smaller route network and fewer daily flights may make it trickier to find seats, whilst taxes and miles required tend to mirror BA. And there is no Amex 241 voucher, which for a couple effectively makes a ‘once a year’ redeemer require twice the miles. (It has a proportionately lower impact on a family of 4 taking multiple long-haul flights each year.)

You have until the end of March to decide whether to do a transfer ……


HFP Virgin Atlantic Rewards credit card

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (November 2020)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Virgin Points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Virgin Points

As well as the two official Virgin Atlantic credit cards (see here, one has a bonus of 15,000 Points), you can also earn from various American Express cards – and these have sign-up bonuses too.

(Want to earn more Virgin Points?  Click here to see our recent articles on Virgin Atlantic and Flying Club and click here for our home page with the latest news on earning and spending other airline and hotel points.)

Comments (64)

  • […] addition, Head for Points has a full breakdown of other reasons to consider Virgin Flying Club to collect miles as a vechile for your your mileage […]

  • colibob says:

    I’m only half-tempted by this offer.

    One one hand, last year I would have been very happy to take it, but with the recent 3V malarkey I’ve acquired over 400,000 VS miles, which is enough for my next few holidays.

    On the other hand, BA’s availability to my chosen destinations is famously crap, so I’m really torn.

    On the third hand I don’t want my CC points to just sit there doing nothing.

  • sarah says:

    Sorry to keep coming on here and asking questions. I’ve decided to go for it with Virgin. I have a number of ClubCards, and some of them are registered to an address other than the one my Flying Club is registered to? With BAEC I had to keep changing my address and wondered whether I need to do the same here? TIA

    • Corrine says:

      I’m not 100% certain, but I thought just the name had to be an exact match, not the address.
      Also theres a good site called rewardseats.com that you can check Virgin Reward Seat availability! HTH x

  • camille says:

    Regarding the new “much improved cancellation policy”, I was just told by a VS Gold agent that this only applies if your original booking was made at least 7 days prior to departure.

    So, lets say on Monday you book an outbound flight for Saturday. But then, come Wednesday, you find your plans change and you have to cancel, result = you get taxes back but zero miles….even though you are 24+ hrs from departure.

    I can’t see where the T&C’s say this, but she was adamant this is the new policy.

    • Rob says:

      If it isn’t in the rules, a quick trip to the small claims court will see your miles returned with great speed.

  • Simon says:

    Just a quick heads up if you are thinking of saving your miles to go to Sydney, the Virgin flights are ending on May 4th this year (you’ll still be able to fly to Hong Kong).

    • James Ward says:

      That press release gave me a panic yesterday when I saw it as I’d literally just booked for my parents to go to Aus in the Autumn. They paid for economy tickets and I upgraded them to Upper Class for 110,000 Flying Club miles each (thanks 3V / Tesco for the bonanza last quarter!).

      Thankfully we booked in the nick of time; Virgin are honouring any existing bookings. It looks like my parents will be flying Cathay Pacific from HKG to SYD. With a bit of luck it’ll be First Class rather than Business (but both look like amazing products to me).

      • Rob says:

        Looking at Flyertalk, Virgin are not necessarily honouring existing bookings, especially for people who only booked Hong Kong to Sydney and thus are outside the EU compensation rules. Talk of downgrades from Business to Economy.

        Even if rebooked, the rebooking rules onto Cathay that I saw require I class in Business which I imagine is their cheapest booking class, you would need that to show as availability.

        • James Ward says:

          You’re right, Rob. They’ve been booked in to I class on Cathay. Had it not been available Virgin would have been offered a downgrade or a refund. I’m pleased I got straight on to it today. Even with four flights a day HKG-SYD I imagine the availability could soon be used up.

  • JP says:

    Sorry – stupid question. How exactly do you setup auto conversion? I think I’ve tried every option on the website.