Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

50% of the cost of my Virgin America flight is returned via

Links on Head for Points may support the site by paying a commission.  See here for all partner links. is a facilitator for the purchase and exchange of miles. If you have ever bought Avios, you may have noticed that your credit card statement showed ‘’ as the merchant. is a 2-legged business, half of which is handling ‘buy points’ requests for various frequent traveller schemes. The other half is operating a free online exchange for miles and points.

You can register for via this link.

Now, don’t get too excited about this. Avios is not part of the scheme, for a start. The exchange rates they use are also very poor. However …. if you have a small number of miles in an airline or hotel programme that you are never going to use, and which may be expiring, is better than nothing.

Virgin America, IHG and

Back in October, I took a First Class flight on Virgin America from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.  I wrote about the hugely impressive in-flight experience here.

The flight cost me $199.  At the time I booked it, I arranged to credit the miles to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.  I would have received a paltry 875 miles, worth £8.

However, between booking and flying, Virgin America launched a fantastic offer.  You would earn 7,500 Virgin America Elevate miles for taking a flight in First Class.  More interestingly, you would earn 7,500 miles for referring a friend who took a flight in First Class.

My wife opened a Virgin America Elevate account and immediate referred me.  After my flight, we had the following:

My wife – 8,000 points (500 opening bonus and 7,500 for referring me)

Me – 8,875 points (500 opening bonus, 7,500 for taking a First Class flight and 875 for the flight itself)

I had absolutely no idea what I would do with these miles.  However, as Virgin America miles are worth 2c towards a cash flight, it was worth taking them just in case I ended up back in the USA.

Last week, though, I was looking at the website and realised that they are a transfer partner.

This is what I can get for 8,875 Virgin America Elevate miles:

7,071 US Airways miles

3,898 American Airlines miles (stupid choice, given that US and AA have merged!)

7,543 IHG Rewards Club points

8,381 Melia Rewards points

The IHG Rewards Club transfer is a good deal for me.  I value IHG points at £5 per 1,000.  By transferring my 8,875 and my wifes 8,000 Elevate miles, we will receive a total of 14,300 IHG Rewards Club points.

That is £70 of value, which is 50% of what I paid for my Virgin America flight last year.

I would obviously get more value for my Virgin America miles if I kept hold of them and eventually used them for another Virgin America flight.  The odds of doing that before they expire are slim though.

Another sweet spot – Air Canada to US Airways

For reasons unknown, there is one ‘sweet spot’ redemption for Air Canada Aeroplan miles. Assuming you have 20,000 Air Canada miles languishing unloved, this is what will offer you:

16,802 US Airways miles (this is the good one, basically 1 : 085)

7,500 American Airlines miles

14,450 IHG Rewards Club points

16,055 Melia Rewards points

There are also other options, but they are not relevant to the UK market.

You need to remember that US Airways and American Airlines have merged. At some point in 2015, US Airways Dividend Miles will merge with the American Airlines programme, allowing you to pool your miles. If you have at least 15,000 Air Canada miles doing nothing (15,000 is the minimum Air Canada transfer) AND you have an American Airlines or US Airways account then it is a trade worth considering.

There are no fees to pay to anyone for ‘exchange’ transactions.  However, when looking at the website, you will note that it also allows you to trade points with other members, after paying a stupidly large fee. This is always poor value and I do not recommend it. When seeing what you can get for your points, look at the ‘exchange’ results and not the ‘trade’ results.

Virgin Atlantic Elevate and Air Canada Aeroplan are not the only currencies you can trade via You can also use it to offload American Airlines miles (25,000+), Melia Rewards points (2,500+), Amtrak Guest Rewards (1,000+), Asia Miles, Avianca Lifemiles (1,000+), Delta SkyMiles, IHG Rewards Club and US Airways miles, amongst others.  The best thing to do is sign up for and take a look.

As the rates are generally poor, it is best used for clearing out ‘orphan’ miles.  But remember, ONLY look at the ‘Exchange’ options, not the ‘Trades’, unless you 100% sure you are getting a good deal. Not surprisingly, you’ll find the ‘Trades’ listed first …..

Comments (27)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • David says:

    Surely the US points would have been better value for you, considering their imminent merger with AA’s program.

    • Rob says:

      I don’t have an AA account, perhaps surprisingly. I have so many Avios that, even whilst I could save some taxes money using AA occasionally, it is still better to run down my Avios pile. If I need Etihad flights I get those via Amex MR.

  • Ivo says:

    I have about 20k Skywards miles accumulated through some emirates flights. Would anyone no if I can transfer them to another airline or convert them into HHonors points? Thanks for the info.

    • Alan says:

      I don’t recall seeing any good transfer options, but remember you can spend them on Easyjet flights.

    • Rob says:

      Arsenal tickets! That’s good for 2 people. Otherwise it is easyJet or raffle tickets, or a Marriott hotel room in a very obscure place.

  • David cliff says:

    Got them, thank you! Every tip helps !!

  • AndyGWP says:

    OT: (apologies)

    I’m currently searching (and getting nowhere), but what is the best way to get 4 “BA” flights from Manchester? I will soon have the TP’s for Silver, but zero BA flights.

    Options I’m considering:
    RFS (unlikely to count)
    RFS with Part Cash + Avios? (would this count?)
    Standard BA flight to somewhere for a weekend
    BMI has also been suggested

    What other (cheap!) options are there?

    Any pointers / advice welcome… currently dredging Flyertalk :/ 🙂

    • Rob says:

      Must be a BA cash flight which earns tier points. So, basically, whatever cheapo weekend away you can get to price up. Cheaper options will involve Gatwick departures but try to avoid those as you don’t want to trek across London twice from Heathrow.

      Or, of course, fly up and down to Heathrow twice!

      • Ivo says:

        To make it cheaper some cash flights will let you pay part cash part Avios, so that could reduce your cost.

    • Lady London says:

      Wasn’t someone talking about £55 returns to Jersey a couple of days ago? would that give 4 flight segments and would those count as 4, or as 2 flighs if booked MAN_LGW-JER-LGW-MAN ?

      • AndyGWP says:

        Thanks to you (and all others) for helpful suggestions.

        My understanding is that MAN – LGW – JER – LGW – MAN would count as four BA flights (as you would physically be getting on to 4 planes).

        Had a perusal and unfortunately can’t see anything that cheap from MAN (maybe it’s that price from LGW?)

        It looking like we’ll nip to Paris for a weekend 🙂

        • AndyGWP says:

          So, can someone confirm for me? (only cos I have 24 hours now to discover any mistakes and cancel 😉 )

          I have booked MAN – ORY (connecting via. LHR both ways) and BA says I will earn 2000 Avios and 40 TP’s

          Does that get me from zero BA flights to four BA flights? 🙂

          All flights have BA prefixes, but just wanted to double check my assumption that connections count as individual flights 🙂

  • AndyGWP says:

    Cheers Raffles

    As there is two of us, it seems to be an additional minimum outlay of over £300 then 🙁 gutted

    I have some RFS lined up for Dublin, but even if I cancel them it would be £35 cancellation fee + £130 flights each (including part pay!!)… proper kicking myself for this one!

    • Alan says:

      How about a train up to Edinburgh/Glasgow then a HBO weekend break deal to somewhere in continental Europe? Four sectors done in one trip and a weekend away!

      RFS definitely don’t count, it has to be TP earning.

      • AndyGWP says:

        Thanks for the suggestion Alan – I had a look at HBO to get the cost down, and it seemed like it wasn’t offered on flights with connections 🙂

  • Fenny says:

    Wow. I have 2,476 Delta Skymiles I’ve had forever. They are worth 31K IHG points or 12,526 US AIrways miles (I have an AA account). I think the IHG points are probably the best of the available options and will be most likely used.

    • Fenny says:

      Or maybe not. Looks like I was looking at the wrong end of the transaction 🙁

  • Andy says:

    Can anyone tell me how much 12300 delta miles is worth when exchanged?
    Useless to me so if I can exchange for something more useful then that would be great.

    • Rob says:

      It isn’t showing anything which implies Delta is no longer an ‘exchange’ partner – even though it still appears under the list of participants.

  • Simon says:

    I used to transfer some Melia points to US Airways last year, they were those promotional points that sometimes appear in your Melia account, they must have coded them incorrectly as let me transfer them.

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