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20% bonus on Tesco Clubcard conversions to Virgin Flying Club – worth it?

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Virgin Atlantic has launched a 20% bonus on transfers of Tesco Clubcard points to Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club. This means that you will receive 300 miles per £1 of Clubcard vouchers you convert, rather than the standard 250.

At the time of writing the deal has not made it onto the Tesco website.  It is explained here on the Virgin Flying Club site.

The deals runs to June 19th and the miles generally appear 1-2 days after initiating the transfer.

Virgin is also repeating its offer of 1,000 bonus Virgin miles for opting-in for auto-conversion of your Clubcard points each quarter to Virgin.

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.

You may remember that, between January and March, Virgin was running a very generous 30% conversion bonus.  This offer is clearly worse than that one, although 20% is ‘the norm’ with Flying Club.  In any event, you can’t turn back the clock.

We don’t know yet if British Airways will be offering any sort of Tesco conversion promotion this quarter.  They haven’t done one for a couple of years now although the Avios devaluation may have changed their thinking. 

Should you jump to Virgin Flying Club now BA has devalued Avios?

Perhaps. But DO NOT do it just because of the devaluation.

Virgin generally copies everything that British Airways does. It is not a coincidence that their premium credit card offers 18,500 miles as a bonus when the British Airways Premium Plus usually offers 18,000. The two tend to move in step.

It would make commercial logic for Virgin to do a similar devaluation over the next few months. As long as it isn’t as bad as the BA devaluation, they will still come out smelling of roses.  If you don’t have an immediate plan to redeem your Virgin miles, you might want to hold back just in case.

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 UK half-term.

It is also worth noting that Virgin has been cutting its route network. Any route which does not fly to North America or the Caribbean should be seen as under threat. If they can pull Tokyo, Mumbai and Cape Town – which they did recently – then nothing is safe.  Given the painful overnight flight time from the UK, I would be worried about the Dubai service for example.

2. Cheaper taxes in Economy – but no longer fewer miles

Virgin Atlantic has lower taxes than BA on Economy redemptions. These are quite aggressive – New York is £95 cheaper than BA.

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, economy: Virgin £248 & 35,000 (British Airways off-peak: £338 & 26,000)

New York, business: Virgin £488 & 80,000 (British Airways off-peak: £515 & 100,000)

Las Vegas economy: Virgin £218 & 42,500 (British Airways off-peak: £364 & 32,500)

Las Vegas, business: Virgin £499 & 100,000 (British Airways off-peak: £560 & 125,000)

A key point to note here is that – at off-peak times – the new British Airways economy rates are very aggressive. 26,000 Avios for a return flight to New York is very good. If fuel surcharges come down then these will look very attractive, although at the moment you may prefer to use more Virgin miles and pay the lower surcharges.

3. Availability

I do not redeem on Virgin, so cannot comment on how easy or hard it is to get availability. In general, 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. We also don’t know enough about the new British Airways availability patterns to make a fair comparison.

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 here. Their 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.

A 20% 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 300 Virgin miles which is 450 Hilton points. At 0.3p, they are worth £1.35.  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 300 Virgin miles which is 300 IHG Rewards Club points. At 0.5p that, that is just £1.50 of value. Avoid, unless you are just topping up your account.

6. 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.

7. Easy to collect additional miles

It is 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 6,000 miles for opening an ISA and 3,000 miles for your first case of wine.

Conclusion

Flying Club has something to offer the person who redeems in Economy – lower taxes 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. There will even be a handful of flights from Glasgow and Belfast this Summer.

At peak BA dates, you will also require fewer miles to fly Virgin in economy. On off-peak BA dates it is not so clear cut.

For business class redemptions, it is also less clear cut. Smaller cabins, a smaller route network and fewer daily flights may make it trickier to find seats.  Post April 28th, Virgin Upper Class redemptions look great value compared to BA but how long will that last?

There is no British Airways American Express 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.)

Virgin also has ‘route risk’ now. Non-North America routes are being cut aggressively. If you are planning to fly east rather than west, be aware that your route may not exist in a year.

You have until June 19th to decide whether to convert or not.


How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (February 2023)

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

You can choose from two official Virgin Atlantic credit cards (apply here, the Reward+ card has a bonus of 15,000 Virgin Points):

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review

Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard

A generous earning rate for a free card at 0.75 points per £1 Read our full review

You can also earn Virgin Points from various American Express cards – and these have sign-up bonuses too.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for a year and comes with 20,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 20,000 Virgin Points.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with 30,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 30,000 Virgin Points.

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and unbeatable travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Small business owners should consider the two American Express Business cards. Points convert at 1:1 into Virgin Points.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a £200 Amex Travel credit every year Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

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

(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 (54)

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

  • Dom says:

    The BA surcharge is now so high compared to its competitors, it makes it look so unattractive when comparing. Given it only really affects reward flights (as the price of a cash ticket is demand driven), I’m really surprised they didn’t address this when they were re-pricing reward flights as part of the devaluation.

  • Jon Connell says:

    Since there is no 2-4-1 voucher, you have no incentive to hold out for both inbound and outbound flights becoming available to book. True you can wait a couple of days after outbound BA flights open and book an inbound that you then rebook, but I just lost Tokyo flights trying that as the premium cabins booked out immediately for next Easter.

    The Virgin availability engine is dreadful, but searching for one-ways helps view a calendar. Although I am pretty much Avios-centric now, I have found that booking one-ways the moment the booking window for that day opens gets you good availability.

    I’ve only ever booked 2 seats in premium cabins, but colleagues tell me it’s nigh on impossible to get a family into Upper Class.

    And yeah, the LHR Clubhouse rocks. My shoulders slump with disappointment every time I walk into a BA lounge.

    • Jon Easthope says:

      Hi there – I have a couple of questions virgin redemptions. With Virgin, can you not book a one way and ring up/amend the booking when the return opens up? Or do you book a return ticket and amend the booking when the return leg you want opens up? Can you do this amendment online or do you phone up? Any amendment fee? Thanks.

      • pol says:

        You can either book 2 one ways, which is what I always do, or you can book a return and amend the return when the seats open up £30 per flight amendment fee.

    • pol says:

      I have found the exact opposite, I have had no trouble booking 4 Upper class returns with Virgin in the summer holidays. Out to Washington back from Barbados. At the time I booked I could have had a choice of any US or caribbean airport with the exception of Orlando. BA on the other hand, still have a stack of miles and 2×241 in my account, unable to use for anywhere except Dubai/Abu Dhabi
      if I want for club world in the summer holidays.

  • Leo says:

    Virgin is okay don’t get me wrong but what are you going to do if you aren’t really interested in the US? I’ll be cashing up my Virgin points and cancelling the Amex because to be frank it’s a big world out there and there’s only so much Florida and NYC you can take.

  • James Ward says:

    I have found VS Upper Class availability to be much better than BA Club World on most routes. In the past two years I’ve booked my parents to Australia, my partner and me to Tokyo (in the Easter school holiday), and a number of solo trips to or from the U.S. including one trip on one their gorgeous new 787s!

    Really disappointed when they pulled HKG-SYD and LHR-NRT, but these tickets were rebooked onto Cathay and BA respectively, so we ended up earning Avios on these award flights when they became revenue fares. In fact, I went straight to BAEC Bronze in my new membership year on the TPs from the Tokyo trip 🙂

    The VS award finder used to be terrible but has been improved recently and is now very good, allowing you easily to see month-by-month availability.

    I *much* prefer UC to CW. Give me 1-2-1 any day over 2-4-2 and the risk of ending up in those central “love seats” with a stranger when you’re travelling solo. I’m amazed BA can get away with making half their passengers clamber over someone to get to the aisle.

    VS planes are funkier and crew are more fun. BA crew are great, but a bit too stuffy for my taste.

    The Clubhouse at LHR is definitely in a league of its own. Even their Clubhouses at other airports offer a great restaurant and bar service even if they lack some of the WOW you get in London. I know Rob was disappointed with the Clubhouse at NYC recently but I reckon it’s still way better than any Galleries lounge as long as you’re not expecting all the boy’s toys you get at the LHR Clubhouse.

    So, my preference is VS and my experience is that it’s much easier to redeem. I just wish, as a Northern based traveller, they’d kept their Little Red flights.

    • Tom C says:

      I was coming here to respond and say basically the same thing.

      Virgin was the first company I ever used air miles on, and until reading this blog this year, the only one. I don’t have any kids, so only ever book for myself and my partner and therefore cannot comment on a ticket for a family of 4, but I find the availability to be absolutely amazing. 4 years in a row now I’ve flown to Miami in UC with Virgin air miles and each time I’ve been able to book the flights within just a few weeks of leaving. This year we flew to Delhi, I paid for mine on air miles and my father and partner were in paid UC, yet due to the sales on in January it was an absolute bargain. BA F > VS UC > BA CW.

      Only niggle I have with Virgin is that unless you pay UC Flexible, you cannot get a chauffeur. Seems very harsh that going for UC Lowest denies you, as the price difference between these two is often double, if not more.

  • Thomas says:

    There must be a glitch in their system because I have received the bonus every time that I switch to auto convert

  • Joe says:

    For those who want to use points to travel east: I thought you could use your virgin miles on other airlines like Air New Zealand? 180,000 for a return to Sydney via Auckland, for example; or 75,000 for a first class return to Beijing with Air China. Does that not significantly mitigate the disadvantage of the limited choice of destinations served by Virgin Atlantic itself?

    • pol says:

      Availability with partners is truly awful. It’s virtually impossible to redeem on partner airlines and most require a return, you can’t book a one way partner flight.

    • Rob says:

      Partner availability is odd, search for the article I wrote

  • Think Square says:

    What is the availability and cost of partner flights like? The website isn’t helpful. I’m interested in spending some miles on Virgin Australia or Malaysian.

    • tony says:

      Just adding to this, presumably you can redeem on Delta as well and they seem pretty reasonable when it comes to award seats.

      • Rob says:

        Yes, that is not an issue. Only base leave awards would be available to partners though, nothing the required a premium.

    • Rob says:

      I did an article on this if you search (on phone so cannot link)

  • gumshoe says:

    No, the status match offer has now finished. It was indeed only available on Little Red flights.

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