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How I obtained the new IHG Rewards Club Spire Elite status without doing any stays

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In my article on Friday I showed how difficult it will be to earn the new top tier status in IHG Rewards Club.

Unless you spend £37,500 in a calendar year on the IHG Rewards Club Premium Visa or book a lot of stays which come with a bonus points package, you will need to spend $7,500 before VAT at InterContinental, Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza etc hotels in a year to earn the 75,000 base points required.

Unless you’re me, of course.  I have found the one roundabout route left to earn those key 75,000 base points.  By making transfers to IHG from Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.

This page on the Virgin Atlantic website explains how to do it.

Before you say ‘that is a terrible idea’ and close the page, let me explain why.

First, here is the proof from my own account that 1:1 transfers of Virgin Flying Club miles to IHG Rewards Club count as base points:

Spire statement

I will now be Spire Elite until December 2016.  (My actual title is Spire Ambassador as I also have InterContinental Ambassador status.)

I have, in the past, said that transferring Virgin miles to IHG was a bad idea.  Why have I changed my mind?

The trigger is this:  you receive 25,000 bonus IHG Rewards Club points when you reach or renew the new IHG Spire Elite top tier.  These points post instantly to your account – I have already claimed mine as you can see from the screenshot.  There is an alternative of gifting Platinum status to a friend but I have discounted that in this analysis.

Analysing the value of a Virgin Flying Club transfer to IHG

I value IHG Rewards Club points at 0.5p, based on redeeming 50,000 for a five-star InterContinental night valued at £250 in a major city.

Let’s look at three scenarios for getting to the magical 75,000 qualifying points figure, based on different starting levels of elite qualifying points and assuming you take the 25,000 bonus points as your Spire Elite welcome gift:

Current elite pts: 15,000 / Transferred miles:  60,000 / IHG points earned:  85,000 / Value:  £425

Current elite pts:  35,000 / Transferred miles:  40,000 / IHG points earned:  65,000 / Value: £325

Current elite pts:  55,000 / Transferred miles:  20,000 / IHG points earned:  45,000 / Value £225

This values your Virgin miles at:

0.71p (£425 / 60,000) in example one

0.81p (£325 / 40,000) in example two

1.12p (£225 / 20,000) in example three

These are ALL acceptable valuations for a Virgin Flying Club redemption, in my opinion, and the last one is almost generous.

(It obviously depends if you have any specific Virgin redemption plans, of course. In my case, I had 170,000 miles and no plans beyond a solo US Upper Class flight.)

However, you ALSO need to factor in the 100% points bonus that you will receive on your IHG stays whilst you have top tier status AND whatever upgrades and benefits the new tier will bring.  That will add extra value on top.

Another example using Amex points

Imagine that you have no Virgin miles at the moment but obtain them by transferring in from American Express Membership Rewards points at 1:1.

You would get the same valuations – 0.71p per Amex point if you transferred 60,000 up to a whopping 1.12p per Amex point for transferring 20,000.

Again, this assumes ZERO value for the 100% base points bonus you will get as a top tier member or the value of upgrades etc.

If we ever see another American Express Membership Rewards to Virgin Flying Club transfer bonus of 20%-25%, these numbers look even better.

A final example using Tesco Clubcard points

Here is another example.  Imagine that you convert Tesco Clubcard points to Virgin Flying Club to IHG Rewards Club. 

Tesco regularly runs 20% conversion bonuses to Virgin Flying Club.  These bonuses are so frequent that my numbers assume that such a bonus is running and you receive 300 Virgin miles instead of the usual 250 per £1:

Current elite pts: 15,000 / Transferred Tesco to Virgin:  £200 = 60,000 miles / IHG points earned:  85,000 / Value:  £425

Current elite pts:  35,000 / Transferred Tesco to Virgin:  £133 = 40,000 miles / IHG points earned:  65,000 / Value: £325

Current elite pts:  55,000 / Transferred Tesco to Virgin:  £66 = 20,000 miles / IHG points earned:  45,000 / Value £225

This gives you a multiple on your Tesco vouchers of:

2.1x (£425 / £200) in example one

2.4x (£325 / £133) in example two

3.4x (£225 / £66) in example three

Again, not bad.  And, again, it ignore any benefits you get from Spire Elite.

Timing is an issue ….

If you are thinking of doing this, there is a timing issue to consider.

If you need to do a big conversion, perhaps you are better forgetting about your current small number of elite points and waiting until January 2016?  You would then get status until December 2017.

Secondly, you will obviously earn more elite points from your future stays in 2016.  If you are only 20,000 points short and know you will earn those 20,000 before New Year, you need to decide whether the value of Spire on your remaining 2015 stays makes it worthwhile blowing miles.  You CANNOT factor in the 25,000 point bonus in this calculation, because if you will hit Spire anyway then you are getting that regardless.

PS.  Because the new top tier IHG status will be hard to earn, it should have more value at a status match.  You may have an easier time getting matched to the top tier in other hotel chains.  There is additional value in that.

PPS.  Remember that there is no reason why IHG will keep these transfers as status earning in the long term.  For now, though, it works.


IHG Rewards update – August 2021:

Get bonus points: The current IHG Rewards promotion is ‘Triple Your Points’ – our full article is here. It runs from 15th May to 16th August. You receive double base points on your second stay and triple base points on your third and subsequent stays. You can register on this page of ihg.com.

New to IHG Rewards?  Read our overview of IHG Rewards here and our article on points expiry rules here. Our article on ‘What are IHG Rewards points worth?’ is here.

Buy points: If you need additional IHG Rewards points, you can buy them here.

There is a 75% bonus when you buy IHG Rewards points by 13th August.

Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from IHG and the other major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.

Comments (106)

  • mtb says:

    I signed up to the IHG credit card in Jan, but didn’t follow up for the sign-up bonus until June 2015. Finally after some email exchanges got the 60k bonus in June. Any thoughts on trying to make the 60k count, given that I had applied and triggered the bonus in Spring, but IHG did not get around to crediting my account with 60k. To clarify, my IHG account does not show 60k as eligible earnings.

    • Rob says:

      You can try. I agree you have a very strong case but it may be beyond the ability of the Philippines contact centre to fix it!

      • Guesswho2000 says:

        Philippines? I called in Jan to follow up on my lapsed status (I’d had an email late last year saying stay twice to retain gold, but I dropped to club) and the guy on the phone put me back to gold basically instantly! I was impressed, I’d even kept the original email since, rightly it’d seem, I never expected it to work correctly.

      • mtb says:

        Called IHG..the agent tried to say – go away. Spoke to the supervisor who has promised to investigate and come back to me. All I have at the moment is a reference number and some hope!

  • Mark says:

    My wifes account has earned 86,798 and shows 67,548 of 75,000 points for Spire Elite.

    Is it really worth getting the upgrade when there is no benefit as yet??

    I have a room booked for New Years Eve at the IC Hyde Park?

    • CV3V says:

      I’d say its worth getting those 2,500 additional points if only to then qualify for the 25,000 points.

    • Rob says:

      You get 25,000 points so, for no other reason than that, it is worth spending enough on the credit card (or doing a 10k Virgin transfer) to push you over. I consider that a no-brainer.

  • Neil says:

    A good tip but I won’t need this in 2015, based on Credit Card sign-up bonus earlier this year and stays I have 73,000 of 75,000 required. Planning on a stay next week to take me through the threshold – hope that Spire will then see to some reasonable upgrades on points bookings in the US in August…

  • Jamie says:

    As it happened I already was sitting at 90,000 elite points, partly due to the 60,000 sign up to the IHG Visa (that also took me to Platinum). So without any extra effort I am Spire Ambassador. I feel happy and underwhelmed at the same time 🙂

    • Danksy says:

      Did you get your 25,000 points bonus? I didn’t!

      • Rob says:

        What do you mean? You need to go into My Account and select whether you want 25,000 points or free Platinum status for a friend. Points post instantly if you choose that.

        • Danksy says:

          Cool.. I shall give that a whirl. The Mrs is 10000 points off spire and I’m at spire, 25k each sounds good

  • Andrew says:

    Is there a bonus for achieving IHG Platinum?

  • Nick says:

    Other than the 25,000 points for reaching Spire, are there any other material benefits? As far as I can tell, the main benefit is that Spires would likely be prioritised ahead of Golds and Plats when it comes to allocating upgrades. Is that it?

    • Rob says:

      So far. They have promised to add new benefits for 2016 but no word yet.

      • Nick says:

        OK, thanks. I think I’ll wait until 2016 before doing a Virgin Miles transfer then.

  • Martin says:

    Are there soft landings with IHG? Does Spire, now, guarantee Platinum during 2017?

  • Christian says:

    I know this article doesn’t really cover the IHG rewards credit card points. But 4 points per £ on overseas spend is a very good way of racking up a good tally too. Instead of being £37,500 a year of domestic spend, it’s £18,750 of overseas spend. Not insignificant – but half the amount you’d have to do in the UK.

    • Christian says:

      I should add I’m putting Spire to the test next week. I’ve got two stays in Atlanta, a Holiday Inn and an Indigo so I’ll report back if there is any discernible benefit.

    • DW201 says:

      isnt the exchange rate garbage though?

    • Rob says:

      I agree – last year, before I got a Post Office FX-free card, I triggered my free night voucher with £10k of overseas spend, earning 40,000 points in the process.

      Now that I have a Supercard and a Post Office credit card, both with no FX fees, it is a more tricky calculation. At the moment I am using UK Visa spend to hit my IHG Visa £10k.

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