Should you get the Virgin credit card and convert the miles to Hilton or IHG?

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Virgin Atlantic has a rare feature that allows you to transfer your points into hotel loyalty schemes.   I wrote about this extensively last year when it turned out that it was pretty much the only easy way left to earn IHG’s new top tier Spire status without staying in the hotels.

I thought it was worth having another look at the Virgin Flying Club hotel transfer options in the light of the generous sign-up bonuses currently offered on the Virgin credit cards.  Could you use this to boost your hotel account?

The first thing to say is that it is VERY rare for an airline to allow you to transfer to a hotel scheme.   Finnair still lets you transfer to IHG Rewards Club but at a very poor 2:1 rate, and they also have a tie-up with Accor.  I think that is about it for European airlines.

Virgin Atlantic

You cannot transfer Avios points to ANY hotel scheme – although you can, of course, book hotel rooms with your Avios points and receive around 0.5p per point of value.  Iberia Plus will also let you use your Avios for rooms with Barcelo and, from March, Iberostar.

To some extent, we should be grateful that Virgin allows you to do any sort of transfer out.  It is a valuable option for people who earn a lot of Virgin miles through their work but do not want to redeem them for further flights, possible due to family issues or availability issues during school holidays.

Virgin to Hilton

Here is the Hilton page on the Virgin site.

You will see that the transfer rate to Hilton HHonors is 2:3.  The minimum transfer is 10,000 Virgin Flying Club miles and then in increments of 10,000 miles.

Following the Hilton devaluation in 2013, I tend to value Hilton points at 0.3p.  This is based on needing 80,000 points for a five star hotel selling for £250 cash.  ‘Cash and Points’ redemptions, if you can find them, get nearer 0.5p per point.

These valuations are based on redeeming at the higher end luxury hotels.  Hilton offfers far better value at the lower end of the scale where you can achieve 1p per point.  These Category 1 hotels are just 5,000 Hilton points per night (3,333 Virgin miles) whilst these Category 2 hotels are 10,000 Hilton points (6,666 Virgin miles).

Based on my 0.3p valuation, you get just 0.45p of value per Virgin mile when converting to Hilton.  This is not great.

You can get a better result than this by redeeming for Virgin Vouchers.  12,500 miles gets you a £50 voucher valid with various Virgin Group companies.

If you have other uses for Virgin miles I would only recommend a Hilton transfer if you are topping off an account to reach the amount you need for a reward.

On the other hand, as the Virgin White credit card is free and currently comes with 10,000 Virgin miles, you might see this as an easy way of getting 15,000 Hilton HHonors points.  You don’t need to have any plan to ever fly with Virgin.

Spire Elite card

Virgin to IHG Rewards Club

Converting to IHG Rewards Club is marginally better.  This would let you redeem at Holiday Inn, HI Express, Crowne Plaza, InterContinental etc hotels.

I value IHG points at 0.4p to 0.5p as long as InterContinental redemptions remain at 50,000 to 60,000 points.  The transfer ratio from Virgin is 1:1.

0.5p per Virgin mile is still not an excellent return.  However, if you are topping off your IHG balance, it is an easy way to get to the points required for a room.

Where IHG scores over Hilton is that point transfers count towards status.

IHG’s new top tier, Spire, requires you to earn 75,000 IHG base points to achieve it.  This would require around £5,000 of spend in IHG hotels over a calendar year.

Bonus points from IHG promotions do not count towards status.  Neither do sign-up bonuses from IHG credit cards, although normal card spend points do count.  In any case, the IHG credit cards are currently suspended for new applications.

A transfer from Virgin Atlantic is now the only way to earn a substantial number of ‘status counting’ points in one transaction.  This is my story of how I got my Spire card using Virgin miles.

Remember that you receive 25,000 bonus IHG Rewards Club points when you achieve or renew Spire status.  This increases the value you get from transferring in some Virgin miles.

Kaligo 2

Virgin to Kaligo.com

Virgin has also partnered with hotel booking site Kaligo.com to let you redeem Virgin miles for many hotels in their portfolio.  You can find more details in this article.

In general, Kaligo.com will get you 0.4p to 0.6p per mile of value.  The 10,000 Virgin miles from the free Virgin White credit card won’t get you too far here.

(Want to earn more Virgin Flying Club miles?  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.)

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  1. Paul says:

    Apart from the 25000 points what are the main perks of spire elite ?

    • None.

      Except for those hotels which have not upgraded their IT yet, which means you are shown as having zero status and get to have a big laugh as you are given fhe worst room in the hotel.

      • mark2 says:

        I would rate the Hilton Diamond status match as being a big benefit, but may withdraw this after a couple of Hilton stays this year, depending on the benefit I get.

    • CV3V says:

      Despite being IHG Plat (and now Spire), on one HIX stay I was put in the room beside the main entrance door, with a great view of car headlights from the elevated car park. I asked to move rooms, explained my reasons why, and was moved along one room! Another attempt was then required and got an ok room one floor up. What made the whole thing more annoying was the coach load of tourists who were scattered in rooms across the hotel (the atmosphere was more student halls with the noise in the corridors), and who were all up at 6 on a Sunday morning, and were given better rooms than a top tier status guest. If I had been in that first room I could have watched/listened to them all congregate outside my room with their luggage and on to the bus. Hilton Diamond status has been a joy in comparison and the Hilton staff been incredibly helpful.

      At IHG hotels I always ask at reception if they have my IHG number on the booking as a check.

      • Sounds similar to my stay at The May Fair last week where a group of tourists got the good rooms and my Carlson Gold got me a dump, until I had a word ….

      • John2 says:

        So far I’ve always been welcomed as a Spire Elite at HIXs, but I’ve never received the promised 300 bonus points

    • rcarpe2 says:

      I’ve been treated well with my Spire card. While the sorts of places I stay don’t tend to have too much to offer, they’ve always given me everything they have – for example a business floor room and sometimes both the points and the drink!

  2. Judge says:

    InterContinental redemptions are now 60,000 points per night, as you’ve told us before Raffles!

    • In fact IC redemptions are now upto 60k but can be less. Though I think raffles revalued Ihg points as 0.4p each

      • I then revalued them back, because the option to buy points at 0.4p was coming and going! To be fair I should use 0.4p for consistency and have edited the article.

    • John says:

      Bordeaux is still 40000

    • Brian says:

      That’s the danger of cut and paste! :))

  3. I’ve reached Spire last summer and had a card with 2016 on it. Earlier this year I received a new Spire card with 2017 on it. My account says expires 31/12/16 but when I emailed to query it I was given the standard reply of what I needed to reach each level rather than confirming when my elite status expired. So do I have Spire to the end of 2017?? I currently have about 19k qualifying points.

    • flibbly says:

      I’m in the same position. Are you also an Ambassador? That has been suggested as the cause of this on FlyerTalk.

  4. rams1981 says:

    Does spire elite actually give you anything worthwhile? Hilton gold and diamond certainly do

    • John says:

      Some hotels (mainly basic ones) give you extra vouchers for things you may or may not want

      You usually get a better room, but usually not breakfast, at higher end hotels, but Platinum tends to achieve the same

    • sprout7 says:

      If you could achieve spire elite would Hilton status match it to Gold?

  5. How is 12,500 points for a £50 voucher (i.e. 0.4p) better value than 0.45p when converting to Hilton?

    • Oyster says:

      It’s guaranteed value for starters. A hotel redemption value can vary as prices fluctuate.

      • mark2 says:

        This is a very subjective judgement.
        Among other things, it depends whether the voucher can be used for anything that you want and the price of the goods against other suppliers. Also whether you have any other Hilton points.

      • John2 says:

        But at least for me I decide how much I’m willing to spend on a hotel before even looking at cash prices, so fluctuating prices only affect whether I decide to pay cash, points or stay somewhere else.

    • One is nearer to being cash than the other! The voucher also has value in its own right, the Hilton points on their own have no value (unless you do a Cat 2 stay) until added to more Hilton points.

  6. Brian says:

    Hilton points can also be used for upgrades. When I booked a Visa free night in my brother’s name, I asked for my own name and Diamond status to be added to the booking. Both the Hilton customer service lady and the hotel itself told me that they could add my number, but I wouldn’t get the Diamond benefits. Shortly before the stay, I noticed on the booking page that I could upgrade to a Junior Suite with Executive benefits for 2500 HH points. At Rob’s valuation (which is probably higher than mine), that would equate to 8 pounds, which I considered a very good price to pay for a larger room, free breakfast and lounge access. In the event, they gave me the upgrade anyway and didn’t deduct any points, but it goes to show that there are decent upgrade opportunities available for points.

  7. Craig Vassie says:

    Its worth noting that IHG Visa card spend counts towards elite points, at 2pts per £ spend. An expensive way of getting to Spire, but OK if you’re only a few points short. Saves using Amex points via Virgin. If only Spire was actually worth the bother!!!

  8. mark2 says:

    Problem with HHonors website seems cured, for me at least.

  9. DaveT says:

    I and a few others on FT have had our Spire status extended to Dec 2017 by joining ambassador (or at least this is what we all have in common). I was shocked to see that the spire gift was also reset on my account, so chose another 25k points (also got these last year when joint spire (july).

    • As mentioned above I was sent a 2nd Spire card with 2017 on it – I am not Ambassador – I haven’t been given the additional bonus 25k. Will wait and see what happens at the start of the year.

  10. John2 says:

    OT not sure if mentioned before, but got another email from Supercard and the website no longer says anything about cash withdrawals.

    May not be able to re-achieve Spire if only relying on card purchases… 🙂

  11. Peter K says:

    A bit O/T. Do you need to ring Virgin to exchange miles to Hilton points. I couldn’t see how to do it online.

  12. Robman says:

    OT – have just received Curve card and seems to be working a treat.
    Can anyone tell me how much I will be charged for a cash withdrawal from an ATM if overseas?

    • Genghis says:

      Up to £200 is Mastercard wholesale + 1% + £2
      Over £200 is Mastercard wholesale + 1% + 2% + £2.

      I.e. under £200 is acceptable as you can earn the points for the cost. Might as well withdraw the £200 in the UK and then use Halifax Clarity / Lloyds card for overseas ATM.

      Curve as a card for ATM withdrawals abroad is as much use as a chocolate fire guard.

    • Mr Dee says:

      Curve doesn’t offer the best option for cash withdrawals abroad, there are better fee free alternatives such as certain Nationwide, Metro Bank (Europe) and Norwich and Peterborough.

      Its only worth using it if you have a spend target to meet or have a good earnings rate i.e better than the 1% charge.

      You can of course use the Halfiax Clarity/ Lloyds Avios cards for purchases without a cash advance fee, linking these to the Curve seems a bit unreliable after reading their comments on twitter. In theory they could charge the cards in the currency that you are withdrawing which makes sense but I think they are reluctant to do this as its a money spinner for them, I could be wrong though so if anyone tries it then I would be interested to hear about this. When I get a chance of course I will try it 🙂

      • Robman says:

        Thanks for your advice Mr Dee

      • John2 says:

        Why would you ever link Curve to Halifax Clarity? You would literally be throwing away 1% + £2

        LInking to Lloyds Avios Amex may make sense if you feel that the Amex rate is consistently worse than the Mastercard rate by more than the additional rewards on the Amex versus the card you would otherwise use.

  13. OT

    Has anyone got any experience with securing J redemption seats on Qatar 672 Doha to Male on ba.com?

    Planning honeymoon flights for Rangali next May – looking to book T-355 BA First to Doha using 2-4-1 – gets in 2150. The QR672 leaves at 0220 giving a reasonable stopover – I’ve never been able to see any J redemption availability on ba.com using Avios. The QR674 with the much less useful departure time of 0820 seems to have loads of J redemption availability.

    Does QR redemption availability go live to QR Privilege members earlier, or is it HfP readers snapping them up at 00:01?
    Does anyone know what time QR redemptions are loaded onto the system?

    • Does it have J? If it was a regional plane it would just be Economy and First.

      • F would be fine! (Economy less so for honeymoon!)
        ba.com only shows Economy and Business availability. I’m pretty sure its a two class A320 – qatar.com shows Economy and Business.

        • I think the 2-class planes are being rebranded as Economy and Business. Same seats but the food is Business and not First standard and you would lose access to the Al Safwa lounge.

          There are only a handful of Business seats on these planes so I wouldn’t necessarily hold out much hope for redemptions.

    • Hi, we have done DOH-MLE on a J redemption. We landed in DOH from MAN at about 11pm and had to wait until the 8am flight, I would not recommend this at all. After about 3-4 Krug it is very difficult to stay awake. There is food and drink and showers through the night though. Had a nice nap on the DOH-MLE flight.

      I know there is the airport hotel in DOH but they wanted £160ish…. If I could go back I would have done that

  14. BrianDT says:

    I really feel that something needs to be done about OT subjects which have absolutely nothing to do with the topic under discussion.

  15. Will says:

    Remember bonus points count towards achieving IHG status too – at present.

    If you can find a 5000 point “sweetspot” then Spire can be achieved for about £1,000 or less.

    • Technically you could do it for £200 with a Virgin Black (25,000 points), Amex Gold (22,000 points via a referral) and then upgrade to Amex Platinum (20,000 points for the upgrade, assume you pay £60 in fees before cancelling)!

    • mark2 says:

      Having been a Spire for nearly a year now I would be interested to hear what benefit you would expect to make spending £1,000 worthwhile.
      The only benefit I have had is a status match to Hilton Diamond and I am still looking for how to spend 50,000 IHG points. But I am only a leisure traveller, which may make a difference?

  16. Will says:

    I earned a Barclaycard free night last year, and redeemed it for a free IC night in San Francisco. I was upgraded to a 20th floor corner room because of status – I know YMMV, and maybe a platinum too would have been granted the upgrade.

    Also if you’re able to take advantage of Points Breaks stays for 5,000 points a night, you’re effectively getting 2 nights for the price of 1, or 3 nights for the price of 2 if you’re able to redeem for 10,000 a night somewhere you want to be.

    I just wanted to say that you could make Spire for less outlay than £5,000.

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