How to earn top-tier IHG Rewards Club status by transferring Virgin miles – and when it makes sense

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(EDIT:  IMPORTANT – as of July 2018, IHG is no longer treating transfers from Virgin Flying Club as status qualifying.  Do NOT make transfers into IHG if you are purely interesting in earning status quickly.)

Over the last few years, IHG Rewards Club has made it a lot harder to earn top-tier Spire Elite status by restricting the sort of points which count towards it.

I wrote a long article here looking at the different ways of earning IHG points and whether or not they count for status.

The following points activities DO count towards IHG Rewards Club status:

  • Room spend
  • Points from a ‘Bonus Points’ room package
  • Points from IHG credit card monthly spending
  • Points from crediting a car rental
  • Points from Virgin Atlantic transfers

The following points activities do NOT count towards status:

  • Status bonuses on room spend
  • Check-in amenity bonuses
  • IHG credit card sign-up bonuses
  • Accelerate and other promotional bonus points
  • Points from e-rewards

What this means is that unless you spend £37,500 in a calendar year on the IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard 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 for Spire Elite status.

Unless you’re me, of course.  Back in 2015, I used the one roundabout route left to earn those key 75,000 base points.  By making transfers to IHG Rewards Club from Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.

This page on the Virgin Atlantic website explains how to do it.  You transfer at 1:1 with a minimum of 10,000 miles.

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.  This is a 2015 screenshot but I get regular reports from readers who confirm that it still works OK:

Spire statement

I have, in the past, said that transferring Virgin miles to IHG is a bad idea.  And, on the face of it, it is.  I value an IHG Rewards Club point at 0.4p, so effectively getting 0.4p of value for a Virgin Flying Club mile by transferring it is not clever.

However, Spire Elite status has real value.  Whilst IHG has never been great in terms of upgrades, you are top of the pecking order now.

There is one extra benefit: you receive 25,000 bonus IHG Rewards Club points when you reach or renew IHG Spire Elite top tier status.  These points post instantly to your account.  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 Rewards Club

I value IHG Rewards Club points at 0.4p, based on redeeming 70,000 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 points: 15,000 / Transferred Virgin miles:  60,000 / IHG points earned:  85,000 inc the 25,000 Spire bonus / Value:  £340

Current elite points:  35,000 / Transferred Virgin miles:  40,000 / IHG points earned:  65,000 inc the 25,000 Spire bonus / Value: £260

Current elite points:  55,000 / Transferred Virgin miles:  20,000 / IHG points earned:  45,000 inc the 25,000 Spire bonus / Value:  £180

This values your Virgin Flying Club miles at:

0.57p (£340 / 60,000) in example one

0.65p (£260 / 40,000) in example two

0.90p (£180 / 20,000) in example three

The last one is an acceptable valuations for a Virgin Flying Club redemption, in my opinion.  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.

Spire Elite card

Another example using American Express 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 – 0.57p per Amex point if you transferred 60,000 up to a decent 0.9p 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 on your stays or the value of upgrades etc.

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 have been 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:  £340

Current elite pts:  35,000 / Transferred Tesco to Virgin:  £133 = 40,000 miles / IHG points earned:  65,000 / Value: £260

Current elite pts:  55,000 / Transferred Tesco to Virgin:  £66 = 20,000 miles / IHG points earned:  45,000 / Value: £180

This gives you a multiple on your Tesco vouchers of:

1.7x (£340 / £200) in example one

2.0x (£260 / £133) in example two

3.0x (£180 / £66) in example three

The last one is as good as Tesco Clubcard redemptions get, given the devaluation last week.  And, again, it ignores any benefits you get from Spire Elite such as a 100% status bonus on your future stays.

Timing is an issue ….

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

IHG status years are based on calendar years.

It is now only June.  I would be surprised if you know, with certainty, how many more IHG cash stays you will have this year.  This means that you won’t know how many base points you be ‘short’ for hitting Spire Elite.

To maximise value, you should arguably wait until you have done your final IHG stay for the year and then do the smallest Virgin Flying Club transfer possible to hit 75,000 points.

On the other hand, you will maximise your upgrade chances and earn a 100% status bonus on your future stays if you get yourself upgraded now.

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

PPS.  If you are not bothered about Spire Elite, remember that IHG Rewards Club gives our free mid-tier Platinum Elite status with the £99 IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard.  You also get free Gold Elite status with the free IHG Rewards Club Mastercard.

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

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Comments

  1. Kevin says:

    How long is a typical transfer between AMEX Membership Rewards and Virigin, and then again from Virgin to IHG?

    • Virgin is instant if your Amex account is already linked. It takes a week to get to IHG based on my past transfers.

  2. Rascal99 says:

    Or you could just get a curve card, attach the IHG Mastercard and then send your spouse £37,500 in friends and family payments on PayPal for £0.

    • JohnnyBoy says:

      Would this also work with an american express linked to paypal? (As you can’t link an Amex to Curve). I’m guessing you could also do this with the virgin credit cards?

    • Do you have any idea how strict PayPal is when it sees anything which looks vaguely suspicious?

      • JohnnyBoy says:

        I don’t Rob, but I can only imagine, as I know they are pretty good at picking up fraudulent transactions.

        Rascal99, having read into this further, it doesn’t look like MS is worth the risk in my opinion. Why ruin your credit for a bunch of miles? (The higher interest rate on your mortgage would definitely offset the miles you racked up MS’ing)

    • Have you done this? Can’t see PayPal allowing it.

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