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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  1. John O’Sullivan says:

    Interesting article and not something I would have considered, may do this at the end of the year when my current ambassador status ends. Currently in the business suite Istanbul IC. Booked our weekend certificate stay on a garden view club room, Monday paid same grade roomand Tuesday standard room reward night. Contacted the hotel in advance to ask if they would run the three bookings together as it was our 30th anniversary yesterday. They did do and upgraded us for whole stay to sea view club. On arrival upgraded that to sea view suite. Very nice of them. We also recently stayed at the IC Estoril as part of my post retirement cycling trip from Santander to Lagos (Portugal) , one paid garden view night, one reward night we were upgraded for both nights to sea view rooms. Generally I found no IHG very good for upgrades but I use them for special occasions

  2. I think your reasoning holds but only because of the 100% bonus points and then only for those with the points and/or spending power to focus on top end hotels. The 25k bonus is of little persuasion at that level though as it is around a third to a half of a one night redemption and will likely be insignificant compared to the points balances of those playing at this level. Having said all that, it would still only be persuasive for me if there was no competition. Unfortunately there is, and I just cannot see me shifting my main focus from Hilton to IHG for this offer. The way things are looking with Marriott/SPG, I think IHG would have to get behind them in the queue too. I am now in my second year as IHG platinum, having dropped from spire: although there is no way to be certain, I feel there is little difference in upgrade opportunities when compared to my experience as spire. At the lower end it just doesn’t work, mainly because IHG schemes is all wrong there. Redemptions, and often rates, at their cheapest brands are generally overpriced in my view. Upgrades at HIE or most HI hotels are hardly anything to get excited about.

  3. I’d rate IHG Spire the lamest of all elite statuses, I’m currently Spire (they comped me, even though I was significantly short of requal).

    Perhaps a discussion on what you get with Spire (spoiler: not much!) not just yet more bogus maths?

    • Hi shd why did they comp you?

      Who wouldn’t want more status benefits, but you’ve got to remember that you earn way more points much easier and quicker than all the other hotel programs. I place more value on free stays at 5* hotels than I do getting a free breakfast or upgrade.

      • Accruing IHG points may well be easy, but I rate them the least valuable points of all the ones I’ve ever collected! I’m sitting on just over 700k points, and have just watched 2 IHG free night certs expire .

        I struggle to see any decent IHG redemption opportunities at all.

        • Genghis says:

          There’s lots of decent IHG properties. Letting vouchers expire really does get zero value

        • Seems bonkers to go somewhere I don’t need (or want) to go to just because there is a “decent” IHG property there, though.

          I redeeemed my first IHG free night at the IC London The O2 as I needed to be in the Docklands for a meeting. After declining the expensive breakfast, and declining the even more expensive lounge access (was Spire Amb at the time), I was left underwhelmed by the property. Sure the room was nice, but I’d have been just as happy – and would have slept just as well – at any of the *many* alternative hotels in the area.

          I don’t see (m)any hotels as a destination in themselves. Some seem to enjoy “5*-ness” for its own sake?

    • KevMc says:

      I got Spire pretty easily this year (mostly through IHG card spending), but have also used it to status match to Marriott Diamond, which has far better elite benefits imo.

  4. @mkcol says:

    Can you transfer back out to Virgin once you’ve got the status?

  5. No

  6. Rob open table reservations via IHG app are status earning too. I know it’s only 150 points per reservation, but if you eat out once a week then you can earn around 8000 extra points which definitely is not insignificant.

  7. Genghis says:

    IHG status is simply inconsistent. I’ve had some great upgrades and benefits from it but also v limited ‘recognition’. I’m happy to continue playing the lottery.

  8. AlanC says:

    And if you are rich in Virgin FC points transfer in the January and get 2 years Spire.
    I did this early Feb 2017 and still have the rest of this year at Spire level.

    • Alex W says:

      Or just renew ambassador.

      • Renewing ambassador doesn’t extend spire does it? I know there were reports last year that it did but that was a temporary IT glitch wasn’t it?

      • AlanC says:

        Just renewed Ambassador last week so see what happens. Paid $200 to get the 15k bonus plus 5k as part of Accelerate.
        Hilton always been my main program and as Diamond pretty consistent bennies over the years. However a bit of inconsistency lately. Maybe it’s the dilution due to the Status Matches?

        • Genghis says:

          The 10% rebate on points stays has been highly beneficial for me this year. Paid for AMB prob two fold alone.

  9. Graeme says:

    Pretty pointless question – is there any chance of them doing another 100% bonus when buying points soon? I foolishly missed the deadline last week which would have saved me a lot.

    • They normally offer it a few times per year – just wait for the next one.

  10. Gregor says:

    Mildly OT, but has anyone had wind of a forthcoming IHG flash summer sale? – if I recall correctly there there was one around late June last year. Thanks.

  11. Andrew25 says:

    Complimentary breakfast for Spire Elite members please IHG.

    Why couldn’t they offer free breakfast for 12 months as an alternative to the 25,000 status bonus points? They could limit it to say just Holiday Inns & Crowne Plaza’s and exclude other brands.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      They should offer it anyway. IHG benefits are so far behind the other big chains.

      Top tier Hilton, Marriot, SPG all give lounge and breakfast as a benefit.

      • It appears they don’t need to.

        Also, since IHG are still giving out points like candy with Accelerate, they need to keep the property owners happy trying to ensure customers clock up *some* charges for incidentals on their redemptions!

        • Andrew25 says:

          Well maybe they should stop giving out points like candy and give us a free fry up instead, like Hilton do!!

      • HAM76 says:

        Those tend to be more expensive, overall, though. IHG in Europe is mostly HI and HIX which are closer to Moxy or Hampton than Hilton, Mariott, Westin, etc.

  12. Graeme says:

    Pretty pointless unanswerable question – is there any chance of IHG doing another 100% bonus when buying points soon? I foolishly missed the deadline last week which would have saved me a lot.

  13. Adrian says:

    I did this last year and it worked fine. Like others have said the guaranteed benefits are weak and as Rob says all the time only the guaranteed benefits are the ones that you can rely on. So I’m spire elite and an ambassador and almost all my spend goes to Hilton and Marriott (both gold) as the benefits are better. I only had 1 night at IHG last year and with my Marriott Plat challenge underway that’s not going to change much this year, I might manage 2 nights to use my ambassador night up!

    • It sounds like wasted time, effort and money to have spire ambassador then? Why did you chase it?

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Tbf on the spire you could hit that with CC spend and no chasing.

        The ambassador costs 30k points and buys you a reduced price night at an IC. It’s not really free as the rate is higher than cheapest non-refunable.

  14. James says:

    I’ve done the Virgin > IHG transfer at the end of the year for the last couple for years and gained/retained Spire. My transfer in Dec 2017 was left late and didn’t credit to my IHG account until 2nd Jan 2018. I did get my Spire status renewed for 2018 but missed out on the 25K bonus, on the plus side the 30K transfer shows on my 2018 earnings so I started this year 30K closer to the target.

  15. As a Spire Member for the second year, I stay once or twice each week in and around London, usually for around £50 – 60/night(occasionally £70). I qualify for Spire by number of nights I stay in a year not on money spent.

    Taking part in the Accelerate promotions, this brings in around 50 – 70000 points and getting double points on my spend + 25000 for Spire renewal all means I have loadza points for a couple of holidays and weekends away with Wife/Family, on points each year. So my spending mid-week (Tax deductable) creates 32 – 30 nights on points in Intercontinental hotels or Crowne Plaza, just paying for the flights and hire car.

    By contacting (holiday) hotels before, I’ve enjoyed great upgrades to suites or at least sea view club rooms, with Club access.

    Enjoyed 10 point nights at Intercontinental Muscat, Omar (great stay) last November which wiped out my points and already have 300,000 for next trip.

    I’m not saying I’ve ‘got it cracked’ and happy for any advice. But as my weekly stays, usually HI Express, I believe Marriott, SPG and Accor rooms are much more per night, making the Annual investment more expensive.

    Willing to learn!?

    • Mark2 says:

      You talk about ‘paying for the flights’.
      I trust you mean paying with points!

      • Vasco says:

        He means the only things he pays for on holiday is the flights and the hire car, as the hotels are free from all the points he has.

    • HAM76 says:

      I came to the same conclusion… I stay on average one night per week in an HI or HIX for a lot less than Hilton or Marriot. Those are great if you get reimbursed 200-300 per night, but not when you have to make with smaller travel budget. Lacking a credit card here in Germany, I use bonus point packages (tax deductible) to qualify by points. Still racking up points quickly this way. Some benefits are pretty consistent, though, like the drink voucher for my evening drink. In terms of upgrades, there just isn‘t much to upgrade to in a HIX, maybe a business room on the hightest floor, or so.

  16. 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.

  17. 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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