Virgin Atlantic has a rare feature that allows you to transfer your points into hotel loyalty schemes.
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.
Accor has done deals with a lot of airlines, and Eurostar, over the last couple of years. We are going to cover this in a separate article next week. Accor is very much the exception to the rule however.
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.
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, availability or frustration with the Virgin route network.
Transferring to hotel schemes is also a good exit for anyone who picks up some Virgin Atlantic miles through business travel but feels that they will never earn enough for a decent long-haul redemption in a premium cabin.
When Virgin Atlantic was in financial difficulties this Summer, many people decided to hedge their risk by transferring their Virgin Points into Hilton or IHG points. They lost some value but it removed the risk of losing everything.
Transferring Virgin Points to Hilton Honors
Here is the Hilton page on the Virgin site.
You will see that the transfer rate to Hilton Honors is 2:3. The minimum transfer is 10,000 Virgin Points and then in increments of 10,000 points.
I tend to value Hilton points at 0.33p. This is based on needing 80,000 points for a five star hotel selling for £250 cash.
My valuations are based on redeeming at the higher end luxury hotels. Historically Hilton has offered better value at the lower end of the scale, but there have been some substantial increases over the last couple of years and this is not necessarily the case any longer.
It is worth noting that Hilton will regularly sell points for 0.5 cents (0.39p) each by offering a 100% bonus. You can buy them for this now via this link until 31st December. This puts a cap on what you can value them at – if you can buy points for cash for 0.39p for much of the year, you shouldn’t value them more highly.
(The only exception would be if you needed more points than you can purchase in one year. However the current offer lets you buy a chunky 320,000 points. Your partner could buy a further 320,000 and use ‘points pooling’ to transfer them to you, so this will rarely be an issue.)
Based on my 0.33p valuation, you get 0.5p of value per Virgin Point when converting to Hilton. This is not great. Even at the highest valuation you can place on a Hilton point – 0.4p – you are only getting 0.6p of value per Virgin Point.
I would only recommend a Hilton Honors transfer if you are topping off an account to reach the amount you need for a reward.
Transfers can take 2-4 weeks to go through so this is NOT a good idea if you need Hilton points quickly to lock in a redemption room you spotted.
Transferring Virgin Points to IHG Rewards Club
Converting to IHG Rewards Club is no better. This would let you redeem at Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Hotel Indigo, Crowne Plaza, Kimpton, InterContinental etc hotels.
I value IHG points at 0.4p, based on using 70,000 points for a top five-star hotel. The transfer ratio from Virgin is 1:1.
0.4p per Virgin Point (based on the 1:1 transfer rate) is an even worse return than transferring to Hilton Honors. However, if you are topping off your IHG balance, it is an easy way to get to the points required for a room.
IHG points can also be bought for 0.5 cents (0.39p) when they are sold with a 100% bonus – which is quite often at the moment. The IHG ‘buy points’ page is here but there is no offer this week. This makes it very hard to justify a higher valuation.
Note that, whilst IHG Rewards Club transfers from Virgin Atlantic used to count towards status, this is no longer the case. This is a shame, as a top up from Virgin Atlantic was an easy way of ensuring that you requalified each year. This is my story of how I got my Spire Elite card using Virgin miles (but you can’t do it any longer).
As with Hilton transfers, it can take a couple of weeks for your points to arrvive. This isn’t a solution if you need to book a room quickly.
Using Virgin Points via Kaligo.com
There is another way of using your Virgin Atlantic miles for hotel booking. Virgin Atlantic has partnered with hotel booking site Kaligo.com to let you redeem Virgin Flying Club miles for many hotels in their portfolio. You can find more details in this article.
In general, based on tests we have run in the past, Kaligo.com will get you around 0.55p per point of value. The value varies because hotels are placed into pricing bands – those near the top of their band are better value than those at the bottom.
The Kaligo.com route may get you better value than going via Hilton Honors or IHG Rewards Club. The downside is that bookings made via Kaligo.com are treated as ‘third party bookings’ so you won’t receive any status benefits from the chain you use.
(PS. For completeness, it is worth noting that there are some other Virgin Flying Club accommodation redemptions. These include Ulusaba, Richard Branson’s private game reserve, Mahali Mzuru in Kenya, Kasbah Tamadot in Morocco, The Lodge in Verbier and Mont Rochelle in South Africa.
If you have 1.5 million Virgin Points and Virgin Atlantic elite status, you can also redeem for a week on Richard Branson’s Necker Island – see here.)
How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (September 2021)
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, one has a bonus of 30,000 Points until 15th October 2021):
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 30,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 30,000 Virgin Points:
Until 2nd November 2021, there is a special offer on The Platinum Card from American Express.
You will receive a sign-up bonus of 60,000 Amex points which converts into 60,000 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.)