Virgin Flying Club has a partnership with hotel booking site Kaligo.com / Ascenda to offer an alternative way of redeeming Virgin Points. You can use them to pay for rooms at hundreds of thousands of hotels globally.
This is a companion article to the one we published last week on how to redeem Virgin Flying Club points for a discount on Virgin Atlantic Holidays.
For clarity, you will almost always get the best value from airline miles by redeeming them for flights and not other products. Any redemption which involves the airline writing a cheque to someone else to provide you with your reward is never going to end well.
British Airways allows you to redeem Avios for hotel rooms via this special ba.com page. You get around 0.57p per Avios if you do this, which means it is pointless. You’d be 40% better off turning your Avios into Nectar points and getting 0.8p per Avios.
Today I want to see what sort of value Virgin Atlantic offers if you use Virgin Points for hotel rooms.
How do you book hotel rooms with Virgin Points?
If you have ever tried to book a hotel using Avios, you will know that the booking site is very clunky and has little information on the featured hotels.
Virgin’s booking site is much more user friendly as you would expect from a Kaligo.com partnership. British Airways uses a different hotel provider (Expedia) to Virgin Atlantic (Kaligo.com / Ascenda) so you should compare both sites if you are thinking of using your miles for a bed.
How does it work?
Kaligo.com has placed its 550,000 hotels into three categories:
‘Standard’ – 20,000 Virgin Points per night
‘Premium’ – 30,000 Virgin Points per night
‘Luxury’ – 40,000 Virgin Points per night
As we will see, the recent sharp rises in hotel cash pricing – which impacts the number of Virgin Points needed – mean that these labels probably need to change. Plenty of hotels in the ‘Luxury’ bracket are nothing of the sort.
Booking is a little fiddly:
Step 1 is to check availability and pricing via the Kaligo.com / Virgin Atlantic booking page
Step 2 is to telephone Flying Club and redeem your points for a voucher code
Step 3 is to repeat the booking process, this time continuing to the end by inputting the code given to you by the call centre
Because Kaligo.com has grouped its hotels into just three pricing bands, it is difficult to put a firm value on the value you are getting. It seems to average around 0.6p per Virgin Point.
This is a better deal than the standard Virgin Atlantic ‘non-flight’ redemptions which work out at 0.4p (eg 12,500 points for a £50 Virgin Voucher or Theatre Token) or anything you redeem via the Virgin Red app, which tends to get you 0.5p.
0.6p is theoretically better than 0.55p you get if you redeem your points for a Virgin Atlantic Holidays discount as we saw in our article last week, but I explain later why this may not be true.
Here are some random hotels I picked in London for Saturday 14th May. The price comparison comes from Expedia.
Hilton London Olympia – 20,000 points – £167 – 0.83p per point
Hotel Indigo London Paddington – 40,000 points – £260 – 0.65p per point
Holiday Inn Express Stratford – 30,000 points – £180 – 0.60p per point
Ibis London Blackfriars – 30,000 points – £171 – 0.57p per point
OYO Boston Court Hotel – 20,000 points – £122 – 0.61p per point
Hilton London Metropole – 40,000 points – £188 – 0.47p per point
As you can see, the results average around 0.62p per Virgin Point. The range is quite wide, however – far wider than I have seen it in the past when I have run this experiment. I would put that down to coronavirus and hotels being more fluid with their pricing via the different channels.
There is a big problem now with this booking site. Because Virgin is determined to keep its costs at around 0.6p per point, hotels costing more than around £240 per night have been pulled. This means that you will struggle to find much of quality in Central London or other expensive cities, and you end up in the weird position of the Hampton by Hilton London Waterloo being categorised as ‘Luxury’.
Two caveats …..
You may want to treat the numbers above with a small pinch of salt.
The first caveat is that my tests exclude any ‘member only’ rates that the hotels may offer on their own sites, so my ‘pence per point’ figure may be inflated.
The second caveat is that, for a branded hotel, you won’t earn any points from your stay. At the very worst you could book via Hotels.com and get 10% of your ex-VAT cost back in Hotels.com Rewards credit.
Given these two factors, it is NOT fair to say that getting 0.6p per Virgin Point for a hotel booking is ‘better’ than getting 0.55p from a Virgin Holidays booking. In reality the results are closer than they look.
You can convert Virgin Points directly into IHG and Hilton points
In general, you are getting better value than converting your Virgin Points to IHG Rewards points (at a 1:1 ratio) or to Hilton Honors (at a 2:3 ratio). Click through to see the details of those deals.
You get around 0.45p – 0.5p per point via that route. I value an IHG Rewards point at 0.4p and a Hilton point at 0.33p (so 0.5p per point at 2:3). You are restricted by what availability is offered for reward nights but both chains are generally good. Note that these points transfers do NOT count towards elite status with IHG or Hilton.
One factor to consider is that you will NOT receive any status benefits on hotel stays booked via the Kaligo.com / Virgin Atlantic portal. You would receive status benefits on IHG Rewards and Hilton Honors redemptions.
Whether using your Virgin Points for a hotel room via Kaligo.com is a good deal is a personal decision. You should get better value – as always – by using your miles for a flight although premium cabin availability with Virgin Atlantic is currently poor.
It is certainly not worth converting Tesco Clubcard vouchers to Virgin Flying Club points purely to redeem them this way. 1p of Tesco Clubcard points gets you 2.5 Virgin Points which would only get you around 1.5p of hotel room. It is far better to use your Clubcard points for Hotels.com credit at a 1:3 ratio, so every 1p of Clubcard points gets you 3p of Hotels.com voucher.
Similarly, you should not transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Virgin Points to use them for a hotel. You get better converting converting directly into hotel programmes, eg 2:3 into Marriott Bonvoy, 1:3 into Radisson Rewards and 1:2 into Hilton Honors.
On the other hand, if you got your miles via a credit card sign-up bonus or from taking Virgin Atlantic flights, you may be happy to settle for a lower return. Kaligo.com seems to offer better value than the other ‘non flight’ redemptions offered by Virgin Flying Club.
How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (August 2022)
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, the Reward+ card has a bonus of 15,000 Virgin Points):
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 20,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 20,000 Virgin Points.
The Platinum Card from American Express comes with 30,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 30,000 Virgin Points.
EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.
Small business owners should consider the two American Express Business cards. Points convert at 1:1 into 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.)