Is it worth redeeming your Virgin Points to pay, in full or in part, for a hotel room via Kaligo.com? Let’s take a look.
This article is Part 9 of our new ‘Virgin Redemption University’ series to run alongside our existing ‘Avios Redemption University’ – which itself will get a much-needed update next month.
If you want to earn more Virgin Points, our review of the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard credit card is here (15,000 bonus points) and our review of the free Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard credit card is here.
Here are the other 12 articles in the series:
- How does Virgin Red differ from Virgin Flying Club?
- How many Virgin Points do you need to fly to ….?
- How to redeem Virgin Points on Virgin Atlantic flights
- How to redeem Virgin Points on SkyTeam flights
- How to redeem Virgin Points on ANA and other partners
- How to upgrade your Virgin Atlantic flight with Virgin Points
- How to convert Virgin Points to Hilton or IHG hotel points
- How to use Virgin Points for a Virgin Holidays discount
- Is Virgin Atlantic’s ‘Points Plus Money’ feature a good deal?
- What’s the best non-flying use of Virgin Points?
- What is the cheapest way to top up your Virgin Points?
- Get cheaper Virgin redemptions with a credit card voucher
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.
You should read this article alongside the one we published yesterday on how to redeem Virgin Points for a discount on Virgin Atlantic Holidays and the earlier one on how to transfer Virgin Points to Hilton Honors or IHG One Rewards points.
Redeeming miles for hotels rooms is never a great idea, irrespective of airline
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 (literally) pointless. You’d be 15% better off turning your Avios into Nectar points and getting 0.66p per Avios, whilst booking your hotel direct for cash and qualifying for hotel points and status benefits.
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 465,000 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 post pandemic – 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, and because there is a price cap in place (somewhere just below £200 for ‘Luxury’) many top and indeed middle range hotels won’t show at all.
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 that was emailed to you
Because Kaligo.com has grouped its hotels into just three pricing bands, it is difficult to put a firm value on what you get. It seems to average just under 0.4p per Virgin Point based on my admittedly small sample.
0.4p is VERY poor. More importantly, it is substantially worse than I found when I wrote about this deal in previous years, implying that a quiet devaluation has taken place.
It is worse than anything you can redeem via the Virgin Red app, which tends to get you exactly 0.5p for whatever item you buy.
0.4p is also far worse than the 0.55p you get if you redeem your points for a Virgin Atlantic Holidays discount or a Virgin Atlantic cash flight discount.
Let’s look at some pricing examples
Here are some random hotels I picked in London for Saturday 9th September.
The price comparison comes from the hotel’s own website. This is more accurate than using Kaligo’s own cash price because it includes ‘member discounts’ that the big chains tend to offer for direct bookings.
- Hilton London Kensington – 40,000 points – £165 – 0.41p per point
- Hampton by Hilton London Docklands – 40,000 points – £163 – 0.41p per point
- Eurotraveller Hotel Express – 30,000 points – £99 – 0.33p per point
- Holiday Inn Express Limehouse – 40,000 points – £154 – 0.39p per point
- ibis Budget London Whitechapel – 30,000 points – £108 – 0.36p per point
There are NO hotels in London for 9th September which fall into the 20,000 points ‘Standard’ category. The definition of ‘Luxury’ at 40,000 points is being heavily stretched if you look at the examples above.
It’s actually worse than 0.4p per Virgin Point
For a branded hotel, booking via Kaligo.com means that you won’t earn any hotel loyalty points from your stay, and you won’t receive any elite status benefits you would otherwise be due.
Even if you are booking an independent hotel, you could have booked via Hotels.com for cash and get 10% of your ex-VAT cost back in Hotels.com Rewards credit – at least until the scheme is restructured later in the year.
This means that the real value you are getting is even lower than our average of 0.4p per Virgin Point.
You can convert Virgin Points directly into IHG One Rewards and Hilton Honors points
In general, you would get similar or better value by converting your Virgin Points to IHG One 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 should get 0.4p – 0.5p per Virgin Point via that route. I value an IHG One Rewards point at 0.4p and a Hilton Honors 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.
The Kaligo.com / Virgin Points partnership seems to have substantially devalued over the last couple of years.
There is no easy way to justify using it if you are getting 0.4p per Virgin Point or less. Even if you don’t have enough Virgin Points for a premium flight redemption – which is where the real value is – you’ll get 0.5p per point via a Virgin Red redemption. One easy spend option is Virgin Trains Ticketing which gives you 0.5p per point off any booking.
It is certainly not worth converting Tesco Clubcard vouchers to Virgin Points purely to redeem them this way. 1p of Tesco Clubcard points gets you 2 Virgin Points which would only get you around 0.8p of hotel room. It is far better to use your Clubcard points for Hotels.com credit at a 1:2 ratio, so every 1p of Clubcard points gets you 2p 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. Even using your Amex points for statement credit (0.45p per point) would be a better deal than Kaligo.com hotel bookings.
How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (September 2023)
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):
SPECIAL OFFER: The sign-up bonus on the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard is doubled to 30,000 Virgin Points if you apply by 2nd October. You receive 15,000 Virgin Points with your first purchase and a further 15,000 points if you spend £3,000 within 90 days. Apply here.
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.
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.)