What is the cheapest way to top up your Virgin Points before redeeming?
This article is Part 12 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.
We have spent the last 11 articles in this series looking at the best way to spend your Virgin Points, but what happens if you are a few thousand points short of what you need?
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
- How to redeem Virgin Points for hotel rooms via Kaligo
- Is Virgin Atlantic’s ‘Points Plus Money’ feature a good deal?
- What’s the best non-flying use of Virgin Points?
- Get cheaper Virgin redemptions with a credit card voucher
It is inevitable that, at some point, you will be a few thousand Virgin Points short of what you need to make a redemption booking.
The obvious thing to do is to go to Virgin Atlantic and buy Virgin Points via the website here. However, you may be missing out on some clever tricks which can reduce the cost of buying points sharply.
What are the options if you do need more Virgin Points?
Here are eight potential methods of getting more Virgin Points:
1. Buying Virgin Points via Virgin Atlantic
The first option is to buy Virgin Points directly. This can be done on the Virgin Atlantic website here.
This is not good value unless there is a promotion running. At standard rates, the price is 1.5p per point. You can buy Virgin Points in increments of 1,000.
All transactions include a £15 transaction fee which means that smaller points purchases are disproportionately worse value. You pay £30 for 1,000 points (the minimum number) which works out at 3p per point.
For 100,000 points, the maximum you can purchase in a calendar year, you’ll pay £1,515, which works out just a hair above 1.5p per point.
That said, Virgin Atlantic does occasionally offer bonuses. The deal that just ended offered a bonus of up to 60% which meant you could pay as little as 0.94p. Some promotions often also increase the maximum pre-bonus purchase to 200,000 Virgin Points. We always cover these offers on Head for Points when they are running.
You can also transfer points from a friend
Virgin Atlantic also allows members to transfer points between each other. The page to do that is here.
It is NOT good value. In fact, it is arguably a bit of a con. You pay £7.50 per 1,000 points even though no new points are being created. Virgin Atlantic pockets your money for doing absolutely nothing except moving a balance from Person A to Person B. British Airways, to its credit, has now capped transfer fees at £15, which is still £15 of pure profit.
2. Using Virgin Atlantic’s Points Booster
Virgin Atlantic lets you boost your earned points on a future or recent travel booking under a scheme called ‘Points Booster.’
By paying a fee, you can choose to double or triple the base points you would normally earn on a Virgin Atlantic flight.
This is cheaper than buying points directly. You pay 1p per point.
You can only boost your points as a multiple of the miles flown. For example, London to New York is 3,458 miles in each direction, so you would normally earn 6,916 points for a return trip. Your Points Boost options include:
- Double points, by paying £69.16 for another 6916 points, taking you to 13,832 points in total for the trip
- Triple points, by paying £138.32 for 13,832 points, taking you to 20,748 points in total for the trip
Points Booster only works for Virgin Atlantic flights. It doesn’t apply if you are flying on a Virgin Atlantic flight that you’ve booked via a partner (ie. Delta).
Points Booster only lets you buy double or triple the base flown points from a flight. It does not apply to any additional miles earned by ticket class or Flying Club tier. That means the Points Boost you can get is the same regardless of whether you are flying in Economy or Upper Class.
You can purchase your Points Booster from the date of booking right up to when you fly, and up to six months after. To retrospectively boost points you’ll need to contact the call centre.
Here’s an extra bonus – Points Booster works on reward flights too. It’s a way of replenishing your balance after making a redemption at a decent price.
3. Transferring Tesco Clubcard points to Virgin Flying Club
Whilst Tesco Clubcard and Avios have parted ways, Virgin Flying Club still remains a transfer partner.
The Tesco Clubcard scheme is less lucrative than it has been in the past, but it still offers a way to accumulate Virgin Points.
1 Tesco Clubcard point converts to 2 Virgin Points. In other words, 1,000 Clubcard points are worth 2,000 Virgin Points.
Even better, Virgin Atlantic offers regular auto-conversion bonuses if you agree to have all of your future Clubcard points sent across to Virgin automatically. The highest bonus we’ve seen so far is an additional 2,500 Virgin Point bonus for turning on auto-conversion.
4. Transfer American Express Membership Rewards points
If you have an American Express card which issues Membership Rewards points, you’re in luck.
Not only do Membership Rewards points transfer INSTANTLY into Virgin Points, but the transfer rate is a strong 1:1.
This is a far more valuable redemption that, say, using your Membership Rewards points for shopping vouchers (0.5p per point) or statement credit (0.45p per point).
Note that first time transfers can take a couple of hours due to security checks. If you think you may need an instant transfer at any point, you should link your accounts now via the Membership Rewards website so the relevant checks are already done.
Note that Virgin Atlantic is not one of the 10 airline transfer partners of the HSBC Premier credit cards.
5. Buying American Express Membership Rewards points
Whilst this is not described anywhere on the Amex website, you can buy up to 10,000 Membership Rewards points per year for 1.5p each. These can be transferred across to Avios at 1:1 so you effectively buy Virgin Points for 1.5p each.
For relatively modest quantities, this is a cheaper option than buying directly. The only downside is that it will take 24 hours for American Express to transfer the points across to Virgin Atlantic.
To make a purchase, you need to ring Amex. It may take a while for the agent to work out how to do it as few people ever do this.
This feature will be removed on 1st October 2023.
6. Take out a credit card for a sign-up bonus
There are a number of credit cards which offer attractive sign-up bonuses which convert into Virgin Points. Depending on how quickly you can achieve the spend target required to trigger the bonus, you could earn a substantial number of points very quickly.
In terms of getting a points bonus quickly, the three best options are:
Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard (review here, apply here)
- Fee: £160
- Bonus: 15,000 Virgin Points
- Spend required to trigger bonus: Make a purchase of any size
- When is bonus received? Transfers at end of statement month
The representative APR is 69.7% variable, including the annual fee. The representative APR on purchases is 26.9% variable.
The Platinum Card from American Express (review here, apply here)
- Fee: £575
- Bonus: 30,000 American Express Membership Rewards points (convert 1:1 into Virgin Points)
- Spend required to trigger bonus: £4,000 within three months
- When is bonus received? Available to transfer as soon as spend target hit
The representative APR is 704.6% variable, including the annual fee. The representative APR on purchases is 31.0% variable.
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold (review here, apply here)
- Fee: free for the first year
- Bonus: 20,000 American Express Membership Rewards points (convert 1:1 into Virgin Points)
- Spend required to trigger bonus: £3,000 within three months
- When is bonus received? Available to transfer as soon as spend target hit
The representative APR is 88.8% variable, including the annual fee. The representative APR on purchases, and in the first year which has no fee, is 31.0% variable.
If you have any sort of small business or self-employment income, take a look here for details of the two American Express Business cards.
7. Transferring hotel points to Virgin Points, potentially after topping up
Many hotel schemes let you buy their points and convert them to Virgin Points.
However, at full price, neither World of Hyatt, Hilton Honors, Marriott Bonvoy, or IHG One Rewards points are cheap enough to be worth considering. Links to the ‘buy points’ pages of most airline and hotel schemes are here.
If you have an existing balance, it is a different story. The transfer rates are:
- IHG: 10,000 points transfer to 2,000 Virgin Points
- Hilton: 10,000 points transfer to 1,500 Virgin Points
- Hyatt: 5,000 points transfer to 3,000 Virgin Points
- Marriott: 9,000 points transfer to 3,000 Virgin Points, with a 25% bonus if you convert 60,000 points at once
You can get regular bonuses for buying hotel points. We always cover these deals when they are running.
The only ‘hotel to airline’ transfer that offers value is from Marriott Bonvoy – the maths is here. By this, I mean that the value of the free hotel stay you are sacrificing is close to the value of the airline miles you gain. 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points (which we value at £300) will transfer into 25,000 Virgin Points (which we value at £250).
During a 50% bonus offer (the current offer is 30%-40%), 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points would cost $500 (£400). As this would get you 25,000 Virgin Points, you are paying 1.6p per Virgin Point – not good value. It only makes sense if you have an existing Marriott Bonvoy balance and are topping it up to 60,000 points before a transfer to Virgin Points.
Note that transfers from hotel programmes can often take 2-3 weeks to complete so this is not an option if you need Virgin Points quickly.
8. Transfer Heathrow Rewards points to Virgin Flying Club
Whilst you’re unlikely to have a large Heathrow Rewards balance, for completeness it is worth mentioning that you can transfer them at 1:1 into Virgin Points, in chunks of 250 points.
What about Household Accounts?
It is worth a quick mention about Household Accounts, since you may well have one in British Airways Executive Club and use it to pool Avios between family members.
Historically, Virgin Flying Club only allowed Gold members to form a Household Account. Last year it announced that this flexibility would be extended to all members. However, it is not yet live and – worse – the airline has even stopped Gold members forming a Household Account.
We’ll let you know when this functionality is finally up and running. There are signs that it may only allow you to pool FUTURE points and not existing balances, but this is not confirmed.
There is a Plan B to household accounts ….
Whilst household accounts are not possible, the Virgin Atlantic call centre IS able to mix points from two Flying Club accounts on the same booking.
The only condition is that points must be combined in multiples of one flight leg. In plain English, this means that if you want to book return flights for two people costing 200,000 Virgin Points in total, you can only move exactly 50,000 or 100,000 or 150,000 points from the other account. This is because each individual flight costs 50,000 points one-way.
If you find yourself needing a Virgin Points boost, it is best to plan ahead. The cheapest route will be a credit card sign-up bonus or transferring some hotel points, but neither of these options can be done overnight.
If you suddenly find yourself needing a top-up within 24 hours – and you don’t have any American Express Membership Rewards points to transfer – then you will be stuck paying the artificially high price to buy points directly from the airine.
How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (December 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):
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.
SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive 30,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 30,000 Avios) with American Express Preferred Rewards Gold. You receive 25,000 points if you spend £3,000 in three months and a further 5,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.
The Platinum Card from American Express comes with 30,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 30,000 Virgin Points.
SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive a huge 100,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 100,000 Avios) with The Platinum Card. You receive 75,000 points if you spend £10,000 in six months and a further 25,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.
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.)