One of the most common questions I hear from people in this hobby surrounds the ability to convert one type of miles/points currency to another. One particularly frequent request is: “can you convert Virgin miles to Avios”? So today I am going to look at how you can and why you shouldn’t!
I suppose the reason this is such a prevalent query is many people find themselves taking the occasional Virgin flight here and there. As a result, they will likely accrue some Virgin miles. Given Virgin’s complete lack of European route network, the options for redeeming those miles, particularly if you are not planning much long-haul travel, will seem limited. Or people assume that a significant amount of miles would be needed to even think about redeeming them for reward flights.
How to convert Virgin Flying Club miles to Avios
In my guide to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles, I mentioned a unique feature, namely the ability to transfer miles at a respectable rate to a hotel loyalty program.
Flying Club miles can be converted to:
- Hilton HHonors points – at a 2:3 ratio
- IHG Rewards Club points – at a 1:1 ratio
Now, with the exception of Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) points, transferring hotel points to airline miles usually represents terrible value. You would be far better off trying to redeem them for free hotel nights.
However, if you are certain you cannot make use of them as IHG points, you can convert IHG points to Avios at 1:5 ratio.
In practice this would look as follows:
- Convert 10,000 Flying Club miles to IHG Rewards Club = 10,000 IHG points
- Convert 10,000 IHG points to Avios = 2,000 Avios
So all in all, a pretty awful return, but if Avios is your sole program and you are desperate to extract some value from your Virgin miles – I suppose it is better than allowing them to expire!
NOTE: You can only convert a minimum of 10,000 Virgin Flying Club miles and then in increments of 5,000 miles. That means this method is of no use to those hoping to find a use for small balances.
Why you shouldn’t convert your Virgin miles to Avios
I don’t recommend sending your Virgin miles to Avios via the above method for a number of reasons.
Cheap redemptions available
Following a slew of changes to the Flying Club program at the back end of 2016, many destinations now require fewer miles for a reward flight. This was largely down to the introduction of peak/off-peak pricing.
For example, the following places require just 20,000 miles one-way in Economy:
- Antigua (ANU)
- Grenada (GND)
- Havana (HAV)
- Montego Bay, Jamaica (MBJ)
- St Lucia (UVF)
- Tobago (TAB)
- Varadero (VRA)
- Washington D.C
Easy ways to top-up your balance
Another reason not to abandon token amounts of Flying Club miles is the ease in which you can boost that balance up to a substantial level.
A comprehensive list of options for collecting Flying Club miles can be found in this article here, but they include:
- Converting Tesco Clubcard points – 1 Tesco Clubcard point is worth 2.5 Flying Club miles.
- Applying for an American Express Gold or Platinum card – then converting those Membership Rewards points to Virgin miles.The sign-up bonus from the Gold card is worth 20,000 Virgin miles and the Platinum offers 30,000 miles.
- Transferring Heathrow Rewards points – These transfer at 1:1 ratio to Virgin miles
- Taking out one or both of the MBNA Virgin Atlantic credit cards – I will be taking a closer look at these cards in the coming weeks.
- Taking out a Virgin Money Stocks and Shares ISA – The offer tends to vary on this one. The current promotion is offering 8,000 Virgin miles.
Use them for hotel stays
The fact that Flying Club miles can be transferred to Hilton/IHG can be used in and of itself rather than just a conduit for converting to Avios.
10,000 IHG points is worth 2 free hotel nights using the PointBreaks deal I wrote about back in April. Surely that offers better value than 2,000 Avios!
There you have it – that is the theory. Nevertheless, given the multitude of available methods for topping up your Flying Club miles – I cannot recommend converting them to Avios in practice.
Simply taking out an American Express Gold card will be enough to bump you up to a decent balance – at no initial cost. Likewise a quick Tesco Clubcard points transfer. and this is no exception.
That said, if your miles are going to expire imminently and for whatever reason, you won’t be able to reset their expiry by topping up your account, this is a useful method to be aware of.