In my guide to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles, I mentioned a fairly unique feature; namely the ability to transfer them at a respectable rate to two hotel loyalty programs: Hilton Honors and IHG Rewards Club.
Hilton Honors is the loyalty program for Hilton Hotels and Resorts which includes Hilton, DoubleTree, Conrad and Waldorf-Astoria properties. IHG Rewards Club is utilised by the IHG chain which incorporates Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza and InterContinental hotels among others.
While you can transfer many types of hotel points to airline miles (albeit at generally awful rates), transfers from airline miles to hotel points are far more unusual.
Why would you want to trade-in your Virgin miles?
There are several scenarios whereby I can envisage people looking to exchange their miles for Hilton/IHG points:
(Small) Hilton/IHG top-up required
You might be planning some hotel night redemptions but are just short of the points required. Topping up via Virgin may make sense, although bear in mind that transfers are not particularly quick – more on that in a moment.
Earn top-tier IHG Spire Elite status
This an interesting quirk and one that may offer the most compelling reason to turn your miles into hotel points – specifically IHG. In the last few years, IHG has become far more stringent about which points-earning activities earn the ‘Elite Qualifying points’ needed to move up the tiers in their program.
However, miles transfers from Virgin DO count towards status.
That makes this is a useful way of manufacturing top-tier ‘Spire Elite’ status for example. That requires 75,000 base points in a year. Upon qualifying, you can select from a choice of rewards, one of which is 25,000 bonus points.
Should you choose/need to transfer across the full 75,000, you would receive 100,000 IHG points – not the worst return but you’ll need to consider whether you could have better utilised those 75,000 miles via redemption flights on Virgin Atlantic.
Lack of European route network
For me, this is where Virgin really falls short. It isn’t a question of expensive redemptions being out of reach for casual miles collectors – remember a one-way economy flight to New York can be had for just 10,000 miles.
But if you aren’t planning/able to travel long-haul in the short to medium term, the inability to use your Virgin miles to fly to nearby European destinations is a turn-off for many.
That should be rectified once the Air France/KLM partnership is up and running. You’ll then be able to use Virgin miles across their substantial European short-haul network.
Imminently expiring miles
You find yourself with a smallish balance of Virgin miles that are due to expire. If for some bizarre reason you can’t utilise one of the many ways of resetting their expiry date that I listed here, this may be a half decent way of ‘cashing them out’.
What sort of return can you get by converting your Virgin miles?
Flying Club members are able to exchange miles at the following rate:
2 Flying Club miles for 3 Hilton Honors points
Minimum Level: 10,000 miles and then in increments of 10,000.
IHG Rewards Club
Flying Club members can exchange their miles for IHG® Rewards Club points at a rate of:
1 Flying Club mile for 1 IHG® Rewards Club point
Minimum Level: 10,000 miles and then in increments of 5,000.
How to make a transfer
Annoyingly, the only way to initiate a transfer to either IHG or Hilton is by ringing the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club helpline.
You can find a list of call centres here.
Both the Hilton/IHG partner pages also state:
Your name on your Flying Club membership account must match exactly with the name on your IHG® Rewards Club account/Hilton Honors accounts for a successful transfer. Your transfer will take up to 30 days and a booking cannot be made until the transfer is complete.
Anecdotal evidence from members who have converted their miles via this option in the past suggest the fulfilment process is rather clunky and transfers appear to take some time before arriving at Hilton/IHG accounts.
This is a useful option to keep up your sleeve.
The benefits of IHG’s top-tier Spire Elite status are definitely not as comprehensive as some other chains, but if you find yourself in a situation where it would be helpful to have it, this back-door route is probably the easiest way to earn it.
The dedicated Hilton offer page on the Virgin website can be found here.
The IHG Rewards Club page can be found here.