What are the alternatives to buying Virgin Atlantic miles?
With a reasonable business class product and an economy offering which is head and shoulders above British Airways, Virgin Atlantic is a popular choice for people redeeming air miles. But what if you’re hoping to redeem a once in a lifetime Upper Class and you find you’re a few Virgin Flying Club miles short? Should you buy Virgin miles or are there better options available?
Within this review we’re going to take a detailed look at both buying Virgin Atlantic miles and the various other methods of earning Virgin Flying Club miles which you may not have considered.
Through your Virgin Flying Club account you’re able to purchase up to 100,000 miles each year! That’s an insane amount and would be enough for a return flight between London and New York. Those 100,000 Virgin Flying Club points would however set you back £1,515 so let’s see if this would ever be worth it?
How much to buy Virgin Atlantic miles?
The easiest way to buy Virgin miles is directly through your Virgin Flying Club account – find the Virgin Atlantic buy miles website page here.
You’re able to buy Virgin Atlantic miles in increments of 1,000. A key point to note about purchasing Virgin Atlantic miles is that there is an admin fee of £15 on every order.
This has the effect of increasing the cost of redeeming a low number of miles by a disproportional amount as we can see below:
|Miles||Cost||Cost per Mile|
As you can see from the above, to buy Virgin miles through the Virgin website you’ll be paying between 1.52p and 3p per point.
Is buying Virgin miles a good idea?
No, not really. If you’re a few miles short of a redemption then buying miles may be an easy way to collect those remaining points. But to purchase 50,000 Flying Club points at 1.53p to redeem against a flight with Virgin Atlantic rarely makes sense. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples…
Example One – Economy Redemption: Let’s assume you’re planning on heading to the Caribbean this time next year. A return flight using points would require 20,000 points at a cost of £315 and £329.56 in taxes, totalling £644.56. The same flight would only cost £533.36 if you purchased a return ticket with cash.
Example Two – Premium Economy Redemption: For the same flight from London to St Lucia in premium, you would need 35,000 points at a cost of £540 and a further £443.56 in taxes, totalling £983.56. The same flight could be purchased for £971.56 with cash.
Example Three – Upper Class Redemption: The final example assumes a redemption in Upper Class. A return flight would require 115,000 points. Let’s assume you broke this down over two years purchasing half of the required points each year. This would cost a staggering £1,755 excluding taxes! With taxes of £1,059.21 included, your total cost would be £2,814.21. So how does this compare to a cash price? Drum roll please… Purchasing a cash ticket would actually cost £3,425.12 and as such in this instance you’d actually be able to save £610.91!
As we can see from the above, it rarely makes sense to buy Virgin miles to redeem flights. The only instances when this may make sense is when travelling in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class where there are possible arbitrage opportunities…
Options for quick Virgin Atlantic miles?
For those of you who’d rather not buy Virgin Atlantic miles there are a number of ways to top up your account at relatively short notice.
Amex Rewards points – If your rewards account is linked to Virgin Atlantic you can transfer American Express Rewards points instantaneously. One of the easiest methods of earning Amex Rewards points is through the (free for the first year) American Express Gold Card. The card offers a very generous sign-up bonus of 20,000 points when you spend £2,000 on the card in the first 3 months. These can be transferred to Virgin Atlantic at a rate of 1:1. If you were to purchase 20,000 through the Virgin Atlantic website it would cost £315! Not a bad perk for a free credit card. You can increase the sign-up bonus by using this referral link.
Transferring Tesco Clubcard Points – Whilst it takes up to 48 hours, it’s possible to use Clubcard points to purchase Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles. For every £2.50 of Clubcard points you’ll receive 625 Virgin miles.
Using the portal Shops Away site – With the Virgin Atlantic Shops Away site (found here) you can earn up to 13 miles for every £1 spent with online retailers. Fantastic if you’re about to drop a few hundred on flowers at Interflora, which is currently offering 13 miles per £1. Ok, a couple of hundred pounds on flowers is excessive but every little helps and even if you were to spend £10 with Interflora the 130 Virgin Flying Club points would soon add up! See possible options below:
The not so quick but lucrative option
Flying with Virgin – When flying with Virgin Atlantic you’ll of course earn Flying Club points. This will vary depending on your cabin, ticket type and the number of miles you’ve flown. Rewards range from 50% to 400% of the miles flown so make sure you always add your Flying Club account number to all bookings!
Partner Airlines – Did you know that you can avoid having to buy Virgin miles by crediting air miles earned when flying with 10 partner airlines to Virgin Atlantic? These include Delta, Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand, Virgin Australia (a separate company), South African Airways, ANA, Jet Airways, Air China, Hawaiian Airlines and SAS.
Let’s wrap this up
We’ve seen that buying Virgin miles should in the vast majority of occasions be a last resort. Yes, if you’re only a few thousand miles off being able to redeem the Upper Class ticket of a lifetime then the £30 for 1,000 points may be worth it.
However you shouldn’t just buy Virgin miles to use instead of cash UNLESS there is an awesome arbitrage opportunity available. Even then the risks of the reward tickets being purchased by someone else and leaving you with 100,000 Flying Club points could offset the saving.
For long-term Virgin Flying Club opportunities, the sign-up bonus of 20,000 points offered with the Amex Gold Card (reviewed here) is market leading and also benefits from a reasonable ongoing spend bonus of 1 point for every £1 spent. You can increase the sign-up bonus to 22,000 points by using this referral link.
Don’t forget you can also credit miles earned on partner airlines to the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. Should you have taken a flight with one of the airlines we previously mentioned in the last 6 months you should be able to retrospectively claim the points.
As always we hope you’ve found this helpful and please do reach out with any comments.