Friday, 4 December 2015

USING VIRGIN MILES FOR HOTELS, AND WHY YOU MOSTLY SHOULDN'T



I recently noticed that Virgin has a new partnership with Kaligo.com. In common with similar partnerships with other airlines, you can earn Virgin miles when you do hotel bookings with Kaligo.

However, what came as a surprise to me, is that you can also make Kaligo bookings, and use Virgin miles to pay for them. Now the best use of any airline miles is generally to use them to book air travel, and Virgin is no different. But if you are points rich and cash poor, or you have no air travel in the foreseeable future, you might consider using them for a hotel night.

Given that you can convert Virgin miles into Hilton (2 miles = 3 Hilton points), and also convert into IHG points (1 mile = 1 point), I decided to see if it was better not to convert your miles, but rather use them to book with Kaligo.

The system is a big "clunky". There are three redemption categories, STANDARD, PREMIUM and LUXURY nights, costing 20K, 30K and 40K Virgin miles respectively. You phone the Virgin flying club hotline, tell them how many nights of which type you want, and they email you a series of voucher codes, one for each night, that you can use at http://www.kaligo.com/flyingclub-spend to book hotel nights.

Having done some playing with the system, you should pay no heed to the names. They appear to map into rooms that cost around £100, upto £150  and upto £200 a night respectively. I didn't find any hotels that one could even loosely consider as luxury. I also found no hotels offered that would otherwise cost more that £200 or so a night.

A test night on the 14 of April @ the Hilton London Kensington worked out as follows:-

Kaligo using Virgin Miles, 40K miles required
Hilton using Hilton points, 50K points

Remembering that you can convert Virgin miles to Hilton, @ a rate of 2 miles to 3 Hilton, 40K Virgin miles would get you 60K Hilton points. So you could booking the night using Hilton points AND still have 10K Hilton points left over. KALIGO FAIL

The same hotel on the 24th of Sept working out as:-

Kaligo using Virgin Miles, 30K miles required
Hilton using points, 50K points. 

This is notionally a KALIGO WIN, as 30K miles would only convert into 45K Hilton points, and you need 50K Hilton points to book the night. However you need to remember that if you book using Hilton points, you can cancel at any time, whereas the Kaligo booking is non-refundable. 

I tested several other nights, I tested some IHG hotels, and some USA bookings. In all tests I concluded that I'd be better off converting the miles to IHG or HH and booking using the hotel chain, than using the Virgin Miles directly with Kaligo. I'm guessing there might be some exceptions that would work marginal in favour of the Kaligo booking, but my personal testing has left me concluding that it's not the optimum way of using Virgin miles to book hotels.

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