How Can I Redeem Miles if I Don't Have Enough for a Flight?
TPG reader Rashmi sent me an email to ask about what to do with small point balances:
“I have some leftover Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles. Are there any redemption options that are under the 10,000-mile minimum for transfers to Hilton, or should I just let them go?”
Travel rewards come and go in odd numbers, so it's not easy to get your loyalty account balance to a neat zero. You'll usually have some points or miles leftover, and since letting them expire is a mistake, it's important to know what options you have for redeeming small amounts.
Virgin Atlantic lets you transfer miles to Hilton HHonors at a rate of 2:3, but as Rashmi pointed out, you have to transfer a minimum of 10,000 miles. You can also redeem for flights on a number of airline partners, including Virgin America, Singapore Airlines and more, though you won't get far (if anywhere) with a small balance.
You can also take advantage of the Miles Plus Money rate and redeem 3,000 miles for a $45 discount on round-trip economy fares or 7,500 miles for a $120 discount on round-trip premium economy fares. Or you can donate as few as 1,000 miles to Virgin Atlantic's charity partner, Free The Children.
If you want to get good value out of those miles, then instead of looking for ways to burn them up, you should figure out how to get more of them. Fortunately, there are several easy options. Virgin Atlantic is one of only two airlines that partners with all four of the major transferable points programs: Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest. You can use those points to boost your Flying Club balance and then redeem as you see fit.
You could just send your miles to Hilton and be done with it, though I don't think that's a good trade. I list Flying Club miles at 1.5 cents apiece in my latest monthly valuations, while HHonors points are just 0.5 cents apiece. That means you're giving up 50% of the total value by converting. I'd look for opportunities to redeem on Virgin America, as the shorter flights are a bargain at 10,000 miles round-trip and you won't have to pay any surcharges.
For more ideas, check out these posts:
- How to Use Virgin Atlantic Miles Without Fuel Surcharges
- What to Do with Small Points and Miles Balances
- How Do I Redeem Leftover Rewards from a Foreign Airline?
If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at email@example.com.