Should you spend your airline miles and points on hotel stays this summer?

Jul 12, 2020

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Aircraft are grounded, routes are suspended, catering has been downgraded and lounges have been closed.

Even if you are able to fly this summer, the experience is going to be very different — especially in premium classes. While we usually love spending our points and miles on premium cabin flights to exotic destinations, it doesn’t make as much sense to do so for travel right now as it did in the past.

Related: Why I’m holding off spending my miles until 2021

If you have a transferable points currency like American Express Membership Rewards, you can keep your points in your Membership Rewards account until you decide what you would like to do with them. That sort of flexibility in such uncertain times is one of the reasons they are so valuable.

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But perhaps you either earned points or miles directly in an airline programme like British Airways Executive Club or Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (with an airline cobranded credit card, through flying or perhaps through a shopping portal) or have already transferred your Membership Rewards to a programme like this.  Additionally, if you’ve cancelled redemption bookings, you might be sitting on a big balance of airline points and miles and aren’t planning to use them for a big flight redemption anytime soon.

It’s worth knowing there are other options, such as redeeming them for a hotel stay. Let’s look at how it works and how to tell if it’s a good deal.

Related: How to use your points and miles for a UK beach staycation

Brighton sea front, Sussex, England
Brighton seafront, Sussex, England. Photo by Gettys Images

British Airways Avios

While you can’t convert your Avios to become hotel points (though you can convert hotel points to become Avios), you can spend Avios on hotel stays by redeeming them through the Avios hotel platform.

For example, let’s pick a hotel in Brighton for a weekend trip next month. You can use your Avios to book the cheapest room at the Hilton Metropole Brighton for 17,125 Avios per night for that weekend.

Comparing this to a cash booking on the hotel’s own website, it is charging £88 per night for the same room — an absolute bargain for Brighton in August.

If you chose to use your Avios to book this room, you would only receive around 0.5p value per Avios (as you’d be using 17,125 to save £88 pounds). We value Avios at just over double this amount, so unless you never plan to go on a plane again, this is not a great use of Avios.

If you’re not comfortable at the thought of long-haul flying anytime soon but still keen for a summer holiday somewhere abroad, you should be able to obtain 1p value per Avios using BA’s handy Reward Flight Saver flight redemptions that start from just 4,000 Avios each to Europe.

Related: 7 traditional ‘bucket and spade’ British seaside resorts

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

You can redeem Flying Club miles towards payment of Virgin Holidays purchases, which can include flights, hotels, car hires or packages — or all of these. Virgin uses a simple £18 discount per 3,000 Flying Club miles discount. This gives you a flat 0.6p per mile. While this is slightly more value than the hotel example booked with Avios above, Flying Club miles are worth slightly more than Avios, so again, this would only be a wise redemption if you did not plan to ever board a plane again.

This is a personal risk assessment, but if you are concerned about the safety of your Flying Club miles because of the financial pressures Virgin Atlantic has been experiencing, using your miles for a hotel booking — even if not amazing value — would at least ensure you could use your miles for something of value.

Related: Why the UK skies need competition: The case for Virgin Atlantic

Unlike Avios, you also have the option of converting your Flying Club miles to become either Hilton Honors points or IHG Rewards Club points at the following conversion rates:

  • 1 Flying Club mile would become 1.5 Hilton Honors points; or
  • 1 Flying Club mile would become 1 IHG Rewards Club point.

For the Hilton transfer option, let’s go back and have a look at that Brighton hotel example above.

You’ll need 27,000 Hilton Honors to book the cheapest room. You could convert 18,000 Flying Club miles for a night there but remember the cash rate was only £88, so you’re getting less than 0.5p value per Flying Club mile. You would be better using the Virgin Holidays 3,000 miles per £18 discount method instead. Remember all these options are far less value than you can expect from redeeming for flights when and if you feel comfortable flying again.

Related: The ultimate guide to visiting Brighton

You’ll get terrible value for converting Flying Club miles to IHG points — we don’t recommend it. We value Flying Club miles at three times the value of IHG points (1.2p vs 0.4p), so this is a terrible deal. You would obtain better value using your Flying Club miles to book an IHG property through Virgin Holidays where you would at least earn 0.6p of fixed value from your Flying Club miles.

The Grand Hotel at Brighton
The Grand Hotel at Brighton. Photo by Gettys Images

American Express Membership Rewards

Remember, you can also convert your Membership Rewards points to the certain hotel points at the following rates:

  • Hilton Honors: 1:2
  • Marriott Bonvoy: 2:3
  • Radisson Rewards: 1:3

Related: An introduction to the Radisson Rewards hotel programme

While you always have this option available, unless you are absolutely desperate to book a hotel stay, I would leave your Membership Rewards points exactly where they are given there’s so much uncertainty right now. You have the safety of having many transfer options when you do actually want to use them rather than potentially getting them stuck in an airline or hotel loyalty account and not being able to use them.

Bottom line

There’s no perfect way to use your points or miles. We are here to always help you maximise your travel and obtain what we believe is a good value for your loyalty, but ultimately, whatever you are comfortable with is a good use.

If you want to use up some airline miles and are convinced you won’t be setting foot on a plane anytime soon, you can obtain some value by using them for hotel stays. Always check against the cash price of the same hotel, as there are already some real bargains to be has as hoteliers drop their usually-high summer rates to combat the low demand.

Featured image by coldsnowstorm/Getty Images

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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