With airline miles, we are pretty familiar with what it takes to fly to certain places (even with Delta, though they have worked to change that) and on what airlines. There is a chart that tells you it cost X amount of miles to fly to this region and there are a whole bunch of partners that we can use to do that.
With hotels, it becomes quite a bit more difficult to pin down. The hotel chains have their loyalty programs and they assign categories to the various levels of hotels within their portfolio. However, they are certainly not all the same thing. With Hilton, it could cost you 95,000 points per night for their most aspirational properties while Hyatt charges 30,000 for their most aspirational hotels. At the end of the day, it can end up being a wash for just how many different ways there are to get Hilton points but it can still be confusing.
Necker Island – A Truly Aspirational Getaway
Then we come to some of the truly, top-of-the-line properties that people desire to stay at but many times seem only available with cash – and a lot of it! One of those properties is the exclusive, privately-owned island of Richard Branson (CEO of the Virgin brands) – Necker Island.
Necker Island, located in the British Virgin Islands, is famous for being exclusive and hosting some very popular and famous people on its shores. Richard Branson purchased the island back in 1977 for 60,000 British Pounds, or about $90,000 in today’s money. Since that time, he has really upgraded this island to be a very intriguing getaway.
He actually rents out the entire island for groups of up to 30 people throughout the year – at a cost of $65,000 per night, but for a small span of time in the second half of each year (August – October), it can be rented by couples for a 7 night stay at a time. The cost? It ranges from $28,000 to $47,000 for a 7 night stay for two people, depending on the room booked.
What Is Included?
This is actually an all-inclusive amount that covers the cost of getting to the island as well. Here is a list of what is included at a minimal average of $4,000 per night (list from the Necker Island website):
- Your accommodation
- All meals and drinks (including all alcoholic beverages)
- Return launch transfer from Virgin Gorda or Beef Island airports
- A team of approximately 100 fabulous staff including watersports instructors and a tennis professional
- Two freshwater pools and a large Jacuzzi on the beach
- Two floodlit tennis courts
- Windsurfing and kite surfing equipment
- Sailing and speed boats and fishing equipment (not deep sea)
- Kayaks, water-skiing equipment, snorkelling equipment, paddleboards etc.
- Laundry facility (dry cleaning not available)
- Wireless internet throughout the island
- 7% local tax
Basically, you pay that rate for your stay and everything else is covered – which I would pretty much expect it to be when I am paying $2,000 per person/per night!
The Best Part? It Is Bookable With Points!
That’s right, this ridiculously, aspirational getaway island can be booked with points! The amount of points? 1.2 million Virgin Atlantic miles! Yes, that amount sounds huge, but it is very possible to do this! Let’s break it down.
Virgin Atlantic Credit Card
The Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard is a great way to start. To begin with, it is issued by Bank of America, arguably one of the most friendly “churning” issuers out there. They also issue the Alaska Airlines credit card which people just continue to get again and again every 90 days. In fact, I have several people that have told me that even when other banks would continue to deny them based on apps or otherwise, Bank of American continued to be an instant approval for them.
This particular card has a bonus that is normally at a total amount of 90,000 in bonus miles. Here is how that structure is broken down and what you actually end up with after meeting the required spending:
- 20,000 miles after first retail purchase
- 50,000 additional Flying Club bonus miles after you spend at least $12,000 in qualifying purchases within 6 months of your account open date
- Earn up to 15,000 additional bonus miles upon anniversary
- Earn up to 5,000 Flying Club bonus miles when you add additional authorized users to your card
- Earn 18,000 miles from the required spending (the card awards 1.5 miles for every $1 spent)
- Total after first year – 108,000 miles
Now, there is a fee for transferring miles between accounts and the most you can transfer is 100,000 anyway, so you should just concentrate on earning the miles in one account. If you were to churn this particular card at the rate of 4 in a year (every 90 days), you would end up with a total of 432,000 miles at the conclusion of the last card’s anniversary – more than 1/4 of the way to the 1.2 million!
Amex Membership Rewards Transfer Bonuses
Another avenue of earning, and one that can be supplemented with card applications, is the transfer of Amex Membership Reward points. They have had some very lucrative bonuses, such as their 35% transfer bonus last fall. If you were to transfer 100,000 Membership Reward points over, that would have resulted with 135,000 miles in your Virgin Atlantic account.
When it comes to getting Membership Reward points, there are many cards that have points earned in the program – business and personal. Though Amex has now restricted personal card bonuses to once in a lifetime, business card bonuses can be earned again and again as long as it has been at least 12 months since they last held the product. With offers of 75,000 points on the Amex Business Rewards Gold card around from time to time, that is another great way to go.
Using Other People
Plus, with Membership Reward points, you can transfer to anyone’s points to your Virgin Atlantic account if you are a cardholder on the same account. Say, for example, someone in your family is going to transfer their points into your account, if they add you as an authorized user, you are all set to transfer the points! So, you can double up in this way.
Transfer From Hotels
This is definitely not the best way to earn the miles needed but if you are within reach and you just want to get it done, you can transfer points from several hotel chains into your Virgin Atlantic Flying Club account. This is how they transfer:
- Marriott Hotels – 10,000 Marriott points : 2,000 Virgin Atlantic miles
- Hilton Hotels – 10,000 Hilton points : 1,500 Virgin Atlantic miles
- SPG Hotels – 1 Starpoint : 1 Virgin Atlantic mile
- Hyatt Hotels – 5,000 Hyatt points : 3,000 Virgin Atlantic miles
- IHG Hotels – 10,000 IHG points : 2,000 Virgin Atlantic miles
Citi ThankYour Points Transfer
A reader commented below to remind me that Citi ThankYou points also transfer to Virgin Atlantic at a 1:1 ratio – another great opportunity to build up your Virgin Atlantic account since there are several strong sign-up offers for ThankYou points and great ways to earn more.
Let’s go back to the spending part on cards. The Virgin Atlantic credit card gives 1.5 miles per dollar for all spending. So, if you began to manufacture spend with that just using something like Target’s REDcard loads (at $5,000 per month per card), you would be able to accumulate another 90,000 miles per year just doing that. If you doubled that (after all, you are going to Necker Island with someone!), you would accrue 180,000 miles per year.
You could also do the spending with the American Express cards. For instance, the Amex Everyday Preferred card gives 3x Membership Reward points on grocery store spending (up to $6,000 in a year). Plus, if you hit 30 transactions per month, you will receive another 50% bonus on top of that. By maxing that out, you will receive an additional 27,000 Membership Reward points per year. Couple that with a similar 35% transfer bonus like last year, and that is an additional 36,000 miles per year in your Virgin Atlantic account. Of course, you could also use the other Amex Membership Reward earning cards to maximize spending.
Putting It All Together
If you went at it with just the churning of the Bank of America cards, it would take you about 4 years to accumulate the miles needed for the Necker Island getaway. That is assuming you do not do any spending at all (beyond the required spending per card). If you add a transfer from Membership Rewards into the mix, it gets you closer a lot quicker.
Of course, if you concentrate on this as a priority travel goal, you could get there even quicker with spending on the cards. Whatever way you approach it, having this as a goal for travel at some point could see you at Necker Island for a special vacation within 4 years.
Is It Worth It?
Not having been there, I cannot comment on whether or not it is worth the work to achieve this aspirational getaway. However, I would like to think it would make for a fantastic anniversary trip down the road. For my part, I may start using some Bank of American applications for the Virgin Atlantic card. It would be something that I would do on the side towards a nice round-ish anniversary getaway in a few years.
Of course, you run the risk of a program devaluation/broken partnerships/increase in required miles, etc. Unless there is a rush of people redeeming their Virgin Atlantic miles for this opportunity, I do not see it increasing that drastically in miles required. If your desire is maximum travel, that many miles can get you many more trips than just this one. For example, that many miles would get you 15 roundtrips in Virgin’s Upper Class between New York and London (plus a lot of fuel surcharges). That is still a lot of award trips!
But, if you want that one, unbeatable vacation, redeeming for Necker Island could be a great option. What an aspirational getaway – and all on miles!