7 months ago I decided that it would be cool to use miles to book a week on Sir Richard Branson’s private Island. Virgin Atlantic lists this award on their website under Partner Offers… Virgin Group:
This award isn’t exactly cheap. The cost: 1,200,000 miles. In exchange, they offer 7 nights for 2 people including all food, drinks, and activities. In April, when I decided to earn miles for this adventure, I had just over one thousand miles in my Virgin Atlantic account. I needed a mere 1,199,000 more.
Of course, another option would have been to pay cash for the week. In 2016, guest house rooms cost $29,906 per week. No thanks! Instead, I started signing up for credit cards…
7 months later… Done!
My current account balance is now just over 1.2 million miles! And, I’ve achieved Silver elite status. I’ve never flown Virgin Atlantic, nor have I credited miles to Virgin Atlantic for flying on partner airlines, staying in partner hotels, or renting partner cars.
How I did it
I earned almost all of the required miles through credit card signup bonuses. Here’s an approximate breakdown:
- 8 Virgin Atlantic credit cards: ~720,000 miles
- 2 Citibank credit cards + 25% transfer bonus: ~110,000 miles
- 1 Amex credit card + 30% transfer bonus: ~220,000 miles
- Other miscellaneous techniques: ~150,000 miles
Over the past 7 months, I signed up for a total of 8 Virgin Atlantic credit cards. Each card resulted in approximately 90,000 points after meeting minimum spend requirements. My wife signed up for two Citibank cards that offer ThankYou points. She transferred those points to my ThankYou account and I transferred them to Virgin Atlantic when Citi offered a 25% transfer bonus. I also signed up for a short lived 150K Amex Business Platinum offer which required $20K spend. That resulted in 170,000 Membership Rewards points which I transferred to Virgin Atlantic when I found that I was targeted for a 30% transfer bonus.
Next up: booking the week
Via email I asked about the next available weeks that were bookable. There are limited dates each year, called Celebration Weeks, in which rooms can be reserved per couple (The rest of the year the island can be booked in its entirety for a group of up to 30 people). Only Celebration Weeks can be booked with miles. Unfortunately, the next available Celebration Weeks are 10 months away:
- 3 September 2016 for 7 nights
- 10 September 2016 for 7 nights
- 17 September 2016 for 7 nights – adults only
- 24 September 2016 for 7 nights – adults only
- 1 October 2016 for 7 nights
- 8 October 2016 for 7 nights
- 15 October 2016 for 7 nights
- 22 October 2016 for 7 nights
Since my plans are rarely firm a month away let alone 10 months away, I asked about their change and cancellation policy. I got this:
We do have strict cancellation policy at Necker Island and once a booking is confirmed I’m afraid we will not be able to offer the miles back. As we do not usually receive cancellations for Necker Island we consider cancellations on a case by case basis and will try to be as flexible as we can.
Ooh boy. That’s not good. It looks like we’ll have to firm up plans much earlier than usual for this trip! Once my wife and I pick a firm date, I’ll call Virgin Atlantic to redeem my 1.2 million miles.
[…] This post highlights how I got the points needed for the trip. It’s worth mentioning that some of the specific details of how I did things aren’t available today. For example, REDbird was one of the tools that I used to meet minimum spending and it’s not available anymore. […]
[…] Richard Branson’s Necker Island is available to rent in-whole for a party of up to 30 people for an astronomical sum. Or, one can book an individual room on Necker Island for two people for about $30,000 for a week. Food, activities, and gratuities are included. Also included is boat transport from nearby Beef Island Airport (EIS). Transportation to Beef Island Airport from and to your own home is not included. If you don’t have $30,000 sitting around waiting for an opportunity like this, another option is to use your spare 1.2 million Virgin Atlantic miles. […]
[…] was chatting with Greg the FrequentMiler about his upcoming Necker Island trip for 1,200,000 Virgin Atlantic miles. That will be an awesome week for […]
A long time ago a friend of mine turned me onto the notion of doing Necker. At the time the Contour card was working, as were many other 5x and prepaid options and then some. In no time at all, without having to get more than one VS CC, we had enough miles for Necker. We could not go that year but said we would go the next. And then this thread came out revealing that FF would be going.
Now, I have met Greg and yes he is a nice guy and all, but in terms of what he does for “work” he is pretty much my enemy and that of anyone who really does MS. Or did, shall I say.
There have been many discussions on bloggers and deals and who outs what and why and what it does to people. Some here may argue that his site helped them get miles or points or cash back. Others know, as I do, deep in their heart of hearts, that all he did was to reconfigure and pretty up bits of knowledge already out there but more in the down-low settings and blast it on this site so as to tout himself as a helper, whereas instead, he was merely doing ANYTHING and EVERYTHING he could to generate hits and bring in more interest and people to this blog. With that, people would click on links to CCs he touted, and those CCs pay him a cut for every application he invariably brings them all. So on the one hand, yeah, he filters the info people claim they dont have the time to go find or invent themselves (because they are lazy or stupid and also rude for not innovating and trying like others have before them) for the masses and in turn those masses click on CC links to get the cards they need anyway, but he gets rich in the process. I am not against someone getting rich from capitalistic schema such as CC links, but I do not like how it happened. That a blogger such as greg can basically out everything and get paid to do it, ruin every avenue and not care that it dies (because he doesnt really MS anyway so who cares) and profit from the hastening of the death of what was once a very good set of games and gigs. I could go on. Some of you heard me go on before. Some have excuses and counter arguments. But the fact is, much of what was great MS is totally dead. And we have Greg and a few others like him to thank for that. The antithesis of MS. The reason why much of this, even if it would have eventually ended, didnt last another year or two like it could have.
If someone told you that all the MS you could do would earn you another say $20-30k if it lasted one more year, would you have wanted that one more year? Yes you would have! He made it so that did not happen for any of us.
The only benefit, as others like me have said, is that now, soon, since he has nothing to post but maybe some uber coupons and staples deals, he may need to get a real job again.
As for Necker… How many here got so far through and got shut down by the bank? Or lost places through which to buy or burn GCs? Or messed up their other chances at other cards and deals? How many attained the number of miles needed only to find there’s no room at the inn?
Well, we wanted to find out when Greg was going to go there. I contacted him and asked him and he told me. I said, gee Greg, wouldnt it be cool to go at the same time as us? He agreed. Well, this prompted him to tell us when he was going. In reality it helped me decide when NOT to go. But in the end, we decided to avoid the island all together so we could enjoy our once in a life time trip without having to talk to a bunch of Gregs or Greg wannabes that may happen to be there at the same time as us.
We rallied and contacted the Ulusaba Experience, another Branson special, and we had to get a bit more miles and swing a deal with them, but now our whole family is one upping the island and heading to Safari in South Africa instead! Maybe I’ll be eaten by a lion for acting mean. But at least I wont have to face the bloke who ruined what had been a really cool hobby and miles/money maker. It is likely people wont follow me there using VS miles any time soon.
Marathon Man still does 2x Cap One and sometimes SPG at his local mall and orders some GCs online. He can still burn in some places and that’s because a lot of MSers who subscribe to this blog fortunately do not live where he lives. MM always believed in sharing, but through word of mouth, text and small email groups. Big scenes like blogs and large forums stopped working for MS long ago. Deals get killed too quickly, and now what we are seeing is that the CC companies and others are most definitely looking directly at MS forums and blogs to learn how to stop it. I mean, look at the letter everybody got from Wells! Look at the T&Cs put in place by Alaska, who named travel hackers as the reason for its changes. They can see this stuff, and I told you all it would happen. We could have prevented or at least prolonged the outcome. The only other part is that I am sure the volley of back and forths generated from this post and ones like it will give FM more hits for a while, but hey, what CC are you gonna get now? Chase has the 5/24 rule, Amex pays only once in a life time, Cap One denies a lot of people and reduced its travel redemption use for points, and Barclays shuts everybody down. Wells pretty much will if you even think of buying a GC anywhere, and a lot of stores wont sell em or let you burn em. Stores that do wanna see “real debit cards” and there’s even rumors of many CVSs going cash only. Charge Smart is all but done, and the Feds will come down on you if you use the USPS too much. Scammers hack and steal the digits from activated $200 MC GCs, and the airlines keep upping or changing their award amounts. Anyone wanna go back in time just a year or so?
[…] the post “Necker Island, here we come!” I summarized how I earned 1.2 million Virgin Atlantic miles in 7 months, as […]
[…] diving again. And, I am now certified! Scuba diving is one of the many included activities at Necker Island, where I’ll visit for a week in the fall. And, thanks to having a huge stash of airline miles, I’m sure I’ll have plenty of […]
[…] Oh my. I want this to be made on day and one day soon. I don’t care how many points it takes (think Richard Branson PVT island). Please put Aircraft SkyDeck Windspeed Technologies on your Virgin jets and I promise I will fly […]
[…] Thanks for making Necker Island possible! […]
“Since my plans are rarely firm a month away”
Sigh, privileged elites. 😀
[…] I reported my success in earning 1.2 million Virgin Atlantic miles which I plan to use for a week on…. In response, a number of readers wanted to know what it cost me to do this. The short answer: […]
This story is not only inspiring but also creative and original in the travel hacking community. Congrats on getting this done and enjoy your fabulous vacation. I am looking foward to your trip report. We are very lucky to have you in this community. Good Decision for not going back to 9 to 5.
Congratulations! I have been vicariously following your journey to get these miles, and I’ll be enjoying Necker island vicariously through you too. Please write about every single detail on this trip!
Also, Here is an idea, check with them on upcoming celebration weeks in the near future that might be booked up but to let you know if someone cancels and a spot opens up. We did this this to get a discounted stay at the exclusive and expensive cayo espanto in Belize..
Nice one Greg! Looking forward to your report back. I’ll have to keep slumming it at the Andaz Maui. If you’ll be back this year let me know and we’ll meet up again 🙂
I just went to an island in the bahamas in Oct with my wife. No weather issues. Although it may be a good idea to check what their policy is in case of bad weather.
Yes, as i replied in an email, I would plan to go maybe Oct 1 week and it could be fun to go with other milers.
I earned my VS a while ago doing several things, and having the card was only one. My wife actually has all the points not me. She had ONE VS card. But I did a ton of heavy MS using the then workable contour card. Also at the time, people could still transfer UR and MR to others not related to them so I did a ton of trades for other awards people needed that I could book. So we are sitting on just over 1.2mil now and we have never flown VS.
In your next post can you comment on how many points it costs to actually get to Necker Island? It looks like the 1.2 million points cover everything except flight. So you’ll need to worry about enough points to get there as well.
Although if you can amass 1.2 million points I assume it wouldn’t be a big deal to get a little more for a flight 🙂
Many congrats on your latest ms success. Surprised how much naysaying going on in posts above re hurricane season etc. A little green eyes going on maybe?
Frankly if its a case of hurricane season or 29k (ie not at all) id be for taking the chance. Pretty low on the risk reward scale and frankly if you had a choice where to be stuck in a hurricane …. Necker island is probably pretty high on the list!
Yes, I knew about this from the start. If you read my first post in the Necker Island series you’ll see that I wrote:
“Celebration Weeks take place mostly in August, September, and October – prime hurricane season. My guess is that a Celebration Week is defined roughly as “a week in which we’re sure that Richard won’t be on the island.”
And, I’ve frequently pointed out that I’m doing this because I can (like climbing a mountain), not because I think its a good use of points. In various posts I’ve described the quest as “stupid”, “idiotic”, “ridiculous”, etc. You get the point.
In one post, I wrote the following:
“Honestly, I think its ridiculous to spend 1.2 million miles (or $28,000) for a week on an island. Even with Virgin Atlantic miles (which are generally considered less valuable than many other types of miles), there is so much more one could do for far fewer miles. That said, one of the things I love about the miles & points game is that it makes it possible to do things that I would never do otherwise…In a way, the Necker Island award represents the ultimate splurge, but I still wouldn’t recommend it for most people. With the same effort required to earn 1.2 million Virgin Atlantic miles, you could earn enough airline miles and hotel points to travel in luxury for far longer than a week.”
Still, despite the chance of hurricanes and all of the things I could have done instead, I’m excited and looking forward to it!
Honestly the odds of your trip getting “ruined” from hurricane season I would call pretty low. I have gone to the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, & Cancun all in hurricane season and never had more than a day or two of “trip ruining” weather. Many times there’s been no issues at all. Have a blast!
“In various posts I’ve described the quest as “stupid”, “idiotic”, “ridiculous”, etc. You get the point.”
Your sense of fun and self-deprecation makes this blog a great place! Any danger that Virgin will increase the 1.2m mile requirement? Or that they will expire the miles? I would be more worried about that than hurricane season.
Thanks! I don’t know if they’ll raise the 1.2m requirement. There’s always a risk. Its unlikely they’ll expire your miles as long as you have activity in the account occasionally. I believe the current rule is that you have to have activity (earning or using miles) at least once every 36 months
Since a number of people asked what it cost me to do this (annual fees, gift card fees, etc.), I decided to do another post on that topic. Tomorrow I’ll show those details along with an estimate of what it would cost to do today (hint: much more).
Appreciate it! I assume it will probably be around $2,750-3,500 in out of pocket expense. Just the 8 VA cards is $720 in fees, plus those Amex & Citi cards and you’re almost at $2k, then the Manufacturing of over $150k, even at 1% is $1,500… at .005 it’s $750. Regardless, amazing redemption, and it’s been fun to watch you do it!
Amex gift card through portal.
Disappeared a month or two ago though.
Ditto on the hurricane season comments, and I would probably seek clarity from them on a couple of issues:
What happens if you can’t get to the island? Refund? Reschedule? Or do you just get whatever days you are able to make it for?
What happens if you can’t get off the island? Are you expected to pay for those extra days?
As a couple of astute previous comments have already said…two words…Hurricane season!!
Congrats of course, but if it was me…. wouldn’t take the risk for the outlay and huge hassle you went through to achieve that impressive balance.
I am an ex Virgin Atlantic pilot and Richard used to bring the crew to stay there for free sometimes on long Antigua layovers. Not me ever, but I heard it was ok but not that amazing. The only cool thing (IMHO) is you might rub shoulders with your favorite celebrity, but probably not in the worst time of year. Sorry just my 2 cents.
Good luck and enjoy however!!
yeah, can I assume you didn’t realize (before collecting 1.2MM miles) that the only weeks avail to book were hurricane season? Obviously not ideal on a number of levels (10 months away, limited date avails, chance of getting completely washed out), but I wish you luck. Just wonder if you felt at all misled or if there was a missed opp to get those details ahead of building up a million-plus miles.
(fwiw, I have traveled extenstively to that area around that time of year and have had relatively good luck. certainly no hurricanes. but be prepared for warm weather, warm water, and regular t-storms)
I agree with Mike regarding hurricane season. For that many miles you should be able to spend Christmas and New year’s there with sir Richard himself…
Forgetting about the INSANE levels of MS this little endeavor probably took, I am more interested in finding out how somebody goes about getting approved for 8 of the same credit card within 7 months! My credit scores are well into the 800s and I still have to call reconsideration lines for Amex, Citi, Barclays, etc. Is BoA really that lax about handing out multiple cards as long as you’re paying the annual fee and have a (somewhat) good explanation for why you need the extra cards?
Of course the only dates with points is during hurricane season hope this works for you. Its kinda of sad they only give you Sept or Oct to book. These terms are not listed and I doubt many people will want to earn 1.2 miles and use them there.
Congrats Greg! Going to be an amazing trip! I like others would appreciate total transparency here on the costs it took to manufacture this level of spend. What was your total spend and costs associated and please dont just say oh i used redbird because while i am sure you used redbird for a good chunk, it died out. I am betting once again your using a “go to” method thats not shareable on the blog but you wont talk about that. Thanks and congrats again!
Kudos to you
How about a breakdown of out of pocket cash for annual fees and total spend to hit the bonuses? (compared to MS at 3% at least given current promos)
Apparently I’m not the only one who wonders… Just posted too slow.
Out of pocket cost is a poor measure for valuation. FM’s “fair trading value” would peg the acquisition of 1.2 million virgin miles at $12K.
Congratulations. This is very inspirational. How much money would you say you spent to accumulate the points? Was it less than the $29,000 it cost to stay there?
Agreed- Could you do a breakdown on the cost to obtain these miles? I know several of those cards have annual fees, but may also offer other value (Airline incidentals, etc.)
Would be great to see a breakdown of Annual Fees, Potential Rebates/Incidentals, and other costs to manufacture the spend (without too much detail….. 😉 )
Great – now they are probably going to devalue this priceless award since you showed how easily this unattainable getaway could be achieve! NOT kidding.
Anyway, Go on the Oct 1 week and I will take my wife there at the same time! I think we have to wait til winter to set it up, right? That’s what I was told when I last asked. But if that is incorrect I will book soon. Maybe we can make it into a DO
A greater concern will be award availability. Many of us will be sitting with 1.2M points just itching to get this.
I didn’t know you were planning to do this too. I’ll email you about the plans. Unless you know of others, I don’t think there are enough of us to do a DO. Plus I was told that one of the weeks I’m looking at is already booked except for one room.
Great – now they are probably going to devalue this priceless award since you showed how easily this unattainable getaway could be achieve! 🙂 JK
Congrats and setting the goal and meeting it! Thanks for taking us along for the ride and I look forward to the review!
I know you’re just joking but I still want to add that: $12K spending on each card is not easy job with one card, let alone 8!
So this is really a very tough route. Congrats frequentmiler!
Are you suppose to leave a tip as well? If so, that’ll be pretty expensive still…
Gratuities are included
Totally crazy, yet somehow inspirational!
The trip report should be in the form of your first book.