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Orphaned points can be the bane of your miles collecting, or they can be a way to get an incredible multiple on future spending. The basic reasoning is that orphaned miles are worthless, but they might be close to something worthwhile.

Here’s an example. I currently have 7,640 Virgin Atlantic miles. Those miles might go orphaned. But I still have my Virgin Atlantic credit card for the next few months that earns me one mile per dollar. If I spend $2,360 on it, I’ll have 10,000 miles, which is the minimum amount I can transfer to Hilton points, as I explained in Transferring Virgin Atlantic Miles to Hilton HHonors Points.

Virgin Atlantic miles transfer at a 1:2 ratio to Hilton points, so I would get 20k Hilton points for my 10k miles. That means that $2,360 would earn me 20k Hilton points. That’s more than 8 Hilton points per dollar!

Will I do this?

It’s not at the top of my list. I value Hilton points at about 0.4 cents each, so that would be 3.2 cents worth of points per dollar. That’s better than non-bonused spend generally.

But I would clear sign up bonuses first, since those often rebate 15% or more of the value of the spending.

I would hit category bonuses before going after my 8x Hilton points. I would rather have 2 Ultimate Rewards for using my Sapphire Preferred for travel or dining that 8 Hilton points for the same purchases. And this is far from the most lucrative category bonus.

How can you identity good opportunities like this?

Take a look at your mileage balances. Look for programs where you rarely earn or use the miles and points. If the balance is below a useful balance, identify the lowest useful balance you could attain. Figure out the value of attaining that balance, and what you’d have to spend to get there.

Some useful small balances that your orphan balances might be near:

Hawaiian Miles- 5,000 can be transferred to 10k Hilton points, 7,500 can get a oneway interisland award

Virgin Atlantic- 10,000 can be transferred to 20k Hilton points

Ultimate Rewards- 1,000 can be transferred to tons of airline and hotel programs, notably United, Hyatt, or Southwest

Membership Rewards- 1,000 can be transferred to tons of airline and hotel programs, notably Avios and Delta

Priority Club- 5,000 can book a PointBreaks hotel and set you up to buy more points for 0.7 cents each

Southwest- Very few points are needed for very cheap oneway awards. Here’s one from Vegas to Los Angeles for 3,060 points

United- Oneway interisland awards on Hawaiian Airlines go for 5,000 miles

If you’re very close to any of these thresholds, putting a little extra spending on a credit card or finding a mini-points promo can be a way to get an incredible multiple on a little spend. It might be a much better deal than just orphaning the miles and points.

Recap

Orphaned points are worthless. If you’re close to a threshold where the points have some value, you may be able to get an incredible number of points for a little bit of spend.

I gave a personal example, where I could get 8x Hilton points on $2,360 of spending on my Virgin Atlantic credit card. I also listed some low-points price redemptions for some programs where you might have some miles that would otherwise be orphaned.

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