Are you better off taking Flying Club miles or Nectar points from Virgin Trains?

An increasing number of train companies are now offering Nectar points when you book with them.

It is ironic that the train companies feel the need to incentivise people to book directly with them.  They often have cheaper fares on their own websites than elsewhere.  More importantly, the train company websites rarely charge the rip-off credit card or booking fees that you will find with The Trainline and other third-party booking sites.

First Group was the first train company to offer Nectar points when you book at the rate of 2 points per £1 spent.  You can get this on Great Western, TransPennine Express and Hull Trains.

These are worth at least 1p per £1 and could be worth 2p if you hold off redeeming until a higher value offer comes along.  I wrote about one such deal, with Virgin Trains, this week.  This page on our sister site Shopper Points shows the best value on-going Nectar redemptions – ie everything which gets you more than the standard 0.5p per point!

Virgin Trains

Virgin Trains joined the Nectar party as well.

You receive 2 Nectar points (so 1% cashback effectively) when you book train tickets at the Virgin Trains West Coast website or East Coast website.

Full terms and conditions are on the Virgin Trains website here.  Importantly, your trip MUST include a Virgin Trains component in order to earn points.  Booking a trip which is entirely on another train operator will not earn you anything.

Is this better than earning Virgin Flying Club miles?

Virgin Trains has been a long-term partner of Virgin Flying Club.  As per the Virgin Atlantic website, you earn 2 Flying Club miles for every £1 spent at Virgin Trains.

You cannot double dip.  The Virgin Trains website makes you select either Nectar points or Flying Club miles.

I would value one Virgin Flying Club mile at more than the 0.5p you receive for one Nectar point.  You could arguably value a Flying Club mile at 1p (compared to my low end Avios valuation of 0.75p) as economy redemptions have lower taxes than economy Avios redemptions, whilst Upper Class redemptions require fewer miles (but the same taxes) as Club World Avios seats.  This only makes sense if you already collect Virgin miles from other sources of course, as you will never earn enough just from train tickets for a flight!

PS.  There is one caveat to this.  If you download the Nectar app to your smartphone, you will receive regular bonus point offers for booking tickets on Virgin trains.  I recently received 1,000 bonus points for booking any Virgin Trains Advance ticket, as well as 500 points for downloading the Virgin Trains BEAM entertainment app.  This could be enough to swing your choice to Nectar.

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  1. “It is ironic that the train companies feel the need to incentivise people to book directly with them. They often have cheaper fares on their own websites than elsewhere. […]”

    The Trainline have spent troughs of cash on advertising over the years and continue to do so, and hence reap the rewards when it comes to being the ‘go to’ site for train ticket bookings. Most HfPers are like the other savvy folk who know better, but the Trainline has huge name recognition out there.

  2. Transpennine also earns topcashback

  3. Cheshire Pete says:

    It should also be noted, well at Manchester anyhow, the Virgin self service kiosks ask you to swipe your nectar card when buying tickets. No website required.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Annoyingly don’t allow you to put your flying club number in though

    • Penrith also has a new self-service ticket machine emblazoned with a massive Nectar logo. I would guess that these are being rolled across the Virgin Trains network as required.

      There was some comment fairly recently in Rail magazine about how TOCs should be looking at proper frequent traveller schemes rather than just a few Nectar points, but I have not seen any significant follow up to that.

  4. TGLoyalty says:

    Shops away lets you earn 2 flying club/£ too

    They operate the line I use most so can collect a fair few points in a year

  5. O/T – Apologies if this has already been mentioned previously. Topcashback and Quidco are currently offering £63/60 cashback respectively for applications booked through their websites for the TESCO Premium Credit Card.

    TESCO are also offering a 2500 Clubcard point bonus for all applications SUBMITTED and ACCEPTED by 5th January 2017 provided that you make a purchase or balance transfer on your Premium Credit Card within the first 2 months of account opening. The 2500 Clubcard point bonus is in addition to the 5000 Clubcard point bonus which is being offered for an annual £5000 spend on the Premium Credit Card at TESCO.

    Along with the BA Club Europe £50 discount offer which runs until 31st December 2016 and the annual worldwide family Travel Insurance benefit which comes with the card, the additional Clubcard point bonus and the potential cash back may make the card more attractive for AVIOS earning. Then again……

    • Thanks Jonathan. I think I might wait and see what happens to the gift card offer after this weekend before jumping in.
      So Tesco – if you read this – please continue with the 75 Clubcard points / £25 spend on gift cards.

    • Good spot on the 2,500 points. I will cover this again tomorrow.

      • Should be fine but Note the following in T&Cs

        Only one points offer is available per customer. Not to be used in conjunction with any other offer.

      • Some pointers for you Rob; for your article tomorrow.

        1. Fees for paying HMRC (better than .386% charged by IHG card)?
        2. Does this negate £150 annual fees considering (5000 regular for spending £5000 at Tesco + 2500 bonus points for applying before Jan 5th + £63 cashback from TCB)?
        3. Buying currency from Tesco as spend not cash advance.
        4. Comparing cost of annual travel insurance depending on what is covered for a family? – please point out any exclusion if any.
        5. May be comparison against IHG rewards card which offer free night certificate plus 20k points at £99 fees?
        6. Total Avios earning potential – 288000?.
        7. Any risk Tesco stopped conversion to Avios/VS in future with any speculative and quite possible revamp in clubcard rewards scheme?
        8. Can this be linked to more than one clubcard?
        9. Use this card for payment in addition to clubcard for fuel – you know what I am talking about.
        10. Any surprise which regular readers are not aware of!!!

        This will be no brainer if Tesco added some extra benefit like Airport Lounge access similar to Amex PRGC.

  6. East coast trains used to have an amazing reward scheme until it was replaced with nectar by virgin. Since then I’ve opted to take my train points as virgin flyer club miles and periodically transfer those into IHG as they count towards status via virgin.

  7. Not sure if anyone collects krisflyer miles?
    But if you book virgin west coast through the krisflyer “spree” shopping portal (equivalent of that gate 365) you get 14 KF/10USD. Add that to double nectar points, plus the miles/points you get from booking with your credit card…. considering I usually spend £80 return to get back home to Liverpool in standard, that’s a pretty decent return. Shame gbp doesnt get you much usd in the past week or so…..

  8. There is a way of collecting both flying club and nectar points at the same tim and have been doing so for the last six months. If you click through to virgin trains via the virgin Atlantic shops away site this will automatically allocate 2 points per £ ( though they take 2 months to arrive) . You can then select nectar as the points option on the virgin trains website and they will post the day after travel

    • Can you collect double FC miles going way? I.e., get 2FC miles/pound for going through shops away and another 2/£ to credit to FC? I have clearly misunderstood this as I thought the earnings shown on shops away is the same thing as your choice of where to credit. I take a lot of train journeys at last minute and I could have earned a fair bit if that is the case!

      • Hi Boi, I’m not sure as I’ve never tried it but I don’t see why not? The points are posting from two different sources and at two different times. Won’t hurt to try on one trip?

        • Yes it will work. I usually go down TCB then Virgin FC for 2 miles per £. Here, shops away portal just replaces TCB.

          It’s akin to going through TCB to Tesco Direct and then earning cashback and Clubcard points.

  9. OT- Any speculation on what is happening after latest bonus cc points of 75 per £25 GC purchase after 16th October.
    Is anyone stocking up for future spend via GCs? Or are we likely to some even better bonus point offer.

    • My view is that Tesco have shown they are commitment to their gift card business as they came back with this offer and have improved the range. On this basis my gut feel is that if this offer does end then something at some point will come back.

      I might stock up on a few card this weekend to help hit the Nectar Amex bonus but I’m not going mad with them.

    • I bought some last week but I’m not going crazy. I have some more churning coming up and don’t really want to put spend onto non-bonus earning cards. So fingers crossed Tesco will keep the promo.

  10. Rob, I’m sure you did an article a couple of years ago (in the East Coast Rewards days) comparing all the options for train tickets. Including booking/ postage/ cc charges.

    I for one would appreciate an update, if you can bear it.

  11. Your articles are normally excellent but I think this one seems aimed at trying to get people to click through your affiliate links to generate you commission on Virgin Trains West Coast (all the links to Virgin Trains West Coast are through an affiliate partner).

    Some points to remember:
    1. Booking on a FirstGroup website gets you Nectar points on all rail travel, you mention they offer points (but no direct links) but don’t mention that First, unlike Virgin, offer points on all travel. So if you really want Nectar points but don’t want to book in many different sites, using a FirstGroup site is the way to go.
    2. When booking Virgin it’s important to book on the right franchise site. Virgin Trains East Coast will not offer points on west coast bookings and vice versa. There’s a redirect on the west coast site but it doesn’t work in all scenarios.
    3. The bonus Nectar points for the Beam app do not depend on you switching earnings preference for buying tickets to Nectar.

    So what I do is:
    1. Book most rail travel through Transpennine Express – as it’s FirstGroup you get Nectar points on all travel (+ cashback). If you don’t want Flying Club miles you might as well book everything through TransPennine Express as VTEC no longer offer an online discount so prices are the same.
    2. As I have use for Flying Club miles I book Virgin Trains and Virgin Trains East Coast tickets through their respective sites. It is important to remember that west coast and east coast only offer points on their own services.

    Scarily though I’ve amassed over 50,000 Flying Club miles through East Coast travel alone! That’s why it’s so sad they scrapped a real rewards scheme.

    • Didn’t know First give points on all carriers, thanks.

      Trust me, no-one is getting rich on the couple of quid a month I get from Virgin Trains!

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