The Virgin Atlantic Black credit cards – issued by MBNA (Bank of America) – are a pretty good product. They currently come as a double-pack of an American Express and a Visa card. This model may not continue into the future as Amex fees on co-brand cards to UK retailers are now capped at the same level as Mastercard / Visa at 0.3%.
The annual fee is £140. The representative APR is 57.4% variable, including the annual fee, based on a notional £1,200 credit limit.
The current sign-up bonus is 18,500 miles triggered with your first purchase. This is increased to 21,500 miles if you are referred for the card. Email me at rob at headforpoints.com if you would like me to send you a referral link. My Virgin Black review is here.
There is also a White card which is free and has a smaller bonus – my review of that card is here.
Two special benefits
There are two benefits for spending on the Black card
When you spend £5,000 on the Black American Express card, you will receive an upgrade to Premium Economy (for one person) when you redeem your Flying Club miles for an Economy class redemption. A 2nd voucher is available when you spend £10,000. These vouchers are issued at the END of your card year, not when you pass the spend target.
Spend £7,500 on the Black American Express card and you will receive a free ticket for a companion (taxes apply) when you purchase a full fare (booking class Y, B, R, L, U, M, W, S or J) cash flight. This voucher is issued as soon as you pass the spend threshold.
You receive the same benefits on the free White card but the thresholds are higher. The upgrade vouchers are issued at £10,000 and £20,000 and the free companion ticket is issued at £15,000.
It is the second benefit – the free companion ticket – that I want to look at today.
My main criticism of this card was that the free companion ticket was fundamentally useless since very few people buy full fare cash tickets. I know that some people got this to work in certain circumstances – you could occasionally find Premium Economy fares that qualify for a few hundred pounds more than the cheapest cash ticket – but this required some knowledge of the Virgin ticketing system and good timing. In any event, unless you needed flexibility, your second ticket would still not be ‘free’ because the ticket you bought would cost more than the cheapest available one.
There has now been some movement on the voucher rules.
The new terms and conditions now say this:
(A full fare qualifying flight are those tickets purchased in booking classes: Y, B, R, L, U, M, E, Q, X, W, S, H and J. Companion rewards cannot be booked online, only over the phone, so agents are able to explain the booking classes at time of booking.)
E, X, Q and H booking classes have been added.
H is a cheap (but not the cheapest) Premium Economy ticket bucket. E, X and Q are Economy ticket buckets.
If you want to know how to book the cheapest ‘X’ class Economy and ‘H’ Premium Economy tickets, I strongly recommend reading this article on Flyertalk. It will tell you everything you need to know.
In plain English, what does this mean?
It means that the 2-4-1 voucher with the Virgin Black and White credit cards now has a little more value.
To be honest, it doesn’t change much in Economy. Because you still have to pay taxes on the 2nd ‘free’ ticket – and taxes make up a large % of the cost of an Economy ticket – you are still not getting a lot of value.
The main benefit seems to be for Premium Economy travellers. You can buy one ticket in H booking class and get a 2nd one at a big discount, probably at least 75% off. The cost of an ‘H’ ticket over the cheapest available Premium Economy ticket should not be that big.
PS. These changes mirror the changes that Virgin made to the ticket classes which can be upgraded using miles. I wrote about those changes back in February.
Want to earn more points from credit cards? – August 2022 update
If you are looking to apply for a new credit card, here are our top recommendations based on the current sign-up bonuses.
In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.
You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:
You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the best of the other deals currently available.
EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.
British Airways American Express Premium Plus
25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold
Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review
The Platinum Card from American Express
60,000 points, £200 travel credit and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review
Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard
15,000 points bonus and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review
Earning miles and points from small business cards
If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these offers:
American Express Business Platinum
40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review
American Express Business Gold
20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review
British Airways Accelerating Business American Express
30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review
Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa
10,500 points bonus – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company Read our full review
For a non-American Express option, we also recommend the Barclaycard Select Cashback card for sole traders and small businesses. It is FREE and you receive 1% cashback on your spending.