Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

The 2-4-1 voucher with the Virgin Atlantic credit cards gets easier to use

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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.

Virgin Black

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? – November 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:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

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.

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 & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and unbeatable 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 £200 Amex Travel credit every year 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.

Barclaycard Select Cashback credit card

1% cashback and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (144)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • GCMemb says:

    Uh oh! Hope not bad…

  • @mkcol says:

    Tease!

  • mark says:

    i am due to sign up for the BA card when i get home from my current trip on QR – I hope i am timing this right…

  • Chris Cannon says:

    Why do I feel that the announcement is not going to be to my liking?

  • Gin and Tonic Please says:

    Uh oh. Thank god I just earned a 241…

  • mr bridge says:

    log onto amex, click on avios earning and you will see:
    With the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card you will earn 1.25 Avios for virtually every £1 you spend and 2.5 Avios for virtually every full £1 you spend direct with British Airways on BA flights and holidays.

  • mr bridge says:

    what happens if we vote leave???

    • harry says:

      re-apply after 6 months, preferably via a referral?

    • Carl says:

      Yeah, I think I’ll move towards the churning model at the price. I normally hit the spending limit 3 or 4 months in. Never seemed worth the hassle getting the pro-rata refund before, but probably just about worth it now.

  • Hingeless says:

    That’s terrible but inevitable.

    I currently get 3 points per $ in Australia, that is nearly 6 per £, i wonder what % the retailers are charged here for this rate to be possible?

    • John says:

      Which card is that? You probably pay a big annual fee and lots of retailers charge CC fees and I bet you don’t get 3 points per $ for all transactions (in particular ATO payments and household bills)

      You probably need more points than in the UK for the same redemption too

      Australia Amex charges are 4-5%

      • Alan says:

        Although with Aussie cards remember you can often get first year free and many with waive a subsequent year with reasonable spend. Hotel CC fees can be avoided with pre-booking and Woolies, etc. don’t charge credit card fees. Between NAB, CBA and ANZ I managed to clear 160k QF points with no card fees over a year 🙂

        • will denby says:

          i’m moving to WA for 14 months in January – I will have an Aus HSBC premier account. Will I be able to sign up for AUS credit cards – specifically the high earning QF one?

          • Alan says:

            It varies by card company depending on the immigration visa that you’re on. I was there for just a year and managed though 🙂 There’s a page on the Qantas website that highlights all the available offers, including increased sign up bonuses and fee free deals. OzBargain.com.au also handy for tracking these sort of deals, as well as being generally a great sure – HDUK is rubbish in comparison IMHO.

            Enjoy WA, Margaret River is definitely worth a trip 🙂

          • William Denby says:

            Hduk?

          • Alan says:

            Sorry – HotUKDeals website – some handy deals on it but I found the OzBargain setup generally higher quality, easier to search and with more helpful comments!

          • Bev says:

            Oi thanks for the heads up on the Oz bargain site. Just what I’ve been looking for. I was begining to think they didn’t have any sites like this.

          • Alan says:

            No probs, I saved hundreds of dollars thanks to it! 🙂

          • Alan says:

            *great site (not ‘sure’!!)

          • Bev says:

            I’m hopefully off to Brisbane with full permanent residency visas.

      • Hingeless says:

        I get it by using several cards, I have had to train the other half which card to use for paying for different things !

        Yes some places charge fees – the majority don’t though.

        You don’t need more points here, just book with the wrong airline. eg if you want to fly SYD-CNS book though Etihad rather than virgin for 6900 points each way, if you want to fly etihad use virgin points, for qantas use avios.

    • Paul says:

      I thought the RBA was looking to set a cap similar to the EU?

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