The 2-4-1 voucher with the Virgin 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 raffles [at] headforpoints.co.uk 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.)

Virgin Black

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.

Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history.  By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker.  Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.

(Want to earn more Virgin Flying Club miles?  Click here to see our recent articles on Virgin Atlantic and Flying Club and click here for our home page with the latest news on earning and spending other airline and hotel points.)

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Comments

  1. David L says:

    Will they grandfather the £150 fee for existing members? If not, I presume we should all just refer our partners and cancel existing cards (once achieved 241) to take advantage of sign up bonus? In fact, I guess we should probably be churning these anyway…

    Interestingly in T&C it says Amex could bring forward your membership year where “…a different fee becomes payable…the membership year will run from the date the fee change took effect on our systems.”

    Doubtful they will apply this as don’t rememver that happening last time there was a fee increase.

    • for the gold card increase from £125 to £140 it was only for new card signups. Those who had the gold card already stayed on £125 (and 7500 bonus MR’s rather than 10,000).

      I imagine those on £150 will remain on that level based on the above. Its more a case of if you want the sign up bonus’ I guess

  2. Re BA Amex, can an existing supplementary card holder apply in their own name and get the sign-up bonus?

    • pauldb says:

      Yes. You can even refer your supp card holder and get the double-bonus (as long as they haven’t had their own BA Amex card for 6 months).

      • 6 months loosely enforced in my view…I churn it every couple of months and have had no prob getting welcome bonuses so far

        • Mr Fluff says:

          I had a premium card, which I ‘downgraded’ to a free one after hitting getting the bonus and 241 voucher, and still got the sign up bonus on the free card. If I upgrade it to premium again after a few months am I likely to get the sign up bonus again, or should I cancel the free one and reapply separately?

          • Would be interested to know hoe you applied for the basic card in order to get the bonus target again. Did you do it online with Amex or over the phone with them?

    • Yes, not a problem.

  3. I’ve just been on the phone to Amex to cancel my gold card (time for a churn). I asked the question re my BAPP card and they said the only change is the fee and it doesn’t effect existing card holders. He commented they were in a meeting about it last week.

    I didn’t think to ask about if it effects renewals at the time.

  4. James H says:

    If I remember correctly, the last time there was a fee for the Platinum Card had a fee increase from £300 to £450 per year, it DID affect me as an existing card holder.

  5. 1 paragraph of BA news vs. a whole article regarding the Virgin CC relaxing their comp voucher T&Cs – and nobody really gives a damn about it.

    Virgin CC team should really take note of this post, especially if they claim to try and always 1-up BA’s CC.

    • Stuart_f says:

      That’s because these Virgin changes happened on 15 Feb and the Virgin frequent flyers already know about it.

    • The BA news was embargoed until this morning so I couldn’t write about it as the last email goes out at 6am.

  6. Roberto says:

    I dont pay for my BAPP Amex as it came free with my Amex Platinum card some time in the last millennium. Fingers crossed my great grandfather deal wont get squashed in the shake up..

  7. is there still a referral bonus with the 25k signup?

  8. aceman says:

    Couple of questions re the virgin card.

    Does award availability need to be available in both classes to upgrade?

    Are any upperclass fares in the 241?

    • idrive says:

      you need to look for availability in Premium Eco only. payable with mileage from ECO and PREM ECO taxes

  9. I am already a BAPP card holder; if i get a supplementary card for my partner would she earn points on my existing rate or the new rate?

  10. Timothy Arnold says:

    Can you cancel the BAPP card if you have achieved but not spent your 2-4-1 or do people recommend downgrading to the free card? I’m not likely to use the 2-4-1 for another year so would like to cancel it and start the six month clock…

    (Partner has her own BAPP)

    • idrive says:

      you need to downgrade to the free card. If you want to do it at your risk (people did it), you may be able to do what you are planning, cxl, reapplying and use the 241 later with the new card.

    • I cancelled my card completely so that I could apply again in 6 months time. The 2-4-1 is still sitting in my account even though Amex tell you you may lose it. When I asked this before many people said it was ok to cancel. You would only lose it if you had to cancel the booking – you have to decide whether you want to take the risk.

    • Adrian says:

      We cancelled my wife’s card in Feb after earning the voucher and yesterday redeemed the 2-4-1 for CW o/b and F return, paid the taxes on my BAPP card no problems. I’d like to thank Rob and the FT guys as this really makes a difference to us, it will be our first BA first, albeit on a worn out 747 and we have to wait 10.5 months!

    • I would keep at least one account as a BAPP. Just got my first ever 241 voucher. I’m not sure when I’ll use it but I am thinking of keeping the BAPP for two reasons:
      – Spend on the card, still gets more BA avios than any other directly-issued Amex card per £1 spend
      – Spend directly with BA gets more Avios to the £1 than with any other card. Even for short haul economy seats, the BAPP will get me 3x points per £1 spend
      That said, I have also just taken out a Gold card with Amex for the bonus spend. May keep this for a year or may go back to my BAPP card.

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