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 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? – October 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.

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 (SPECIAL OFFER), £200 travel credit and unbeatable 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.

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.

  • 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.

    • Liz says:

      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!

    • Rum says:

      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.

  • Jack says:

    Hi a bit OT but relating to BA 241 – looking to book my first ever 241 redemption for an open jaw in J LHR – SFO – LAX – LHR – if I price up a return to just one of the US destinations then the taxes are approx £1040 for the round trip. But pricing up the single legs gives the taxes as £1300-odd. Is this because taxes are higher for one-way trips and will this tax figure be reduced if I call to book a round trip?


    • Rob says:

      Yes, this is a quirk of US redemptions. BA has higher fuel surcharges on flights which start in the USA. If you book 2 x one-way, you are paying the higher figure on the return flight. If you book a return flight from the UK, you pay the lower UK rate on both legs. When you book you will pay the lower figure.

      It doesn’t work like this for other countries.

  • Ben says:

    Does anyone know if I lose my 2-4-1 voucher if I cancel my card?


    • idrive says:

      no, if that is sitting on the account. read above Liz’ comment

    • darren says:

      I wouldn’t be too sure about this, the T&C’s say that the taxes and fees require the BA amex card, this may not be strictly adhered to as others have managed to make the booking using another Amex card

      • Rob says:

        Any Amex is fine. It doesnt even need to be your Amex as Amex does not do name verification.

  • Martin says:

    Raffles, is this applicable for year anniversaries from today? My year just started again on April 8th, whats the chances of getting the old fee rather than new on my next statement?

    • Rum says:

      Now that would be interesting to see what they enforce – please do get back to us and let us know when you do find out!

    • Rob says:

      As it kicked in today I think you have every right to expect a £150 fee and if you don’t I would complain – at which point they will refund the £45 almost certainly.

    • john says:

      My statement landed today, membership fee dated April 7 is £150.

  • nandorico says:

    Completely o/t. I’m looking at getting travel money I used to use the american express travel money site. Since thats closed is there any other people would recommend to purchase using your amex to gain points? (obviously rate dependant) Thanks

    • Rob says:

      Getting a Curve card linked to your Amex and using an ATM abroad works – 1% Curve fee but still better than any bureaux rate.

    • Liz says:

      Did someone not say moneycorp took Amex and it went thought as a purchase ??? Don’t quote me on that though. I haven’t tried it. Check the comments page on the day Raffles did the travel money closing article .

  • Liz says:

    OT Just got an email from Curve confirming my dispatch date is 27/4 !

    • Dan says:

      Talking of curve – has anyone else had problems withdrawing cash via a linked Amex? I’ve tried with both my gold and BAPP and both times the cash machine has popped up with a card issuer error – or something similar.

      • Genghis says:

        Someone the other day mentioned problems. Perhaps it’s not the MS ‘cash cow’ we thought it was

      • Rob says:

        Use mine just fine linked to Gold.

        • Genghis says:

          You’ve been had the card a while though Raffles so have probably progressed somewhat through their risk profiling groups.

          • Sussex bantam says:

            I’ve done it a few times at £200 a go linked to my gold card. No issues

          • Rob says:

            To be honest I don’t think I have actually broken the Group 1 limits anyway. Never taken more than £200 out of a cashpoint and not spent more than £5,000 in a month.

    • Genghis says:

      Me too. I’ll be like a kid on Xmas morning

    • Andrew* says:

      At least you’ve had the email 😉

    • Alan says:

      Ditto – thought they’d cancelled my order due to Android app not being available too. Will be interesting to see what happens given the linked card is an expired SPG one!

    • Andrew* says:

      Finally had Curve email; same date as you Liz!

    • Rum says:

      Got the email a short while ago. 4th May for me 🙁

  • Fenny says:

    Virgin companion vouchers, like 2 for 1s are only useful if you travel with someone else. Being a naturally miserable git, I much prefer traveling alone.

  • Julie K says:

    Raffles at some point would you be able to do a comprehensive list of cards that can be churned after 6 months for bonuses? I find it hard keeping up with the T and C for different types.

    • Rob says:

      Probably not because the credit card companies will stop working with me!

      • Alan says:

        Just keep following this site, Julie K, and you’ll gradually pick up all the info!

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

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