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Part 2: Are the new Virgin Atlantic credit cards right for you?

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This is Part 2 of my focus today on the new Virgin Atlantic Reward and Reward+ credit cards.  Part 1, which is a factual look at the cards, is hereThe main marketing website for the cards is here.

As a reminder:

You CAN apply for the new Virgin Atlantic credit cards – and get a sign-up bonus – if you already have the MBNA Virgin Atlantic credit cards

Virgin Atlantic credit cards

The free Virgin Atlantic Reward Credit card has a 5000 miles sign-up bonus, earns 0.75 miles per £1 and comes with a 241 or upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 per year

The £160 Virgin Atlantic Reward+ credit card has a 15000 miles sign-up bonus, earns 1.5 miles per £1 and comes with a 241 or upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 per year

The Virgin Atlantic credit cards are issued by Virgin Money so it is very unlikely that you will be conflicted due to having any other cards from the same bank

You can apply for the free Virgin Atlantic Reward card here and the £160 Virgin Atlantic Reward+ card here.

I need to remind you that the free Reward card has a representative APR of 22.9% variable.  The Reward+ card has a representative APR of 63.9% based on a notional £1200 credit limit and the annual fee.  The representative APR on purchases is 22.9%.

Virgin Flying Club Reward free credit card

Which card is best for you?

As usual, there is no easy answer to this question.  Here are my initial thoughts.

I am 99% certain that MBNA will withdraw the existing Virgin Atlantic credit cards in a couple of months.  This is standard practice when issuers switch, as we saw with IHG and Barclaycard.  Do NOT think that you will be able to carry on using the current cards in the medium or long term.  I would be especially wary of spending on these cards if you are targeting an upgrade voucher unless you can hit the target very soon.

If you have the MBNA cards, you should be applying for the new Virgin Money cards.  The earning rate on the new Mastercard is better than the rate on the old Visa.  I am guessing, based on the IHG / Barclaycard scenario, that Virgin will NOT be allowed to contact you about the new cards so don’t wait for a direct email or letter – it won’t be coming.  If you are hoping to trigger a voucher on the old cards before they are closed, keep using the old MBNA American Express (only Amex spend counts towards the voucher) and put your Mastercard / Visa spend onto the new card.

The free Reward credit card is a very easy free 5,000 Virgin Atlantic miles.  Even if you are not a major Virgin Flying Club collector, 5,000 miles for making one purchase is attractive.

Whether you should get the Reward+ credit card depends on your spending.  Purely from a bonus point of view, you are spending £160 to get 15,000 Flying Club miles.  This is an OK deal but not a no-brainer.  To get full benefit you need to know that you will be spending on the cards too.

Virgin Money will allow you to have BOTH cards and to earn a bonus on both.  They told me yesterday that their responsible lending policy would not look kindly on anyone who applied for both at the same time, however.

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Reward credit card

The on-going earning rate is EXCELLENT – if you can use the miles

Let’s not beat around the bush.  Looking first at the free Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card, 0.75 Virgin Flying Club miles per £1 spent makes this the most generous free Visa or Mastercard currently available.

What are your alternatives, looking only at cards still open to new applicants?

I would value 0.75 Virgin Flying Club miles at 0.75p

The free IHG Rewards Club card gives 1 point per £1, which I value at 0.4p

The £24 Lloyds Avios Rewards card gives 0.25 Avios per £1 on the Mastercard, which I value at 0.25p

The free Tesco Clubcard Mastercard gives 0.125 Clubcard points per £1 (0.3 Avios) which I value at 0.3p

The free Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card is twice as valuable as the next best free travel Mastercard or Visa card.

Similarly, on the fee-based Reward+ credit card:

I would value 1.5 Virgin Flying Club miles per £1 at 1.5p

The £99 IHG Rewards Club Premium card gives 2 IHG points per £1, which I value at 0.8p

The £150 Tesco Premium Mastercard gives 0.25 Clubcard points per £1 (0.6 Avios) which I value at 0.6p

Again, the fee Virgin Atlantic Reward+ credit card is twice as valuable as the next best fee-paying travel Mastercard or Visa card.

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ credit card

But the snag …..

…. is using the miles.  Virgin Atlantic is a long-haul airline and so you don’t have any low value redemptions of note.

Virgin Flying Club will change massively in the next 12 months when Air France and KLM flights become available for redemption.  This will add short haul options in Europe as well as the excellent Air France / KLM long-haul network.

You will need a decent stock of miles to take advantage of this.  The good news is that you can also earn Virgin Flying Club miles from other partners:

American Express Membership Rewards from Amex Gold or Platinum (1:1)

Tesco Clubcard (1 point is 2.5 miles)

Heathrow Rewards (1:1)

Transfers from hotel loyalty schemes

There are also lots of partner promotions which we write about on Head for Points.  You CAN build up a decent stock of miles relatively easily – the free Amex Gold has a 20,000 point sign-up bonus which will convert into 20,000 Virgin miles.

Where does Virgin Atlantic fly these days?

I wrote an article – click here – on that exact topic last year.

Virgin Atlantic Reward Plus credit card

What do I think of the upgrade voucher?

I like it.  If you usually travel on your own, you don’t need a 2-4-1 voucher.

The upgrade voucher offered with the new Virgin credit cards lets you book a return Premium Economy reward flight on Virgin Atlantic for the same miles as an Economy reward flight.

The voucher would also work for couples.  Vouchers are valid for two years.  As you can earn one voucher per year, you would be able to upgrade a flight every two years.  If your card spend is high enough you can also, of course, get a card for yourself and a card for your partner and hit the qualifying spend on each.

What do I think of the 2-4-1 vouchers?

To be honest, I am disappointed and I am 99% sure that Virgin Atlantic has missed a trick.  There is no good reason, in my view, to restrict Upper Class redemptions using the 241 voucher to Virgin Flying Club Gold members.

As we all know, or should know, long-haul redemptions in Economy are usually a waste of miles because of the taxes and charges.  Virgin Atlantic generally has lower taxes and charges in Economy than British Airways but the same policy applies.  For non-status members of Flying Club, this is likely to be a perk with little value outside peak periods and they would be better off taking the upgrade voucher.

If someone has enough miles for Upper Class they are likely to be Gold anyway.  However, if a Head for Points reader was willing to move 100,000 miles over from Amex Membership Rewards or Tesco, that should also be fine.  Amex or Tesco would be paying Virgin Atlantic roughly £1000 and, with 2 x fuel surcharges and the £160 annual fee on the Reward+ card, it should be a decent deal for the airline.

Many people hoard miles for when they retire or are travelling less, but they will lose status at this point and so can’t use the Upper Class 241.  There is also a timing issue – you need to be Gold on the day you book and this brings additional problems for people moving between Red, Silver and Gold.

It isn’t even easy to become Virgin Flying Club Gold.  It is possible to be a heavy flyer but, unless North America is your main destination, still struggle to take Virgin Atlantic flights.  Many people can’t earn Virgin Gold status even if they want to due to the narrow Virgin route network.

It makes the whole benefits package unnecessarily messy and, more importantly, Virgin Atlantic has lost an opportunity for an easy win over British Airways.  If we had a Mastercard with a 241 voucher which would let everyone redeem for Upper Class, it would be an unbeatable product.  I would like to think they will rethink this part of the package over time.

PS.  There is some good news for families where one parent is Gold.  Virgin has confirmed to me that, if both parents have their own credit card and 241 voucher but only one parent is Gold, Virgin Atlantic will allow them to redeem both vouchers together for four seats in Upper Class.  The same applies to Silver members and Premium Economy rewards.

Virgin Rewards credit card


From the perspective of day-to-day earning, the new Virgin Atlantic credit cards are excellent.  They are the most valuable Visa or Mastercard travel cards on the market in terms of return.

If you have a pot of Virgin miles which you can add to via these cards, you should think seriously about applying

If you are Virgin Gold and can access the 2-4-1 voucher in Upper Class, you should think seriously about applying

If you are Virgin Silver and are happy redeeming your 2-4-1 voucher for Premium Economy, you should think seriously about applying

If you are a solo traveller and will benefit from the Premium Economy upgrade voucher when booking an Economy ticket on miles, you should think seriously about applying

If you are a casual Virgin Flying Club collector, 5000 miles for taking out the free card and 0.75 miles per £1 spent will see your balance move along, albeit slowly.  You may or may not get value from paying £160 for one year for the Reward+ card to get the 15,000 mile bonus.

If you have the MBNA Virgin cards, you should switch.  I would be shocked if the current cards survived the summer.

Access to seven Virgin Money lounges around the UK (I reviewed the Piccadilly one here) is a decent extra perk for everyone.  The full list of lounges is here.

You can apply for the FREE Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card (5,000 miles bonus) here and the paid-for Virgin Atlantic Reward+ credit card (15,000 miles bonus) here.

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.

HFP Virgin Atlantic Rewards credit card

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (June 2021)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Virgin Points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.

You can choose from two official Virgin Atlantic credit cards (apply here, one has a bonus of 15,000 Points):

Virgin Rewards credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard

The UK’s most generous free Visa or Mastercard at 0.75 points / £1 Read our full review

Virgin Rewards Plus credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and the most generous non-Amex for day to day spending Read our full review

You can also earn Virgin Points from various American Express cards – and these have sign-up bonuses too.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for a year and comes with 20,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 20,000 Virgin Points:

Nectar American Express

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

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Virgin Points

(Want to earn more Virgin Points?  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.)

Comments (296)

  • Nigel Williams says:

    I wonder if they will do the same as BA (Put 10K through the free card, upgrade to the Paid card to trigger the voucher).

    • mark says:

      doubt it, they are separate products ad you can hold both independently.

    • Trev says:

      Unlikely since you can hold both cards at the same time…

  • Duncan Stevenson-Price says:

    Are the 2-4-1 vouchers likely to be useable on short-haul routes operated by KLM and AF when they join the fold? That could make this appealing for me if the redemptions are priced similarly to RFS on BA. Probably asking a lot though!

  • AndyF says:

    I would have gladly moved my spending across to virgin. But the 2-4-1 voucher has put me off. I’m not a gold account member and I can say I don’t think I will ever be, due to flying mainly for holidays. 2-4-1 on Economy redemptions are the last thing I would want.

  • Dave says:

    This is a very frustrating package as it comes so close to being the card that allows a lot of us a way out of BAEC but then has a couple of restrictions on it that sink it. Personally, I think the free card will do ok as 0.75 points and 5k is reasonable for todays market and there is zero competition for it.

    The paid card however is serverly hampered by the 241 requirements as it just does not make it appealing to anyone other than a select handful of Golds, which is weird as you would have to imagine VM would want mass market appeal like the BA Amex. Is it safe to presume that the restrictions are a VA requirement? ????

    Anyway, for me, the IHG black still wins my MC spend as while the earning rate is half 1.5p v 0.8p (which I would disagree with as VA’ miles are worth that if you can claim in UC), the extra cost of the card (£61) will mitigate a lot of the extra earning. Additionally, sign-up bonuses are pretty equal 15k v 20-25k (IHG usually throw points at people in accelerate to sign up), once you hit £10k the IHG gives you a voucher worth 70k points rather than a heavily restricted one and lastly the spend on the IHG counts for as status points, this will net me Spire, which gives me an additional 25k per year and leverage into other schemes through matching.

    For now I will continue to stick to my SPG for everyday spend (I would argue this provides at least 2p worth of value per £), the Lloyds Amex for foreign spend (I spend enough in other currencies to hit the upgrade) and the IHG black for Mastercard spending.

    • Kathy says:

      Though I’m not sure how long the IHG Creation card free night voucher will stay the way it is – I’ve seen that the US equivalent Chase card has limited the free night voucher to 40,000 point per night hotels.

      • Lumma says:

        To be fair though, the US IHG card gives the free night each year with no additional spending requirement. For only a $49 annual fee (free for year 1). Ridiculously good deal.

      • Steve-B says:

        Yes, I think we all have to assume that we need to make the most of the Amex SPG, IHG Black, and Lloyds Amex cards this year….

  • s says:

    is it possible to get a a virgin club household account to pool points?
    although economy redemption is not very attractive a MAN departure will take the edge off.

  • Callum says:

    Not that impressed, for aspirational travellers a 241 on Upper Class would have been a great way to get people excited about VS. I preferred to fly with VS than BA to NYC but as I’m from Glasgow, living in Australia and thinking of going to Canada next to live, I would be going out of my way to fly with them.

    Under some circumstances this could be a very interesting card, I can’t imagine many people would pick lounge passes instead of a upgrade or 241. I think a staggered spend requirement for Reds, Silvers, Golds such as 20k, 15k, 10k respectively and 2 lounges passes at the halfway mark would be quite a compelling card. I imagine the difficulty would be Virgin Money having access to knowing what status you are.

  • DavidK says:

    I am surprised how good the earning rate is on the card. It is nice to see a non Amex card with such a generous offer. However I shan’t be applying as I am only interested in the Upper Class redemptions and I am not eligible for this not being Gold.

    Oh well I shall stick with the BAPP.

    • Ian says:

      It’s only the 2 for 1 you can’t use without gold for upper class. You can book normal upper class redemptions

  • AndyR says:

    What a huge disappointment! They could have really given the Amex BA cards a run for their money with this. Virgin are a smaller airline so why don’t they understand they need to offer the same if not more to attract people from the BA cards? Especially as VS status is so difficult to achieve due to their small network.

    With a BA 241 voucher we can fly to New York in First for 68,000 Avios each (off peak) so why would we fly Virgin UC for 95,000 VS miles (off-peak)?

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