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

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.


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.

(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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.

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  1. Few questions :

    ( I think could be useful to have more detailed article re Virgin here , this one is just for credit cards but would be great to see side by side comparison vs BA with typical taxes/miles cost for same destinations , availability etc )

    1) voucher for upgrade/2-4-1 … what happens if booking is cancelled ? is it the same as BA and voucher returned if not expired ? the same with upgrade ? Also btw what are the cancellation fee ? similar to BA ?

    2) Using VM on Delta flights – is it only possible on Delta metal or codeshare too ? Also any details on future KLM/AirFrance partnership i.e. what are expected taxes for Europe vs BA ?

    3) BA vs VA redemption availability comparison

    Personally I am considering replacing BA Amex with this Card since I rarely find opportunities to extract more then membership fee value from BA’s 2-4-1 given my flight patterns and have about 10K year non Amex spend which currently goes to HSBC Premier card , but having 1.5 earning + voucher may be a better option ( I still have to keep HSBC however for lounge purposes )

    • Good question re the 241 on a cancellation, I will ask. The rest isn’t really relevant to this discussion but I will do some more coverage on VS over the next few days for the benefit of those who haven’t considered it previously.

      • Stu N says:

        That would be great, Rob. An “idiots guide to earning and redeeming with Flying Club” would be great. Would be especially helpful if you could pull out key differences to BAEC.

        For example:
        – sample redemptions including taxes and charges
        – is there any way to pool miles for redemptions? Say I have 40k miles and my partner has 30k and we need 2x35k = 70k for a redemption, can we do that? BAEC lets you do that (and more) via HHA but not sure about Virgin
        – summary of non-flying earning opportunities
        – how to actually book stuff, are we looking at t-355 then random releases depending on sales like BA or is it different patterns?

        Basically a baby version of the Avios University series.

        I don’t ask for much, do I?

        • Nick M says:

          Virgins website and app are very easy to use to check availability/taxes

          You need to have enough miles for a whole segment so your example wouldn’t work – you’d need either 2x 35k or 17.5k + 52.5k

      • Stu N says:

        Thanks NIckM – did a bit of reading around tonight and got somewhere on costs and earning opportunities. The flexibility of BA Household Accounts is a standout benefit for my household – it’s a shame Virgin don’t replicate this but the “sectors” thing is better than nothing.

        Perhaps the main ask of Rob is real-life redemption experience…

        • I have found plenty of redemption availability to New York.

          I have jeard of others who struggle ot get availability for Or;ando during school holidays (I guess that isn’t a surprise)

          The availability improved with the addition of Delta flights but they require more points (many more if you get indirect flights)

  2. I have a V black card and have met the spend to trigger the PE upgrades but my anniversary is Sept. Will they still credit the vouchers if the card goes ?

  3. If Virgin wants to offer more for status holders and still make the cards more attractive for non-status holders maybe there’s a way of doing that by opening up additional reward options.

    E.g. if 25% off the required miles for two seats in Upper Class to non-status holders (instead of 50% off as a 2for1 deal offers) that would likely be enough to swing it for me taking into account the other factors around Virgin vs BA redemptions.

    Just in case Virgin is taking the feedback on board… 🙂

  4. rams1981 says:

    Prob won’t get this. Will wait and see if there’s a higher bonus. That said if Hilton card disappears I will need something else to go with tandem and ihg.

  5. Derek Hall says:

    Thanks for your usual high standard of comprehensive review

    Can I ask for a couple earning £150k with the £195 fee BA with 241 at £10k spend and Virgin Atlantic MBNA 241 at £15k spend should we apply for a joint virgin MasterCard or two separate sole cards?

    On the virgin mbna card the £15k must be reached on Amex not visa, is this the same for new Carol d or is it solely MasterCard spending to £10k on fee card ?

    • The card is only Mastercard. To some extent it therefore depends how much Amex spend you have to push towards BA. If you could do 2 x £20k on the free Virgin cards then you don’t necessarily need to bother paying £320 in fees for 2 x Reward+ cards.

      That said …. for year 1, given the higher bonus, you may get a better deal on Reward+. Drop down to the free card for the 2nd year.

  6. Nigel Williams says:

    Rob, Will the BA 2-4-1 trick work with this VA card? (Spend 10K on the free card, upgrade to trigger the voucher)?

  7. I have no plans to fly Economy or PE so the card offers little to me.

  8. Luckyjim says:

    My glass is half full.

    • mark2 says:

      Mine is less full than that.
      I can get an Amex 241 fairly easily and Virgin have got a very mall route selection. I thought that I would be able to use AF/KLM from Birmingham but taxes etc. are extremely high.
      I have always converted Virgin Miles to Hilton so can get 2 Hilton points per £1 (at present). I shall wait and see whether they increase the sign-up bonus if sales targets are not met.

  9. NAR 66 says:

    I have been a VA Black card holder for years and have had some great Upper class air miles seats or day time PE and back at night Upper. Cannot remember the last time I paid for a VA seat. As i am not a business traveller but have a property in USA I am unable to use any of the 2 4 1 vouchers that I get every year as it works out too expensive and I am well past the age of flying economy long haul! Reckon I moan to FC every time I book a flight.

    It is such a shame that they are imposing a status on your voucher as I probably spend more in a year on my card to travel Upper Class around the world three or fours times over so it is unfair to penalise the traveller who has probably indirectly paid over the odds to get the miles for the air miles seat in the first place. It would be so nice if you could use the voucher like BAEC with your miles regardless of status 125000 miles are 125000 paid for which ever way you spend!

  10. James says:

    Morning Rob – 2 quick questions please;

    1. Do you have any further info about Air France and KLM joining? Restrictions etc?
    2. Any chance you have contacts at VA / VM who are taking feedback onboard from all the comments?

    • 1. No idea what, if any, restrictions or pricing will be in place. You almost certainly won’t be able to use the 241 or upgrade vouchers on a partner airline. Deal is due to complete within 12 months but lots of Government approvals needed.

      2. I am in almost too regular contact with Oli Byers and other key members of the Flying Club team this week. I’m not speaking to VM.

  11. Does your point re: being conflicted with Virgin Money mean that you are only able to have one VM credit card (i.e. you can’t apply for either of these if you already have a VM card)?

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