Last day to earn miles from Virgin East Coast – and should you take miles or Nectar points from West Coast?

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Today, 21st June, is the last day to earn Virgin Flying Club miles for booking Virgin East Coast trains.  On 24th June the franchise bites the dust and services will be operated by LNER, a Government-owned entity.

From a loyalty point of view, there is one key impact.   From the time today when the Virgin East Coast website switches to LNER, you will no longer be able to earn Virgin Flying Club miles on train tickets booked on the East Coast route.  Bookings for future travel made before the switchover later today WILL earn miles.

It seems that Nectar points WILL continue to be offered by LNER although this is not 100% clear.

Virgin Trains

Should you take Nectar points or Virgin Flying Club miles from Virgin West Coast?

Whilst East Coast will be no more, Virgin West Coast will continue to operate.

Both Nectar points and Virgin Flying Club miles will continue to be offered.

Nectar:

You receive 2 Nectar points (so 1% cashback effectively) when you book train tickets at the Virgin Trains West Coast website.

Full terms and conditions are on the Virgin Trains website here.  Importantly, your trip MUST include a Virgin Trains component in order to earn points.  Booking a trip which is entirely on another train operator will not earn you anything.

Virgin Flying Club:

As per the Virgin Atlantic website here, you earn 1 Flying Club mile for every £1 spent at Virgin Trains.

Full terms and conditions are on the Virgin Trains website here.  Your ENTIRE trip must take place on the Virgin West Coast network – if your journey involves two operators, take Nectar points.  The only way to earn miles if your trip involves a connection is to make a separate booking for the other part of your journey, although this may end up being more expensive.

In terms of value, these options are roughly equal:

Two Nectar points are worth exactly 1p in 99% of redemption scenarios – the few Nectar redemptions which are worth more than 0.5p per point are on Shopper Points here (scroll to the bottom)

One Virgin Flying Club mile should get you 1p of value and potentially more – but of course this only makes sense if you already collect Virgin miles from other sources, as you will never earn enough just from train tickets for a flight.  As Virgin Atlantic has no short haul redemptions, you need to have at least 50,000 miles to hand before you can say they have real value.

As I said initially, however, you no longer have a choice on the East Coast route which will be back under state control by the end of the week.

(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. Nick_C says:

    Worth noting that if you set up an account with First Transpennine Express, you get 2 Nectar Points for each pound regardless of where you are traveling and with whom. I always buy my Thameslink / GN tickets from them.

    https://www.tpexpress.co.uk

    • Andrew Stock says:

      Then claim your money back through delay repay with GTR!

      • Nick_C says:

        Absolutely. The last time I tried to get to London the delay was more than hour each way. Because Delay Repay looks at each segment of the journey individually, I got a £20 refund (2 * £10) on a £19.95 ticket! (And 38 Nectar Points).

        Although it would be nice to have the 4 trains an hour they promised, instead of one train every 3 hours.

    • I knew a little trick that meant you could earn Flying Club miles on Great Northern journeys from London to Stevenage northwards via the VTEC website. I used it to earn miles when going to Cambridge.

      As it won’t work after today I won’t bother detailing it unless someone plans to book such a trip today.

  2. Mr(s) Entitled says:

    Easy way for me to earn a few miles once or twice a year that then resets the expiry clock.

  3. Andrew Stock says:

    Intercity (public sector) – GNER – National Express – East Coast (public sector) – Virgin East Coast – LNER (public sector).

    These trains have ended up being re-livered so many times!

    There must be something critically wrong when the DFT let’s put this franchise as they all keep running into financial trouble!

    • GNER is the only operator to successfully complete a franchise term. They successfully operated from 1996-2005. It was 2005 when they bid for their new franchise they ran into trouble,

      They bid what was considered a high amount at the time (but compared to what Virgin bid it looks quite low), but their parent company Sea Containers had financial difficulties of their own which combined caused their collapse.

      NXEC bid higher than GNER then the country ran into recession.

      VTEC bid even higher, you’d have expected the government to have realised they were going to repeat the failures.

      So the problem is the East Coast franchise is highly profitable, this causes bidders to overbid and the government seeing pound signs forgets about the previous failures.

      If it’s to be returned to private operation (as planned in 2020) they need to rethink the franchising process and preferably confirm the process works on other lines before they launch it on East Coast.

      It is planned for the private operator to keep the LNER brand.

      • > It is planned for the private operator to keep the LNER brand.

        At least that bit makes sense. Are the Government going to pay to re-livery all the trains now or will they not care?

      • RussellH says:

        One of the major problems with operating the ECML InterCity franchise is that throughout most of its routes it is not the main operator. In the south, most of the trains are inner or outer suburban, operated by GTR. On the northern InterCity routes they face competition from Cross Country and TPE (who are due to extend to Newcastle-Edinburgh in a year or so) as well asNorthern local services. Then there is Grand Central and Hull Trains open access competition. First Group is supposed to be launching an Open Access London-Edinburgh service too in a couple of years.

      • ChrisC says:

        I read on the London Reconnection blog that up to 1/2 of Kings Cross will be closed for 3 months in early 2020 (likely after god knows how many weekend closures) for a major reconfiguration and replacement of the track, platforms and signalling and power services.

        Any private operator who takes on the east coast franchise before those works are completed needs their head examined because they will just get the blame for the delays and cancellations

        • Lady London says:

          Wonder if that will affect St Pancras? I hope not, would be a nightmare for Eurostar

  4. Scott says:

    What happens to vouchers?
    I converted some Nectar points to VECT vouchers a while ago and have £15-£20 of them sitting in my account.
    Do they become useless now?

  5. Peter K says:

    I guess the Save the East Coast Rewards campaign is well and truly dead now.

    • Why? New franchise, new opportunity! If anyone is on the Virgin Trains ‘Viewpoint’ customer panel they’ve been discussing loyalty schemes too as of this week. So it does seem like Virgin are thinking of launching a proper loyalty scheme (they have Traveller but that’s a niche scheme). It’ll be annoying if Virgin get a great new loyalty scheme though and LNER sticks with Nectar!

      The survey asked things like would you be interested in points for free tickets and other things which sounded like they were considering an East Coast Rewards like loyalty scheme.

      • Peter K says:

        I suppose I think that as a private company had a generous reward scheme and went bust. A second private scheme (Virgin) had a less generous scheme…and went bust. If I were thinking of going for the franchise I’d think a generous treats scheme too high a risk as it eats into the profits.

        • David says:

          But you don’t run a loyalty scheme to share out profits, you give them to the shareholders for investing their capital.

          You run a loyalty scheme to increase the profits or otherwise enhance and help to secure the business.

        • East Coast Rewards was the scheme last run when the line was nationalised (East Coast), the previous private operator loyalty scheme were GNERtime and NXEC escape.

          East Coast Rewards was run by the successful nationalised operator. Its main purpose was to drive people online and those online to book direct. It succeeded in both these aims (the figures were available via freedom of information requests as it was a government run company). In fact the additional income they made from commission from 3rd party sales (tickets for other operators) more than covered the costs of the rewards.

          The VTEC bid team (which none of the current senior team were part of) made a lot of mistakes. The most obvious was overbidding, they also believed replacing a genuinely good loyalty scheme (EC Rewards) with a ‘big name’ (Nectar) would be looked at favourably. They crafted carefully worded surveys to back up their point when making their bid.

  6. Paul Burnley says:

    Hopefully East coast rewards will return when the franchise returns into public hands. That was one of the best rewards schemes out there.

    • One thing I will say is don’t expect miracles overnight. They can’t just enable rewards from day 1. If they do then it means VTEC had already been working on something and it just happens to be ready for the LNER launch.

      VTEC switched the booking engine last year in a migration that set the benchmark for TSB. LNER are keeping this booking engine and so if they want to introduce a loyalty scheme they’d have to develop the systems to support one.

      When East Coast took over in 2009, they continued to use the NXEC escape loyalty scheme to begin with before developing their own.

      So we hope they do better than Nectar, but have realistic expectations.

  7. Andrew says:

    If you’re booking tickets for Virgin Trains (West Coast) and have an employer which has a benefits portal, it’s a good idea to check to see if your employer partners with Virgin for a 20% discount on advance bookings.

    (Just remember to carry your staff ID or a payslip when travelling).

  8. NEC25 – That code usually works for all off-peak journeys on an Advance ticket bookings on Virgin West Coast.

  9. For travel purely within Scotland I still go for Scotrail via Qco cback for 5% back.

    Also worth noting that Virgin Red app is going to give ongoing 250pts/mo credit for a year for existing VTEC customers if you register now (use HIJRYZ for an extra 50 points!)

  10. Toddy says:

    If I add a London underground day pass, would I still be eligible for Virgin miles?
    Anyone know? thanks

  11. Andrew says:

    I find Flying Club from trains a good way to keep the account active when I have a couple of years between Virgin flights, removes any worry of points expiration.

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