Which Virgin Atlantic credit card is best for you?

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Back in April 2018, Virgin Atlantic launched its two new Virgin Flying Club credit cards, issued by Virgin Money.

Full details are on the airline website here.

This article runs through the key benefits of the two cards to help you decide which is best for you.

Here are the key features:

You can choose between a free Virgin Atlantic Mastercard and a paid Mastercard, with a 5,000 mile and 15,000 mile sign-up bonus respectively.

The earning rates are EXCELLENT.  0.75 miles per £1 on the free card and 1.5 miles per £1 on the fee card.

The new Virgin credit cards have a 2-4-1 voucher which works like the BA Amex voucher.  But … and this is a big ‘but’ … you need to be Flying Club Gold to use it in Upper Class.  You need to be Flying Club Silver to use it in Premium (Virgin’s new name for Premium Economy).  A base level ‘Red’ member can only use it in Economy. 

Solo travellers can choose, instead, to upgrade a return Economy redemption flight to Premium Economy.  This is available to everyone regardless of status.  As the upgrade voucher is valid for two years, a couple could also benefit if they earned two vouchers in consecutive years or each had their own credit card.

All Virgin Atlantic cardholders get free access to Virgin Money lounges around the UK

Let’s look at the two cards in detail.

Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card

The FREE card – Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card

I am legally obliged to tell you that the representative APR is 22.9% variable.

As you can see from the picture above, the free Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card is pretty cool, as credit cards go.  There is NO information on the front!  No card number, no personal name (these are on the back) although there is the usual chip.  The card is coloured red on the edge which makes it stand out when you look into your wallet or card holder.

This is what you get (full details are on the Virgin Money website here)

  • No annual fee
  • 5,000 miles as a sign-up bonus, triggered with your first purchase
  • 0.75 Virgin Flying Club miles per £1 spent
  • Double miles on online or call centre bookings with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays
  • Unlimited free access to Virgin Money lounges across the UK
  • 0% interest for six months on balance transfers (3% fee)
  • Spend £20,000 in a card year and select a 241 voucher, upgrade voucher or another reward – more on those below

You can apply for the FREE Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card here.

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ credit card

The fee card – Virgin Atlantic Reward+ credit card

This 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%.

This card is even cooler to look at, in my view, than the free card.  Again, your name and your card number are printed on the back, giving an impressive looking piece of plastic.  The card is also coloured red on the edges.

This is what you get (full details are on the Virgin Money website here):

  • £160 annual fee
  • 15,000 miles as a sign-up bonus, triggered with your first purchase
  • 1.5 Virgin Flying Club miles per £1 spent
  • Double miles on online or call centre bookings with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays
  • Unlimited free access to Virgin Money lounges across the UK
  • Free global wi-fi access via Boingo
  • 0% interest for six months on balance transfers (3% fee)
  • Spend £10,000 in a card year and select a 241 voucher, upgrade voucher or another reward – more on those below

You can apply for the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ credit card here.

Virgin Atlantic credit card

These are your rewards for hitting the spending target each year:

Your reward is triggered IMMEDIATELY upon hitting the spending target.  The target is £20,000 in a card year for the free Virgin Atlantic Reward Credit card and £10,000 in a card year for the £160 Virgin Atlantic Reward+ credit card.

This is what you can pick from:

All Flying Club members:

A 2-4-1 voucher, valid for two years, for a Virgin Flying Club redemption in Economy, or

An upgrade to Premium when you book an Economy reward flight (requires reward availability in Premium)

Flying Club members with Silver status can choose from:

A 2-4-1 voucher, valid for two years, for a Virgin Flying Club redemption in Premium or Economy, or

A Virgin Clubhouse lounge pass for Heathrow or Gatwick (requires a same-day Virgin Atlantic flight), or

A return upgrade to Premium when you book an Economy reward flight (requires reward availability in Premium)

Flying Club members with Gold status can choose from:

A 2-4-1 voucher, valid for two years, for a Virgin Flying Club redemption in Upper Class, Premium or Economy

TWO Virgin Clubhouse lounge passes for Heathrow or Gatwick (require same-day Virgin Atlantic flights)

A return upgrade to Premium when you book an Economy reward flight (requires reward availability in Premium)

Taxes and charges are due on ‘free’ 241 seats in the same way as the British Airways American Express 241 vouchers.  Vouchers are valid for two years and you must fly the outbound leg of your trip before the expiry date.

Which Virgin Atlantic credit card is best for you?

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

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, 12,000 miles is worth having.

 The Reward+ credit card is definitely worth considering, especially for higher spenders.  Purely from a bonus point of view, you are spending £160 to get 15,000 Flying Club miles which is a decent deal.  If you spend on the cards at the generous 1.5 miles per £1 earning rate you will do very nicely.

I like the upgrade voucher for hitting your annual spend target.  If you usually travel on your own, you don’t need a BA Amex 2-4-1 voucher.  The upgrade voucher lets you book a return Premium Economy reward flight on Virgin Atlantic for the same miles as an Economy reward flight.  As vouchers are valid for two year, it works for couples if you are prepared to wait two years to earn two vouchers.

I do not like the 2-4-1 voucher for hitting your annual spend target. 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.  For non-status members of Flying Club, this is likely to be a perk with little value outside peak periods and you would be better off taking the upgrade voucher.

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Reward credit card

The on-going earning rate is EXCELLENT

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 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 late 2019 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 for a year’ American Express Preferred Rewards Gold has a 10,000 point sign-up bonus which will convert into 10,000 Virgin miles.

I wrote an article – click here – which looks at where Virgin Atlantic flies these days.

Virgin Atlantic Reward Plus credit card

Conclusion

From the perspective of day-to-day earning, the 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 and 0.75 miles per £1 spent will see your balance move along, albeit slowly.  You would also get good value from paying £160 for one year for the Reward+ card to get the 15000 mile bonus.

Access to seven Virgin Money lounges around the UK (I reviewed the Piccadilly one here although it has just relocated to Haymarket) 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.

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Comments

  1. Mark Smith says:

    Had the 241 been available to use in UC regardless of your VFC tier then I would have moved all my spend and collecting away from Avios and BA to Virgin instantly, however I will be sticking with BA until Virgin change this policy.

  2. The offer for extra miles (60k) has been appearing on my Facebook advertising for the last few weeks or so, so not sure it’s only ex MBNA holders

    • That’s how FB advertising works. You give them a list of emails and they show it to those people only. They keep asking me if I want to do the same – I could, for example, supply them with emails of people who unsubscribed from our mailing list and they would then be forced to see HFP articles whether they want to or not 🙂

      • Hmmm, I seem to have missed out on this, in spite of 2 MBNA cards (LH and a hotel one I think) – any way I can get on the bandwagon?

      • But my Facebook email is not any email relating to my MBNA account. It is however an email relating to my Virgin Atlantic flying club account

        • …. and VA is the one running this promo.

        • @Rob – also ex-MBNA holder here and other than the standard sign up bonus (on the VM site), I’ve not seen or been offered anything.
          Is this just because I don’t use Facebook?

          • If you were an ex-MBNA Virgin cardholder you would have been contacted, unless you opted out of being contacted. In which case you won’t be contacted and you’ve missed out on the extra 45,000 miles due to over-zealous box ticking 🙂

        • @Rob, Erk, I hope not.
          Contacted by VM I assume? If so, would it be too late for me to try and contact them to see if this is still running?

          • No, VA. It’s too late now. When this offer started VA let me add readers in but they stopped after a week as it was proving too troublesome.

            This promo is nothing to do with VM. VA is organising and funding it, VM is just doing the legwork.

            Sometimes ticking all those opt-out boxes works against you ….

  3. Michael Todd says:

    Virgin really do not release enough UC seats or have enough routes to give away 2 for 1 seats for all tier members, they can be hard enough to get as it is. So by limiting this they are rewarding their most frequent travellers and creating an incentive to fly more on Virgin Atlanctic to gain Gold. Overall I think it is an excellent move!

  4. Is there any way for my wife to get the extra offer for hitting 3 x monthly spend targets if she didn’t have the MBNA card before (and doesn’t yet have a Virgin Money card)?

  5. Does anyone know whether there is a Refer a Friend (aka spouse) scheme with Virgin Money?

    Thanks,

  6. I can’t get either card. I do have top rating on my credit score and a high income, but have been declined. When I queried, I sent them my score – from one of the firms they recommend, Callcredit -but they wrote back suggesting I check my credit rating. I gave up, which is a shame as I built quite a good stash with the old mbna card. Just deciding now whether to transfer my points to IHG, Hilton or blow the lot on wine….

    • That score is absolutely useless – people really need to stop paying attention to them. I know I had the top score with Experian when I first started building my credit record many years ago.

      What matters is your credit report. It’s hard to say without seeing your report but the main things creditors don’t like are too many searches, too much available credit, too much credit utilization or missed payments (which I assume you don’t have given the “top score”?).

      • Goodness knows. What puzzles me is that I received an invitation through the post (presumably as a former mbna card holder) and, I might have assumed, the airline might want to retain my custom. Their loss, I guess, but disappointing nevertheless.

  7. When I phoned Virgin Atlantic to enquire of possible ways to get round not having any Virgin status and wanting to fly me and a friend in premium economy I was told that you can eanr more than one 241 voucher per year per card by spending another 20k/10k. Thus if i spent 40k a year, id earn 2 241 vouchers with the free card, and could use these to upgrade 2 economy tickets to premiumn economy for my friend and I.

    However, I have not been able to find written verification on this and I doubt it to be true tbh. Anyone know if it’s true?

    • If I reach that amount will let you know!

    • I’ve just hit £20k on the Reward+ card, my second statement is due in a few days so can report then if its true or not. But my first reward posted to VFC 12 days before the statement date so i’m not hopeful earning 2 rewards is right.

      • I hit the 10k target in my first month and the reward only posted to VFC about 10 days after the first statement. I’ve put over 20k through and have just had my second statement, so will report back in a week and half to let you know if I’ve got another one.

    • I don’t think so. I’m spent well over 20k and there is nothing on my statement to indicate a second reward. I did think about my wife taking out a second card but did not think it was worth the fee. I will aim to hit the 10k again after my anniversary so I will have two ‘active’ rewards. Maybe thats what they meant?

    • I suspect that the agent on the phone was getting confused with the old MBNA Virgin card, where it was possible to get two per year.

    • ankomonkey says:

      This was definitely possible with the MBNA versions, but was an advertised feature.

    • There’s nothing about spending more and getting a better upgrade. I suspect the agent was referring to using two upgrade vouchers from Econ to PE, but they would be wrong. According to T&Cs “Only one Virgin Atlantic reward may be earned in a twelve month period. Your year will reset on your credit card anniversary date.” Unless they meant your friend could get a card, or you earn two vouchers over two years, but you wouldn’t have long to use em.

  8. Thanks for the replies. Looks like I bumped into a customer service rep who didn’t know facts they should know and answered with a guess masquerading as a fact.

  9. Sorry if it’s answered already somewhere else – if I use the upgrade voucher from Economy to Premium Economy, then do I pay taxes at the Economy level (or) Premium Economy level (as PE taxes are more) ?

  10. PE taxes

  11. Curve Card Changes.
    Anyone else had an email from Curve telling us about the enhancements they are making ?

    The bit which stands out to me is
    “Eligibility for rewards. Your card issuer will now be able to identify your spend categories. If you have a card which gives you Rewards based on categories of spend (e.g Groceries, Travel, etc.), you now may be able to earn these Rewards, on top of your Curve Rewards.”

    I bet the card issuers actually use that information the other way around to stop rewards being earnt on certain (most) spending on the Curve card 🙁
    At the moment they are pretty blind and pay rewards on the whole balance.

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