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Credit & Charge Card Reviews (14): Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard

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This is my review of the Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard credit card.

It is part of my series of articles looking at the major UK loyalty credit cards and discussing whether or not they are worth applying for. These articles will be linked to the relevant sections of the ‘Credit Cards Update‘ page. My other UK airline and hotel credit card reviews can be found here.

If you want to check your credit record before applying for a new card, click here to get your free Experian Credit Score.

Key link: Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard application form

Key facts: No annual fee

The representative APR is 22.9% variable.

About the card

The Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card – issued by Virgin Money – is issued as a Mastercard.

Virgin Money does not have any other travel reward cards apart from Virgin Atlantic so it should not conflict with any other credit cards you hold.

You can find our review of the £160 annual fee Virgin Atlantic Reward Plus credit card here. Whilst there is a fee, it does have a higher sign-up bonus of 25,000 miles until 14th December.

What is the sign-up bonus?

The current sign-up bonus on the Reward Mastercard is 10,000 Virgin Flying Club miles.  This is a special offer which runs until 14th December.

You will receive 5,000 miles with your first purchase and a further 5,000 miles when you spend £1,000.

It is important to note that Virgin Money treats the free Reward and the paid Reward+ credit cards as separate products. You can apply for both and receive a sign-up bonus on both, although Virgin Money appears to want a six-month gap between applications.  You can even hold both at the same time, which is not the case with the British Airways American Express cards.

Any other benefits?

Yes. The Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card comes with a good spend bonus. After spending £20,000 in a card membership year, 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

A return 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)

If you usually travel on your own, the upgrade voucher to Premium on a reward flight is likely to suit you best. This can also be used by a couple to upgrade one leg per person on a return Economy reward flight.

It is a shame that Virgin Atlantic has restricted Premium 2-4-1 tickets to Silver members and Upper Class 2-4-1 tickets to Gold members. I believe that this will restrict the market for the card.

If you cannot reach £20,000 of spending per year, you should look at the £160 Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard instead.  This only requires £10,000 of annual spending to unlock the same benefits and currently comes with a 25,000 mile sign-up bonus.

Additional card benefits include:

  • Unlimited free access to Virgin Money lounges across the UK
  • 0% interest for six months on balance transfers (3% fee)

Review Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard credit card

Is there an annual fee?

No, there is no fee for the Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard.

What do I earn per £1 spent on the card?

You earn 0.75 miles per £1 spent.

This is an exceptionally good return for a free Visa or Mastercard.  No other free reward credit card comes close.

The key issue to consider before applying, however, is whether it is worth spending £160 for the paid card, which earns you 10,000 additional sign-up miles (25,000 vs 15,000) and an earning rate which is twice as high at 1.5 Flying Club miles per £1.

Bookings with Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Holidays earn double miles.

What is a Virgin Flying Club mile worth?

This is clearly a ‘finger in the air’ exercise. I would, however, flag some key pointers.

Virgin has a lot of partners which allows you top up your balance to the level needed for a good redemption:

You can earn miles by converting Tesco Clubcard points as well as Heathrow Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards points. Even if you never fly with Virgin, you could top up your credit card miles with Tesco points.

They have particularly good earning rates with Hertz

There is an on-going deal for 6,000 or more free Virgin Flying Club miles for opening a Virgin Money ISA.

You can earn 3,000 miles for your first purchase from Virgin Wines

You can transfer Virgin miles to Hilton Honors at a 1 : 1.5 ratio which puts a floor under their value. You can also transfer to IHG Rewards Club at 1 : 1.

As Virgin Atlantic does not offer any short haul redemptions, however, you need to be confident that you can earn enough via the card and the routes outlined above, plus miles earned from flying, to unlock a good long-haul redemption.  If you can, I am happy to value Virgin Flying Club miles at 0.75p – 1p each, in line with Avios.

Is this a good card to use when travelling?

Not really.

As Virgin Money adds a 3% foreign exchange fee to all overseas transaction, you might want to get a separate free credit card to use abroad. Unfortunately there are no travel rewards card without a foreign exchange fee. One option is to get a free Curve Card – see this HFP article – and link it to a miles-earning Visa or Mastercard.

How does the Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard compare to a cashback credit card?

My default comparison card is the Amazon Platinum Mastercard which is free for life and offers 0.5% cashback. The representative APR is 21.9% variable.

Offering 0.75 Virgin Flying Club miles, plus an added bonus for spending £20,000 per year, the Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card is substantially more attractive.

Anything else I need to know?

Air France KLM is in the process of buying a 31% shareholding in Virgin Atlantic.  Once this completes, you will be able to redeem your Virgin Flying Club miles for Air France and KLM flights.  This will add substantial value to the programme as it will add a lot of options in Asia and the Middle East to complement Virgin’s strong position in the USA and Caribbean.

Conclusion

The Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard is easily the best free airline or hotel Visa or Mastercard on the market.

The temporary sign-up bonus of 10,000 miles is good and you should jump in before 14th December when it will drop back to 5,000 miles.  The real strength, however, is the on-going earning rate. 0.75 Virgin Flying Club miles for every £1 you spend is an excellent return.

And depending on where you live, you’ll be able to pop into a Virgin Money lounge every time you go shopping to get a free cup of tea or coffee and a biscuit!

The application form for the Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard credit card can be found 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.

Bits: Hilton Asia flash sale, free Ritz-Carlton Doha stay with Qatar Airways, £100 off £500 United spend with Amex
Bits: Expedia drops Nectar, two new 'buy Avios' deals from 0.84p, Virgin gains a Heathrow slot from Cobalt
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Comments

  1. The problem with the paid card is the 241 is only valid in economy so after a year it will be dumped. I got 75000 miles due CC spend and will in time use them for some sort of redemption but long term it’s back to BA where I don’t need gold status to get seats in a premium cabin. For the life of me I don’t know what virgin were thinking. Bizarre

    • I agree, but then you’ll read I’m not travelling in a premium cabin where I have to then pay a charge to select seats, so it’s all take your choice. But I agree the Virgin 241 is worthless without status.

      • So would you prefer a non-status passenger being able to select say an upper deck Club World seat for free ahead of a Gold or Silver card holder?

      • Not completely worthless, but certainly less valuable than the BA version. Probably for most of the readers of this blog it woudln’t get used as they tend to only fly Club or higher with their points. Others can get value from it by using the 241 (if they are happy to fly economy) or using it for the PE upgrade.

  2. Farid hagmik says:

    Rob,
    The journalistic content of your blog is really second to none. I understand you also need to monetise your reader base.
    However, being so pushy with the Virgin cards lately makes me feel they offer you great commission ( which is great) but it devalues the journalistic worth of your site…just a thought

    • Obviously everybody’s perception is different but I can’t see how he has been pushing the Virgin card overly given that…
      a) he is currently reveiwing all travel related cards one by one
      b) they have a limited time opening offer available
      c) they offer one of the highest returns on spend of any non-AMEX card.

    • Not sure how this article is pushing the virgin card more than any other credit card as it is part of a series summarising all points earning cards!

      • BlueHorizonuk says:

        It might feel like a lot of Virgin posts at once but its a co-incidence

      • It’s possibly because there was an article about the increased signup bonuses recently, and was there one about how to decide between the two cards from Virgin? So there’s been slightly more Virgin related content than usual, but as one is about there being a signup bonus it would have been strange for that to have not been mentioned.

        • We have done 2 articles on the increased sign-up bonus, which isn’t much given that it is the biggest deal on the market at the moment. More will follow over the next month. These two reviews were running anyway.

  3. I am finding the heavy coverage of the Virgin card useful just now. Previously held the free MBNA card but not yet taken the leap to the new offering. Last week’s article caused me to check and I find I have been targeted with the 33k points offer, but I’m only FC red so limited to how I can use any reward flights.
    However in 4 weeks time we’re flying UC for the first time using those low price business fares that Rob tipped us off about back in Feb/Mar(?). Thanks Rob! Will also get to experience Delta One on the return. The experience and knowledge of my fellow HFP readers will go a long way to helping me decide whether to take one more cash flight in order to get some status and use any rewards more profitably. So please keep those VS comments and tips coming, we only travel for leisure now and this site has changed the way we do it infinitely for the better. JJ

    • How can you check if you were targeted with an offer based on being on old Mbna VS cardholder??

      • I’m not very good at clearing out old emails. Received an invitation from Virgin back in July. I assumed it was because I held an MBNA card, maybe it was just because I’m a Flying Club member.

        • Have you checked that the offer is still valid; they often only have a limited life.

        • The original offer mentioned in the TS&Cs that you had to apply by some time in September. May have extended that though I suppose

        • It was more about making the point that the article has triggered a reminder, in my case an email that arrived whilst I was on holiday. If I’ve missed the offer so be it, I don’t churn and am using Amex Plat at present. However I’m always interested in what others are up to, in case it’s relevant to something I’m chasing.

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