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 Virgin Atlantic free credit 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 15,000 miles.  This might be a better deal for you than getting 5,000 miles with the free card.

What is the sign-up bonus on the free Virgin credit card?

The sign-up bonus on the Reward Mastercard is 5,000 Virgin Flying Club miles.  You will receive the miles after your first purchase.

It is no longer possible to hold both of the Virgin Atlantic cards at the same time.  On the application form it now asks you to confirm that: “I am not an existing Virgin Atlantic Credit Card customer and I have not closed another credit card issued by Virgin Money in the last 6 months.”

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 comes with a 15,000 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 free Virgin credit 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 (15,000 vs 5,000) 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.

If you want a dedicated credit card to use abroad, take a look at the Virgin Money Travel Credit Card (click here).  This card is free and charges NO foreign exchange fees.  It also offers 0% interest on purchases for 12 months and 0% interest on balance transfers for 12 months.  Representative APR 21.9% variable.

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

My default comparison card is the John Lewis / Waitrose Mastercard which is free for life and offers 0.5% cashback in vouchers.  The representative APR is 18.9% 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 sign-up bonus of 5,000 miles is very good for a free card.  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.

(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.

Credit & Charge Card Reviews (15): Virgin Atlantic Reward Plus Mastercard
FIRST REVIEW: We visit the new British Airways lounge in Geneva

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Comments

  1. How can I see where im up to with my spend
    Or do I need to call them

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