This month we finally saw Virgin Flying Club allow mileage redemptions on Air France and KLM – see our article here. This is a transformational deal in terms of being able to use your miles to get to where you want to go.
Until the 28th February, you can get a special sign-up bonus of 25,000 Flying Club points with the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ credit card.
As well as reminding you about the card bonus, I thought it was worth looking more broadly at whether there is an opportunity, even for someone without a Virgin Flying Club account at the moment, to build up a pile of points from scratch very quickly? And should you?
It is not up to me to tell you if this is a good idea FOR YOU or not. However, this article sets out a few reasons why you might want to consider it.
As a reminder:
The free Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card has a 5000 points sign-up bonus, earns 0.75 points per £1 and comes with a 241 or upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 per year. There is no special offer on this card at present.
The £160 Virgin Atlantic Reward+ credit card has – until 28th February – a special sign-up bonus of 25,000 points, earns 1.5 points per £1 and comes with a 241 or upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 per year. The usual bonus is 15,000 points.
The 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
Our full article from January on the 25,000 points bonus looks at the benefits of each of the two cards in detail. I recommend you read our main Virgin credit card article here.
I need to tell 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%.
Why is it worth thinking about building up a Virgin Flying Club balance?
Reason 1: Diversification
British Airways can fly you to pretty much anywhere that Virgin Atlantic can. However, that doesn’t mean they can get you Avios seats when you want them. Having a balance in another programme gives you more chance of getting seats on the dates you want them.
Both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic allow one-way redemptions, so with a Virgin balance you could mix and match a trip as availability allows. Virgin Atlantic also partners with Delta, Air France and KLM as well as a number of other airlines.
I used to suggest that Virgin Atlantic was not a good choice for anyone needing to redeem in the UK school holidays. However, with the addition of Air France and KLM, you now have a better chance of getting the seats you want. Dutch and French school holidays rarely match UK ones.
Reason 2: Availability
I rarely redeem on Virgin, so cannot comment on how easy or hard it is to get availability. Of course, it is better, undoubtedly, to have access to pots of BOTH Avios and Virgin Flying Club miles than to have just one pot on hand.
In general, Upper Class cabins have fewer seats than British Airways Club World cabins, with subsequent squeezes on availability. Is it easy to get four Upper Class seats on Virgin for a family? I don’t know. It isn’t a problem with British Airways on many routes – we are off to San Francisco over Easter in Club World.
You can check availability on the Virgin website without having enough miles in your account to do the redemption. You should spend some time researching your favourite routes before deciding whether to commit miles to Flying Club. The good news is that the addition of Air France and KLM as partners gives you more options if Virgin Atlantic cannot deliver via its own aircraft.
Luckily, there is a new online tool – seatspy.com – which can instantly show you Virgin Atlantic reward availability for a full year in a split second. You can compare it with British Airways availability by using either SeatSpy or rewardflightfinder.com.
Reason 3: The Virgin Atlantic credit cards also have the option of an upgrade voucher
If you don’t want to take the 2-4-1 voucher from the Virgin Atlantic credit cards, you can get a voucher to upgrade Economy redemptions to Premium for no extra points.
This is a very useful benefit for the solo traveller, who has no use for a 2-4-1 voucher from either BA or Virgin.
Extra taxes would be due, unfortunately, as Premium incurs the higher rate of Air Passenger Duty.
The spending criteria for earning the 2-4-1 voucher or the Premium Economy upgrade voucher is:
- £10,000 in a card year on the £160 Reward+ Mastercard (sign-up bonus 25,000 points until 28th February)
- £20,000 in a card year on the free Reward Mastercard (sign-up bonus 5,000 points)
Reason 4: If Virgin points don’t work out, you can transfer to Hilton Honors or IHG Rewards Club
If you found yourself struggling to use your Virgin points, you could move them across. It isn’t amazing value but it gets you out of a hole.
Of course, if your main aim is to earn IHG Rewards Club points then you are better off with one of the two IHG Mastercard credit cards. The Hilton Honors Platinum Visa is no longer available to new applicants so the new Virgin credit cards are your only – admittedly poor – way of accumulating Hilton Honors points from a Visa / Mastercard. For places that take American Express, you would be better off earning Hilton Honors points via the (free in Year 1) Amex Gold which earns 2 Hilton points per £1 spent.
Reason 5: The Heathrow Clubhouse
The Virgin Atlantic lounge at Heathrow, for Upper Class passengers, is widely regarded as one of the best airport lounges in the world. Get a haircut, have a massage, eat a proper meal, chill out in the audio or TV rooms or do one of many other (admittedly ‘boys toys’ type) activities. It is well worth trying once in your life. Here is a review of my last visit to the Virgin Clubhouse in Heathrow and here is a later Virgin Clubhouse review from Anika.
Reason 6: It is easy to collect additional points
It is now almost as as easy to collect Virgin points as it is Avios. The credit cards offer 5,000 points for getting the free Reward card and 25,000 points (until 28th February) for getting the £160 Reward+ card.
You can also earn from:
Tesco Clubcard (with occasional transfer bonuses of 10%-20%)
Hertz (1,000 Virgin points per rental)
….. as well as all the major hotel schemes. As I wrote here, some major hotel chains do not give Avios but do offer Flying Club points.
So, there are a few things to think about.
Flying Club has a bit more than Avios to offer to the person who redeems in Economy as you have the ability to upgrade to Premium Economy for free via the credit card voucher. This is also a perk that solo travellers can enjoy, unlike a 2-4-1 voucher. You also get the option of selected Virgin Atlantic long haul departures from Manchester and Glasgow, which British Airways abandoned long ago.
For business class redemptions, it is less clear cut. Smaller cabins, a smaller route network and fewer daily flights may make it trickier to find seats whilst the taxes and miles required tend to mirror British Airways. Air France and KLM make a big difference, however, and your redemption options are a lot broader than they were a month ago.
The main Virgin Atlantic credit card website is here. Remember to apply by 28th February to get the 25,000 points bonus on the Reward+ credit card.
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.
(Want to earn more Virgin Flying Club points? 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.)