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.  They have proved hugely successful, with over 175,000 applications in the first 18 months.

Full details are on the airline website here.

This article runs through the key benefits of both 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 an easy free 5,000 Virgin Atlantic miles.  Even if you are not a major Virgin Flying Club collector, 5,000 miles is worth having.

However, 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. 

And, of course, when you spend on the Reward+ card at the generous 1.5 miles per £1 earning rate you 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-based 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

It’s now easier to use your miles

Virgin Flying Club just added Air France and KLM flights for redemption.  This has added short haul options in Europe as well as the excellent Air France / KLM long-haul network.

You can read about how to redeem Virgin Flying Club miles on Air France and KLM in this article.

You will need a decent stock of miles – more than your initial 15,000 credit card miles – to take advantage of this.  The good news is that you can also earn Virgin Flying Club miles through transfers 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 yesterday which looked 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.  However, you would get better value from paying £160 for one year for the Reward+ card to get the 15,000 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. For those who already received the card – how many business days did it take since approval…?

  2. Youllnever says:

    Just received an email from VM telling me that because I’ve spent more than £10,000 for the past 12 months, I should “upgrade” my card to the Reward+’s benefit (with the same £160 annual fee), although the card doesn’t actually change. Don’t believe this was possible before. Not sure if this means you can also downgrade though.

    Link below (with offer ID removed so don’t try applying): https://uk.virginmoney.com/virgin/credit-cards/vaa-cards/upgrade/

    • Thanks. Some progress I suppose. Shame there isn’t an equivalent downgrade link!

    • Secret Squirrel says:

      Wow, this email must be going out to thousands of HFP readers! 😜

    • Thanks. If you have a £10k credit limit p/m that is £120k spend p.a.:
      Free card: 90k VA miles
      Paid card: 180k VA miles
      So extra 90k VA miles for £160 (or extra 135k extra Hilton points for £160).

      Assuming 1p worth per VA mile, roughly £1.8k spend pm / £21.6k pa to breakeven the £160 fee vs the free card. Ignoring sign up bonus which you can not get as new member if you already own.

      • “This link is unique to you. Please do not forward it to friends or family as they cannot use it to get the Reward Boost.”
        ahhh…. let’s see if I get the email.

      • Youllnever says:

        I had a bit of unexpected spend to be fair, so wasn’t thinking I would hit £10K when I signed up for the card originally.

  3. Travel Strong says:

    Virgin+ card has just charged 2.99% Non-Sterling Transaction Fee for a USD purchase, so whatever may have been in the past with no forex fee’s, is not happening now (for me, at least).

    There was a comment the other day along the lines of ‘application process states fee’s, but actually they do not’ . This does not appear to still be the case.

    *goes back to Curve and MBNA Horizon options for forex*

    • This is why we never mentioned the disappearing fees. It was always likely they reappeared under a different name which made them compliant with the EU regs.

      • On my statement it stated

        “From 15 December 2019, we’re changing how you’re charged when
        you use your card or withdraw cash in any of the 31 countries of
        the European Economic Area (EEA). When you pay for something
        in Euros, Swedish Kronor or Romanian Lei, we won’t charge you a
        Non-Sterling Transaction Fee.”

        Never said would apply to US $

      • The fees were only ever waived for EUR transactions. Never have been for USD ones.

      • Travel Strong says:

        If thats now the official terms, sounds like a selling point worth publishing! Isn’t it therefore the only no fx fee rewards card open for new sign ups?

        Worth getting hit for fee’s on the USD transaction today in order to bottom this out!

        • The application page still says there are fees. This implies they intend to bring them back. Why not make a song and dance about it otherwise?

    • The fee is gone for EUR and a couple of other European — was never gone for USD.

  4. Squeezed says:

    the fee card should have been more like the USA version , earning Tier points as well as miles . that would help to get to silver or gold.

  5. Hi Rob
    Is the appeal address Virgin Atlantic credit card team in Wigston or Virgin Money in Newcastle? Thanks

  6. I have held a Virgin Money Card for years now (although hardly ever use it) but wondered if this would affect the ability to get this Virgin Atlantic card and a sign up bonus. Perhaps I need to cancel it and wait say 6 months? Anyone got any experience of this scenario?

    • Travel Strong says:

      When the cards were first launched I had a dormant virgin money card with 14k credit limit. I was declined, so appealed and asked for the credit limit to be moved over from the virgin money card. A card then appeared in the post with a 14k credit limit.
      … however they didn’t actually shut down the virgin money card, so I pursued that seperately in the months after.

  7. I have now held both the free & paid cards over the last 18 months. Cancelled the paid card in Feb 2020 so waiting for the 6 months. Has anyone successfully started a 2nd churn cycle i.e held both cards and applied for a 3rd card?

  8. Quite shocked in applying for this – applied for the rewards + card having cancelled the basic 8 months ago – instant approval with nearly 5 times the credit limit i had on the basic card. Wasn’t expecting that!

  9. Brad Flack says:

    I have both of these cards so tried to get my wife to sign up to the Plus card (she already has the free card) but the website now says you can only have one card with VA at a time?

    She phoned and queried it and they confirmed there is no way to have a second card and it can’t be upgraded either?

    Anyone know when they changed this policy?

    • At least a few months ago as I was looking to apply again but it had changed since.

      I also rang today with the query about upgrading my card, got told I can cancel my current card, apply online and it’ll decline me. I should appeal the decline and they’ll open the account for me.

      Obviously the problem here is that it shows as a decline on my credit score and there’s no actual gaurentee that they won’t just decline my appeal. Sounds like a total ballache.

      Will cancel my existing and re-apply in 6 months or so.

      • aDifferentSimon says:

        I didn’t think credit records contained outcomes, just that a credit card company had checked and why.

  10. I am currently on the second year of the Amex Gold Rewards card which gives 1 point per pound spent, would it be better if I just cancel that one and go for a Virgin Atlantic fee card? The yearly payment is the same, but i will be getting a bit more miles on the latter.

    I end up converting my Amex points to Virgin Atlantic points anyhow.

    • The advantage of the Amex gold card is that it earns MR points and therefore a transferable currency. The other thing you will have to weigh up is the anniversary bonus of 10,000 Mr points when you spend £15,000 vs. The voucher that depends on your FF status on the Virgin card.

    • Shoestring says:

      yes definitely if you get a sign-up bonus on top

    • I would wait until the Virgin card has a 25,000 bonus again.

      In the short term, consider cancelling Gold but getting the free Amex Rewards card which will keep your Membership Rewards points alive.

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