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.  It was amended in May 2020 to reflect the removal of the sign-up bonus on the free card.

Here are the key features:

You can choose between a free Virgin Atlantic Mastercard (no sign-up bonus) and a paid Mastercard (15,000 miles sign-up bonus)

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
  • No sign-up bonus
  • 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 has an excellent earnings rate of 0.75 miles per £1.  You won’t get better value from a free travel rewards card.

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 £79 Lufthansa Miles & More Mastercard gives 1.25 miles per £1, which I value at 1.25p

The fee-based Virgin Atlantic Reward+ credit card is the most generous Visa or Mastercard travel rewards card available.

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, 0.75 miles per £1 spent on the free card will see your balance move along.  However, you would get better value from paying £160 for one year for the Reward+ card to get the 15,000 mile bonus and the 1.5 miles per £1 spent.

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 (no 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. I used Boingo from my Rewards+ card on a recent SQ flight – really handy as otherwise limited to 100MB 👍

  2. £160 for 25,000 miles only worth it, if you are already nearing the 75k in account — to get any decent return in UC.

    I find reward redemption fees to be eye-watering, especially where it matters: US destinations.

  3. Is it worth having Virgin Miles for Flybe redemptions ?

    • We don’t know yet what they will cost in taxes or miles, so hard to tell.

      • Concerto says:

        Yes we do, I just priced up Manchester-Düsseldorf and there was loads of RT availability for 9,000 miles and GBP82 surcharges. I then went on find find cash tickets for GBP77 (if booking a Virgin codeshare number it was GBP86). Not sure what the baggage situation is, didn’t check, was just going to bed. Award tickets are presumably modifiable and refundable though.

    • Lady London says:

      Would you have to consider the likely future of Flybe before you planned to save miles for their flights? As outcomes are currently unpredictable then I guess perhaps s.75 protection via credit card becomes even more important?

  4. Just on a side note, there are only 6 lounges as they closed our local lounge in Manchester in Jan. It was always busy and popular, but now the nearest one is in Sheffield unfortunately.

    • … and the London Piccadilly lounge did not “relocate” to London Haymarket, it closed. There were 2 London lounges, now there is just the one in Haymarket.

      Access is also available to clients of other Virgin financial services, such as ISAs, which is how my wife gained entry to the late Piccadilly lounge.

  5. CharlieCheap says:

    I would have liked to start collecting Virgin Miles but I am not going to risk taking out their credit card and only getting a low credit limit and where my miles are capped

  6. Big mistake to limit UC redemptions to Gold members only. If this was a BA-style 2-4-1 I may have been convinced to move some travel to Virgin, but not in economy.

    • +1 never going to be tempted away from BA Gold with that restriction…

      • They know, they know ….

        • Lady London says:

          I wish there was a way we could get their explanation on where they are coming from with this. Wondering does the restriction have to do with Virgin being so linked with Delta now.

        • Rob, have they ever given you their reason why UC redemptions can not go across the board ?

          • A certain person in VS wanted to retain a carrot for Gold members.

          • JP-MCO says:

            It’s interesting that with the US version of this card they essentially ‘sell’ status as you earn 25 tier points per $2500 spent (up to a maximum of 50 per month) in addition to your points earned through spending. Assuming you spent $60k a year on the card you would earn 600 of the 1000 required tier points to get Gold in 12 months and would achieve Silver in just 8 months. That said there’s no companion voucher with the US Virgin Atlantic card. It’s just interesting that on one hand they say that they want to retain a carrot for Gold cardholders and yet on the other they’re prepared to give away status in other territories.

    • It’s the main reason I cancelled the card, New York in Y I can manage but there is better value to be had in the Creation IHG card.

      • Chabuddy geezy says:

        They have about 40 planes vs 300 for BA. They feel they dont have the capacity to give away the 2 4 1 voucher to everyone.

  7. a9504477 says:

    Slow week, posting the same article again?

  8. My wife applied via HFP yesterday and was refused, despite having a large income, excellent credit rating and having only one other credit card with almost no balance and 13k off credit on it…..

    • …..of credit…..!

    • +1, I have tried a few times since they launched.

      Would love to know their criteria.

      • Shoestring says:

        people appealing against failing on eligibility have reported good success

        probably well worth a try as I guess Virgin Money will take you pretty seriously plus you have a much better opportunity to state family income & expenditure etc

    • Ring up the Virgin Money customer line and tell the agent you want to appeal- the one I spoke to took the details and said she would email the underwriting team. I was approved within 3 days with a 10k limit.

  9. The website is still glitchy for KLM redemptions. I’ve tried to add AMS to LHR to my basket 3 times this morning and whilst they are saying the availability is there, it then says there is a problem of availability when I come to book. Any ideas?

    • RedEyeDonkey says:

      I had the same trying to go from BHX to TXL but as it was a while out I just gave up and figured I’ll call in a week or so if they don’t fix it. FWIW I think the availability you’re looking for will turn out to be there as I checked the route I wanted on Delta’s site and it was available to Delta too so assuming they just haven’t got the booking working right yet rather than showing ‘ghost’ availability. Hopefully that’s the case anyway and it’s working soon…

    • Every KLM flight I try to book says that on all dates

  10. Charlieface says:

    Arguably we do. They are unlikely to be much different from AFKL in terms of miles, and taxes/charges would be most likely be the same as booking via other channels.

  11. Concerto says:

    I made a comment above about Flybe redemptions in answer to Rob, which might get lost because it’s so far back. About AFKL redemptions, I have been finding amazing deals. For example, Moscow to Geneva OW on AF via Paris is 9,000 miles plus USD27 surcharges, only useful if you need to do that route of course.
    What I found with Flybe was you couldn’t redeem on flights where Eastern is the operating carrier (e.g. Humberside-Aberdeen), although the lack of an Eastern flight number makes it look as if it is a franchise operation.

    • Lady London says:

      Wow. Are those all intra-Europe Continent land mass @Concerto? I may take a look at a OW MOW HEL or similar. Maybe I can even use up my very tiny stash …

      • Concerto says:

        Intra Europe, yes, on AF or KL. Seems there could be some real deals to be had. Not sure about MOW to HEL, though… I could check through my Flying Club account.

        • Lady London says:

          Ta, I will have a mess around when I get time.
          Suspect quite a few of the good stuff won’t book though.

    • Can you book it through the site or by calling them? I can see the availability but the site isn’t letting me book..

      • Concerto says:

        TBH I didn’t try booking, I was just having a look around and trying some routes.

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