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What is the best Virgin Atlantic credit card?

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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 card website here.

This article was updated on 19th October 2020, and all of the information is correct as of that date. Ignore the original publication date shown.

Virgin Atlantic unveiled some substantial improvements to the annual voucher in August 2020 that you can earn for spending £10,000 or £20,000 on the card, depending on which one you get.  Our news article on the changes to the Virgin Flying Club credit card vouchers is here.

The improvements can be summarised like this:

  • the 2-4-1 voucher is now valid in all classes, irrespective of your Virgin Atlantic status
  • the 2-4-1 voucher is now valid on BOTH cash and points tickets
  • the upgrade voucher is now valid in all classes
  • the upgrade voucher is now valid on BOTH cash and points tickets

Today I want to run through the key benefits of both Virgin Atlantic credit cards side by side to help you decide which is best for you.

Here are the key features:

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

The earning rates are EXCELLENT.  0.75 points per £1 on the free card and 1.5 points per £1 on the fee card.

The Virgin credit cards come with a 2-4-1 voucher.  It is substantially more powerful than the British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher because the Virgin 2-4-1 can also be used on cash tickets.

Solo travellers can choose, instead, to upgrade a flight by one class.  This applies to BOTH cash and points flights.  You can go from Premium to Upper Class (the best deal) or from Economy Classic / Economy Delight to Premium.

The vouchers are valid for two years.

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 Rewards 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 Points per £1 spent
  • Double points 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.

HFP Virgin Atlantic Rewards Plus 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 Virgin Points as a sign-up bonus, triggered with your first purchase
  • 1.5 Virgin Points per £1 spent
  • Double points 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.

Annoyingly, vouchers do not show anywhere online.  The only sign that your voucher is available for us is a one-line entry in your Flying Club account statement along the lines of ‘Reward voucher – 0 miles’.

You can choose one of the following options:

A 2-4-1 voucher, valid for two years, for a Virgin Flying Club points redemption OR a Virgin Atlantic cash ticket, in Upper Class, Premium or Economy

A return upgrade – on either a cash or points ticket – from Premium to Upper Class, or from Economy Delight/Classic to Premium.  You can either upgrade 1 x return flight if travelling alone or 2 x one-way legs of two return flights if travelling with someone else.

A Virgin Clubhouse lounge pass (requires a same-day Virgin Atlantic, Delta, KLM or Air France flight)

There is small print:

If you are a Red (no status) member, you need to pay 50% of the points for your 2nd ticket if you redeem your 2-4-1 voucher in Upper Class.  This means that, for Upper Class redemptions for Red members, it is effectively a ‘2 for 1.5’ voucher. For Economy or Premium redemptions, it is a genuine ‘2 for 1’.

If you are a Gold member, you would receive two Clubhouse lounge passes instead on one if you chose that option

Taxes and charges need to be paid on the ‘free’ ticket as part of your 2-4-1 booking

Vouchers are valid for two years and you must fly the outbound leg of your trip before the expiry date

Reward seat availability is required to use the voucher.  This means:

you can only upgrade a flight if there is a reward seat in the higher class (irrespective of whether you are upgrading a cash or a points ticket)

you can only apply a 2-4-1 voucher to a cash booking if there is a reward seat available for the 2nd ‘free’ seat

The voucher benefits are substantially better now than they were before August 2020.  You can now upgrade to Upper Class, you can now use the upgrade voucher on either cash or points tickets, and Red (base level) members can now redeem the 2-4-1 voucher in Upper Class.

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

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 Virgin Points 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 points which is a decent deal. And, of course, when you spend on the Reward+ card at the generous 1.5 points per £1 earning rate you do very nicely.

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 points 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 Points 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 points 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.

There is one bit of small print to note. The number of points you can earn per month is capped by your credit limit. If your credit limit is £5,000 and you choose to spend £4,000, pay it off mid-month and then charge another £3,000 before month-end, you will only earn points on the first £5,000.

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ credit card

It’s now easier to use your points

Virgin Flying Club recently 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 points on Air France and KLM in this article.

For clarity, you cannot use the 2-4-1 or upgrade vouchers from the credit card on KLM or Air France.  They are only valid on Virgin Atlantic flights.

You will need a decent stock of points – more than your initial 15,000 credit card miles – to take advantage of Air France and KLM redemptions.  The good news is that you can also earn Virgin Flying Club points through transfers from other partners:

American Express Membership Rewards from Amex Gold or The Platinum Card (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 points.

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

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.

The improvements to the credit card vouchers announced in 2020 make a SUBSTANTIAL difference to the value of the card.

Winners include:

  • solo travellers, who can now use the voucher to upgrade a return cash or mileage flight from Premium to flat bed Upper Class
  • ‘no status’ Red and mid tier Silver members of Virgin Flying Club, who can finally use the 2-4-1 voucher to redeem in Upper Class
  • anyone who has a low points balance and who can now use their voucher to get a 2-4-1 or upgrade on a cash ticket

If you are a casual Virgin Flying Club collector, 0.75 points 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 points bonus and the 1.5 points per £1 spent.

Access to seven Virgin Money lounges around the UK (I reviewed the Piccadilly one here although you now need to use the one around the corner on Haymarket) is a decent extra perk for everyone.  The full list of Virgin Money 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 points 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.

Comments (116)

  • Tom says:

    Having looked at a few examples, I think the best use of the 2-4-1 voucher would be on a 2 year cycle where you collect 2 vouchers and redeem the both as an upgrade from premium to upper class return. Especially those without status that would find it hard to collect huge numbers of points each year, needed to get the most out of your voucher.

    Single 2-4-1 voucher upgrade to Miami/Caribbean with no status, total points needed 172,500.

    Using 2 vouchers together to upgrade from premium to upper class for 2 people return, total points needed 130,000.

    If you say 1p per point. That’s a saving of £425 worth of points, which more than pays the cost of the fee in the 2nd year of £160.

    It also gives those of us not flying much with virgin a year longer to collect the points needed for a decent redemption and a lower target of points needed overall

    • Doug M says:

      I think this could be the big advantage of the Virgin voucher over the BA Amex, flexibility. Your example I assume will work for you, others may spend more and earn 2 vouchers/year with both partners having cards and spending 10K. Single travellers also benefit from this voucher. If Virgin exist by the time the vouchers can be used I think they’re on a winner with this.

  • Lawrence says:

    I have the paid card with my wife as a second cardholder. As it’s served its purpose I’m thinking of changing to the basic card or cancelling completely but before I do anything was wondering if she would be able to get the paid card with me as the second cardholder meaning that we would both be primary and secondary cardholders albeit for a short time. I don’t want to cancel mine before she applies incase she is rejected.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Being a supplementary card holder doesn’t usually have any bearing on being accepted or not as a primary account holder.

      Virgin has a pre check service.

  • Lawrence says:

    Thanks TGLOYALTY. I’ll try the pre check although I’ve heard that it’s not always accurate.

  • Andi Hawes says:

    Ive traditionally ignored the VA 241 as it was worthless but i see its now worth something. How do i see where my 241 is as i spend enough per year to gain one, assuming you get one per year as i keep my card. I dont see it in my VA Miles account summary?

  • kintarasan says:

    Out of interest, if I used the upgrade voucher to go from Premium to Upper Class do I still earn the miles for Premium? I’m not expecting them to be so generous as to give me the miles for Upper!

    Had a look at the VA T&C but couldn’t see definitively one way or another.

    • kintarasan says:

      Typically – soon after I’ve posted, I think that I’ve found an answer here (https://www.virginatlantic.com/gb/en/footer/terms-and-conditions/flying-club-earning-and-purchasing-miles.html):

      3.1.6 Miles and Tier Points will be issued only for flights actually flown by you and will be based on the class of ticket you have paid for and will not reflect any complimentary or Reward upgrades. Miles and Tier Points will only be credited once travel has been completed, not at time of booking. Miles and Tier Points cannot be earned on any free or reduced rate tickets including, without limitation, reward travel, upgraded reward travel including upgrades purchased at the airport and Plusgrade, travel agent or industry discounts, Charter flights operated by VAA, Vex Courier, and complimentary tickets. Members who have purchased cash upgrades within 24 hours of departure will receive the original mileage before the booking was upgraded.

  • MS says:

    Does anyone know how Virgin defines ‘new customers’? For AMEX for example, if you haven’t taken a card out with them for 24 months then your next application will be a new customer application, what about this Virgin credit card? I couldn’t find anything in the T&Cs but could just be me missing something. Thanks for any insights/advice!

    • Rob says:

      Some people seem to have got the bonus more than once. Whether this is meant to happen is a different question!