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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.

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 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 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 Flying Club 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 – 10,000 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)

  • Sam Wardill says:

    This is all very well but the customer service on these credit cards is appalling compared to AmEx. In my case they have failed to resolve what should have been an open and shut complaint and I have to take this to the financial ombudsman service. I have never had to raise an AmEx issue to the FOS despite using them for 25 years . I have had complaints with AmEx but they are always swiftly resolved

    • Sharon says:

      Lucky you! I’ve just had the complete opposite. Just taken what was an open and shut case with AMEX (even the agents I spoke to said it was!), to the Financial Ombudsman. In my case I’m glad Virgin have made this move as I can now boycott AMEX for a while and rack up some Virgin points instead, especially s I now have two 2-4-1 vouchers to see me out to 2023!

  • Will says:

    Any way to get the paid card bonus if you have the regular card already or just cancel and wait 6 months?

    • Secret Squirrel says:

      @Will
      If you spent over 10k on the free card, you should of received a link to upgrade to the paid card.
      I used this link over 3 months ago and my account still not upgraded.
      I’ve complained and they called me to discuss but still not resolved?

  • FCP says:

    Anybody know what they are doing these days re credit limits? I applied beginning of the year for the + card and think got 2 or 3k limit, on a 6 figure salary.
    I cancelled immediately and took the miles and more package.

    • Vit says:

      Likewise.. I’ve got 6k credit limit. Not sure if Rob might be able to push this move to be considered?

    • Secret Squirrel says:

      I called up and instantly got a 60% increase, worth calling them.

    • Ben says:

      Had the card since the MBNA customer offers.. Got a limit of 2k initially, upped it to 3k after 6 months and was rejected after trying to get it any higher. Finally binned the card.

    • Harry T says:

      I had a similar experience. Virgin does not want customers who spend/earn larger amounts. They often reject higher earners too.

  • AndyW says:

    The inability to upgrade (without cancel and reapply) is a real miss. I am not going to risk doing the cancel route given the decent credit limit I have, but would upgrade to the paid if it were easier.

  • Olly says:

    Couple of questions about the 241 voucher:

    1. Is it possible to use two 241 vouchers for a family of four (using a single account) as is the case with the avios 241s?
    2. Is it possible to book a cash flight, upgrade to the next class using miles and then use the 241 for a second ticket in the higher class?

    • Amy00 says:

      I recently spoke to flying club as I had a flight booked that is now cancelled and asked them about using two vouchers with a family of four. They said it was possible as long as the other two bookings were made with miles, looking at the new options I would assume it’s also possible doing it with cash bookings too.

  • Sebastian says:

    I currently have the free Virgin card which I have been very happy with. In terms of ability to spend on the card you can certainly be more… creative, than say with an Amex. My dilemma now is whether to get the paid for card and double my points. If I was to phone up Virgin and upgrade to the paid for card do you think they would likely honour the welcome bonus points or have I missed out as an existing customer?

    • Secret Squirrel says:

      I’m sure you cannot just phone up and upgrade. You have to cancel your current card and reapply say in 6 months.

  • Roger" says:

    Amongst all this talk of increased benefits and several mentions of Virgin lounges, it’s perhaps a little churlish to point out that the lounges are all closed.

    Based on the experience of just one (London Piccadilly), they weren’t that great IMO – but of course any option is better than none when available.

  • P4D says:

    Does anyone know if you still need to have the card you earned the voucher on at the time of using the voucher (or time of flying, even)? Or any virgin card at the time of using the voucher