We gave a lot of coverage earlier this month to the changes to the annual vouchers given out to holders of the Virgin Atlantic Reward and Reward+ credit cards.
These are a complex set of changes, although the net effect is to make the cards simpler.
The 2-4-1 companion voucher and upgrade vouchers:
- can now be used by anyone, regardless of status
- in any class
- on either cash or redemption tickets
Because this is a frequent flyer site, we focused mainly on how the changes benefit people who are spending their Virgin points. However, there was one point which we didn’t really focus on …..
The Virgin Atlantic credit cards are now valuable to people who DON’T collect frequent flyer miles
Someone who has zero interest in air miles, and no air miles balances, can now get a lot of value from the Virgin Atlantic credit cards.
This is actually a UK ‘first’. These is no other payment card in the UK which offers genuine benefits to people who pay cash for their flights.
When you have your voucher, someone with no points now has three options:
Buy an Economy Classic or Economy Delight ticket on Virgin Atlantic for cash, and get an upgrade to Premium
Buy a Premium ticket on Virgin Atlantic for cash, and get an upgrade to Upper Class
Buy an Economy Classic, Economy Delight, Premium or Upper Class ticket on Virgin Atlantic for cash and get a 2nd ticket for free (well, £0 base fare)
Here’s the small print:
The upgrade or companion seat comes for Virgin Flying Club reward inventory. If there is not a reward seat available, you cannot complete the transaction.
On upgrades, additional taxes and charges may be due
On 2-4-1 tickets, taxes and charges are due on the second ticket
There is potentially a LOT of value here
Credit card rewards, outside the travel sector, have been on a downward trend for some time. Next week, the John Lewis and Waitrose card cuts its cashback rate from 0.5% to 0.25%. You will struggle to find a Visa or Mastercard offering a better return than 0.25% these days.
The Virgin Atlantic vouchers are massively more valuable than 0.25% cashback
It is clearly difficult to put a value on an upgrade or a 2-4-1 ticket. Realistically, you are getting at least £500 – £1000 of value if you upgrade a Premium flight ticket to flat bed Upper Class.
Similarly, even after paying £500 in taxes and charges, you will get £750 – £1250 of value from the 2-4-1 offer if used for Upper Class tickets.
I would halve those numbers if you use the voucher in Premium, but £500 of value is still achievable.
For Economy, if we’re honest, the value of a 2-4-1 could be low because taxes and charges make up the bulk of the ticket price.
Very quietly, Virgin Atlantic has created a product which a large number of people would be interested in.
Even in a scenario where you only save £250 by using your voucher – instead of the £1000+ I suggest above – you are still getting a return of 1.25% on your £20,000 of annual spending. No other Visa or Mastercard benefit which doesn’t involve collecting points comes anywhere near.
Unfortunately, I doubt Virgin Atlantic can capitalise on this
There is huge potential for a credit card like this outside of frequent flyer circles. In truth, however, Virgin Atlantic finds itself with a problem. The vouchers on the credit cards are too complicated to ‘sell’ to the general public in their current form.
The cards are too focussed on the benefits of earning and using Flying Club points, even though you don’t need any points, at all, to make a big saving with the new voucher.
Here’s my suggestion
Virgin Group is on the cusp of relaunching Virgin Red, a new loyalty scheme which will work with the majority of Virgin Group companies in the UK. You will be able to earn Flying Club points with this.
My recommendation would be for Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Money to launch another credit card aimed at the general public, including the Virgin Red customer base.
It should strip away all mention of points, and potentially not even earn them. The only benefit would be the 2-4-1 voucher or upgrade voucher for a CASH flight, not a redemption. It would trigger at a lower level than the current voucher – let’s say £7,500 of annual spending.
This is an easy message to sell to the general public, and in a market of faltering credit card rewards could prove hugely popular.
How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (November 2020)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Virgin Points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
As well as the two official Virgin Atlantic credit cards (see here, one has a bonus of 15,000 Points), you can also earn from various American Express cards – and these have sign-up bonuses too.
(Want to earn more Virgin 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.)