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You need ZERO Virgin miles for upgrades or 2-4-1 flights with the new credit card vouchers

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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.

Virgin Atlantic Rewards credit card voucher

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 Flying Club miles. 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.

As a reminder, you receive a voucher when you spend £20,000 per year on the free Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card, or £10,000 per year on the fee-paying Virgin Atlantic Reward+ credit card.

When you have your voucher, someone with no miles 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.

Voucher on the Virgin Atlantic Rewards Plus Credit Card

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 miles, even though you don’t need any miles, 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 miles with this, although they will no longer be called that.

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 Flying Club miles, and potentially not even earn miles. 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.

Virgin Atlantic credit card information

Here is a summary of the two Virgin Atlantic credit cards, including the legally required fee and interest rate information:

Virgin Rewards credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard

Read our full review

Other information:

  • Get a ‘2 for 1’ voucher, valid on cash or miles tickets, when you spend £20,000 in a year
  • Alternatively, claim an upgrade voucher or Clubhouse lounge passes
  • Get free access to Virgin Money lounges across the UK
  • Annual fee: Free

Representative 22.2% APR variable

See if you qualify for sign-up bonus +

There is no sign-up bonus on the free Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard.

You may want to consider applying for the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard instead.  This comes with a £160 annual fee but you receive a bonus of 15,000 miles with your first purchase.  You also receive a higher earning rate of 1.5 miles per £1 spent.

After the first year, you could downgrade to the free Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard.

Learn more about the card benefits +

All Virgin Atlantic credit card holders receive free access to Virgin Money lounges across the UK.  A list of sites is here.

When you spend £20,000 per year on the free Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard, you can choose a benefit.  This is what you can pick from:

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

A return upgrade – on either a cash or miles 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)

Here’s the small print:

If you are a Red (no status) member, you need to pay 50% of the miles 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

Virgin Rewards Plus credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

Read our full review

Other information:

  • Get a ‘2 for 1’ voucher, valid on cash or miles tickets, when you spend £10,000 in a year
  • Alternatively, claim an upgrade voucher or Clubhouse lounge passes
  • Get free access to Virgin Money lounges across the UK
  • Annual fee: £160

Representative 63.9% APR variable based on a notional £1,200 credit limit and £160 annual fee.  Interest rate on purchases 22.9% APR variable.

See if you qualify for the 15,000 miles sign-up bonus +

You receive a sign-up bonus of 15,000 Virgin Flying Club miles with your first purchase.

There are no restrictions on earning the bonus if you are accepted.  However, you cannot apply for a card if you currently, or in the previous six months, had a Virgin Money credit card.

Learn more about the card benefits +

All Virgin Atlantic credit card holders receive free access to Virgin Money lounges across the UK.  A list of sites is here.

When you spend £10,000 per year on the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard, you can choose a benefit.  This is what you can pick from:

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

A return upgrade – on either a cash or miles 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)

Here’s the small print:

If you are a Red (no status) member, you need to pay 50% of the miles 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

Comments (68)

  • Mark says:

    Am I missing something here, as the T&Cs on the linked application state that you need to be a Gold member to access UC companion ticket, and there is no mention of using it with a cash booking. Have they just not updated the page?

    https://uk.virginmoney.com/virgin/credit-cards/vaa-cards/terms/reward-plus.jsp

  • Hana says:

    How do I claim the voucher? I reached the spend target back in February, but all my flying club statements states is contac Virgin Atlantic. However due to covid, I’ve been unsuccessful in contacting them. Do I have make booking via call, does a voucher load on to my account similar to BA. Help?

    • Rob says:

      Look at your online account statement. You will see a line saying ‘Redemption card voucher – 0 miles’ or something like that. This shows that it has been awarded and that, when you call Virgin, the agent will be able to see it. You cannot redeem it online.