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You need ZERO Virgin Points 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 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.

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 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.

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 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

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (December 2023)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Virgin Points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.

You can choose from two official Virgin Atlantic credit cards (apply here, the Reward+ card has a bonus of 15,000 Virgin Points):

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 bonus points and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review

Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard

A generous earning rate for a free card at 0.75 points per £1 Read our full review

You can also earn Virgin Points from various American Express cards – and these have sign-up bonuses too.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for a year and comes with 20,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 20,000 Virgin Points.

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive 30,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 30,000 Avios) with American Express Preferred Rewards Gold. You receive 25,000 points if you spend £3,000 in three months and a further 5,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points (TO 9th JANUARY), FREE for a year & four airport ….. Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with 30,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 30,000 Virgin Points.

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive a huge 100,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 100,000 Avios) with The Platinum Card. You receive 75,000 points if you spend £10,000 in six months and a further 25,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.

The Platinum Card from American Express

Crazy 100,000 points (TO 9th JANUARY) and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Small business owners should consider the two American Express Business cards. Points convert at 1:1 into Virgin Points.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Virgin Points

(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.)

Comments (67)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Doug M says:

    One thing about something like this eating into reward availability is the damage to the value of the FF program. Based on the comments I’d guess HfP readers are more clued into credit cards and those sorts of opportunities than earning from flying*. The wider you spread the opportunity to access ‘free’ flights the greater the harm to the FF program from the frequent flyers point of view.

    I believe you often comment that the readership is not typically represented by the people that comment, so I’m probably talking rubbish.

  • Will T says:

    Is it the case that I can get silver status on VS by buying a flexible return ticket in business on AF or KLM (as long as it is over 600miles) – even if it is not a VS codeshare?

  • Jim says:

    On the virgin website it pretty explicitly says voucher its for economy to premium, no mention of premium to upper

  • Charlieface says:

    People seem to be having this idea there is a finite amount of reward availability in the system.
    This is simply not true. Every airline uses yield management even on their reward tickets, and if they decide they need more seats, they will take it out of regular availability.
    Obviously this gives a risk of cannibalising regular sales, but reward tickets are not free (YQ payable + value of miles/cc spend) so they are making at least a bit of money on it.

    • memesweeper says:

      … and this is why you see more premium award space on business routes versus leisure ones, irrespective of load. There is very little chance of a business traveller cashing in their miles on a trip to New York, but on a leisure route to the Caribbean an airline will absolutely be cannibalising sales with award seats, so they are less widely available.

    • Doug M says:

      I may be over picky here, but the number of reward tickets is very much finite. The airline controls the amount released, and does so whilst seeking to maximise the balance between reward and availability, and minimising the damage to true revenue tickets. But all of this comes from a finite overall pool of tickets.

  • Jen says:

    Hi Rob,

    I just applied for the Virgin Atlantic credit card+ and got rejected despite having a good credit score, earning well, low expenses and extremely low debt. Do you know what I could do to get approved? Wanted to get some miles for an upcoming trip next year.

    • Rob says:

      Write to them at the Jubilee House address. Readers have had a good record of being approved. State your salary, low outgoings etc.

  • Paul says:

    This simply reinforces my desire to transfer all miles out of flying club ASAP.
    Reward availability is hard enough to find without the added grief of every Wayne and Waynetta getting in on the limited seats.
    Despite Ribs protestations this deal is still to complex, no family sharing, etc etc and finally and above all this is a airline on the brink of collapse. It got just £400 millions of new cash and that was spun into a deal worth billions. Just can’t trust this.

  • Aleks Nicole says:

    Hello, I have two flights HKG-LHR booked via Virgin with airmiles for next year. I also have a 2-4-1 companion/upgrade voucher from my VA credit card which I have not yet used. Given the changes that occurred last week, am I right in thinking that I could call up and now cancel the second flight and redeem this using my companion voucher instead and get the airmiles refunded? I am Virgin red status. Thank you in advance!

  • Mike P says:

    Interesting idea and potentially very attractive vs BA for people who are single

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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