This is our review of the Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard credit card.
It is part of our series of articles looking at the major UK loyalty credit cards and discussing whether or not they are worth applying for. These articles are linked to the relevant sections of the ‘Credit Card Offers‘ area of the menu bar. Our other UK airline and hotel credit card reviews can be found here.
This article was updated on 1st June 2021, and all of the information is correct as of that date. Ignore the original publication date shown.
Key facts: No annual fee
The representative APR is 22.9% variable.
About the Virgin Atlantic free credit card
The Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card – issued by Virgin Money – is issued as a Mastercard.
Virgin Money does not have any other travel reward cards apart from Virgin Atlantic so it should not conflict with any other credit cards you hold.
You can find our review of the £160 annual fee Virgin Atlantic Reward Plus credit card here. Whilst there is a fee, it does have a sign-up bonus of 15,000 points. As there is no sign-up bonus on the free card, you might find Reward Plus to be a better overall deal, at least for one year.
What is the sign-up bonus on the free Virgin Atlantic credit card?
There is no sign-up bonus. The Reward+ card, on the other hand, comes with 15,000 Virgin Points after your first purchase.
It is no longer possible to hold both of the Virgin Atlantic cards at the same time. On the application form it now asks you to confirm that: “I am not an existing Virgin Atlantic Credit Card customer and I have not closed another credit card issued by Virgin Money in the last 6 months.”
Any other benefits?
Yes. The Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card comes with a good spend bonus. After spending £20,000 in a card membership year, you can pick from:
- A 2-4-1 voucher, valid for two years, for a Virgin Flying Club redemption in Upper Class, Premium or Economy
- A Virgin Clubhouse lounge pass (requires a same-day Virgin Atlantic, Delta, KLM or Air France flight)
- A return upgrade – on either a cash or points ticket – from Premium to Upper Class, or from Economy Delight/Classic to Premium (requires reward availability in the higher class)
There is a little bit of 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.
- If you are a Gold member, you would receive two Clubhouse lounge passes instead on one if you chose that option.
These voucher benefits were substantially improved in 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.
If you cannot reach £20,000 of spending per year, you should look at the £160 Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard instead. This only requires £10,000 of annual spending to unlock the same benefits and comes with a 15,000 points sign-up bonus.
Additional card benefits include:
- Unlimited free access to Virgin Money lounges across the UK
- 0% interest for six months on balance transfers (3% fee)
Is there an annual fee?
There is no fee for the Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard.
What do I earn per £1 spent on the free Virgin credit card?
You earn 0.75 Virgin Points per £1 spent.
This is an exceptionally good return for a free Visa or Mastercard. No other free rewards credit card comes close to being as generous.
The key issue to consider before applying, however, is whether it is worth spending £160 for the paid card. The paid card earns you a 15,000 miles sign-up bonus and has an earning rate which is twice as high at 1.5 Flying Club points per £1. This justifies the £160 fee for the first year.
The number of miles you earn per month is restricted to your credit limit. For example, if you have a limit of £10,000 then you will only earn points on the first £10,000 of your spending each month. This only impacts the small number of people who would otherwise pay down their account during the month and then run it up again.
What is a Virgin Point worth?
This is clearly a ‘finger in the air’ exercise. I would, however, flag some key pointers.
Virgin has a lot of partners which allows you top up your balance to the level needed for a good redemption:
- You can earn points by converting Tesco Clubcard points as well as Heathrow Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards points. Even if you never fly with Virgin, you could top up your credit card miles with Tesco points.
- You can transfer Virgin Points to Hilton Honors at a 1 : 1.5 ratio which puts a floor under their value. You can also transfer to IHG Rewards at 1 : 1.
As Virgin Atlantic does not offer any short haul redemptions, except for those offered by Air France and KLM, you need to be confident that you can earn enough via the card and the routes outlined above, plus miles earned from flying, to unlock a good long-haul redemption. If you can, I am happy to value Virgin Flying Club points at 0.75p – 1p each, in line with Avios.
Is this a good card to use when travelling?
It is better than most travel rewards credit cards.
At present, Virgin Money is not charging any fees when you pay for something in Euro, Swedish Kronor or Romanian Lei.
This is NOT an advertised benefit, but you will see it written in the small print of the credit agreement. It only applies to ‘in person’ transactions and not online spending.
As Virgin Money adds a 3% foreign exchange fee on transactions in all other currencies, you might want to get a separate free credit card to use abroad.
Unfortunately there are no travel rewards cards without any foreign exchange fees globally. One option is to get a free card from Currensea. Currensea is a simple but clever idea. You pay abroad with your Currensea Mastercard debit card. Currensea translates the cost to Sterling with just a 0.5% fee (83% less than the Virgin card) and withdraws the money from your bank account. You can find out more by clicking here. Currensea is free so there is no risk in giving it a try.
How does the Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard compare to a cashback credit card?
My default comparison card is the John Lewis / Waitrose Mastercard which is free for life and offers 0.25% cashback in vouchers. The representative APR is 18.9% variable.
Offering 0.75 Virgin Flying Club points, plus an added bonus for spending £20,000 per year, the Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card is substantially more attractive.
Anything else I need to know?
Air France KLM has launched a joint venture with Virgin Atlantic. You can now redeem your Virgin Flying Club points for Air France and KLM flights. This adds substantial value to the programme with a lot of options in Asia and the Middle East to complement Virgin’s strong position in the USA and Caribbean.
This article explains how to redeem your Virgin Flying Club points on Air France and KLM.
Note that you can ONLY manage your account via the Virgin Money app or with paper statements. There is no ability to manage your account via a website.
The Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard is easily the best free airline or hotel Visa or Mastercard on the market for day to day spending.
The lack of a sign-up bonus is disappointing. The real strength, however, is the on-going earning rate. 0.75 Virgin Points for every £1 you spend is an excellent return.
The bonus of 15,000 points on the £160 paid card means that you should consider paying the £160 fee and getting that one instead – at least for the first year. You can apply for the paid card here.
And depending on where you live, you’ll be able to pop into a Virgin Money lounge (when they reopen) every time you go shopping to get a free cup of tea or coffee and a biscuit.
The application form for the Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard credit card can be found here.
(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards? Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Card Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)
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.