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Review: the Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard credit card

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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 October 2021, and all of the information is correct as of that date. Ignore the original publication date shown.

Key link: Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard application form

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.

Review: the Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard credit card

What is the sign-up bonus on the free Virgin Atlantic credit card?

There is no sign-up bonus on the card.

The Reward+ card, on the other hand, comes with a bonus of 15,000 Virgin Points. There is no spending requirement, with the bonus arriving after your first purchase, however small.

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)
Review Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card

Is there an annual fee?

No.

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.

Bookings with Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Holidays earn double miles.

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:

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 charges outside the EU) 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.

Conclusion

The Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard is easily the best free airline or hotel Visa or Mastercard on the market for day to day spending.

Whilst there is no sign-up bonus, the real strength is the on-going earning rate. 0.75 Virgin Points for every £1 you spend is an excellent return.

The bonus of 15,000 Virgin Points on the £160 paid card means that you may want to consider paying the fee and getting that one instead for the first year, downgrading later.  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.

Comments (38)

  • LJ says:

    Virgin no longer allow you to have an on line account with their cards! I have held both Virgin cards at different times, and have just cancelled my fee paying one as I am now only able to do banking on my phone- which I am choosing NOT to do. Please, if you equally prefer to have an online account, speak up, as the more of us who say No to this action, the more Virgin will listen to our requests.

    • BuildBackBetter says:

      Why would you not want to use an app?

      • Nick says:

        It’s cheaper for Virgin to focus on only one channel, and apps are where the majority of people access their accounts so it makes sense to focus there. They’re also easier to use and much more secure. Why should they have to listen to luddites? Why should they raise prices for everyone because a small number of refuseniks refuse to get into the 21st century?

        • Jonathan says:

          The only problem is their app itself! Just look at how well Amex, Barclaycard have got theirs done compared to Virgin Atlantic credit cards’!

          I’ve got a Virgin money current account, and I need two different apps for each account ?!?! I don’t know about HSBC, Barclaycard and others, but I’m assuming it’s all on one app for most of them

    • johnny_c-l says:

      You can still set preferences to get paper statements if you want to avoid the app. I agree the removal of choice is annoying here and would prefer they kept the website service.

      • Littlefish says:

        Yes – I have moved back to paper statements in advance of Virgin removing online (and presumably phone?) account management.
        I doubt I will move to any App for banking for a while, they seem riddled with security weaknesses and glitches and the screen size is tiny. Its hard enough to navigate what the monthly payment and timing is, as it is. Amex is 10x as a website.
        I’ll see how it goes for a couple of months but I can’t see how I can keep my Virgin card without account management after the next annual fee is due, though presumably there will still be a phone line or else how would I cancel?

    • Mike says:

      LJ – I am with you, my phone is not even capable of doing it – basic Nokia I just use for voice calls

  • Secret Squirrel says:

    I applied for the paid card version over 6 months ago via a link on an email they sent me for spending over 10k.
    To date, my account has never been upgraded to the paid version, anyone else in the Same position and if so did they ever upgrade you as I have already spoken to CS over 3 months ago but still no progress.

  • Save East Coast Rewards says:

    Am I right in saying this is also the best credit card to use if you want to earn Hilton points and don’t have the (discontinued to new applicants) Hilton Visa?

    • Travel Strong says:

      Amex earns 1MR per £ and converts to Hilton at a rate of 1:2 or 1:3 during bonus promotions – so is a better option. (Virgin conversion rate is 2:3). 1000 Spend on Amex = 2000 Hilton or 3000 during a bonus period. 1000 on Virgin = 1500 Hilton. 1000 on
      Virgin+ = 3000 Hilton. Virgin cards are a contender if looking for a non-amex option, and are equal to Amex if you have the paid for card.

      • Travel Strong says:

        Error in my maths. Too early sorry. Peter K is correct: *1000 spend on Virgin = 1125. 1000 spend on Virgin+ = 2250.

    • Peter K says:

      It depends.
      Free Virgin card gives 1.125 Hilton points per £1 spend up to monthly credit limit. Must transfer in 10k batches.

      £160 Virgin card gives 2.25 Hilton points per £1 spend up to monthly credit limit. Must transfer in 10k batches.

      Gold Amex is free for the 1st year, gives 2.0 Hilton points per £1 spend. No monthly limit on how many can be earned. Can be transferred in much smaller batches. Card less widely accepted than A Virgin card as that is a MasterCard.

    • Rob says:

      Best free Visa or MC, yes.

  • Steven says:

    Just an FYI – Virgin points can’t be redeemed on all KLM/Air France routes e.g. UK to Japan still isn’t bookable. Probably best to check your preferred route is available before getting the card if this is the main reason for getting the card.

    • the_real_a says:

      There was some problem that only direct flights could be booked online. I *think* it was possible to call up and book connections.

      • Steven says:

        I tried calling as well and Virgin couldn’t find any availability. Definitely seems some routes are excluded.

  • Dan says:

    I have this card and it will be a keeper. In terms of the earning rate, it is great for a free card and had options as folk have alluded too with Hotels (Hilton and IHG) and other Airline partners beyond Virgin (KLM/AF/Delta). Before I got my HSBC WE, this was my mastercard that I used where Amex wasn’t taken. I don’t use it as much anymore I a prefer to collect avios but knowing this card has no cost, gives me comfort that I can keep in the wallet without much thought just to keep my Virgin points from expiring,

    • Peter K says:

      Virgin points no longer expire IIRC. There is no 3 year expiry date since they moved to being Virgin Red points.

  • C says:

    Also need to consider how much longer Virgin Atlantic may be around, even if the points survive. I have had this card for a few years, but have been preferring the IHG Platinum card since mid-2020. I have plenty of miles, VS aren’t particularly useful (the partnership with DL is useful, AF/KL less so–but then the vouchers aren’t as useful), and I don’t have high confidence in the longer term viability (as with many airlines). I sometimes question this, but I’m reasonably confident I’m getting equivalent value, and higher probability of use, from IHG.

  • Fran says:

    Considering cancelling the fee card this year, as sitting on 500k miles with nowhere to go.

    How can I cancel, not pay the fee, but still get the voucher I’m entitled to?

    • Travel Strong says:

      Hit the spend, check the voucher is in your flying club account (call or WhatsApp if you can’t see it yourself in the app/website) – then just cancel in Month 11 before you get charged next years fee.

      You do not get a pro rate fee refund for cancelling any earlier.

      You do not lose your voucher once earns and in your flying club account.

    • Rob says:

      Which card, Virgin? The voucher should show on your points statement if you are over £20k. They hit fairly quickly.

      • Fran says:

        It’s the reward plus fee card. Last year the voucher landed on the same statement as my fee so assumed it was annual. Just bought a new kitchen on it (no holiday!)so should be through the £10k spend now.

  • Dave says:

    Does spend above your monthly limit still count towards the £20k annual spend needed to trigger the bonus?

    • Jonathan says:

      That’s a very grey area which I don’t know the answer to sorry!

      The important thing to look at in this scenario is that you’re spending isn’t going to exceed your credit limit, so you’ll have had to clear your balance already, but given that you can’t earn any points when you’ve used up your monthly credit limit allowance, why use it ? Are there not other cards that can be used in its place, or are you that desperate to earn the voucher that your spending can’t wait for a few weeks

      • Dave says:

        I’m at month 11 and hasn’t realised spend above limit doesn’t earn points. Went over slightly last month. I think I’m almost at the £20k.
        Is there any tracker to see how close you are to the bonus, similar to what Amex do?

        • Jonathan says:

          There’s definitely not one in the app, and they’ve just shut down their website access.

          You’ll almost certainly need to call them and ask.

          If all card purchases are applicable to the £20k spend, then just buy some gift cards if you’re struggling a bit with the spend.

          While we’re here does anyone know of any credit card apps that let you track how close you are to reaching a certain spend within a year to earn a special perk for the card, like has anyone seen something like this on the Amex app with BAPP for instance ?

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