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No Virgin Points? No problem. Virgin’s credit card 241 and upgrade vouchers work on cash tickets.

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A lot of people don’t understand how the Virgin Atlantic credit card vouchers work. We are going to deal with that issue today!

In August 2020 Virgin Flying Club made substantial changes to the annual vouchers given out to holders of the Virgin Atlantic Reward and Reward+ credit cards.

One key impact, which many people don’t realise, is that you no longer need to have any Virgin Points – null, zero, none at all – to get value from the annual credit card voucher.

Virgin Atlantic Rewards credit card voucher

The August 2020 changes removed virtually all of the restrictions over what Flying Club status you needed to have to use your voucher.

More importantly, it removed the distinction between cash and points flights. You can now use your credit card voucher to upgrade, or get a 241 deal, on a cash flight.

Because this is a frequent flyer site, we tend to look at how to use the credit card voucher on a Virgin Points booking. However …..

The Virgin Atlantic credit card vouchers are great for people who DON’T collect frequent flyer miles

Someone who has zero interest in air miles, and no air miles balances, can 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:

How does the Virgin credit card voucher work on cash tickets?

When you have your voucher, someone with no Virgin 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 from 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
  • if a Red (base level) member of Virgin Flying Club wants to book a 2-4-1 ticket in Upper Class, they need to pay a surcharge – in Virgin Points, oddly – equivalent to 50% of the Virgin Points cost of an Upper Class seat

The final point is, admittedly, a bit of a pain. It means that, if you have no Virgin Flying Club status and don’t have a stash of Virgin Points, you are restricted to redeeming your 2-4-1 voucher on a cash Economy or Premium seat.

The voucher also works on points tickets too, of course

Whilst I don’t want to confuse this article by covering how the voucher can be used with Virgin Points you can use it – BA-style – to get a 2-4-1 or an upgrade on a miles ticket.

Our full review of the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ credit card covers this in detail.

There is potentially a LOT of value here

Credit card rewards, outside the travel sector, have been on a downward trend for some time. The John Lewis and Waitrose card cut its cashback rate from 0.5% to 0.25% and competitors have done the same. 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 – £1,000 of value if you upgrade a Premium Economy flight ticket to flat bed Upper Class.

Similarly, even after paying £500 in taxes and charges, you will get £750 – £1,250 of value from the 2-4-1 offer if used for Upper Class cash tickets. You need to have Silver or Gold status to do this.

If you only have Red status and you use the voucher for a 2-4-1 in Premium Economy, I still think £500 of value is 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 £1,000+ 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, it’s hard for Virgin Atlantic to 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 Virgin Points, even though you don’t need any points, at all, to make a big saving with the new voucher.

Perhaps Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Money should launch another credit card aimed at the general public, including the Virgin Red customer base?

It could 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.

Conclusion

Even though you are a Head for Points reader, there is a decent chance that you don’t have many, or any, Virgin Points.

It doesn’t matter. As I hope I’ve shown here, you can still get good value from the annual credit card voucher by using it to upgrade or get a 2-4-1 on a Virgin Atlantic cash flight.

You can find out more about, or apply for, either of the Virgin Atlantic credit cards here.

Virgin Rewards credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard

The UK’s most generous free Visa or Mastercard at 0.75 points / £1 Read our full review

Virgin Rewards Plus credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and the most generous non-Amex for day to day spending Read our full review

(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.)

Comments (84)

  • Peter Hodson says:

    Don’t forget that Virgin Atlantic have a status match offer running.

  • Ian says:

    You need to deduct at least £160 annual fee from these savings.

    • CarpalTravel says:

      The majority of the article is based on the free card, not the R+.

  • Rob says:

    We have a ton of upgrade vouchers we still won’t use until covid settles down.

  • Alex Sm says:

    The only question is how long it will take BA to switch to a similar system…

    • BJ says:

      Unlikely they will, they have had about a year to do so already but haven’t, and they did not take opportunity to bundle it in with September changes as far as we know. BA is not under the same pressure to keep up with Virgin as Virgin is with BA. Having said that, I wish they would match it, apart from status bit.

  • Mark says:

    Can you redeem the 241 on klm flights? I know you can transfer points over.

  • MadeUpName says:

    If sold more widely to the general public with no mention of points then those customers might be annoyed by this part of the small print: “the upgrade or companion seat comes from Virgin Flying Club reward inventory. If there is not a reward seat available, you cannot complete the transaction.”

    • Ed says:

      You could easily imagine another ‘rip off Britain’ scenario. People expecting they can redeem their 241 on peak Florida flights at 3 months notice.

      • Rob says:

        I agree. It would also require some change to how the voucher operated – perhaps like the new BA model where it books into I-class.

  • BJ says:

    Thanks for this, it is an issue I have been contemplating for a few months having finally started building a Virgin balance instead of routinely transferring to Hilton. This change in strategy was prompted by the one way ANA redemption changes but my partner has now expressed a wish to travel in the USA so the 241 voucher is now more compelling. Unfortunately I don’t see us ever having anything other than red status and wanting to travel in UC that immediately devalues the voucher as discussed in the article.

    My partner will have a BAPP voucher and I will have a Barclays voucher every year. Thus, the question for me is what to do with the extra spend: get a BAPO for me, divert it to earning a Virgin 241 or do something else entirely? I don’t want to do more than two long haul extended duration trips per year so I already have that covered. That said a third voucher per year might still be of value if we decided to do other trips such as a week longhaul or a shorthaul (which Virgin don’t have). In the absence of status with Virgin I am not yet seeing the value of the Virgin 241 when considering it within the context of the BA 241, and I think any sound decision on whether or not to go for the Virgin voucher has to be made within the context of its competitor.

    Unfortunately, when doing so the Virgin voucher remains much less compelling than the BA voucher. The amex card itself is simply more attractive than the Virgin Money card: better sign up bonus, referral bonus, amex offers including boosted earning rates, additional card bonuses, and the opportunity to upgrade, downgrade or cancel. All of these render the Virgin opportunity less attractive before we even consider using the voucher. When we do, the Virgin opportunity still falls on its backside when compared to the BA opportunity. Virgin has no domestic so opportunities for traveller outside London area are close to zero unless absorbing the inconvenience of starting from London. There is not the opportunity to avoid APD by starting from Inverness or Jersey.

    Virgin route network and frequencies are a fraction of those offered by BA. BA offers a guaranteed number of award seats. It is probably not unreasonable to assume the future of BA and BAEC is more secure than Virgin and Red. Things may change from 1st September but so far I think we are anticipating that the BA voucher will become more attractive for a 25% hike in the fee. Barring any nasty surprises, the BA voucher will become even more attracti

    • BJ says:

      … Thus, in the real world in the face of its competitor why should I get a Virgin+ card and voucher instead of a BAPP? I am unconvinced the rationale for a Red member without points is compelling enough. I think it best just to aim for another BAPP but to continue saving Virgin Red points for partner awards such as the ANA and Delta sweet spots. Which brings me to your concluding points that Virgin Money and Red need a new card with a different market focus. With that I totally agree, they simply cannot compete on 241 vouchers despite the August 21 changes except with respect to solo travellers. Thus, what I would like to see from Virgin is a card driven simply by market-leading points earning opportunities that creates blue water between the competition as opposed to 241 vouchers. Can they do that in the face of the fee cap though?

      • Louie says:

        One point you don’t seem to have taken into account though is that you can use a Virgin card in so many more places than an Amex. I’ve got a reasonably high balance because my father-in-law’s care home took non-Amex credit cards for example.

        • BJ says:

          I was aware of it but my preference is to continue to make use of my Hilton card for non amex transactions. I know the return on Virgin + card is higher but my non amex spend is usually less than £1000/month. However, I have lots of Hilton points and so far only about 40k Virgin hence my comment to Harry below about nit yet ruled it out.

      • Harry T says:

        The Virgin points and vouchers are pretty much free (£160 card fee obviously for paid card) if you have the right approach, so it just gives you more options.

        • BJ says:

          That’s what I was exploring for past few month Harry but it isn’t really if people have another £10k to spend and the option of another BAPP (which most do via cancel/reapply). With no points as the article addresses, or for the solo traveller it is still a good option. Personally I find myself backing off as I can simply be referred for a BAPP. I will continue to collect Virgin points for ANA and Delta.

        • BJ says:

          Should have added that if they boost the sign up bonus on the paid card sufficiently I might sign up for the points regardless and cross the bridge on whether to spend enough to trigger the voucher later.

    • Keely says:

      We are in a similar position to you re voucher numbers and prob only ever having red status. However hadn’t thought about the sweet spots you mentioned above so thanks for the tip , I’ll do a bit of research on this.

      • BJ says:

        Welcome. I recommend you Google heaforpoints + Virgin with ANA or Delta to bring up the various relevant HfP articles. AF/KLM last minute premium cabin shorthaul at peak times might also be attractive.

        • MD says:

          Can’t you just do a status match BJ? I’ve a ton of Virgin points now but no status. Virgin are matching my BA gold and even delayed it kicking in until my (paid, cheap) flight to the Caribbean in September. And suddenly all my Virgin vouchers become useful in UC…

          • BJ says:

            Sadly not, I never get past Bronze as I’ve just been using avios for years already.

  • Al C says:

    Where can I find the details of the voucher I earned? On the Virgin Red App in ‘Activity’ it says ‘You have qualified for a credit card reward voucher’ and that’s it. How do I know what type of voucher it is, expiry date etc.? Thanks!

    • Guernsey Globetrotter says:

      It’s not super helpful is it?! That’s all there is in the app however and you get no more if you log into your Virgin Flying Club account online.

      The vouchers however are all the same, whichever card you have – they both give the same benefits as per Rob’s article above and are normally valid for a two year period (which runs from the date you see on your activity report). You have to call Virgin to redeem.

    • Sarah says:

      I contacted Virgin via WhatsApp to obtain this information

      • Craig says:

        I did the same and then took a screenshot, for some reason I now have two vouchers instead of one and the expiry date has been extended significantly.

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