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What is the best Virgin Atlantic credit card for you?

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In April 2018, Virgin Atlantic launched its two new Virgin Flying Club credit cards, issued by Virgin Money.  They have proved hugely successful with, so I understand, over 200,000 applications so far.

We rarely look at the two cards from first principles, so I thought it was worth another look today. It is now a year since the annual voucher was improved, giving you the choice of either a 2-4-1 redemption or an upgrade voucher. Uniquely, the 2-4-1 and upgrade vouchers are valid on both cash and Virgin Points tickets.

Full details are on the card website here.

What is the best Virgin Atlantic credit card for you?

In this article I want to run through the key benefits of both Virgin Atlantic credit cards side by side to help you decide which is best for you.

Here are the key features:

  • You can choose between a free Virgin Atlantic Mastercard (no sign-up bonus) and a paid Mastercard (15,000 points sign-up bonus).
  • The earning rates are EXCELLENT.  0.75 points per £1 on the free card and 1.5 points per £1 on the fee card.
  • The Virgin Atlantic credit cards come with a 2-4-1 voucher.  It is substantially more powerful than the British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher because the Virgin 2-4-1 voucher can also be used on cash tickets.
  • Solo travellers can choose, instead, to upgrade a flight by one class.  This applies to BOTH cash and points flights.  You can go from Premium to Upper Class (the best deal) or from Economy Classic / Economy Delight to Premium.
  • The vouchers are valid for two years
  • All Virgin Atlantic cardholders get free access to Virgin Money lounges around the UK

Let’s look at the two cards in detail:

Virgin Atlantic Rewards credit card

The FREE card – Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card

I am legally obliged to tell you that the representative APR is 22.9% variable.

As you can see from the picture above, the free Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card is pretty cool, as credit cards go.  There is NO information on the front.  No card number, no personal name (these are on the back) although there is the usual chip.  The card is coloured red on the edge which makes it stand out when you look into your wallet or card holder.

This is what you get (full details are on the Virgin Money website here)

  • No annual fee
  • No sign-up bonus
  • 0.75 Virgin Points per £1 spent
  • Double points on online or call centre bookings with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays
  • Unlimited free access to Virgin Money lounges across the UK
  • 0% interest for six months on balance transfers (3% fee)
  • Spend £20,000 in a card year and select a 241 voucher, upgrade voucher or another reward – more on those below

You can apply for the FREE Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card here.

HFP Virgin Atlantic Rewards Plus Credit Card

The fee card – Virgin Atlantic Reward+ credit card

This card has a representative APR of 63.9% based on a notional £1,200 credit limit and the annual fee.  The representative APR on purchases is 22.9%.

This card is even cooler to look at, in my view, than the free card.  Again, your name and your card number are printed on the back, giving an impressive looking piece of plastic.  The card is also coloured red on the edges.

This is what you get (full details are on the Virgin Money website here):

  • £160 annual fee
  • 15,000 Virgin Points as a sign-up bonus, triggered with your first purchase
  • 1.5 Virgin Points per £1 spent
  • Double points on online or call centre bookings with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays
  • Unlimited free access to Virgin Money lounges across the UK
  • Free global wi-fi access via Boingo
  • 0% interest for six months on balance transfers (3% fee)
  • Spend £10,000 in a card year and select a 241 voucher, upgrade voucher or another reward – more on those below

You can apply for the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ credit card here.

What is the best Virgin Atlantic credit card for you?

No foreign exchange fees in Europe

Whilst you will struggle to find any mention of this on the card website, the Virgin Atlantic cards are the only travel rewards credit cards which offer a partial respite on FX fees when travelling.

You pay no FX fees on in-person spending in Euro, Swedish Kronor or Romanian Lei.

This saves you 3% on your purchases and you earn Virgin Points on top. The 3% fee applies to transactions in all other currencies.

These are your rewards for hitting the spending target each year

Your reward is triggered IMMEDIATELY upon hitting the spending target.  The target is £20,000 in a card year for the free Virgin Atlantic Reward Credit card and £10,000 in a card year for the £160 Virgin Atlantic Reward+ credit card.

Annoyingly, vouchers do not show anywhere online.  The only sign that your voucher is available for us is a one-line entry in your Flying Club account statement along the lines of ‘Reward voucher – 0 miles’.

You can choose one of the following options:

  • A 2-4-1 voucher, valid for two years, for a Virgin Flying Club points redemption OR a Virgin Atlantic cash ticket, in Upper Class, Premium or Economy
  • A return upgrade – on either a cash or points 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)

There is 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. 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

Reward seat availability is required to use the voucher.  This means:

  • you can only upgrade a flight if there is a reward seat in the higher class (irrespective of whether you are upgrading a cash or a points ticket)
  • you can only apply a 2-4-1 voucher to a cash booking if there is a reward seat available for the 2nd ‘free’ seat

The voucher benefits are substantially better now than they were before changes 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.

Which Virgin Atlantic credit card is best for you?

As usual, there is no easy answer to this question.  Here are my thoughts.

The free Reward credit card has an excellent earnings rate of 0.75 Virgin Points per £1.  You won’t get better value from a free travel rewards card.

However, the Reward+ credit card is definitely worth considering, especially for higher spenders.

Purely from a bonus point of view, you are spending £160 to get 15,000 Flying Club points which is a decent deal. And, of course, when you spend on the Reward+ card at the generous 1.5 points per £1 earning rate you do very nicely.

What is the best Virgin Atlantic credit card for you?

The on-going earning rate is EXCELLENT

Let’s not beat around the bush.  Looking first at the free Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card, 0.75 Virgin Flying Club points per £1 spent makes this the most generous free Visa or Mastercard currently available.

What are your alternatives?

  • I would value 0.75 Virgin Points at 0.75p
  • The free IHG Rewards card gives 1 point per £1, which I value at 0.4p
  • The free Tesco Clubcard Mastercard gives 0.125 Clubcard points per £1 (0.3 Virgin Points) which I value at 0.3p

The free Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card is almost twice as valuable as the next best free travel Mastercard or Visa card, the free IHG Rewards card.

On the fee-based Reward+ credit card, there really is no comparison. I would value 1.5 Virgin Flying Club points per £1 at 1.5p which is a great return if you spend enough to justify the fee.

There is one bit of small print to note. The number of points you can earn per month is capped by your credit limit. If your credit limit is £5,000 and you choose to spend £4,000, pay it off mid-month and then charge another £3,000 before month-end, you will only earn points on the first £5,000.

What is the best Virgin Atlantic credit card for you?

You can now redeem Virgin Points on Air France and KLM

Virgin Flying Club has added Air France and KLM flights for redemption.  This has added short haul options in Europe as well as the excellent Air France / KLM long-haul network.

You can read about how to redeem Virgin Points on Air France and KLM in this article.

For clarity, you cannot use the 2-4-1 or upgrade vouchers from the credit card on KLM or Air France.  They are only valid on Virgin Atlantic flights.

You will need a decent stock of points – more than your initial 15,000 credit card miles – to take advantage of Air France and KLM redemptions.  The good news is that you can also earn Virgin Flying Club points through transfers from other partners:

  • American Express Membership Rewards from Amex Gold or The Platinum Card (1:1)
  • Tesco Clubcard (1 point is 2.5 miles)
  • Heathrow Rewards (1:1)
  • Transfers from hotel loyalty schemes

There are also lots of partner promotions which we write about on Head for Points.  You CAN build up a decent stock of miles relatively easily – the ‘free for a year’ American Express Preferred Rewards Gold has a 20,000 point sign-up bonus which will convert into 20,000 Virgin points.

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

Conclusion

From the perspective of day-to-day earning, the Virgin Atlantic credit cards are excellent.  They are the most valuable Visa or Mastercard travel cards on the market in terms of return.

The improvements to the credit card vouchers in August 2020 make a SUBSTANTIAL difference to the value of the card.

Winners include:

  • Solo travellers, who can now use the voucher to upgrade a return cash or mileage flight from Premium to flat bed Upper Class
  • ‘No status’ Red and mid tier Silver members of Virgin Flying Club, who can finally use the 2-4-1 voucher to redeem in Upper Class
  • Anyone who has a low points balance and who can now use their voucher to get a 2-4-1 or upgrade on a cash ticket

If you are a casual Virgin Flying Club collector, 0.75 points per £1 spent on the free card will see your balance move along.  However, you would get better value from paying £160 for one year for the Reward+ card to get the 15,000 points bonus and the 1.5 points per £1 spent.

Access to seven Virgin Money lounges around the UK (I reviewed the Piccadilly one here although you now need to use the one around the corner on Haymarket) is a decent extra perk for everyone. There is no reopening date for these, however. 

You can apply for the FREE Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card (no bonus) here and the paid-for Virgin Atlantic Reward+ credit card (15,000 points bonus) here.

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 (72)

  • Mark Collins says:

    I have had the £160 pa card for a couple of years now and the fee is due in October, I decided not to renew and to change to the free card. I called Virgin Money and was told I had to cancel my existing account and then reapply 6 months later for the free card.
    Seems a bit daft that they don’t want my business, especially as Amex is now taken just about everywhere I need to use it.

    • Amy C says:

      In exactly same boat. I’ve resigned myself to cancelling in the next couple of weeks and applying for the free one. I’m just concerned about possibly being turned down for the free one and therefore not having a Virgin card at all! Wouldn’t normally worry about being declined but I applied for a Barclaycard (to do a balance transfer) last week and was declined, first time in my life. Had to appeal and they’ve now given me one. Apparently as I hold so many credit cards the decision was initially made because I have too much credit at my disposal. 🙄

      • CarpalTravel says:

        I cancelled my original R+ card early this year. Waited 6 months and despite being forced to use their abysmal app, decided the airmiles are actually worth it so applied again.

        On application acceptance my limit is 3x what was allowed on my old card. Was ready for another low limit to be set and was going to cancel the card immediately, due to the monthly points limitation, so their scoring is clearly a bit weird.

        I already have a large amount of unused credit at my disposal, I think perhaps this usually only raises eyebrows if the amount increases significantly over a relatively short period?

        • Amy C says:

          That’s a good point you make there. I currently have 12k limit. I don’t want them potentially giving me less. Agh don’t know what to do. Really only want the free card for six months or a year and then reapply for the R+. Have three vouchers waiting and don’t want/need to accumulate more really. I just balk at £160 fee when I’m already paying a fee on two Amex cards.
          I think I only use 1/5 of the credit at my disposal and that’s only on a 0% card nearing end of promotional rate. Very odd that Barclays turned me down when they know I’ve a premier account with them and my credit score is excellent. Pffftt.

          • J says:

            I preciously had a 5 figure limit on the old Virgin card (and used it well). I cancelled it and a year or so later applied for the current free card. Now I only have a £1,200 limit = 900 Virgin points per month cap.

          • J says:

            *previously

          • CarpalTravel says:

            Yeah I get you, I am now paying for quite a few cards and know I am not optimising the value! I think the pain of downgrading then upgrading again might outweigh the savings? As you have to wait 6months between applying (though you can apply more quickly then appeal) I would venture that it probably isn’t. That also is a very good limit, mine now is just over 9k – you are the first person I have heard of with a double digit limit with Virgin.

          • CarpalTravel says:

            Ok, second person….

          • Amy C says:

            Think you two have made my mind up for me (thank you). I can’t squander my generous credit limit. Didn’t realise it wasn’t standard. I’ll suck the fee up for another year. 😩
            Another reason I thought of binning it off was wondering how stable Virgin’s future might be if the US doesn’t open by end of this year.

  • Aaron C says:

    My wife and I both applied and were accepted for the fee-paid cards on 21/8. We have received our PINs but the actual cards still haven’t arrived! It’s a bit annoying since we are planning on booking a Virgin Holiday and want to use the card for it!

    • Andrew says:

      I suspect that it’s not the card for you if you don’t have access to a smart phone with data package or access to WiFi.

      Otherwise you’d just go to the Virgin Money app, choose “card” from the tabs at the bottom, then “view pin”

      • CarpalTravel says:

        But they already have their PINs? It is the card they are missing so won’t know their numbers so won’t be able to use the app.

    • CarpalTravel says:

      Likewise, I am still waiting for my R+ card to turn up, it has not been just over two weeks. Amex manage it in 2 (working) days, in my experience. It’s annoying as I have had 2 big (un-Amexable) spends this week and thought it would have been here by now.

      • Amy C says:

        Will you get the 15000 point sign up even though you already had the card earlier this year? Assume they are not like Amex in that respect?

        • Rob says:

          Yes. They require a 6 month gap to accept you again but if accepted you get the bonus.

  • Jeremy says:

    I am cancelling the R+ card the app is shocking. They did away with the web account management and the customer service is bad. I am fortunate to still have a Barclays Hilton rewards card so using that for non Amex spend.

    I don’t see the point in the Virgin Cards until US Travel is allowed again.

  • JohnT says:

    I was advised by an agent that if you want to downgrade, apply for basic one immediately and then when rejected put in an appeal..

    PS can you confirm 241 option is for a return flight?

  • Anna says:

    Thinking of applying for the paid card as I’m 12 months into a 2 year break on BAPP and also planning to diversify from BA after we’ve used all our FTVs.
    Does the 2 4 1 actually save much money on an Upper Class cash booking? Alternatively, how many points are needed for, say, UC to NYC from MAN and what is reward availability like?

    • Rob says:

      You’d pay the taxes on the ‘free’ cash seat but the base fare saving could be decent.

    • Colin JE says:

      Anna, why not have a look at SeatSpy to see what availability there is? Used to be fairly good when I used my points. Unfortunately in those days the vouchers didn’t do upgrades on cash tickets which is brilliant. I’m sure there’ll be a few business travellers who can only book a premium seat then use their upgrade voucher to get into Upper. A great experience, especially the lounge.

      • Anna says:

        Thanks Colin – don’t you have to get a paid membership for Seatspy now though to see anything other than economy seats?

  • AndyW says:

    Is there a way to find out when your card year (voucher earning year) starts, or is it just look back through and find first statement.

    • Amy C says:

      I ring them and they tell me along with how much I’ve spent towards my next voucher, but yes you can look it up.

  • TOBIAS L says:

    I have an HMRC bill coming up soon (in excess of £15k) and want to maximise points earning opportunities.

    Would it make sense to subscribe to Curve Metal and apply to the free Virgin card? Is there any other better combo?

    • Joe says:

      The 11,250 extra miles you would get on £15k spend on the paid card would go some way to justifying the £160 fee?

      • Reney says:

        Don’t forget the curve fee too, you have to at least keep it for 6 months which is about another £90?

    • J says:

      If you do this, apply for the Virgin card first before commiting to the curve upgrade – you could start with a very low credit limit which caps your points.

      • CarpalTravel says:

        Ah yes I meant to say about that. Be prepared to pay off the bill over several months, if you get a low limit thus points cap.

    • CarpalTravel says:

      Depends a lot on whether you prefer Virgin over Avios. Personally, (if eligible) with that sort of bill, I would be looking to take out the Amex Platinum and pay off 5k of it via Billhop (2.95% charge), collect the 60k bonus points + the standard points on the 5k spend, then close off the Plat card shortly after.

      That said, I personally tend to leave cards running as I don’t like to take the pee (still have my Plat Business one running).

    • Jonathan says:

      You could look at HSBC Premier (if you’re eligible), although it’s Avios earning and not VS Flying club points, it’s the preferred method (for this type of transactions) for a vast number of HfP readers. There’s also no cap on rewards based on your credit limit, and Virgin Money can be very strict with poor credit limits if you’re unlucky……

    • sayling says:

      You could look at Capital On Tap for the HMRC bill – the paid for version gets you one Avios per £

  • AndyW says:

    Also, I haven’t received a voucher this year, when I should have, assuming my card year is as I think it is. I seem to recall this might be possible to chase up in WhatsApp. Anyone have this number or an email address, on the virgin money page just a phone number that I can see

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