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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 £1200 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 – 20,000 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 (71)

  • Harrier25 says:

    Am I correct in thinking that the points accumulated with these two cards can also be transferred into Hilton Honors points?

  • Jonathan says:

    I’m almost certain VS have changed the policy on using the voucher for Clubhouse access, when these cards were initially launched, everyone could get into the Clubhouse using their voucher, but this has now been excluded for level Red Flying club members (the basic membership, people who don’t fly often enough to gain status), and is instead limited only to Silver and Gold level Flying club members

  • Fraser says:

    I had both cards but dropped the paid one after accumulating 3 vouchers on top of 2 future travel vouchers! Add in the status match from BA Silver and I can’t wait for the US to reopen

    The article suggests you’d need a lot more than 15,000 miles to take advantage of AF/KLM but in fact, Edinburgh to Paris is just 4500 each way in economy or 9000 in business, and this works out cheaper with taxes/fees at 1p/point value than the cash fare. Probably only worth business on the way back, to get lounge access at CDG.

    VA WhatsApp number is +44 344 874 7747 and they’re pretty quick to reply, and can advise all your vouchers and expiry dates.

    What Virgin Money are thinking offering only App access I don’t know though, I much prefer to manage transactions on a PC and copy to Excel!

  • Jenny Collins says:

    While many of you may think the two Virgin cards look cool, they are actually a nightmare for those of us with sight impairments, and Virgin don’t offer any alternative design cards. Plus closing the website has only added to the problems of trying to manage the account when you can’t see the app. So much for legally having to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people!

    • Jonathan says:

      The app isn’t very good when you compare to an Amex type design and layout, theirs is almost certainly one the best I’ve ever encountered, if not the best!

      I understand where you’re coming from that the two cards (at quick glance) aren’t too dissimilar from each other if you’ve got eyesight disabilities

    • Roger* says:

      Hear! Hear!
      Separately, I was happy to receive 15k points for my VM current account. Now, in spite of my several requests, they have decided I don’t need postal statements. Er, do I need VM?
      Time to transfer out I think …

  • Dave RG says:

    How long after last holding a VA crefit card do you need to wait before re-applying to be eligible for the sign up bonus?

  • P says:

    So I can book a premium ticket for £600 & use the upgrade voucher without paying anything extra? Just another £70 the Upper tax? Am I correct?

    • Rob says:

      Tax won’t be £70 – the Air Passenger Duty is £183 for a start.

    • Jonathan says:

      With a cash ticket the PE APD is already paid (& at the same rate as Upper). You are on the hook for the extra surcharges in the £70-100 ballpark but I agree it’s a good use of voucher considering the price delta between PE & Upper plus the fact you’ll earn some miles back.

  • The Accountant says:

    I had the Reward+ card that I cancelled last year but had some refunds for some bookings that were cancelled because of Covid. The refund went to the card and they had to temporarily reopen my account in order to transfer the funds to my bank account.

    Rob, in order to receive the sign up bonus, do you know if I have to wait 6 months from the date they “reopened” the account or is it 6 months from cancellation date?

    • Jonathan says:

      You have to wait until 6 months has passed after you closed your account. Like with Amex sign up bonuses, you have to be very careful you don’t apply just a few days too early as well…

    • Lawrence says:

      My wife had a refusal due to her closed account having to be reopened for a late refund. Virgin deemed that the application was therefore within 6 months even though the actual closure was way before that. A bit ridiculous in my opinion!

  • Tom gold says:

    Is there any basis for me to claim part of the annual fee back due to virgin changing the T&C’s such as cash advance rules etc. mid year?
    On the terms update they offered to cancel but shouldn’t they be fair and refund pro rata

    • Rob says:

      Realistically you will get it, yes. If Virgin refuses then a quick complaint via the Ombudsman would get you your cash.

    • Peter K says:

      I had this issue maybe 3yrs ago and Virgin refused to play ball on a pro-rata refund. I found their customer service to be very poor.
      These days I’d consider a complaint to the ombudsman, shame I didn’t back then to be honest.

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