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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)

  • J says:

    Rob, what are you doing with your Virgin miles, is it safe to hold them or should I convert to Hilton?

    • Freddy says:

      This is my concern – why rack of tons of points for a company that was on life support only last year. This is skirted round to avoid offending the virgin paymasters

      • Rob says:

        Technically Virgin Red owns your points, not the airline, although whether one would survive without the other is a moot point. I’m sitting on 1.5m Virgin between my wife and I so I’m not massively concerned.

  • Jonathan says:

    Do we know if these cards have rattled a few feathers for Amex on their BA cards, since now an individual who nearly always does solo leisure travel finally has use for a voucher earned by making a large cumulative spend within a year, and the same time, there’s no point in them holding a BAPP card, since the voucher they’d earn is useless to them ?

    It’s be good if Amex made their voucher useful for solo travellers, or gave other options for the voucher redemption……

  • MilesFromBlighty says:

    I’ve had issues with the card – it’s the bank just using the Virgin name after all – with large cash refunds when I have had to cancel airline tickets and chose refunds.
    First time went all OK.
    Second time they charged me the cash advance which ‘they do sometimes’ the agent on the phone said.
    Luckily she made an exception and credited back the £46 they charged.

  • Paul Taylor says:

    Can you receive more than one 241 voucher in a year?
    I load my card with work expenses as much as I can so would easily spend 20k in a year.
    Thanks all

    • CarpalTravel says:

      No.

      T&C’s:
      “If you spend £20,000 or more on card purchases over 12 months, you’ll earn a reward. You can only earn one reward every 12 months. The 12 months resets on each anniversary of the date your Virgin Atlantic Reward Credit Card account was opened.”

  • Luke C says:

    Can anyone advise how to actually use the voucher? I can see it as a line in my account statement but am then confused how to actually use it, unless I just need to phone up to book? Thanks

    • CarpalTravel says:

      Yes, you need to phone them up. I would use the online booking to select the flights I was aiming for then call them to book – save some time and effort on the call!

  • Fraser says:

    Is there a way of getting silver status without flying? Keen to get the 2-4-1 to use against cash tickets, but doesn’t make sense with a 50% points fee

    • CarpalTravel says:

      Assuming you are not US based (I think you can earn them on the Virgin card out there), then no.

  • Sam says:

    Just a word of warning, it costs about £0.50 per minute to call the Virgin Atlantic contact centre to redeem the voucher. I have tried three times to redeem the voucher and racked up over 3 hours in calls with no luck. They ask you to whatsapp them but they never reply and by then the availability has gone. Shockingly poor customer service.

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