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Review: the Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard credit card

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This is our review of the free 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 Cards‘ area of the menu bar. Our other UK airline and hotel credit card reviews can be found here.

Key link: Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard application form

Key facts: No annual fee

The representative APR is 22.9% variable.

Review Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card

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.

EDIT: Until 6th June 2022, the Reward Plus card sign-up bonus is doubled to 30,000 Virgin Points. You should seriously consider applying for the Reward Plus card instead of the free card whilst this offer is running. You can trade down to the free card after the first year.

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 (doubled to 30,000 Virgin Points if you apply by 6th June 2022). 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: the Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard 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 a very good return for a free Visa or Mastercard.  Only one card beats it – the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard, which earns 1 Avios per £1 spent.

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.

Review Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card

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 Lloyds Bank Cashback credit card.  It is free for life and offers 0.25% cashback on your first £4,000 of annual spend and 0.5% thereafter.

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 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 one of the best free airline or hotel Visa or Mastercard credit cards on the market for day to day spending.

It is only beaten by the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard, which offers 1 Avios per £1 spent.

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 a very good return.

The bonus of 15,000 Virgin Points (doubled to 30,000 Virgin Points if you apply by 6th June 2022) 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.

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 Cards’ 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 responsibly to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points. The site discusses products offered by lenders but is not a lender itself. Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as an independent credit broker.

Comments (21)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • L Wellman says:

    Downside is not being able to manage account online – which is why I stopped my Virgin cards.

    • Tony Watt says:

      Totally agree with this comment.
      Only being able to manage your account through the phone app (and not online through a browser) was a real backward step for these cards, and I too seriously considered cancelling them because of it.
      And I still don’t believe you can see how close you are to getting to the spend bonus target, which I really can’t imagine is a tricky IT issue for them to fix…

    • CarpalTravel says:

      +1

    • Wasssup says:

      My thoughts too… The fact you can’t manage your account from a computer is something important to point out to people considering this card… I have the paid Virgin Plus card and would cancel immediately if there was a better non-Amex alternative, to use for places that don’t take Amex .

  • Terence Bartlett says:

    Rob I am financially triple A rated and I would advise directing your readers to see how many complaints Virgin Money Plc Receive from consumers with 73% of 32,000+ complaints upheld by the FCA. Just Google the number of complaints Virgin Plc have to date Their telephone communication and security coordination is pathetic and frankly I am surprised they still provide. Services under the Virgin brand name.
    Terence

  • Rob says:

    The RBS cards are not exactly free though. The article states clearly that the Virgin cards are free in Euro-land.

    To be honest, for the average traveller, the whole FX thing is a bit of a red herring. Due to business expenses I do around £50k per year in FX spending so, to me, it matters. For the average holidaymaker on pre-paid hotels (paid in £) or points hotels, how much do they really spend in foreign currency per year? Given that some cards offer double points on FX spend which offsets much of the 3% – and all the spend counts towards sign-up bonuses, 241’s etc – is it even worth getting a separate product?

  • Adam McMackin says:

    I have to disagree
    I dont think the rewards are any good
    I mean you can use points to off set the cost of a flight,however I’ve found you save more money by booking a holiday with flights through Virgin Holidays.
    Then there is the upgrade benefit, I’ve again not been able to use any of my points to upgrade my flight, so I hav over 40k points that are worthless as I dont fly often as I am just a regular guy who was hoping that by getting card it might save me some money on my holiday or get me an upgrade to treat my mother on her last trip to the USA
    So I dont think the rewards are any good

  • _aDifferentSimon_ says:

    “It only applies to ‘in person’ transactions and not online spending.”
    I paid Marriott / domes in Euros via a link they sent me and had no fees.

    • Rob says:

      But you were in the UK when you paid it, which still counts. TECHNICALLY if you were sat in the US when you paid the Domes bill, Virgin would have added a fee. Would they in reality? Probably not.

    • PJJ says:

      FYI
      I booked tickets in Euros in October from a French site and there were no fees

  • Grimz says:

    The big downside is availability in Upper Class. I would only want to redeem my voucher for upper class and right now you can hardly see any availability apart from New York. I hope this will increase as Virgin get more planes in the sky!!

  • A says:

    Laughable considering the virgin card (issued by bank of america so manageable online) here gives an 80,000 sign up bonus after a couple of thousand spend, has a $90 fee, AND it gives you virgin tier points.
    How can a card for a UK airline be so pathetic in a home market?

    I just cancelled my couple of year old one so I can reapply in a couple of months and get another bonus, as there is no lifetime or 2 years language on this card.

    • can says:

      I guess everyone in this forum knows how ridiculous it is to compare the US and UK travel credit card markets, and why.

  • EL says:

    How do I access & transfer the Virgin points on this card? Is a Virgin Flying account set up automatically when I applied for this card? I’ve called customer service and they have no idea how to go about this.

    • Rob says:

      You should be asked for a number when you apply. If not they will open one for you but it is far better if you open one so you have all the login details.

      • EL says:

        Thanks Rob. Does it mean I can transfer points via my Virgin Flying Club account?

        • Rob says:

          Yes, if you already have a FC account you can give the number when you apply for the card.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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