UPDATE – OCTOBER 2022: This article is now out of date, but don’t worry. We produce a monthly directory of the top UK travel credit card offers – please click HERE or use the ‘Credit Cards’ menu above. Thank you.
Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card from American Express. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus. You can apply here.
For the first time in six months, Virgin Atlantic has been running an impressive special offer for its Virgin Money-issued Reward+ credit card.
For a limited period you will get 30,000 Virgin Points (usually 15,000 points) if you take out the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ credit card.
You have THREE DAYS LEFT to apply.
This offer runs until Monday 6th June. You can apply here.
There is no special deal on the free Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card. This card has no sign-up bonus.
It is worth noting that Virgin Money will give you a new bonus if you previously cancelled your card at least six months ago. However, if you currently have one of the cards, you will not receive a bonus if you apply for the card you do not hold.
No foreign exchange fees in Europe
If you are looking for a good reason to apply – apart from the bonus – this is it. 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 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.
Here is the exact wording from the summary credit agreement:
“Non-Sterling Transaction Fee (for foreign currency transactions): 2.99% of transaction. We will not charge this if the transaction is in Euros, Swedish Kronor or Romanian Lei and it takes place in the UK or European Economic Area (EEA)”
What are the key features of the Virgin Atlantic credit cards?
Here are the details:
The free card
The free Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card is a Mastercard which earns 0.75 miles per £1 spent. The representative APR is 22.9% variable.
There is no sign-up bonus on this card.
The paid card
The £160 Virgin Atlantic Reward+ credit card is a Mastercard which earns 1.5 miles per £1 spent.
The representative APR is 63.9% variable including the £160 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit. The interest rate on purchases is 22.9% variable.
If you take out the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ credit card you will be able to earn up to 30,000 Virgin Points:
- 15,000 Virgin Points for the first purchase made on the card in the first 90 days
- Plus another 15,000 Virgin Points when you apply on or before 6th June and £3,000 is spent on the card within 90 days of opening the account
With this deal, you are receiving – when you factor in the annual fee – 30,000 Virgin Points, which should be worth around £300 if redeemed for long-haul premium flights, for £160.
You will also benefit from earning a very generous 1.5 miles per £1 spent going forwards.
This offer makes the Reward+ card the best offer for Year 1
The Reward+ card is clearly the best deal, in my view, given the enhanced bonus. The 30,000 Virgin Points easily offsets the £160 annual fee for the first year.
More importantly, once you have the Reward+ card, you are earning the superior 1.5 points per £1 whenever you shop. You also trigger the upgrade and companion vouchers more quickly.
Big spenders should note that your monthly points earning is capped by your credit limit. What this means, in plain English, is that if your limit is £10,000, the maximum number of points you can earn per month is 7,500 on the free card and 15,000 on the paid card. If you spend £10,000 every 10 days and then pay off your balance mid-cycle, you will not earn miles on your spending above £10,000. This is unlikely to be an issue for 99% of people.
How do the upgrade and companion vouchers work?
Each year you can earn a special extra reward. Your reward is triggered IMMEDIATELY upon hitting the spending target.
Unlike the British Airways American Express cards, the rewards vary depending on your tier in the Virgin Flying Club scheme. If you have elite status, you get a little more flexibility.
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.
Some tips on applying
Based on the past experience of HfP readers, I suggest that you do not use the ‘pre-approval checker’ on the Virgin Money website. Historically it has not proved a good predictor of whether you will be accepted. It is designed for Virgin Money’s mass-market cards and is likely to reject you for being too wealthy and so unlikely to pay interest. Apply directly.
If your full application is rejected, this can often be overturned if you appeal in writing. Write to Virgin Money at Jubilee House, Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE3 4PL with a couple of paragraphs expressing your dismay, referencing your Virgin Atlantic status (if any) and outlining your income and lack of non-mortgage debts. They will reconsider and you will often end up being successful.
30,000 Virgin Points is an excellent sign-up bonus. We have never seen a better deal than this. I genuinely don’t know how Virgin Money / Virgin Atlantic can afford such a bonus in the world of 0.3% interchange fees, given the relatively modest annual fee, and you should take advantage before they realise.
The £160 Reward+ card is the better overall package because of the high earning rate and the bonus triggered at just £10,000. There isn’t a lot of value in getting the free card – at least for Year 1 – with such a strong bonus on Reward+.
You can apply for either of the Virgin Atlantic credit cards via this link. You only have until 6th June to apply if you want to 30,000 points sign-up bonus. Don’t leave it too late on Monday, as previous experience has shown that the offer can be pulled in late afternoon or early evening.
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.
How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (October 2022)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Virgin Points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.
You can choose from two official Virgin Atlantic credit cards (apply here, the Reward+ card has a bonus of 15,000 Virgin Points):
You can also earn Virgin Points from various American Express cards – and these have sign-up bonuses too.
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for a year and comes with 20,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 20,000 Virgin Points.
The Platinum Card from American Express comes with 30,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 30,000 Virgin Points.
EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.
Small business owners should consider the two American Express Business cards. Points convert at 1:1 into Virgin Points.
(Want to earn more Virgin Points? Click here to see our recent articles on Virgin Atlantic and Flying Club and click here for our home page with the latest news on earning and spending other airline and hotel points.)