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 26.9% variable.
Reward credit cards generally have high interest rates and are not suitable for anyone who does not pay off their full balance each month. If you do not clear your balance, you should look for a non-rewards credit card with a low interest rate.
This article was updated on 1st June 2023, and all of the information is correct as of that date. Ignore the original publication date shown.
About the Virgin Atlantic free credit card
The Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card – issued by Virgin Money – comes 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.
SPECIAL OFFER: Until 13th June, the sign-up bonus on the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ card is doubled to 30,000 Virgin Points. This makes it a substantially better deal for your first year. Apply here.
As there is no sign-up bonus on the free card, you might find Virgin Atlantic Reward Plus to be a better overall deal, at least for one 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. There is no spending requirement with the bonus arriving after your first purchase, however small.
SPECIAL OFFER: Until 13th June, the sign-up bonus on the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ card is doubled to 30,000 Virgin Points. Apply here.
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 Virgin Atlantic credit card in the last 6 months.“
You can apply if you have a non-Virgin Atlantic credit card from Virgin Money.
You can apply if you are currently a supplementary cardholder on someone else’s Virgin Atlantic credit card.
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, when you book a cash or miles ticket on Virgin Atlantic in Upper Class, Premium or Economy
- A return upgrade – on either a cash or miles ticket – from Premium to Upper Class, or from Economy Delight/Classic to Premium (requires reward availability in the higher class)
If you have Silver or Gold status in Virgin Flying Club, you can also choose:
- Virgin Clubhouse lounge passes (requires a same-day Virgin Atlantic or Delta flight) – one pass if you are Silver, two passes if you are Gold
Yes, the Virgin Atlantic vouchers can be used on CASH tickets
There is a key difference between the 2-4-1 and upgrade vouchers offered by Virgin Atlantic compared to the ones offered for British Airways via American Express and Barclaycard.
Virgin Atlantic vouchers can be used on cash tickets as well as reward tickets. If you book a cash flight, you bring someone else with you as long as:
- you pay the taxes and charges element of the ticket, which admittedly can be fairly high
- there is a reward ticket available in the cabin – if there are no reward seats on offer, you can’t use the 2-4-1 voucher even if you are booking a cash flight for yourself (for an upgrade, there must be a reward seat in the higher cabin)
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. You do not pay this if you redeem in Premium or Economy as a ‘no status’ member.
- you need to take the outbound leg of your flight before the two year expiry date – you can return later
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 0% interest for six months on balance transfers and money transfers (3% fee).
How do you receive your annual voucher?
Your voucher is triggered within 1-2 weeks of passing the £20,000 annual spend threshold.
You should receive an email from Virgin Flying Club confirming this. If not, go to the ‘My Activity’ section of the Virgin Atlantic website, under ‘My Account’.
You should see ‘Virgin Atlantic Credit Card Reward Voucher’ as a transaction line, with ‘0 points’ showing next to it.
The voucher cannot be redeemed online. You need to call Virgin Flying Club to redeem it.
Is there an annual fee?
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 Virgin Atlantic Reward Plus card instead. 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:
- You can earn points by converting Tesco Clubcard points as well as Heathrow Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards points. Even if you never fly with Virgin Atlantic, you could top up your credit card miles with Tesco Clubcard points.
- You can transfer Virgin Points to Hilton Honors at a 1 : 1.5 ratio which puts a floor under their value. You can also transfer to IHG One Rewards at 1 : 1.
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 Points at 0.75p – 1p each, in line with Avios.
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. In theory it only applies to ‘in person’ transactions and not online spending but in practice this rule does not seem to be applied.
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?
The majority of UK credit cards offering ‘retail rewards’ – those from Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Sainsburys, John Lewis etc – give you 0.1% to 0.25% back on what you spend.
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?
In March 2023, Virgin Atlantic joined the SkyTeam alliance. This allows you to redeem Virgin Points on many other airlines including Delta, Air France, KLM, Vietnam Airlines, Korean Air and many more.
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.
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 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.
SPECIAL OFFER: Until 13th June, the sign-up bonus on the paid-for Virgin Atlantic Reward+ card is doubled to 30,000 Virgin Points. Apply 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 responsibility 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.