A lot of people don’t understand how the annual Virgin Atlantic credit card vouchers work.
In August 2020, missed by many during covid, Virgin Flying Club made substantial changes to the annual vouchers given out to holders of the Virgin Atlantic Reward and Reward+ credit cards.
One key impact, which many people don’t realise, is that you no longer need to have any Virgin Points – null, zero, none at all – to get value from the annual credit card voucher.
Virgin Atlantic has removed the distinction between cash and points flights. You can now use your annual credit card voucher to upgrade, or get a 2-4-1 deal, on a cash flight if you wish.
Because this is a frequent flyer site, we tend to look at how to use the credit card voucher on a Virgin Points booking. However …..
The Virgin Atlantic credit card vouchers are great for people who DON’T collect frequent flyer miles
Someone who has zero interest in air miles, and no air miles balances, can get a lot of value from the Virgin Atlantic credit cards.
This is actually a UK ‘first’. These is no other payment card in the UK which offers genuine benefits to people who pay cash for their flights.
As a reminder, you receive a voucher:
- when you spend £20,000 per year on the free Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card, or
- when you spend £10,000 per year on the fee-paying Virgin Atlantic Reward+ credit card
How does the Virgin Atlantic credit card voucher work on cash tickets?
When you receive your voucher, someone with no Virgin Points and no Virgin Flying Club elite status has three options:
- buy an Economy Classic or Economy Delight ticket on Virgin Atlantic for cash, and get an upgrade to Premium
- buy a Premium ticket on Virgin Atlantic for cash, and get an upgrade to Upper Class
- buy an Economy Classic, Economy Delight or Premium ticket on Virgin Atlantic for cash and get a 2nd ticket in the same cabin for free (well, £0 base fare, taxes must be paid)
Here’s the small print:
- the upgrade or 2-4-1 seat comes from Virgin Flying Club reward inventory. If there is not a reward seat available, you cannot complete the transaction.
- on upgrades, additional taxes and charges may be due depending on what you paid in taxes and charges on your original ticket
- on 2-4-1 tickets, taxes and charges are due on the second ticket
The voucher also works on points tickets too, of course
Whilst I don’t want to confuse this article by covering how the voucher can be used with Virgin Points you can use it – BA-style – to get a 2-4-1 or an upgrade on a miles ticket.
There is potentially a LOT of value here
Credit card rewards, outside the travel sector, have been on a downward trend for some time. You will struggle to find a Visa or Mastercard offering a better return than 0.25% these days. Some cards, such as the Sainsbury’s Nectar card, only return 0.1%.
The Virgin Atlantic vouchers are massively more valuable than 0.25% cashback
It is clearly difficult to put a value on an upgrade or a 2-4-1 ticket, but let’s look at a typical example:
Heathrow to New York, upgrading a Premium ticket to Upper Class, weekend of 20th – 22nd October
- Cost of Premium cash ticket: £954 return (£651 base fare + £302 taxes and charges)
- Cost to upgrade to Upper Class using your credit card voucher: £688 (difference in taxes and charges between the two classes)
- Cost if you had paid cash for Upper Class: £2,784
- Cost you have actually paid for Upper Class using your credit card voucher: £1,642 (£954 + £688)
You have saved £1,142 by using your credit card voucher, instead of buying an Upper Class cash ticket.
Heathrow to New York, getting a 2-4-1 cash ticket in Premium, weekend of 20th – 22nd October
- Cost of 1 x Premium cash ticket: £954 return (£651 base fare + £302 taxes and charges)
- Taxes and charges to pay when getting a 2nd ticket using your credit card voucher: £302
- Cost if you had paid cash for 2 x Premium tickets: £1,908
- Cost you have actually paid for 2 x Premium tickets using your credit card voucher: £1,256 (£954 + £302)
You have saved £652 by using your credit card voucher, instead of buying a 2nd Premium cash ticket.
Economy isn’t such a good deal because taxes and charges make up a large proportion of the cash price – but when cash prices are very high, as they are now …..:
Heathrow to New York, getting a 2-4-1 cash ticket in Economy Classic, weekend of 20th – 22nd October
- Cost of 1 x Economy Classic cash ticket: £634 return (£436 base fare + £198 taxes and charges)
- Taxes and charges to pay when getting a 2nd ticket using your credit card voucher: £198
- Cost if you had paid cash for 2 x Economy Classic tickets: £1,268
- Cost you have actually paid for 2 x Economy Classic tickets using your credit card voucher: £832 (£634 + £198)
You have saved £436 by using your credit card voucher, instead of buying a 2nd Economy Classic cash ticket.
Very quietly, Virgin Atlantic has created a product which a large number of people would be interested in.
Even in a scenario where you only save £250 by using your voucher for a 2-4-1 voucher or upgrade, you are still getting a strong return on the spending required to earn the voucher. No other Visa or Mastercard benefit which doesn’t involve collecting points comes anywhere near.
Unfortunately, it’s hard for Virgin Atlantic to capitalise on this
There is huge potential for a credit card like this outside of frequent flyer circles. In truth, however, Virgin Atlantic finds itself with a problem. The vouchers on the credit cards are too complicated to ‘sell’ to the general public in their current form.
The cards are too focussed on the benefits of earning and using Virgin Points, even though you don’t need any points, at all, to make a big saving with the new voucher.
Another problem is the need for reward inventory to upgrade or do a ‘2-4-1’ on a CASH ticket. This is too complex a concept to explain to the general public.
Perhaps Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Money should launch another credit card aimed at the general public, including the Virgin Red customer base?
It could strip away all mention of points, and potentially not even earn them. The only benefit would be the 2-4-1 voucher or upgrade voucher for a CASH flight, not a redemption. It would trigger at a lower level than the current voucher – let’s say £7,500 of annual spending. A simple online chart could show dates where the voucher could be used, a bit like a SeatSpy date summary display.
This is an easy message to sell to the general public, and in a market of faltering credit card rewards could prove popular.
Even though you are a Head for Points reader, there is a decent chance that you don’t have many, or any, Virgin Points.
It doesn’t matter. As I hope I’ve shown here, you can still get good value from the annual credit card voucher by using it to upgrade or get a 2-4-1 on a Virgin Atlantic cash flight.
You can find out more about, or apply for, either of the Virgin Atlantic credit cards here.
A fairly long PS ….
In the article above I say that you cannot use your credit card voucher for a 2-4-1 transaction in Upper Class if you have no Virgin Points. This is correct. However, you can use a 2-4-1 voucher in Upper Class, either on a cash or points ticket, in two scenarios:
- you have Silver or Gold status in Virgin Flying Club, or
- you have no status in Virgin Flying Club and pay 50% of the Virgin Points required for the second Upper Class seat, effectively making your 2-4-1 voucher into a 2-4-1.5 voucher
How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (September 2023)
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):
SPECIAL OFFER: The sign-up bonus on the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard is doubled to 30,000 Virgin Points if you apply by 2nd October. You receive 15,000 Virgin Points with your first purchase and a further 15,000 points if you spend £3,000 within 90 days. Apply here.
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.
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.)