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What is the best Virgin Atlantic credit card for you?

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Virgin Atlantic has two Virgin Flying Club credit cards, issued by Virgin Money.  They have proved hugely successful since their 2018 launch with, so I understand, over 200,000 applications so far.

Last week, Virgin Atlantic permanently increased the sign-up bonus on the two cards. You will now receive 18,000 Virgin Points with your first purchase (there is no spend target) on the paid card, and 3,000 Virgin Points with your first purchase on the free card. This is up from 15,000 and zero points respectively.

On the back of this, I thought it was worth a ‘first principles’ look at the two Virgin Atlantic credit cards.

What is the best Virgin Atlantic credit card for you?

Remember that in early 2023 Virgin Atlantic joined the SkyTeam airline alliance. This opened up many new airlines for earning and spending Virgin Points, including Korean Air and Vietnam Airlines for those looking to visit Asia.

You also need to know that Virgin Atlantic credit cards have no FX fees in the Eurozone – the only travel rewards cards to offer 0% FX in the region.

Full details are on the card website here.

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 (3,000 points sign-up bonus) and a paid Mastercard (18,000 points sign-up bonus)
  • You qualify for the bonus points as soon as you make your first purchase – there is no spending target to hit
  • The earning rates are EXCELLENT.  You get 0.75 Virgin Points per £1 on the free card and 1.5 Virgin Points per £1 on the fee card.
  • The Virgin Atlantic credit cards come with a 2-4-1 voucher for Virgin Atlantic redemptions.  It is substantially more powerful than the British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher because the Virgin Atlantic 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
  • You pay no FX fees on in-person spending in Euro, Swedish Kronor or Romanian Lei

Let’s look at the two cards in detail:

What is the best Virgin Atlantic credit card for you?

The FREE card – Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card

The representative APR is 26.9% 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
  • A bonus of 3,000 Virgin Points when you make your first purchase
  • 0.75 Virgin Points per £1 spent
  • Double points on online or call centre bookings with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays
  • 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.

What is the best Virgin Atlantic credit card for you?

The fee card – Virgin Atlantic Reward+ credit card

The representative APR is 69.7% variable, including the annual fee.  The representative APR on purchases is 26.9% variable.

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
  • A bonus of 18,000 Virgin Points when you make your first purchase
  • 1.5 Virgin Points per £1 spent
  • Double points on online or call centre bookings with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays
  • 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.

Following a recent change, you can now see details of your unused credit card vouchers on the Virgin Atlantic website. You will also see a line on your Flying Club account statement showing ‘Virgin Atlantic Credit Card Voucher – 0 points’ which confirms it has been issued. The voucher can only be redeemed by calling Virgin Atlantic.

You can choose one of the following options:

  • A 2-4-1 voucher, valid for two years, for a Virgin Atlantic 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.

If you have Silver or Gold status in Virgin Flying Club, you can also choose:

  • Virgin Clubhouse lounge passes (require a same-day Virgin Atlantic, Delta, KLM or Air France flight) – a Silver member receives one pass, a Gold receives two passes

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’.
  • To clarity, if you are Red (no status) and use your 2-4-1 voucher on a cash or points ticket in Upper Class, you still need to have enough Virgin Points to cover 50% of the points cost of the second ticket. A Silver or Gold member, or a Red member redeeming in Premium or Economy, does not – all they pay is the taxes and charges on the second ticket.
  • Taxes and charges need to be paid on the ‘free’ ticket as part of your 2-4-1 booking whether you are doing a 2-4-1 on a cash or points ticket
  • 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 – this is a key point to note

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 a very good earnings rate of 0.75 Virgin Points per £1.  This isn’t as good as the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard, which earns 1 Avios per £1, but it’s impressive nonetheless.

The paid-for Reward+ credit card is also worth considering, especially for higher spenders.

Purely from a bonus point of view, you are spending £160 to get 18,000 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 is a very generous return.

The only free card which beats it is the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard which earns 1 Avios per £1 spent.

There is no other ‘open to all’ Visa or Mastercard which offers frequent flyer miles at a rate anywhere near this.

On the fee-based Reward+ credit card, 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.

Again, the only card which matches this in terms of rewards is the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard. This earns 1.5 Avios per £1.

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 across the SkyTeam alliance

In March 2023, Virgin Atlantic joined the SkyTeam alliance. This opened up the following airlines for spending Virgin Points:

  • Aerolíneas Argentinas
  • Aeromexico
  • Air Europa
  • Air France
  • China Airlines
  • Czech Airlines
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • ITA Airways
  • Kenya Airways
  • KLM
  • Korean Air
  • Middle East Airlines
  • SAUDIA
  • TAROM
  • Vietnam Airlines
  • Xiamen Air

China Eastern will be added later.

You can read about how to redeem Virgin Points on SkyTeam partners in this article.

For clarity, you cannot use the 2-4-1 or upgrade vouchers from the credit card on SkyTeam partners.  They are only valid on Virgin Atlantic flights.

You will need a decent stock of points – more than your initial 18,000 credit card miles – to take advantage of SkyTeam 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 Clubcard point = 2 Virgin Points)
  • 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.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

Conclusion

From the perspective of day-to-day earning, the Virgin Atlantic credit cards are excellent.

From the perspective of the annual reward voucher, the ability to use it for your choice of a 2-4-1 trip, an upgrade or Clubhouse lounge access gives you exceptional flexibility.

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 18,000 points bonus and the 1.5 points per £1 spent.

You can apply for the FREE Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card (3,000 Virgin Points bonus) here and the paid-for Virgin Atlantic Reward+ credit card (18,000 Virgin Points bonus) here.

Comments (24)

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

  • Jan M says:

    Ugh. About to cancel the VA+ card as next year’s fee is due in a few days, so I applied for the free card and the pre-eligibility checker tells me I’m not eligible. I literally received an e-mail earlier today increasing my credit card limit. Any advice on how to appeal?

    It’s my only reward card and I’d rather wait till the next bonus comes along to apply for either Barclays or Amex. Got massively burned by both in 2022…

  • ChasP says:

    I’m in exactly the same boat – passed the eligibility, being offered choice of cards (strange as I already have + card, then being told to apply again in a month ??

  • Aliks says:

    Here is my recent experience. I cancelled my previous Virgin+ card a year ago, but ended up with some money refunded to the closed card, and they re-opened the account. I transferred the refund back to my bank and assumed the account was closed, but started getting monthly statements again. I called up to cancel and they apologised and re-cancelled – or so they said. I didnt get any more statements, but when I tried to get a new Virgin+ card the truth came out.

    I passed the eligibility, but was refused a card with the message “you already have the Virgin+ card” it took an hour long phone call to sort it out, with profuse apologies, and the agent registering an appeal for me.

    Anyway the appeal succeeded and about a week later I got an email saying welcome to Virgin. The card arrived a week after that and all seems well.

    The situation with my wife was similar to Jan M and ChasP. I cleared the balance and tried to cancel her Virgin+ card two weeks before renewal. This was refused as another small charge had come through. I cleared the small charge and tried again – refused again likely because it takes a few days for Clydesdale to update their records. During this time, all attempts to get the free Virgin card for my wife were rejected.

    Another lengthy call to Virgin confirmed that the account balance was clear, and the agent told me the account was being closed. He also said he was adding notes to the account to show that the account was closing and the renewal fee should not be charged.

    Despite all this the account is now showing £160 in the red, so I guess I need to call them yet again. The eligibility checker this morning seemed to say eligible and asked which card to apply but then put up a refusal message.

    YMMV!

  • Oliver says:

    Does this card still come with Boingo access? I registered last year and my account shows as ‘Inactive’ with 12 unused sessions.

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