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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 – 30,000 points (TO 16TH JULY), FREE for a year & four airport ….. 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.

  • Will says:

    Also note the voucher comes in two halves. So if you only use it one way, the other half remains available.

  • bennymoon says:

    Hey Rob,

    One thing that I’d love to see in these articles is the ‘breakeven point’ on cards. If you take into account the Virgin, BA AMEX, Avios Barclaycards in both their free and paid for versions, and you just factor in the points earning and not the vouchers at various spend levels, then how much does one have to spend on the card in a year to get more points on a premium card than they would have for the free one to offset the fee? For example, on the Virgin cards if you spend £10k on the paid for one vs £20k on the free one you will have acquired the same number of points (15,000) but if you spent £160 in card fees for those points then you’re probably at a loss, assuming a point is worth 1p. So would be good to know on all cards how much extra you have to spend on the premium cards to make more points than you’d have earned on the free version but also enough on top of that to essentially buy points at no more than 1p per point.

    Example: if I spend 20k a year, on the BA AMEX, I have 20,000 Avios. If spend the same amount on the BAPP, I have 30,000 Avios. But I spent £300 (new fee) to have the card, so actually the free AMEX hasn’t cost me anything to get those 20,000 points whereas the paid card has only got me 10,000 extra avios but I’ve paid £300 for it (a poor return if you assume the 1p valuation).
    Hope all this makes sense!

    • Rob says:

      It does!

    • Jan M says:

      That would be interesting mathematics! I suppose the upgrade voucher complicates things. Looking to cancel the VA+ Card because I suspect the maths won’t add up for me to keep it for Year 2.

      • bennymoon says:

        Essentially you need to get at least 16,000 a year more from the paid card than you do from the free one, so by my calculations as long as you’re putting more than £21,300 through the R+ card a year then it probably makes economic sense to have that one, if you’re not going to spend over £20k then the paid card may also be better as in the Virgin case you don’t need to have any points at all to make use of the voucher so the £10k threshold for the voucher may be worth the £160 but again, if you don’t use the voucher and you’re only spending £15k a year then you’re better off with the free card.

    • Tiberius says:

      I ran the same calculations on downgrading the BAPP to the free BA card (we do 2x economy redemptions a year to Bahrain which is massively overpriced on cash and where we get circa 1.7p value per point) and decided to downgrade, the extra 0.5 point wasnt worth the extra spend to negate the card fee

  • Michael Loberman says:

    How long do you have to have NOT had one of these cards for before you can apply again and get welcome bonus?

    • Jan M says:

      Six months but you can hold both of them. Canceling the VA+ one but will apply for the standard one and would expect to earn the 3,000 pounds bonus.

      • Michael Loberman says:

        And if you then reapplied for the + one after 6 months whilst still holding the free one you think you’d get 18k again?

  • Stuart says:

    Does the Virgin Article posted on the 25th April not state that the reapply period is now only 3 months?

    • Rob says:

      No.

    • bennymoon says:

      I asked about this, you can apply for the other card after three months from your previous application. So for example if you have the R+ card, then as long as it’s been 3 months since you were accepted for it, you can apply for the free one and hold both, but you can’t cancel the paid card and then apply again three months later for the same card.

  • Sam A says:

    Is the voucher lost if not used before the card is cancelled?

  • Max says:

    In my experience, the FX free euro spend has also applied for online euro transactions as well as in-person, such as car rental and hotel bookings for countries within the EEA region. I was charged a fee however for euro spend from a swiss company online, since they are outside the EEA.

    • Jonathan says:

      How the implementation of fees on currencies within Europe (excluding of course Russia and Belarus) has always baffled many, it’s supposed to only be on in-person transactions but has worked on internet transactions. Rob also mentioned the other day that there’s other currencies other than those that’s listed that haven’t been hit by the fx charge, but he can’t mention these as he acts as credit broker

  • Ranbir says:

    Are you still eligible for the bonus on the VA+ card of 18,000 points on £3k spend, even if you are an additional card holder on a VA+ card?

  • LukeLukeLukeLuke says:

    Brilliant credit card in my opinion. The R+ is an excellent deal for the first year. Cancel it, use the free for 6 months, then re-apply for the R+. That could then give access to a shed load of Virgin points as well as two vouchers.

    I have personally found the whole Virgin rewards seats system far easier to use than BA’s broken IT, convoluted process (with incompetent phone centre staff), and third-party websites that can’t apply the Amex 2-4-1 added seats.

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