Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Review: the Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard credit card – now with a bonus

Links on Head for Points may support the site by paying a commission.  See here for all partner links.

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.

Review free Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card

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.

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 18,000 points.

As the sign-up bonus on the free card is only 3,000 Virgin Points, you might find Virgin Atlantic Reward Plus to be a better overall deal, at least for the first year.

What is the sign-up bonus on the free Virgin Atlantic credit card?

The sign-up bonus on the Reward Mastercard is 3,000 Virgin Points. This is new for 2024 – the free card had not had any sort of bonus for many years.

You will receive this after your first purchase. There is no spending target to hit.

The Reward+ card, on the other hand, comes with a bonus of 18,000 Virgin Points. There is no spending requirement with the bonus arriving after your first purchase, however small.

You cannot apply if you have recently cancelled a Reward card. The website states that you can apply if: “You don’t already have a Virgin Atlantic Reward Credit Card or have closed one in the last 6 months. If you have – don’t worry, you can apply for our Reward+ card instead.

You CAN apply and get the bonus if you have the paid-for Virgin Atlantic Reward Plus credit card. A recent rule change now allows you to hold both cards.

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 by 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 18,000 points sign-up bonus.

Review: the free Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard credit card

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.

You can also see your voucher online by going to your account page on the Virgin Atlantic website. Following a recent update there is now a ‘Vouchers’ option in the menu which will show unredeemed credit card vouchers.

The voucher cannot be redeemed online. You need to call Virgin Flying Club to redeem it.

Is there an annual fee?

No.

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 18,000 miles sign-up bonus and has an earning rate which is twice as high at 1.5 Virgin 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. Bonus miles from spending with Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Atlantic Holidays are not included in the cap.

What is a Virgin Point worth?

This is clearly a ‘finger in the air’ exercise. However, I am happy to value Virgin Points at 0.75p – 1p each, in line with Avios, when used for a premium cabin flight.

You can transfer Virgin Points to Hilton Honors points at a 1 : 1.5 ratio which puts a floor under their value. You can also transfer Virgin Points to IHG One Rewards points 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 points to unlock a good long-haul redemption.

If you need more Virgin Points before you can redeem, Virgin Flying Club has a lot of partners. You can earn points by converting Tesco Clubcard points as well as Heathrow Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards points.

Review Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card

Is this a good card to use when travelling?

Yes, in Europe.

Virgin Money does not charge any fees when you pay for something in Euro, Swedish Kronor or Romanian Lei.

The two Virgin Atlantic credit cards are the ONLY ‘miles and points’ cards in the UK which waive foreign exchange fees on some transactions.

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.

Conclusion

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 only a modest 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 for a free card.

The bonus of 18,000 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.

Note that the application process is a little odd. You must go through the ‘Check Eligibility’ process first, although the data you supply is carried across to the application form so it isn’t much more effort.

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.

Comments (17)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please click here to read our data protection policy before submitting your comment

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.