Virgin Atlantic has re-launched two airline credit cards allowing customers to earn a free flight upgrade or companion ticket. They’re good for Virgin collectors but don’t have the ‘wow’ factor of the longstanding British Airways cards.
So let’s get straight into the analysis…
The new Virgin cards in a nutshell
Both the Virgin Atlantic fee-free Reward card and the £160-a-year Reward+ card, offer a good chunk of introductory bonus miles, decent ongoing miles per pound spent, and crucially, they are Mastercards so are accepted almost anywhere.
The best reward credit cards, such as the BA airline cards, tend to be American Express cards which aren’t accepted everywhere. If using one, remember to always pay IN FULL or any interest will dwarf the gain.
While the Virgin cards offer a free flight upgrade or companion ticket if you spend a certain amount in a year these perks only work to the max if you’re Gold member of Virgin Flying Club frequent flyer scheme, which is its top status for mega frequent flyers or regular premium cabin passengers.
Companion tickets – where you purchase one in points but get a second for zero points, but both pay taxes – are arguably the biggest draw of airline credit cards. Yet as a basic Red member you can only get an economy class companion ticket.
On the BA cards, anyone can get a companion ticket under its Avios scheme in any class regardless of their frequent flyer status. However, reward availability on any frequent flyer scheme is extremely limited – see our Boost Avios points guide for how that scheme works.
Another advantage of BA is it flies short-haul whereas Virgin Atlantic only flies long-haul, allowing you greater flexibility to redeem points. And short-haul BA flights, as well as long haul in premium cabins are generally the best ways to use points on flights.
‘They lack the wow factor of the BA cards’
MoneySavingExpert.com managing editor Guy Anker says: “The Virgin cards offer good rewards, especially for existing points collectors, and as they are Mastercards.
“But they lack the wow factor of the BA cards as it is much more difficult to get that much-coveted pair of seats in business class unless you already have elite status within its Flying Club scheme.”
How many points do the Virgin Atlantic cards offer?
- The Reward card gives 5,000 bonus Virgin Flying Club miles if you make a purchase of any amount within 90 days. It also gives 0.75 miles for every £1 you spend on the card.
- The Reward+ card Has a £160 annual fee but offers a higher 15,000 bonus miles on your first purchase made within 90 days, and gives double the amount of ongoing points – 1.5 miles for every £1 spent.
Both cards offer double miles when you spend with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin holidays as well as access to Virgin Money lounges across the country.
How do the Virgin companion tickets and upgrades work?
With both cards, when you hit the trigger spending limit (listed in the table below) you get a ‘reward’.
You can choose the reward from these options:
While climbing up tiers is possible, it’s difficult. Going from Red to Gold status in a single year requires you to book either two upper class returns, five flexible premium economy returns or 10 ‘economy delight’ returns with Virgin. Further information on tiers can be found on the Virgin Atlantic website.
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How do the Virgin Atlantic cards compare to BA?
The BA Amex and BA Premium Plus are the closest cards to compare the Virgin cards with, as both of these cards offer an introductory bonus and Avios points every time you spend on them, which can then be used to book flights.
How easy is it to get a reward flight?
Not easy at all. With BA, for example, they go on sale 355 days before a flight and sometimes all rewards are snapped up immediately, especially for popular routes such as Sydney and Bangkok.
BA confirmed it releases a minimum of four economy and business class seats per flight. Virgin doesn’t have a set number of reward seats per flight, though it says it releases ‘hundreds of thousands’ of reward seats each year.
To help compare the BA and Virgin schemes, we compared the price of several off-peak BA and Virgin flights from Heathrow.
As the table below suggests, you require fewer Virgin Flying Miles on the examples we picked.
|Flight prices (in pts/miles) for off-peak|
|Scheme||New York||Dubai||Hong Kong|
|Economy||Premium Economy||Upper/business||Economy||Premium Economy||Upper/business||Economy||Premium Economy||Upper/business|
Can I open a new Virgin card if I have its old card?
Yes, as long as you’ve not applied for one of the older cards within the last three months. The new cards are operated by its sister brand Virgin Money. Older Virgin Atlantic cards are issued by MBNA.
For more information on these cards, see our guide on Airline Credit Cards.