How to maximise Virgin Points rewards redemptions for incredible value
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Years after diving into the points and miles world, it’s frustrating to realise that a loyalty program you had overlooked could have been one of your most powerful tools.
I didn’t take a close look at Virgin Atlantic’s loyalty program for a long time because I didn’t immediately see it playing into my free travel strategy. But Virgin Atlantic offers something enticing — something you rarely see with other airline programs nowadays: Partner award charts.
Virgin Atlantic’s partner award charts have remained largely unchanged for years, and Virgin Points currently stand out for offering incredible value with many uses.
Let’s go over the basics of Virgin Atlantic Flying Club and show you the sweet spots that make Virgin Points so valuable.
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How to earn Virgin Points
There are four primary ways of earning Virgin Points directly. Let’s take a closer look.
You can certainly still earn points the old-fashioned way: flying.
If you’re flying on Virgin Atlantic, you can use the airline’s earning calculator to figure out how many Virgin Points you’ll earn for your flight. If you’re flying one of its partners, such as Delta, Air France or KLM you can opt to earn Virgin Points instead of whichever currency is normally awarded by the airline you’re flying.
You can check your operating carrier and fare class on WhereToCredit for the best option for your flight.
Credit card rewards
You can earn Virgin Points to use for redemptions through two different co-branded credit cards:
- Virgin Atlantic Rewards Credit Card — the entry-level card with no annual fee.
- Virgin Atlantic Rewards+ Credit Card — the premium card with a £160 annual fee.
Both earn Flying Club miles and if you meet the required spend each year, you can also earn a valuable Virgin Atlantic Reward, which can work similarly to the popular British Airways Companion Voucher.
Virgin Atlantic Reward Credit Card
The Reward Credit Card, is the entry-level offering from Virgin and is an excellent fit for someone who flies Virgin Atlantic or its partner carriers regularly and would like to compile Virgin Points through everyday purchases.
The card has no annual fee, however, it also doesn’t have a sign-up bonus like many credit cards with annual fees have.
The card earns the following perks:
- Earn 1.5 Virgin Points for each £1 spent on the card directly with Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Holidays.
- Earn 0.75 Virgin Points per £1 spent on all other purchases.
- 0% interest on balance transfers for the first six months, but there is a 3% fee for transferring this balance.
You can also earn a “Virgin Atlantic Reward” (explained in more detail below) which you get after spending £20,000 on the card every 12 months of your card anniversary date (the date you activated the card).
When you hit that spending benchmark, you can choose between the following options:
- A second redemption seat for a travelling companion for no additional points on the same Virgin Atlantic flight. Note: if you hold the lowest level red status in the Flying Club programme and choose a redemption seat in Upper Class, you’ll pay 50% of the points required for that second seat.
- A single Virgin Clubhouse pass for London Heathrow.
- Upgrade any return Virgin Atlantic redemption by one class (so economy to premium, or premium to Upper Class).
You can apply for this credit card here.
Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Credit Card
If you are interested in collecting Virgin Points at a higher earn rate and want a big sign-up bonus and don’t mind paying an annual fee, consider the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Credit Card.
It comes with a 15,000 point welcome bonus; after you spend £3,000 on the card in your first 90 days. Based on TPG’s current valuation of Virgin Points those 15,000 points are worth approximately £180.
- Earn 1.5 Virgin Points for every £1 you spend on everyday card purchases.
- Collect 3 points for every £1 you spend with Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Holidays.
- Choose from an upgrade to Premium or a Companion ticket when you spend £10,000 in a year.
- 0% for 6 months on balance and money transfers (you pay a 3% fee).
The annual fee is £160.
15,000 Virgin Points as a welcome bonus is quite nice. But there are other indirect ways to earn this valuable currency from credit cards. For example, you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards at a 1:1 ratio.
You can also transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to Virgin Atlantic at a 3:1 ratio, with a 5,000-mile bonus for transferring at least 60,000 points. In other words, 60,000 Marriott points equal 25,000 Virgin Points.
Between these six programs, it’s not difficult to compile a large balance of Virgin Points that will enable you to redeem them for amazing award sweet spots. However, if you’re still shy of a great award, you could consider topping off your account with transfers from World of Hyatt (5:3 transfer ratio) or IHG Rewards (5:1 transfer ratio).
If you’ve flown a Virgin Atlantic-operated flight — whether you paid cash or points for it — you can use Flying Club’s Points Booster to score extra points for cheap. You usually have the option of paying 0.010p (or $0.013) per point, but Flying Club also periodically runs bonus promotions. For example, in late April 2022, we saw an offer for up to 40% bonus points.
Other earning partners
There are also several partners through which you can earn Virgin Points through shopping or travelling:
- Car rental partners: Virgin Atlantic partners with Avis, Alamo, Enterprise, Hertz, National and Sixt to let members earn Virgin Points.
- Heathrow Rewards: You can earn points for shopping or parking at Heathrow airport and then transfer them to Flying Club.
- Rocketmiles: You can earn between 500 and 10,000 Virgin Points per night for booking hotels through Rocketmiles.
- Shops Away: Earn Virgin Points by making purchases at over 1,000 retailers through Virgin Atlantic’s shopping portal.
- Virgin Red: From Virgin Hotels to luxury Virgin properties, you can earn Virgin Points through many different partners.
What is the Virgin Atlantic Reward?
The Virgin Atlantic Reward is similar a British Airways Companion Voucher, and can be earned after achieving a minimum spend on the two credit cards explained above.
The Virgin Atlantic Rewards can get you the following depending on status:
If you hold Flying Club Red status (the lowest/entry-level tier), you can choose:
- To upgrade a single economy redemption flight to premium economy; or
- A second economy redemption seat for a travelling companion for no additional miles on the same flight.
For Flying Club Silver status members, you can choose between:
- Upgrading a single economy redemption flight to premium economy; or
- A second economy or premium redemption seat for a travelling companion for free on the same flight; or
- A single Virgin Clubhouse pass for London Heathrow (LHR) or London Gatwick (LGW).
If you are a Flying Club Gold member, you can choose between:
- Upgrading a single economy redemption flight to premium economy; or
- A second redemption seat for a travelling companion in any class for no additional miles on the same flight; or
- Two Virgin Clubhouse pass for London Heathrow (LHR) or London Gatwick (LGW).
Note the upgrades must have award availability in the higher class to which you wish to upgrade, the travelling companion must still pay taxes and fees for their ‘free’ flight and the lounge passes require a same-day Virgin Atlantic ticket — and no guesting is allowed.
Virgin Atlantic award chart
Many newbies to award travel may assume that the best use of an airline’s miles is for award flights on that airline’s own flights. That’s rarely the case — and Virgin Atlantic isn’t an exception.
The award prices Virgin Atlantic charges seem reasonable. Here are the round-trip prices you can expect during the standard season.
2022-2023 off-peak dates are as follows. If you want to stretch your points, book travel during these times.
|Standard season dates||Caribbean standard season dates|
|April 26-May 29.||April 17-May 29.|
|June 6-17.||June 6-July 15.|
|Sept. 5-Oct. 20.||Sept. 5-Oct. 20.|
|Nov. 2-Dec. 9.||Nov. 2-Dec. 9.|
|Jan. 5-March 23.||March 6-29.|
|April 18-June 17.||April 19-May 28.|
Round-trip prices escalate a bit during the peak season.
The value you may save by spending relatively few points (20,000 points round-trip between the U.K. and the East Coast of United States are more than competitive) you will lose on the outrageous fuel surcharges Virgin Atlantic tacks onto award flights. Round-trip surcharges between the U.K. and the U.S. usually add at least £200 for economy flights — and Upper-Class flights (Virgin Atlantic’s term for business class seats) could easily be well over £900 in fees for a round-trip ticket which is a long way from a ‘free’ ticket.
There are occasions where you may find paid tickets cost less than these fuel surcharges — meaning your points aren’t saving you a penny. This is especially true for sale economy fares.
Booking one-way award flights instead of round-trips have often proven to reduce the taxes and fees on an award flight, potentially by hundreds of dollars. You may also benefit from booking Virgin Atlantic flights to London, but not from London. Fees tend to be higher for flights leaving London.
New guaranteed award availability
Virgin Atlantic recently made changes to the number of award seats available on all of their flights. There will now be a minimum of 12 award seats initially available on every Virgin Atlantic-operated flight as soon as the flight is put on sale.
The minimum 12 seats will be available as:
- Two seats in Upper Class
- Two seats in Premium
- Eight seats in Economy
There are no blackout dates for this minimum seat guarantee, meaning those Flying Club members booking ahead will have more options for school holidays and Christmas in 2023.
This does not mean there will always be 12 seats available at all times for every flight, only when the flights are loaded 331 days in advance. Once the 12 seats are redeemed by Flying Club members, there may be extra seats added, or there may not. For peak periods anyone looking to redeem Virgin Points should book well in advance.
All flights departing from 29 July 2022 onwards will have this minimum guarantee added unless 12 seats have already been redeemed before this date or the flight has sold out.
Gold members can book any seat with double points
In addition to the above, Gold members can now book a “Gold Reward Seat”. This allows Gold members to pay for a reward seat in any cabin, even when there is no A, P, or G fares available. You’ll need to pay double the usual points and book more than 60 days in advance.
Members should always check online first to see if reward seats on their desired dates are available. If they are not, just like the upgrade reward and companion reward earned through the Virgin Atlantic credit cards, these double points bookings can only be made over the phone or via web chat.
Flying Club airline partners
The real magic of Virgin Points lies in partner award charts.
Virgin Atlantic isn’t a member of any airline alliance — but there are currently eight different airlines you can book award flights on using Virgin Points:
- Air France (SkyTeam).
- Air New Zealand (Star Alliance).
- ANA (Star Alliance).
- Delta (SkyTeam).
- Hawaiian Airlines.
- KLM (SkyTeam).
- Singapore Airlines (Star Alliance).
- South African Airways (Star Alliance).
- Virgin Australia.
You can also earn Virgin Points — but not redeem them — with partner SAS.
Each partner has a different award chart. Some are distance-based and others are zone-based, so there can be different terms and conditions from airline to airline. Besides Delta (and even for some Delta routes), you must call Flying Club at 0344 874 7747 to find partner availability and book tickets.
Air New Zealand, Hawaiian and Singapore Airlines don’t offer much value due to poor availability (I’m looking at you, Air New Zealand) and pricing that’s in line or worse than what’s available through other partners. You should study the charts to see if your particular routing is competitive with your other award-booking options.
Best uses of Virgin Points
Not all of Virgin Atlantic’s partners are a good deal. Let’s take a look at the value each offers.
Air New Zealand
While Air New Zealand award availability is typically really hard to find, it’s worth considering Virgin Points in the rare cases when availability opens up.
Here’s the Virgin Atlantic award chart for flights on Air New Zealand. Prices are round-trip.
ANA (All Nippon Airways)
Virgin Atlantic’s astonishingly good redemption rates for ANA-operated flights have been well documented here on TPG. Even without that transfer bonus, ANA awards booked through Virgin Atlantic should always be a consideration if you’re looking to get to Asia. The following prices are for round-trip travel — one-way awards aren’t allowed.
*Please note, that foreign visitors can only currently enter Japan on group tours (and only group tours).
Delta Air Lines
Virgin Atlantic has three separate award charts when flying Delta. They all depend entirely on where you’re going and only one is a particularly good deal.
The first award chart is for flights between the U.K and U.S.
The second award chart is for flights between the U.S. and anywhere else in Europe. This is a great way to book Delta-operated flights using Virgin Points with no fuel surcharges across the Atlantic.
This is one of my favourite aspects of Virgin Atlantic’s Delta award chart. A similar long-haul, business-class flight in Delta One using Delta miles will cost 120,000 miles or more — but just 50,000 Virgin Points.
The only problem is finding award availability, which is often limited. But when you do find award flights, you’ll pay just £4.46 ($5.60) in taxes when leaving the U.S. and minimal taxes when departing Europe for the U.S.
The third award chart is for flights going anywhere else on Delta. This could mean domestic U.S. flights, routes to Asia or South America, etc. Virgin Atlantic will charge you based on the distance you fly, so it’s very predictable. You can use Great Circle Mapper to help you calculate how many points you’ll pay for a given route.
It’s always worth comparing Virgin Atlantic and Delta’s award pricing if you’re booking short-haul flights that are relatively inexpensive through Flying Club. On the other hand, long-haul flights can be absurdly expensive with this award chart.
That said, Delta SkyMiles often has cheap domestic award tickets, so if you have both currencies available to you, it’s worth comparing Delta and Virgin Atlantic pricing before you book.
Less valuable Flying Club partners
Air France and KLM
Virgin Atlantic has pages and pages of award charts for both KLM and Air France. You can visit this page to see them all. It divides the world into 10 zones and calculates your award price based on your origin and destination zones. Here are some highlights from the U.S.:
- One-way economy short-haul flight to Europe from the U.K. for 7,600 points off-peak (8,500 peak)
- One-way economy flight to the Middle East from the U.K. for 12,000 points off-peak (22,000 peak)
- One-way business class short-haul flight to Europe from the U.K for 8,000-30,000 points off-peak (9,000 – 32,000 peak)
- One-way business class flights to Carribean from the U.K. for 48,500 points off peak (58,500 peak)
Just note that you’ll often incur fuel surcharges for your flights, but they’re not as high as Virgin Atlantic awards. In my experience, surcharges are just under £239 ($300) for a one-way business-class ticket from to Europe the U.S.
For a better overview of peak dates:
|Standard season travel dates|
|April 26-May 29.|
|Sept. 5-Oct. 29.|
|Nov. 2-Dec. 9.|
|April 18-June 17.|
If you’re flying within Europe, you won’t be subject to this zone pricing. Virgin Atlantic has an easy chart to follow.
Although Flying Club is a partner of Singapore Airlines, you can only redeem for economy awards on flights to or from the U.S. The best deals are on Singapore’s fifth-freedom routes: New York City to Frankfurt for 25,000 points each way, San Francisco to Hong Kong for 30,000 points each way and Los Angeles to Tokyo for 30,000 points each way. Unfortunately you cannot redeem your Virgin Points for Singapore Airlines fantastic business and first class seats.
The Virgin Atlantic award chart for Virgin Australia flights is mostly distance-based — meaning that it could be a good value for short and expensive intra-Australia flights. Virgin Australia has discontinued long-haul service, including flights to and from the U.S.
This current award chart seems to indicate that you can now only book economy seats. However, it does price infant rewards at 2,000 points in economy and 10,000 points in business class. You may have to reach out to Virgin Atlantic when booking your flight to learn what the business-class price of your route will be.
Unique Virgin Points redemptions
If you find yourself with hundreds of thousands (or millions) of Virgin Points, you can trade them in for an extraordinary level of luxury — or altitude:
- Mont Rochelle: Stay at Sir Richard Branson’s Cape Town winery for three nights for between 120,000 and 200,000 points.
- Kasbah Tamadot: Spend three nights in Branson’s Atlas Mountain retreat in Morocco for between 240,000 and 280,000 points.
- The Lodge: Stay three nights in one bedroom of Branson’s nine-bedroom Swiss Alpine resort for 380,000 points.
- Mahali Mzuri: Spend three nights in a “luxury tent” at a Kenyan safari camp for 600,000 points or five nights for 950,000 points.
- Ulusaba Private Game Reserve: Use 600,000 points for a three-night stay for two people in a Safari Lodge room or 950,000 points for a five-night stay for two people in a Safari Lodge room.
Or, you can enter a raffle for a chance to fly in space on Virgin Galactic for a cool 2,000,000 points — but all of those points must have been earned from Virgin Atlantic flights.
How to redeem Virgin Points
Now that you know why you should care about Virgin Points, let’s show you how to redeem them for award flights. You can easily search for seats on Virgin Atlantic’s homepage. Just click “Advanced Search” and then select the “Points” option.
It’s also wise to tick the “Show flexible dates” box, in case the date you entered has no availability.
After you search, you’ll see availability one week at a time. You can see a full calendar month by clicking “Price Calendar” at the top of the page.
This process may seem incredibly easy, but that’s not always the case. When it comes to partner award searches with the engine, the Virgin Atlantic website can fall short. That’s because Virgin Atlantic only allows you to search award flights to/from airports that are loaded into its system — and many of its partners aren’t bookable online. Remember, you’ll have to call to book flights such as ANA, Singapore Airlines and Air New Zealand.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for, head to another website that does show availability for that airline. For example, the United Airlines site shows Singapore Airlines and ANA flights. Once you find what you’re after, copy the flight information and travel date and call Virgin Atlantic to book.
The small print
There are a few general terms and conditions for award flights booked with Virgin Points — including partner-operated flights — to keep in mind:
Award flight changes
Travellers can change their travel date, routing and/or class of service prior to travel for a service fee of £30 for changes to international flights originating in the UK. For flights orginating in the U.S. or elsewhere you will be charged $50 (£41.70) or the local currency equivalent.
Award ticket cancellation policy
You can cancel your ticket and receive all your points back for a cancellation fee of £30 for flights originating in the U.K. For flights originating in the U.S. or elsewhere you will be charged $50 (£41.70) or the local currency equivalent.
Open-jaw and stopovers
Flying Club prices one-way awards at half of the award chart price for most partners. This includes ANA flights, which used to require round-trip bookings.
If you can’t find award availability both ways on the route you want, you can book an open-jaw award — which means you’re flying into or out of a different airport on your return leg. There’s no penalty for doing this, and the mileage prices out as half of the cost of a round-trip for each of the two legs booked.
As Flying Club charges for each flight segment separately, you can build in a stopover in a connecting city. However, it may not be worth the extra mileage cost to book an award with a connection or stopover.
Virgin Atlantic is intricate — and some of its lustre has disappeared after devaluations and diminishing routes from its partners. But the program is still highly valuable for international travel, particularly for flying ANA and Delta in premium cabins when you can find availability. And because the program has so many transfer partners, its points are easy to earn.
Additional reporting by Jordan Waller, Ben Smithson and Nicky Kelvin.
Feature photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images.
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