Which Virgin Atlantic credit card is the better choice you?

Aug 2, 2020

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For frequent Virgin Atlantic flyers based in the U.K., the Virgin Money cobranded credit cards could be an obvious choice. For those not familiar, Virgin Money U.K. offers two different Virgin Atlantic cobranded credit cards:

We refer to these cards regularly here at TPG U.K. for several reasons. For one, they both earn Flying Club miles, which are more useful and valuable than you might realise. Secondly, they are Mastercards, which you are likely to find have more acceptance than American Express cards. 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.

Related: The Ultimate Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Guide

Virgin Atlantic A350 Upper Class. (Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

But the cards have some key differences, too. Before we consider who each card is best for, let’s look at the key features, side by side.

Feature Virgin Atlantic Rewards Credit Card Virgin Atlantic Rewards+ Credit Card 
Sign-up bonus None 15,000 Flying Club miles after making a single purchase on the card in the first 90 days, though note this increases to 25,000 Flying Club miles from time to time.
Annual Fee £0 £160
Value of sign-up bonus (based on TPG’s valuation of Flying Club miles) £0 £195
Earning Rate 0.75 Flying Club miles per £1 spent on normal purchases; 1.5 miles per £1 spent directly with Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Holidays. 1.5 Flying Club miles per £1 spent on normal purchases; 3 miles per £1 spent directly with Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Holidays.
Spend required to earn a Virgin Atlantic Reward £20,000 each membership year. £10,000 each membership year.
Representative APR 22.9% variable, and a purchase rate of 22.9% variable with an assumed credit limit of £1,200. 63.9% variable, and a purchase rate of 22.9% variable with an assumed credit limit of £1,200.

To summarise, the biggest differences are:

  • The premium card (Rewards+) has an annual fee while the basic card (Rewards) does not. The premium card has a much higher sign-up bonus than the basic card.
  • The earn rate for the premium card is twice as much as the basic card, for both regular spend and spend with Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Holidays.
  • You’ll need to spend less money on the premium card to earn the Virgin Atlantic Reward each year, though the Reward has the same validity and the same value regardless of which card you earn it with.

What is the Virgin Atlantic Reward?

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.

The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse London Heathrow
The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse London Heathrow. Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy

So, which is the best card for you?

If you are likely to spend a large amount of money on the card each year, the numbers work better for the premium card, the Rewards+, especially looking beyond the first year where the sign-up bonus would not be relevant. If you were only spending £300 on the normal purchases on the card each month (so £3,600 in a year) then on the basic card you would earn 2,700 Flying Club miles in a year. That’s a good deal if you aren’t paying an annual fee on the basic card. If you spent that amount on the premium card you would earn twice as many Flying Club miles (as the earn rate is twice as much), so 5,400 miles worth around £70. However, note you would be paying a £160 annual fee in order to earn those £70 worth of miles, which doesn’t make much sense. In this case, the basic card could be a better choice.

On the other end of the scale, if you were spending £3,000 a month on the card and, say 20% of that was spent with Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Holidays, then over the course of a year, you would earn a whopping 64,800 Flying Club miles in total, worth around £840 by our calculations. In this case, the higher-earning premium card could make more sense because it far outweighs the £160 annual fee. If you spend this much on the basic card, you wouldn’t pay the £160 annual fee but you would only earn half the number of Flying Club miles — £420 by our calculations. You would earn the Virgin Atlantic Reward on either card by spending this much on the card in a year, and remember the Reward has the same value regardless of which card you earn it through.

Bottom line

I have the Virgin Atlantic Rewards+ Credit Card card and have been happy with the product. It has a generous sign-up bonus and excellent ongoing earning rate for regular purchases. It’s been a great card to have in the wallet where American Express is not accepted. I decided to go with the premium card rather than the basic Virgin Atlantic Rewards Credit Card because doing the sums, I realised I would spend enough on the card each year to justify the annual fee and the higher earning rate would also be a benefit.

Featured image by Josh Gribben / The Points Guy

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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