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What Is The Best Alternative To The Withdrawn Virgin Airline Credit Card?

MBNA Virgin Airline Credit Card closure

MBNA Virgin airline credit card holders received letters recently advising of the closure of the scheme. Cardholder’s days of earning Flying Miles are coming to an end, but fear not. If you are a cardholder, and wondering what your options are, here are three for you to consider.

Option 1 – New Virgin Airline credit cards

Virgin Atlantic credit cards
Release of new Virgin Atlantic credit card.
Byline John Nguyen/JNVisuals

Virgin Money have recently launched two new credit cards for customers on the hunt for Flying Miles. I reviewed the Virgin Atlantic Reward Card and the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Credit Card recently, and you can read the full review by clicking on the link below. However, if you want a quick overview of how these new cards compare with the defunct MBNA Virgin credit cards, here are the headlines.

The Quick And Easy Review Of The New Virgin Atlantic Credit Card

Card status

The Virgin Flying Club White and Black AMEX cards were a dual card package including both a VISA card and AMEX. The benefit of this approach is that many stores and restaurants globally do not accept AMEX, in which case the VISA is a back up card. Any puchases on either card are charged to the same account with only one bill to settle. Pretty neat hey?

Sadly, the new cards are both Mastercard and offer no AMEX option to earn additional Flying Miles.

Annual fee

MBNA issued both the Virgin Flying Club White and Black AMEX cards, but these are now a thing of the past. The White card was free, however the Black Card  levied an annual fee of £140. The new Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Card carries an increased annual fee of £160. Yes, it’s still cheaper than the British Airways Premium card (£195), but that offers a much better sign up bonus (26,000 with this link) and a better companion voucher.

Two new virgin Atlantic credit cards
Virgin Atlantic credit card

Earnings Rate

The Virgin Flying Miles White card offered spenders 1 Flying Mile per £1 spent on AMEX and 0.5 miles for spending on the Visa card. The Black Card offered double at 2 per £1 spend on AMEX and 1 mile per £1 spent on VISA. In addition, bookings with Virgin Holidays or Virgin Atlantic earn double miles on both cards.

The new cards offer just 0.75 or 1.5 Flying Miles per £1 spent. This means earnings rate have reduced and the Reward+ card now offers the same earnings rate as the British Airways Premium Plus Card, albeit that is an AMEX. The Virgin Atlantic Reward card offers less attractive rewards than the British Airways Standard card which rewards every £1 with 1 AVIOS.

Sign Up Bonus

The sign up bonus for the old Virgin Atlantic cards was 3,000 for the White and 18,500 for the Black. To qualify card holders simply needed to make one purchase within the first three months.

The new cards offer 5,000 Flying Miles for the Virgin Atlantic Reward Card and 15,000 for the Reward+ card. Strangely, the free card now offers a better deal whilst the card with an annual fee offers a worse deal. Where is the logic in that?

Again, the bonus is earned after simply making one purchase, which is more generous than the British Airways sign up bonus qualification criteria. The British Airways Standard card also has a sign up bonus of 5,000 AVIOS, but you need to spend £1,000 in your first three months to qualify. The British Airways Premium Plus Card offers 26,000 AVIOS using this referral link but you need to spend £3,000 within three months to get it.

Source: Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Airline Companion voucher

I am not even going to waste my time talking further about this companion voucher as it is rubbish. It simply does not compare favourably to that offered by British Airways. You can read my full review of the Virgin Atlantic companion voucher to find out why I think it is poor if you are considering these cards because of this benefit.

Option 2 – Amex Gold

This Card offers membership of American Express rewards. It allows you to earn 1 mile for every £1 spent, or 2 miles for every £1 spent with various airlines.

Compared to the earnings rate for the Reward Card, this option looks more attractive. However the AMEX Gold has a lower earnings rate than the Reward+ Card, and the same annual fee. However, the annual fee is not levied on the Gold card in the first year and I recommend signing up for the Gold card, satisfying the minimum spend, cancelling and repeating six months later. This allows you to earn tons of sign up bonuses rather than a one off amount. On this basis therefore, the Gold card still wins.

Gold card benefits

In addition, the Gold card offers an attractive sign up bonus of 22,000 using this referral link but no companion voucher. Please note you need to spend £2,000 in the first three months to qualifying for the sign up bonu. Holders instead receive two free lounge passes to one of over 700 lounges worldwide for every year of membership.

Gatwick airport Lounge seating area
No1 Traveller Lounge seating area – I used my lounge passes to gain access here

Compared to the Virgin Reward card therefore, the Gold card is a much better option because of the attractive sign up bonus and higher earnings rate. It is not as clear when compared to the Rewards+ card, as it has a 7,000 higher sign up bonus, but the earnings rate is only 1 v 1.5 for the Reward+ card.

Personally, I still think the Gold card wins as you would have to spend an extra £2,666 on the Virgin Reward+ card to make up for the lower sign up bonus (£4,666 less the £2,000 qualifying spend for the Gold sign up bonus).

Sign up now

British Airways Credit Cards

As you can probably tell, this is still my preferred option for earning airmiles in the UK. The companion voucher allows both passengers to upgrade to Business Class using their airmiles, and is available regardless of tier status, unlike the new companion voucher from Virgin.

I generally do not recommend the British Airways Standard card because the companion voucher is only valid for 12 months and you need to spend £20,000 to earn it. Plus, you only earn 1 AVIOS per £1 spent, and the sign up bonus is a paltry 5,000 AVIOS.

Although there is a whopping fee of £195 for the Premium card, you earn a minimum of 1.5 AVIOS per £1, a sign up bonus of 26,000 using this referral link and the companion voucher is valid for 24 months.

British Airways plane
Source: Pixabay

My top pick for a airline credit card

,Without a doubt, it continues to be the British Airways Premium Card. Admittedly, many may argue that BA is not the best airline, and I would agree. but British Airways Club class is better than economy on any other airline, and that’s how you should be using your companion voucher.

Get your BA Premium Card now

Which do you think is the best option?

I would love to know what you think, and whether you will be signing up for these cards or other ones.

About Anne

Anne is the founder and editor of TravelTheGlobe4Less. If she isn't travelling, she is thinking of travelling or planning her next trip. She has visited over 80 countries on six continents and sampled everything from backpacking to bank bursting travel. Her mission is to help you enjoy more luxurious travel without the luxury price tag through the use of airline and hotel rewards and other money saving travel tips

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19 comments

  1. I never knew the use of an airline card and glad i stopped by your page. Thanks alot for such a useful info

  2. Thanks for this useful writeup. I am sure it will help anyone looking for best cards for flight miles especially after Virgin closing down its airline credit card. There are so many options out there these days that it can become so difficult to choose the right option.

  3. The BA card definitely sounds like the best option if you fly enough to justify the £195 sign up fee – which at the moment I am nowhere near. I always get so confused about earning points, so it’s great to see it all laid out for me – thank you!

    • It’s not so much whether you fly enough to justify the fee but more whether you can spend enough to earn the companion voucher which then more than justifies the fee. Especially when that voucher allows you and a friend/partner to fly business for less than you would pay in economy. Thanks for stopping by

  4. Some great options here to continue point hacking with other cards. Keep building keep flying for cheap

  5. That’s awesome that the bonus is earned by simply making one purchase. I’m so used to cards offering bonuses after spending a certain threshold like $3000 within the first 3 months. After having Avios points for over 5 years, I finally used all of mine.

  6. I wish I was better at using airline credit cards. I only have Norwegian airline credit card which is.so good to have in Europe and if you travel to the U.S. to and from Europe. Thank you so much for the suggestions.

  7. Great review. As I live in Australia BA doesnt suit me although Virgin does. I am an Emirates loyal flyer as its convenient for me when I travel form Australia to Europe. And obvisouly Qantas works best for me too when I’m fling doemstically or to the Americas.

  8. I haven’t flown VA for many years, mainly because it became so expensive. From the breakdown of the two, I’d still stick to the BA card as it seems like the best. Then again, I wouldn’t mind the Amex Gold to have those 2 visits a year to the lounge; I do miss spending time there before the flight.

  9. Airline cards can be a great way to earn miles for your everyday spending. Of course, with all credit, you have to use it wisely but the tool itself can be very useful. Companion passes do seem like a great option.

    • True. My top tip for anyone considering cards for miles is to pay them off in full each month. Probably not the right strategy for those who are maybe not so sensible with their spending

  10. Believe it or not, I have never flown Virgin Atlantic! And I do not have any airline credit cards, mostly because I don’t end up flying the same airline multiple times. I usually pick the most budget flight (optimised on the timing) and book that so I end up taking a lot of different flights instead of a particular airline. It seems that you’re not very impressed with the Virgin Airline card either. I just like the look of it (the design) but guess it’s not really something relevant for me.

    • The only reason I really fly the same airline is because of my Airmiles. In the Uk it is only really possible to earn a ton of miles for either BA or virgin and I find the former offers much better value

  11. Thanks for sharing and helpful card. I do use similar cards specially to accumulate points. This is a great way to bump your status on an airline and get upgrades.

  12. It’s a shock for many but I don’t use cards, credit or otherwise. But after reading your post, I guess, I gotta get atleast one. So, many offers and everything. It’s a boon to frequent travellers like me …

  13. Ohh I am sure many travelers are happy to know that their earning airmiles hasnt come to it end because you has given really other great options! I havent myself any airline credit cards and this is actually my first time hearing about it. Now after your post, I might apply for one…although I am not sure yet which.

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