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Is The Virgin Atlantic Credit Card Now Beating AMEX Gold?

Given recent punitive changes to the AMEX Gold card, it’s worth revisiting how this card compares with the other titan of UK travel hacking, the Virgin Atlantic Credit card. I have not been a huge fan of these cards previously (poor companion voucher, no referral programme, and unspectacular sign-up bonus) but how do they compare now AMEX has raped and pillaged the toy box of treats on the Gold card?

AMEX gold card close up

Background

For those who are unaware, these changes stem from changes in EU legislation. These changes mean that many UK credit cards offering airline miles have bitten the dust. Those that have survived have curtailed benefits significantly. AMEX held out for longer but sadly have gone through a recent speight of draconian changes. My heart breaks!!!

So where does this leave us with these two cards?

Virgin Atlantic MasterCards

There are two Virgin Atlantic Credit cards but today I’m focusing on the free card, the Virgin Atlantic Reward Credit card. I will be covering the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Credit card in a future post so if you haven’t signed up already, do it now! You don’t want to miss out.

Sign up now

Source: Virgin Atlantic

Annual fee

The Virgin Atlantic Credit card has no annual fee, but the AMEX Gold card has an annual fee of £140 payable from year two. In the past, I would recommend you cancel and reapply for the card to avoid this fee. However, whilst this is still possible you WILL NOT earn a repeat sign up bonus if you have held an AMEX Gold card in the previous 24 months.

On this basis, Virgin steals a march but personally, I would still recycle the gold card if only to avoid the annual charge.

Sign up bonus

The Virgin Atlantic Reward Credit card has a pitiful sign-up bonus of just 5,000 Flying Miles (assuming you make just one purchase within 90 days of sign-up). However, if you apply before the 30th June 2019, you can take advantage of an additional 7,000 Flying Miles if you spend £1,000 within 90 days.

The AMEX Gold card, on the other hand, offers a sign-up bonus of 10,000 when you spend £3,000 within 3 months. If you use this referral link you can earn an extra 2,000 rewards. You will thus earn 12,000 membership rewards when you satisfy the minimum spend. This earns you the same amount of miles as the Virgin Atlantic Reward Credit card.

Obviously, the downside is that you need to spend an extra £2,000 on the AMEX Gold card to achieve the same number of airmiles. IMPORTANT NOTE: Amex Gold recently changed the rules in respect of earning the sign-up bonus, so please ensure that you will actually qualify for the sign-up bonus. The onus is on you people!!

However, let’s assume that you spend £3,000 in the first three months, here is how both cards compare.

Virgin Atlantic Credit Card AMEX Gold
Sign-up bonus 12,000 12,000
Ongoing rewards 2,250 3,000
Total rewards 14,250 15,000

Rewards earning

As the above table indicates, the Virgin Atlantic Credit card is exceptionally tight in terms of its rewards. It offers a paltry 0.75 miles per £1 of spend. The AMEX Membership Rewards scheme offers 1 reward per £1 spent. On this basis, without the limited time added bonus that Virgin are offering, the AMEX Gold wins. However, with the current offer, there is no clear winner.

If you know that you are likely to fly frequently with Virgin Atlantic or book regular Virgin Holidays these cards could be very attractive. All spend on Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Holidays will earn 1.5 Flying Miles which is considerably more attractive than AMEX Gold.

Transfer options

However, let’s be clear on this point. AMEX Gold allows the option to transfer rewards to Virgin and eleven other airlines. These include Singapore Airlines, Delta, Air France and British Airways. The Virgin Atlantic Credit card only offers the option to transfer points to Virgin Flying Miles. It, therefore, lacks flexibility.

AMEX Gold wins the flexibility feature! More destination choices to choose from thank you!

beach with sunloungers
How about a beautiful beach?

Loyalty bonus

When you spend £15,000 on your AMEX Gold card in a plan year, you earn a loyalty bonus of 10,000 Membership Rewards points. Virgin does not offer a loyalty bonus however the card does offer reward options when you spend £20,000 in a year. See benefits section below for more details but note, they are pretty unimpressive unless you have tier status and you need to spend an extra £5,000 to get one!

loyalty program and other items on desk
Reward program loyalty bonus

Referrals

One of the key perks of the AMEX Gold card is that it offers referral bonuses. For every friend you can persuade to sign up with your referral link, you will receive 6,000 membership rewards. They earn an extra 2,000 rewards for their sign up bonus.

Virgin Atlantic Reward Credit card does not offer a referral bonus at all. Meanies!

Other benefits

Red Flying Club members

When you spend £20,000 on the Virgin Atlantic reward Credit card, you will receive a reward. For Flying Club members who do not have tier status, it is a choice of:

  1. A Premium upgrade when you spend your miles on an Economy cabin reward flight with no additional miles required.
  2. A companion reward ticket in Economy when you book a reward flight in economy.

What can I say? Rubbish!! I use my airmiles to fly business or First and this reward is not worth the paper it is written on in my opinion. When most of the flight cost is made up of taxes and fees (which you still need to pay) to use your hard earned points to fly economy is a travesty! Seriously, if you are going to bust a gut to earn the damn points, use them to treat yourself for god’s sake! Not only will you have a wonderful start to your trip but furthermore, you will save tons more money and get much better value from your points. See my post on long haul v short haul for more thoughts on economy redemptions.

computer and gift box
Virgin rewards

Silver Flying Club members

If you are fortunate enough to be a silver club member, you can select one of the following rewards:

  1. A Premium upgrade when you spend your miles on an Economy cabin reward flight with no additional miles required.
  2. A companion reward ticket in Economy when you book a reward flight in economy.
  3. One pass to the London Heathrow or London Gatwick Clubhouse when flying with Virgin Atlantic. No additional guests can be permitted.

Again, rubbish! Use your rewards to fly Business or First class and then you will not need a club pass!

Gold Flying Club members

Finally, Flying Club Gold members can choose one reward from:

  1. A Premium upgrade when you spend your miles on an Economy cabin reward flight with no additional miles required.
  2. A companion reward ticket in Economy, Premium or Upper Class with no additional miles.
  3. Two Clubhouse passes to the London Heathrow or London Gatwick Clubhouses.

Now, this is much more appealing however you will have to be a very frequent flyer with Virgin Atlantic to benefit!! For those who earn most of their miles from credit cards (like me), this does not hit the mark at all!

Plane taking off
Who wants to jet off in economy?

The only perk that the AMEX Gold card offers is lounge access for two. However, unless you have Gold status I really don’t rate the other benefits enough to compensate for the lower earnings rate and extra flexibility of the AMEX Gold card.

Is Virgin better?

Honestly, it’s a close call, but AMEX Gold still has the edge in my opinion. Providing you qualify for the sign-up bonus on the AMEX Gold card, the extra flexibility, higher earnings rate and ability to earn referrals puts it in the lead in my opinion. However, if you don’t qualify for the sign-up bonus, then the Virgin Atlantic Reward Credit card definitely wins! It doesn’t hurt to hold both cards either as many stores still won’t accept AMEX so having the Virgin card in reserve can be a bonus.

How about the Virgin Atlantic Reward Plus Credit Card?

Well, to find out you will need to sign up, as that is the topic for a future post. Just click on this link to sign up for the weekly newsletter and ensure you never miss out on the latest travel hacking news.

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 90 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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4 comments

  1. Yeah, unless you already have status with Virgin, I think AmEx still wins the comparison – and pushing the points into Avios seems to allow more favourable redemptions, too.

    The AmEx changes are definitely harsh, with a bigger impact for single people, but there’s still mileage in the old girl yet

    • I am still hanging in there but wondering what they might do next. I am making hay while the sun shines with my points although I have just redeemed for a bank holiday trip to Sweden and another for Easter to Italy and Cinque Terre. It can’t be long until your trip now??

  2. AlohaDaveKennedy

    “now AMEX has raped and pillaged the toy box of treats on the Gold card?” Aren’t you being a bit hard on poor AMEX and making the bankers sound like a bunch of nasty Viking marauders? As far as I know AMEX has yet to set fire to your English villages and towns, although AMEX was recently got caught and fined by EU authorities for coming over in their longboats and doing a blood eagle to FOREX rates.

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