Virgin Atlantic Credit Card Launch
You may recall that recent changes in EU credit card legislation wiped out a number of MBNA airline credit cards in late 2017. Overnight, almost ten different cards were withdrawn, leaving the UK airline credit card market looking a little sparse. So, it is great to see a new entrant into the UK travel credit card market, as Virgin Money recently launched two new Virgin Atlantic credit cards.
The question is however, are they any good?
Virgin Atlantic Reward Credit Cards Sign up bonus
The free card, Virgin Atlantic Reward credit card rewards cardholders with 5,000 Flying Club miles with just one purchase in the first three months. This is the same as the free British Airways card which offers 5,000 AVIOS when you spend £1,000 in three months.
The premium card, Virgin Atlantic Reward + Credit card, is much better with a bonus of 15,000 Flying Club Miles on first purchase within three months. This compares poorly with the British Airways Premium Card, which offers 25,000 AVIOS on satisfying the minimum spend, although you do have to spend a much higher amount of £3,000 within 3 months. Be sure to use this referral link for an extra 1,000 AVIOS. Th card has an annual fee of £160 which works out slightly cheaper than the BA card
The earnings rate on the free card is pretty pitiful. Every pound you spend earns just 0.75 Flying Miles compared to 1 AVIOS per pound spent on the BA card. The Virgin Atlantic Reward + credit card has a much more appealing earnings rate, which is the same as British Airways. For every pound spent, you earn 1.5 Flying Club miles.
Rewards for Red tier members
In addition, if you spend a minimum of £20,000 on the Reward card in a year, or £10,000 on the Reward plus card, you earn a reward. You can choose from a Premium upgrade when you spend your miles on an Economy cabin reward flight, or a companion reward ticket in Economy.
As I covered in this post on companion vouchers, the old Virgin Companion voucher was rubbish, and whilst this companion ticket is better, it is still poor. The new cards allow you to use miles to book a reward booking and travel with a companion for no additional miles, but only in economy class.
I find it is usually much better to redeem miles for travel in Business. Most of the fare in economy is attributed to taxes and fees, and you will still need to pay these.
Rewards for Silver and Gold tier members
Things get a little better, if you happen to be one of the lucky devils that flies Virgin frequently for work, and have managed to achieve either Silver or Gold status. You can select from a premium upgrade, a companion voucher or one clubhouse pass if you are a silver member (two passes if you are a Gold member).
You can then use the companion voucher to travel in economy or Premium. Gold members can use their companion vouchers for redemptions in any class including Upper Class. This rewards Virgin Atlantic frequent flyers, but means that those who accumulate most of their miles from credit cards (like me!), will get limited benefit from this companion ticket.
Whilst it is nice that there is a choice of rewards, none are especially appealing to me. That one Clubhouse pass is a fat lot of good if you have used your companion voucher to book Premium tickets. You will have to toss a coin with your partner to see who gets the Clubhouse access. For Gold members, the two passes are only useful if you are flying economy or premium economy, as Upper Class travellers would have access to the lounges anyway.
Free access to Virgin Money lounges
There are Virgin Money lounges in major cities across the UK, and anyone holding a Virgin Money product, gains access. Thus, if you already have another Virgin Money product, you will gain no benefit from this bonus.
If you do not, then this is an attractive perk as the lounges are super cool. I once hosted a business meeting in the play room there (no, not Fifty Shades style you cheeky pups! Think bowling alley, ice hockey tables and other games for adults and kids alike!) and the only cost is a donation to charity of £50 for each hour of use.
Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Credit Card cardholders receive free Boingo Wifi. This might save you a little on your travels but truth be told, many hotels, restaurants and café bars have free wi-fi anyway so I am unsure how beneficial this perk is.
As you will be aware, Virgin Atlantic is mainly a long haul airline, meaning that redemptions may be trickier than for British Airways. The chart below shows the price of typical redemptions, and these do compare favourably with some of the redemptions on British Airways.
Also, their upcoming partnership with KLM/Air France may mean that redemptions become easier in the future.
Sorry to say, but I personally feel that these cards simply do not compare favourably with the British Airways cards. Only if you have airline tier status can you redeem for an Upper Class flight, whereas with BA anyone can redeem for Club or First. The earnings rates are not as attractive and the sign up bonus.