Virgin Atlantic has just relaunched their Flying Club-linked credit card programme, and there's lots to love. Despite a few changes, the Virgin Atlantic credit cards remain some of the highest-earning rewards cards in the UK.
Simplicity and Accepted Everywhere
The new programme is managed by Virgin Money and is simpler than before because you only have one card to manage—a widely-accepted Mastercard. The Mastercard replaces the Virgin Black and White cards issued by MBNA which, while rewarding, had the complication of involving two credit cards for your wallet—both an American Express card and a Visa.
With the new launch, you can choose between a free Virgin Atlantic Rewards card and a £160/year Virgin Atlantic Rewards+ card. The paid card earns Flying Club miles at 2X the rate of the free card, plus you earn the Premium upgrade or Companion ticket (or lounge access) with half the spending.
|Rewards Rate on Virgin Flights and Holidays Spend (via Contact Centres and online only)||Rewards Rate on Other General Spending|
Virgin Atlantic Rewards Credit Cards: How do the New Rewards Compare?
We estimate that the new Rewards cards will be at least as valuable in terms of spending rewards as the older Virgin Black and White cards. While cardholders no longer have access to the higher-earning American Express card, the earning power of the new Mastercard falls halfway between that of the old Amex and Visa in the previous programme, so we expect rewards to average out in the long run. Why? Because Amex isn't accepted everywhere so cardholders often needed to use their lower-earning Visa anyway. Now they can use the Mastercard everywhere.
Depending on how you redeem your miles, you can achieve rewards rates on general spending around to 0.75% on the free card and 1.5% on the paid card, assuming a value of £0.01 per Flying Club mile.
|Earning Flying Club Rewards||Virgin Atlantic White||Virgin Atlantic Black|
|Virgin Atlantic/Virgin Holidays Spending|
|Earning Flying Club Rewards||Virgin Atlantic Rewards||Virgin Atlantic Rewards+|
|Everyday Spending||0.75 mile/£1||1.5 miles/£1|
|Virgin Atlantic/Virgin Holidays Spending||1.5 miles/£1||3 miles/£1|
If You Have an old MBNA Black/White Account AND a new Reward+/Reward Card: Which Should You Use?
Generally speaking, Virgin flyers who are actively collecting rewards and miles should aim to spend on the new Reward cards, because the old MBNA Black and White cards might be withdrawn from the market. The only exception is if you're close to earning either a Premium Economy upgrade or a companion reward flight on your Black or White card. In that case, you may want to use your Black or White Amex just until you reach the required minimum spend to earn the perk—then future spending should presumably be charged to your new Reward/Reward+ card so you can work towards earning your Virgin Atlantic Reward (e.g., Premium Upgrade, Companion Voucher or Lounge Access) on that card.
Drawbacks to the Virgin Atlantic Rewards Scheme
The biggest drawback to the new cards is the higher annual fee on the paid card, which has risen from £140 per year to £160 per year. Despite this, big spenders will still find more potential value on the Virgin Atlantic Rewards+ card than practically any other rewards card in the UK.
Additionally, the benefits you extract from the card are partially a function of your Flying Club membership tier—so those in lower tiers won't earn as much from the card. While a "Virgin Atlantic reward" is earned in the same way regardless of your tier, spending that Virgin Atlantic reward depends on your tier. We think the most significant difference in rewards between tiers is that Red and Gold members can't use the Companion Voucher on an Upper Class flight, which would presumably create the most value for cardholders.
|What's Your Virgin Atlantic Reward Worth?|
|Flying Club Red Members|
|Flying Club Silver Members|
|Flying Club Gold Members|
For more information on the newly re-launched cards, please see our Virgin Atlantic Reward Credit Cards Review.