Virgin Atlantic Black and White Credit Cards are now closed but have been replaced by the Virgin Atlantic Reward and Reward+ credit cards, the cards discussed in this review.
The Virgin Atlantic Reward and Reward+ Credit Cards can be extremely rewarding for frequent Virgin Atlantic flyers, with easy-to-earn welcome bonuses, high rewards rates on spending and the chance to earn perks like Premium upgrades, 2-4-1 Companion Vouchers or airport lounge access. How do the rewards compare to alternative rewards cards in the UK? Read our review to see how much you can earn.
Virgin Atlantic Credit Card Review
The Virgin Atlantic Reward credit cards are arguably some of the best rewards credit card in the UK, with the potential to create more value than most other cards.
Virgin Atlantic travellers can earn a Virgin Atlantic Reward each year, plus every pound spent on the card adds to your Flying Club miles, which can then be used to purchase rewards seats or to upgrade existing seats.
There are two cards to choose from: a free card (Reward) an a £160/year card (Reward+) that earns miles at a faster rate, as you can see in the following table.
|Flying Club Miles/£1 spent on...||Reward Card||Reward+ Card|
|General Purchases||0.75 mile/£1||1.5 miles/£1|
|Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Holidays Purchases||1.5 miles/£1||3 miles/£1|
The ongoing rewards rate on spending with the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ card in particular is hard to beat.
We calculate that the spending rewards rate on a Virgin Reward+ card is 1.5% on general spending and 3% on Virgin Atlantic spending, assuming each Flying Club mile is worth £0.01. The free card can earn 0.75% and 1.5%, respectively. (For example, the Reward+ card earns 1.5 miles/£1 spent, so the rewards rates is 1.5 * £0.01 = £0.015, or 1.5% of every £1 spent.) Ultimately, the rewards rate depends on how you redeem your miles.
|Estimated Rewards Rates||Virgin Flights and Holidays Spend (via Contact Centres and online only)||Other General Spending|
Virgin Atlantic Reward
In addition to earning miles on spending, cardholders can earn a Virgin Atlantic Reward each year if you spend enough on your card (£10,000 on the paid card and £20,000 on the free card). Depending on your membership tier at the time you redeem, a Virgin Atlantic Reward can be redeemed for:
- a Premium Economy upgrade
- a Companion Voucher
- lounge access
These perks can be worth hundreds of pounds, if you use them. Rewards are valid for 24 months (12 months longer than the companion vouchers on the old Black/White Virgin credit cards), the same as the BA Amex Premium Plus card and 12 months longer than the free BA Amex card.
If you're an avid Flying Club miles collector, a Virgin Reward+ card can be your go-to card for all purchases since it's a MasterCard. As you can see from the following chart, the Virgin Reward+ card can be one of the most rewarding credit cards in the UK.
Which Virgin Atlantic Credit Card is Right for Me: Reward or Reward+?
Generally speaking, if you fly regularly and will spend £10,000 or more each year on your card, the rewards are higher on the £160/year Reward+ card; the free Reward card should be better for those spending less than £10,000 a year. Why? Because £10k of annual spend is enough to earn you a Virgin Atlantic Reward (e.g., premium upgrade, 2-4-1 Companion Voucher or airport lounge access) on the Reward+ card—a perk potentially worth hundreds of pounds if you fly Virgin Atlantic once every year or so. (This ignores any spending on the bonus category—Virgin Atlantic spend).
|The Best Virgin Atlantic Credit Card for You Depends on Annual Spending Levels|
|General Spending under £10,000||You won't earn a Virgin Atlantic Reward on either card, so the free Reward card is better because it doesn't have an annual fee.|
|£10,000 - £20,000 of Spending||As long as you can use the Virgin Atlantic Reward (earned on the Reward+ card with £10k of spending each year), the Reward+ card should provide more value than the free Reward card.|
|General Spending over £20,000||If you expect to spend over £20k on general spending per year, the Reward+ card has more potential value due to higher rewards rates.|
If we ignore the Virgin Atlantic Reward (e.g., premium upgrade, 2-4-1 Companion Voucher or airport lounge access) and consider only the value of miles earned from spending, then £21,000 is the general spending break-even level between the two Reward cards. At this level of spending the rewards are equal—that is, £21,300 of annual general spending earns an estimated £160 per year on both cards (assuming a value of 1 pence per Flying Club mile and taking into account the £160 annual fee on the Reward+ card).
Those who spend less than £21,000 a year on general spending are likely to earn more spending rewards with the free Virgin Reward card, since it has no annual fee. Those spending more than £21,000 per year should earn higher spending rewards on the paid Virgin Reward+ card.
However, for most people the paid Reward+ card becomes more valuable from £10k of spend since this level triggers the Virgin Atlantic Reward.
While the cards can be valuable for earning miles and other travel rewards, you may want to keep them in your wallet once abroad. Purchases made overseas in a foreign currency will be subject to a 2.99% foreign transaction fee; cash withdrawals abroad from an ATM would be hit with the 2.99% foreign transaction fee plus an additional 5% cash fee.
If you plan on spending a lot on a card abroad, you may want to also consider a credit card that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees.
Bottom Line: Between high rewards rates and the chance to earn perks like a Premium Economy upgrade, a Companion Reward or Lounge Access each year, the Virgin Atlantic Reward and Reward+ credit cards can offer great earning potential to loyal Virgin Atlantic flyers. In most cases, those spending less than £10,000 a year will earn higher overall rewards with the free Virgin Atlantic Reward card but those expecting to spend more than £10,000 a year will create more value with the Reward+ card, so long as the Virgin Atlantic Reward can be used.
Virgin Atlantic Reward Credit Card Benefits & Features
|Virgin Atlantic Credit Card Features||Reward+||Reward|
|Welcome Bonus||15,000 Flying Club miles upon first purchase within 90 days||5,000 Flying Club miles upon first purchase within 90 days|
|Temporary Bonus||Get an extra 5,000 miles when you apply on or before 14 December 2018 and spend £1,000 within 90 days of opening your account||Get an extra 10,000 miles when you apply on or before 14 December 2018 and spend £1,500 within 90 days of opening your account|
|Virgin Atlantic Reward||Earned by spending £10,000 per card year||Earned by spending £20,000 per card year|
|Earning Flying Club Miles|
|Virgin Money lounges||Access to Virgin Money lounges, of which there are currently 7 in the UK. (These are not airport lounges... more like city lounges)|
|APR (variable)||22.9% on purchases||22.9% on purchases|
Flying Club Tier Rewards
On both cards, you'll have the chance to earn one Virgin Atlantic reward for each year you hold the card, which can be used for a premium upgrade, 2-4-1 Companion Voucher or airport lounge access. The level of spend required to earn the reward varies by card, but is lower on the paid card:
|How to Earn the Virgin Atlantic Reward|
|Reward+ Card||Spend £10,000 in a year|
|Reward Card||Spend £20,000 in a year|
How do you get the Virgin Atlantic Reward?
Once you've spent the required amount, the reward will be loaded into your account—you don't have to wait for the end of the year to receive it. Virgin Atlantic Rewards are valid for 24 months on both cards—this is a standout feature of the free Reward card over the free BA Amex whose companion voucher expires within just one year.
How to Use and Redeem Your Virgin Reward
There are a number of ways in which to redeem your Virgin Atlantic Reward, and the options available to you will depend upon your Flying Club membership tier (Red, Silver or Gold) when you decide to spend the reward—even if you were a lower tier when the reward was earned.
|What's Your Virgin Atlantic Reward Worth?|
|Flying Club Red Members|
|Flying Club Silver Members|
|Flying Club Gold Members|
Note: Only Gold tier members can use the Companion Voucher on an Upper Class flight; Red and Silver members are restricted to using the 2-4-1 voucher on Economy and Premium classes. Also, the Premium Upgrade reward can be used on one round-trip flight or used to upgrade two one-way flights.
The welcome offer of 15,000 or 5,000 Flying Club miles on the Reward+ and Reward card, respectively, are relatively easy to earn. There is no minimum spend requirement; simply make one purchase within the first 90 days of your account opening and the miles will be credited to your account. Assuming each Flying Club mile is worth £0.01, we estimate the value of the welcome bonus at £150 on the Reward+ card (which practically pays for the £160 annual fee the first year) and £50 on the Reward card.
What is the Value of a Flying Club Mile?
We have assumed an average value of £0.01 per Flying Club mile for the calculations in this review. The actual value you achieve will depend on how you redeem your miles—like all airline cards, the rewards rate is quite variable depending on how you spend your Flying Club miles. After analyzing flight data on some popular routes out of the UK, we found that redeeming your miles on economy seats is a poor use of miles and the best use of miles is redeeming them for Upper Class flights or upgrading from Premium Economy to Upper Class, as you can see in the following table.
The value you get from an upgrade will depend on how you redeem it, however, and there's no guarantee of value.
Premium Economy Upgrade
The table below (based on data gathered from searches on the Virgin Atlantic website) gives you an idea of the value of a Premium Economy upgrade, in both pounds and Flying Club miles, for some popular destinations out of the UK. You can see the Premium Economy upgrade can potentially be worth hundreds of pounds, or thousands of Flying Club miles.
|Estimated Value of Premium Economy Upgrade||Cash Price Difference, between Economy and Premium Economy||Upgrade with Flying Club Miles, from Economy to Premium Economy||Implied Value of a Flying Club Mile|
Companion Reward Seat
The value of the Companion Reward is also dependent on how you use it. The chart below shows some sample flight costs for popular destinations out of London. While you clearly get the most value by using the Companion Reward on an Upper Class ticket, remember the original Flying Club member must first buy a ticket for cash in the same cabin class—and only Gold tier members are eligible to use the Companion Reward on an Upper Class flight.
|Estimated Virgin Fares||Economy||Premium Economy||Upper Class|
Virgin Atlantic Air Partners
Those who want to travel to a destination not serviced by Virgin Atlantic can use their Flying Club miles with Virgin’s partner airlines. In most cases, you can both earn and spend loyalty programme Flying Club miles on any Virgin codeshare flights.
Virgin Atlantic Air Partners
- Air France
- Aero Mexico
- Virgin Australia
- Air New Zealand
- Air China
- Singapore Airlines
Virgin Money has quite dire customer reviews, achieving only 1.4 out of 5 stars from over 1,000 customers on Trustpilot. However, the majority of negative reviews seem to be regarding their Virgin Money balance transfer and purchase cards, not their Virgin Atlantic credit cards. We've scoured the reviews to see some of what real customers have to say about Virgin Atlantic credit cards:
"I applied for a Virgin Atlantic credit card ran by Virgin Money (Clydesdale) over 3 weeks ago. I have no idea if I have been accepted or not. I do receive weekly emails asking me to contact them, when I phone they don't actually want to speak to me. They are automated emails and will only stop when they look at my application. This could be a further 30 days..."
"I sent secure messages in relation to a dispute and never received any replies."
"Horrible service really, especially compared to AMEX. My Credit Card often gets declined when trying to purchase something (at any price - except when online, all online payments go through fine)."
What if You Already have a Virgin Black or White Credit Card?
If you had a MBNA Virgin Atlantic Black or White card, you can still apply for one of these new Virgin Atlantic Rewards cards by Virgin Money. MBNA closed the Black and White cards to new applicants back in 2017, which you can read more about in our article Re-Launch of the Virgin Atlantic Credit Cards.
Virgin Atlantic Rewards Credit Card vs Other Credit Cards on the Market
To better understand the value of the Virgin Atlantic Rewards Cards you need to see them relative to other available options. We compared the cards to other cash back and airline rewards cards so you can decide which is better for you.
Virgin Atlantic Reward Card vs British Airways American Express Credit Card
The British Airways American Express card is another solid free air miles card, for those trying to accumulate Avios points for free BA flights and upgrades. Those spending less than £20,000 won’t earn the Companion Voucher, which is potentially worth hundreds of pounds. And anyone spending between £10k and £20k might be better off with the BA Amex Premium Plus card anyway, as £10k triggers the Companion Voucher on the paid card and you can earn higher rewards with it. With 1 mile earned per £1 of spend, you'll earn around 1% on your spending.
Quick Takeaway: The BA card might earn a touch higher rewards rate on general spending (around 1% vs. 0.75%) but a larger factor is probably your preferred airline.
Virgin Atlantic Reward Card vs Flybe Credit Card
The Flybe Credit Card is another solid free air miles card, especially for people who want to earn free fares around Europe. Your Spend&Fly balance grows with your spending, and can be redeemed for vouchers for Bonus Return Flights. Higher spending translates into more flights (there is no limit each year), higher-tier ticket types and travel outside of the UK. Rewards rates have the potential to be anywhere from 0.5% up to 10% or more in some cases (depending on how you redeem vouchers), but Bonus Return Flights aren't available on all flights and are subject to availability.
Quick Takeaway: The Flybe Credit Card might create more value for you, if your focus is flights within Europe on Flybe routes. Check the Flybe destinations to see if they suite your travel needs.
Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Card vs Platinum Cashback Card by American Express
The Platinum Cashback Credit Card by American Express is one of our favourite cashback rewards cards for those seeking an easy and flexible rewards program. Cardholders earn an ongoing rewards rate between 1% and 1.25% on all purchases (with a higher initial rate of 5% up to £125 cashback in the first three months). The annual fee is relatively low at £25. Those spending less than £10k a year might be better off with the free Amex Platinum cashback card instead, despite its lower rewards rates.
Quick Takeaway: Frequent Virgin Atlantic flyers who are savvy managing an air rewards programme are likely to get more value out of the Virgin Reward+ card, especially by putting the Premium Upgrade or Companion Voucher to good use, as you can see in our write up of the UK's best rewards credit cards. Individuals who would rather not actively manage a rewards program may value the simplicity of Amex's cashback rewards program, despite the lower estimated rewards. But remember that American Express is not accepted everywhere so you'll need another card in your wallet anyway.