Virgin Money has unveiled two new credit cards that allow customers to collect Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles for the first time.
The two cards, Reward and Reward Plus, offer points for every £1 spent which can then be converted into flights.
The Reward card has no annual fee and gives customers 0.75 Flying Club miles for every £1 spent. The Reward Plus version has a £160 annual fee but gives a bumper 1.5 miles for each £1 spent.
Miles: The new Virgin Money credit cards offer the chance to bag miles to put towards flights
Furthermore, the non-fee option offers 5,000 bonus miles with the first card purchase within 90 days of account opening while the Reward Plus card gives 15,000 miles.
Looking at the Virgin Atlantic website, 20,000 Flying Club miles could equate to economy return to India, UAE, Boston, New York, Washington and Caribbean in its off-peak seasons.
This does not include taxes, fees and carrier imposed surcharges which can add a couple of hundred of pounds onto the cost of long-haul.
The credit cards are facilitated by Mastercard and they also give free access to Virgin Money Lounges and other ‘perks’ such as discounts on a range of products like holidays, train tickets and experience days.
They also offer double miles for all direct bookings with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays.
If £20,000 is spent on the non-fee card, or £10,000 on the Reward Plus, customers can choose a reward, including an upgrade or taking a companion.
Generous: One expert says the Virgin Atlantic credit card is most generous travel loyalty card
However, as This is Money regularly points out on these types of card, you have to play by the rules or you could be stung with fees and interest.
It is imperative that you pay off the card as you go along – it is not wise to spend on it and leave debit outstanding.
For example, the representative APR on the Reward Plus card is 63.9 per cent and on the Reward card 22.9 per cent.
Furthermore, the purchase rate is 22.9 per cent and while there is a 0 per cent balance transfer offer for the first six months, it comes with a three per cent fee to do it.
These charges are high and can eat into any potential rewards – or surpass them quickly – if you do not stay on top of it.
Richard Branson: The entrepreneur set up Virgin Group in 1970
‘Generous’: View from the expert
Rob Burgess, editor of frequent flyer website Head for Points, said: ‘The day-to-day earning rate on the new Virgin credit cards is excellent.
‘I would say that it is now the most generous travel loyalty card, given that the free version gets you 0.75 miles for every £1 you spend.
‘If you value the miles at 1p each then you’re getting a notional rebate of 0.75 per cent on what you spend.
‘The only problem with Virgin air miles is that the airline only has long haul routes, which require a lot of miles to fly them.
‘If you already fly Virgin Atlantic and have a pot of their miles then you will want to get these credit cards.
‘The average person on the other hand will never earn enough purely from card spend to redeem for, say, an Upper Class flat bed to New York.
‘The card also favours solo travellers rather than couples.
‘The upgrade voucher, which allows you to book a Premium Economy return flight for the miles of an Economy one, is worth striving for.
‘Unfortunately the 2-4-1 voucher they offer for air miles tickets is restricted – only Virgin’s Gold members can use it to get a 2-4-1 in Upper Class.
‘Gold membership requires within a rolling 12 month period: two and a half returns in Upper Class, five Premium Economy return flights (on flexible tickets) and 10 Economy Delights return flights.’
‘General members can only use the 2-4-1 voucher in Economy and that isn’t great value due to the taxes and charges which are still due.
The day-to-day earning rate on the new Virgin credit cards is excellent. I would say that is now the most generous travel loyalty card.
‘Overall, though, this is impressive.
‘It shows that, with some innovative thinking, it is still possible to come up with a good benefits package even with the EU-imposed cuts on the charges the card companies can make to retailers.’
The agreement between Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Money and Mastercard follows Virgin Money’s decision in 2017 to switch to Mastercard for its entire credit and debit card issuing.
Jayne-Anne Gadhia, chief executive at Virgin Money, said: ‘We’re delighted to be launching the first products from our exciting new partnership with Virgin Atlantic, in a market that’s seen greatly reduced customer choice in recent years.’
Mark Barnett, divisional president for Mastercard UK, said: ‘We know travel related benefits are often the most popular and in demand by cardholders… it’s all the more exciting that these new cards will enable users to accrue their holiday benefits whenever they spend, wherever they are in the world.’
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