Dark horse for an everyday card: Virgin Atlantic Mastercard credit card review

Sep 13, 2019

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard®

The Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard is a mid-tier airline credit card that can provide serious value to Virgin Atlantic loyalists and travelers that know how to maximize Flying Club redemptions. It’s lacking some key benefits like a free checked bag and discounts on inflight purchases, but it earns 1.5 miles per dollar spent on almost everything you buy, making it a potential everyday spending card for select travelers. Card Rating*: ⭐⭐⭐½
*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.

Airline credit cards aren’t generally the most lucrative options on the market when it comes to travel rewards, since they don’t offer flexible points and can be weak when it comes to sparse bonus categories or earning on everyday spend. However, the Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard is a compelling option for an airline card, because it earns at least 1.5 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles per dollar spent on all purchases and its miles can be used very effectively on partner redemptions. I’ve personally used Flying Club miles to book a Delta-operated transcontinental flight in economy for just 12,500 miles one way, and using Flying Club miles to book Delta-operated flights is far from the program’s only sweet spot. So, let’s dig into the earnings and benefits of the Virgin Atlantic Mastercard.

In This Post

Who is this card for?

The Virgin Atlantic Mastercard earns Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles and provides benefits that can useful for Virgin Atlantic flyers and loyalists. However, it’s important to note that since the card earns Flying Club miles, it can be worth having even if you never set foot on a Virgin Atlantic aircraft.

For travelers that can maximize Flying Club redemptions, this can be a solid everyday spending card thanks to its ability to earn 1.5 on non-bonus spending. Plus, you can earn bonus miles when you hit spending thresholds within your anniversary year.

Sign-up bonus: As much as $900 in value

With the Virgin Atlantic Mastercard, you can earn 60,000 Flying Club bonus miles after spending $2,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening. TPG’s valuations peg the value of Flying Club miles at 1.5 cents each, so this sign-up bonus is worth $900. But, depending on how you use your miles, you may be able to get even more than $900 in value from them.

Plus, with this bonus offer, there are a few opportunities to earn extra bonus miles:

  • 2,500 miles for each of the first two authorized users added to your card, up to a total of 5,000 bonus miles
  • 7,500 anniversary miles after you spend a minimum of $15,000 with your card within your anniversary year
  • An additional 7,500 anniversary miles after you spend a total of $25,000 with your card within your anniversary year

So, if you add two authorized users and spend at least $25,000 with your card in the first year, you’ll earn 80,000 bonus miles within your first year. And, it’s important to note that these bonus miles are on top of the miles you’d normally earn on your purchases.

Further reading: Earn up to 80,000 bonus miles on the Virgin Atlantic Mastercard

Main benefits and perks

Although Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles can be useful to many travelers, the Virgin Atlantic Mastercard’s benefits and perks will be most attractive to Virgin Atlantic loyalists. In particular, the card’s benefits can be particularly valuable to Virgin Atlantic elites or aspiring elites.

One benefit of the card is the ability to earn tier points through spending. You can earn 25 tier points per $2,500 in purchases — up to 50 tier points per month — to help you elevate your Flying Club status. It takes 400 tier points per year to reach Silver status and 1,000 tier points per year to reach Gold status. Since you can earn up to 600 tier points per year, you can make it to Silver Tier with the card alone and get within 400 tier points of Gold Tier. So, this card can be extremely useful if you’re working toward Virgin Atlantic elite status.

The card’s other major benefit is the enhanced anniversary award that you can earn each cardmember year in which you spend $25,000 or more in purchases. For this benefit, you can choose either a companion award in the same cabin class when you redeem Flying Club miles for a Virgin Atlantic award ticket, or a one-cabin upgrade from Economy to Premium class on a Virgin Atlantic award flight.

Although the companion award can be extremely valuable, there are some restrictions. First, the cabin into which you redeem miles for a companion award is restricted based on your Flying Club tier at the time of booking: Red Tier members can only redeem for Economy Classic, Silver Tier members can only redeem for Economy Classic or Premium and Gold Tier members can redeem for Economy Classic, Premium or Upper Class. Plus, you’ll still be responsible for paying applicable taxes, fees, charges and carrier-imposed surcharges for the companion award, which can mean a lot of cash for most Virgin Atlantic-operated awards. The terms and conditions note that “to qualify for the companion reward, the initial ticket must be a Virgin Atlantic ticket purchased by redeeming directly through Virgin Atlantic Airways” — which seems to imply the companion award is limited to Virgin Atlantic marketed and operated flights.

The Virgin Atlantic Mastercard also has some benefits that aren’t related to Virgin Atlantic. In particular, you won’t pay foreign transaction fees when you use your card abroad. And, you’ll have access to select shopping benefits that can provide peace of mind when you make purchases with your card. For example, most items are protected against damage or theft within the first 90 days after purchase. And, the card’s extended warranty protection doubles most original manufacturer’s warranties of one year or less. However, unlike the airline credit cards attached to the main U.S. airlines, this card does not offer a free checked bag or a discount on inflight purchases as benefits, and the $90 annual fee on the card isn’t waived the first year.

How to earn miles

The Virgin Atlantic Mastercard offers 3 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles per dollar spent on Virgin Atlantic tickets and duty free items purchased directly from Virgin Atlantic. TPG values Flying Club miles at 1.5 cents each, which means you can get a 4.5% return on these purchases. However, since the card doesn’t offer much in the way of travel protections, you may want to purchase travel insurance to protect flights you book with this card.

However, the true value for cardholders may be on non-bonus spending. This is because the card earns 1.5 miles per dollar spent on all non-Virgin Atlantic purchases, which equates to a 2.25% return. Although this rate of return isn’t the best you can find for everyday spending, it’s worth considering if you can maximize redemptions in the Flying Club program.

How to redeem miles

You can redeem Flying Club miles for flights and upgrades with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Atlantic’s network of partners. However, due to high taxes and fees on Virgin Atlantic-operated flights, most points and miles collectors will want to use Virgin Atlantic miles for award flights on partner airlines.

High taxes and fees mean you likely won’t want to use your Flying Club miles on Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class suite. (Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

Virgin Atlantic is not a member of any of the three airline alliances, but there are currently eight partner airlines you can book award flights on using Flying Club miles. Each partner has its own specific award chart when using Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles, which can be found using the following links:

In general, you’ll find the best value when using Flying Club miles to book award flights on Air New Zealand, ANA, Delta and South African Airways. For example, you can fly between Japan and the Western U.S. in first class on ANA for just 110,000 Flying Club miles round-trip or 55,000 miles each way. And, you can fly in first class on non-stop Delta routes within the US — including transcontinental Delta One routes — for 22,500 miles each way or 45,000 miles round-trip. For more details on how to search awards and other sweet spots in the Flying Club award charts, check out our guide below.

Further reading: Unlock incredible value with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Should I spend to the anniversary bonus each year?

The Virgin Atlantic Mastercard provides various benefits if you spend at least $25,000 on your card within your anniversary year, including an enhanced anniversary award benefit and anniversary bonus miles. You can also earn tier points based on your spending with the card. All of these benefits can provide value that may justify making the Virgin Atlantic Mastercard your everyday spending card.

While it’s difficult to estimate the value of tier points and the enhanced anniversary award benefit, we can estimate the value of the anniversary bonus miles and calculate how it affects your return on spending with the card. In the following table, let’s consider what return you could obtain if you spent $25,000 with your card within an anniversary year:

Spending within anniversary year Miles earned on purchases Anniversary miles earned Total miles earned Value of miles earned Return
$25,000 with Virgin Atlantic

$0 non-bonus

75,000 15,000 90,000 $1,350 5.4%
$20,000 with Virgin Atlantic

$5,000 non-bonus

67,500 15,000 82,500  $1,237 4.9%
$15,000 with Virgin Atlantic

$10,000 non-bonus

 60,000  15,000 75,000  $1,125 4.5%
$10,000 with Virgin Atlantic

$15,000 non-bonus

 52,500  15,000 67,500  $1,012 4.0%
$5,000 with Virgin Atlantic

$20,000 non-bonus

 45,000  15,000  60,000  $900 3.6%
$0 with Virgin Atlantic

$25,000 non-bonus

 37,500  15,000  52,500  $787 3.1%

The above table doesn’t take into account the 60,000-mile sign-up bonus you can earn in your first 90 days after spending $2,000 on purchases, nor the bonuses you can earn for adding up to two authorized users. So, if you earn the sign-up bonus, authorized user bonuses, anniversary bonuses and account for the miles earned from $25,000 in purchases, you’ll have a first-year return between 7% (if you only put non-bonus spending on your card) and 9.3% (if you only put Virgin Atlantic spending on your card). These returns for first year spending are much better than what’s offered by most everyday spending cards.

So, should you spend $25,000 on the Virgin Atlantic Mastercard during each anniversary year? If you can get solid value from Flying Club miles, then the answer for you may be yes. This is particularly true if you can utilize the tier points or the choice of a companion award or a one-cabin upgrade that comes with this level of spending.

Bottom line

Although the Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard can be a solid choice for many travelers, it’s a particularly good fit for two types of travelers: those that can get solid value from Flying Club miles and those that are loyal to Virgin Atlantic and can benefit from having status with the airline. For those travelers, using the card as an everyday spending card and working to hit the $5,000 per month spending level to maximize tier point earning each month — which will inherently mean they’ll hit the $25,000 spending threshold per anniversary year required to earn the anniversary bonus and enhanced anniversary award benefit — can provide a solid rate of return. It’s missing a few key airline credit card benefits such as a free checked bag and a discount on inflight purchases, which lowers the value of the card a bit when compared to other airline credit cards. But if you’re a regular Virgin Atlantic flyer, you should consider adding the Virgin Atlantic Mastercard to your wallet.

Apply here for the Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard with up to 80,000 bonus miles.

Featured image by The Points Guy staff.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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