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

May 10, 2022
15 min read
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Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard® overview

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 points 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 points per dollar spent on all purchases. In addition, its points can be used very effectively on partner redemptions. I’ve personally used Virgin points to book a Delta-operated transcontinental flight in economy for just 12,500 points one way, and using Flying Club points 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.

The information for the Virgin Atlantic Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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Who is the Virgin Atlantic Mastercard for?

(Photo by Josh Gribben for The Points Guy)

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

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

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Sign-up bonus: As much as $450 in value

With the Virgin Atlantic Mastercard, you can earn 30,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening. TPG’s valuations peg the value of Virgin points at 1.5 cents each, so this welcome bonus is worth $450. But, depending on how you use your points, you may be able to get even more than $450 in value from them.

Plus, with this bonus offer, there are a few opportunities to earn even more Virgin points:

  • 2,500 points for each of the first two authorized users added to your card, up to a total of 5,000 bonus points.
  • 7,500 anniversary points after you spend a minimum of $15,000 with your card within your anniversary year.
  • An additional 7,500 anniversary points 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 50,000 Virgin points within your first year. And, it’s important to note that these bonus points are on top of the miles you’d normally earn on your purchases.

Main benefits and perks

Although Virgin points 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.

Related: How to get Virgin Atlantic elite status without stepping on a plane

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 Virgin points 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 points for a companion award is restricted based on your Flying Club tier at the time of booking. Red Tier (basic) members can only redeem for Economy Classic or Premium; if they choose to book a companion into Upper Class, the ticket is discounted 50% only -- it's not free. Silver Tier and Gold Tier members can redeem for Economy Classic, Premium or Upper Class.

In addition, you’ll still be responsible for paying applicable taxes, fees 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 “the initial ticket must be a Virgin Atlantic ticket purchased directly through Virgin Atlantic Airways,” which seems to imply the companion award is limited to flights marketed and operated by Virgin Atlantic.

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, nor does it provide a discount on inflight purchases as benefits

Finally, the $90 annual fee on the card isn’t waived the first year.

Related: The 8 most valuable World Elite Mastercard benefits

How to earn points

The Virgin Atlantic Mastercard offers 3 Virgin points per dollar spent on Virgin Atlantic tickets and duty free items purchased directly from Virgin Atlantic. TPG values Virgin points 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 points 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 or are using this spending for the combined value of points plus status earning with Virgin Atlantic.

How to redeem points

You can redeem Virgin points 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 these points for award flights on partner airlines.

Related: How to avoid fuel surcharges on award travel

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 main airline alliances, but there are currently eight partner airlines you can book award flights on using Virgin points. Each partner has its own specific award chart when booking through Flying Club, which can be found using the following links:

In general, you’ll find the best value when using Virgin points 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 Virgin points round-trip (or 55,000 points each way). Domestic Delta routes within the U.S. can present good value, as well. Transcontinental routes in economy between New York-JFK and LAX cost just 15,000 points.

Previously, you could consistently obtain great value on redemptions for Delta flights. However, a January 2021 devaluation shook this up. Thus, only some Delta award bookings continue to provide good value here.

Additionally, redemptions for Air France and KLM flights can provide value on flights in off-peak periods or short-haul flights where cash prices are high.

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 points. 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 points 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 yearPoints earned on purchasesAnniversary points earnedTotal points earnedValue of points earnedReturn
$25,000 with Virgin Atlantic

$0 non-bonus

$20,000 with Virgin Atlantic

$5,000 non-bonus

67,500.15,000.82,500. $1,
$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,
$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. $787.50.3.2%.

The above table doesn’t take into account the 30,000-point sign-up bonus you can earn in your first 90 days after spending $1,000 on purchases, nor does it account for 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 points earned from $25,000 in purchases, you’ll have a first-year return between 6.15% (if you only put non-bonus spending on your card) and 8.4% (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 Virgin points, 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. How much (or how little) you maximize these perks will sway your opinion of whether this spending makes sense for you.

Which cards compete with the Virgin Atlantic Mastercard?

As an airline credit card, the Virgin Atlantic Mastercard competes with other airline credit cards. However, since you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Capital One miles to Virgin at a 1:1 ratio, this means any card earning those points can also effectively earn Virgin points.

Let's look at some comparisons to see what might be best for your wallet.

The British Airways Visa Signature Card earns Avios, which are the currency of another U.K.-based airline: British Airways. With the British Airways Visa from Chase, you can earn up to 100,000 Avios. Earn 75,000 Avios after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening and earn an additional 25,000 Avios after you spend $20,000 in the the first 12 months of account opening. The card has an annual fee of $95 and offers a 3 Avios per dollar spent with British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia and LEVEL.

You'll do better than the Virgin Atlantic Mastercard on hotel spending (3 Avios per dollar in the first 18 months, then 2 Avios per dollar) but will earn less on everyday spending (just 1 Avios per dollar). If you're looking for a competing credit card with another airline, this is a quality option.

But what about credit cards that earn flexible points you can still use with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club?

You may not think of the Citi® Double Cash Card when it comes to airlines, but the card has no annual fee and earns 2 ThankYou Points (1 when you purchase, 1 when you pay the bill) per dollar on all purchases -- without limits or special categories. When you pair this card with a card like the Citi Premier® Card, those rewards become fully-transferable ThankYou points.

Thus, you can effectively earn 2 Virgin points per dollar on everyday spending with this card by transferring these points to your Flying Club account.

Another solid option would be the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which currently has an elevated bonus of 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. The card comes with a number of lucrative bonus categories and better perks that the Virgin Atlantic Mastercard. And while you can transfer your points to Virgin Atlantic, you also have other valuable partners — including World of Hyatt and Aeroplan.

Read more: New 80,000-point bonus for a top travel card: Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card review

The best earning rate for ultimately putting points in your Flying Club account is with The Platinum Card® from American Express. When you book flights directly with the airlines or via American Express Travel, you'll earn 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent (up to $500,000 in purchases each calendar year). And those Membership Rewards points you earn can be transferred to Virgin Atlantic at a 1:1 ratio — occasionally with a transfer bonus.

Unfortunately, you'll only earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases, and this card has the highest fee of the bunch: $695 (see rates and fees).

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 who can get solid value from Virgin points and those who are loyal to Virgin Atlantic and can benefit from having status with the airline.

For those travelers, using the card for everyday spending and working to hit the $5,000 in monthly spending to maximize the possible tier points each month can provide a solid rate of return — especially because this will hit the $25,000 spending threshold per anniversary year to earn the bonuses and perks detailed above.

The card is 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.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.