Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard® Credit Card: Is It Worth It?

Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard® Credit Card: Is It Worth It?

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Good for

  • Individuals spending $25,000+ annually
  • Annual companion ticket or fare-class upgrade

Bad for

  • High taxes and fees when booking award travel
  • No free checked bags
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The Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard® Credit Card can offer a decent value for loyal Virgin Atlantic flyers and SkyTeam alliance fans. This card comes with a $90 annual fee but offers ongoing benefits like anniversary miles and the chance to earn companion tickets.

The biggest drawback of the Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard® Credit Card is booking award travel through the Flying Club program. Virgin Atlantic charges unreasonably high taxes and fees with all award bookings even though Virgin points are worth almost five times as much as other rewards currency. While you'll still receive a stellar value for your points, many people may be turned away by these hefty fees.

Issued by Bank of America, the Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard® Credit Card comes with a $90 annual fee. While the card offers several ways to recoup the annual fee, you may fare better with a general travel rewards card with a more user-friendly rewards program.

Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard® Credit Card benefits and features

The Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard® Credit Card would be a great airline credit card if it weren't burdened by a substandard rewards program. We estimate that this card can earn anywhere between 1.9% and 10% back in rewards, which sounds great without context. On average, we found that each Virgin mile is worth 4.75 cents each.

However, Virgin Atlantic adds high fees and surcharges on award travel — ranging from a few hundred dollars to almost $1,000 depending on the destination. Travelers who truly want to redeem their rewards for "free flights" may be put off by these charges.

Sign-up bonus

The Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard® Credit Card comes with a good sign-up bonus when you take the high value of its miles into consideration: 30,000 bonus Virgin Points after spending $1,000 or more on purchases within the first 90 days of account opening. Based on our mileage valuation, this sign-up bonus has the potential to be worth $1,425 — an excellent deal considering the $90 annual fee.

While most rewards cards come with a one-time, sign-up bonus, the Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard® Credit Card offers the opportunity to earn 15,000 miles each year just for being a cardholder. These miles are worth over $700 alone, a stellar deal that will convince you to keep this card in your wallet.

Earning rate

The Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard® Credit Card comes with a simple rewards rate. If you don't want to keep track of multiple categories, this rewards rate will be favorable since you'll Earn 3 points per $1 spent directly on Virgin Atlantic purchases. 1.5 points per $1 spent on all other purchases with no limit to the number of points you can earn. Your points will also never expire.

What are Flying Club miles worth?

The value of a single Virgin Flying Club point ranges greatly. We estimate the average value to be worth $0.048, with redemption rates between 1.9% and 10%, depending on the itinerary. At face value, Flying Club rewards are highly valuable since the value is significantly higher than many other airline miles. But, Virgin points are challenging to redeem since you'll have to cough up hefty taxes and fees on all award travel bookings — a potential turnoff for many rewards maximizers.

Value: Above average
Ease of redeeming: Below average

Redeeming miles

One of the major downsides of the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club program is its high fees and surcharges. With many airline programs, you will never have to pay more than a few bucks when booking award travel. With Virgin Atlantic, each redemption requires hundreds of dollars in fees.

For example, when booking a round-trip flight from New York to London, you'll only need to use 10,000 points — but pay $149.70 in taxes. While this is still a lot cheaper than the cash price of $584.20, many consumers don't want to pay anything extra when booking with points or miles. It takes the allure out of "free travel" when the travel is this far from free.

The table below shows some flights we examined to gather the average value of Virgin points:

Route
Fare class
Award travel **
**Cash price
USD/Point
New York to LondonEconomy classic10,000 points + $149.70$584.20$0.043
Premium17,500 points + $274.70$2,029.20$0.1
Upper class47,500 points + $724.70$2,559.20$0.039
New York to ShanghaiMain cabin (Premium)32,500 points + $805.10$2,732.60$0.059
Los Angeles to LondonEconomy classic15,000 points + $149.70$609.20$0.031
Premium27,500 points + $274.70$2,044.20$0.064
Upper class67,500 points + $724.70$2,984.20$0.033
Los Angeles to Hong KongEconomy classic27,500 points + $574.10$1,084.60$0.019
Premium50,000 points + $535.10$3,219.60$0.054
Upper class125,000 points + $966.10$5,062.60$0.033
Average$0.48

Despite the high taxes and fees, you'll still gain an excellent value for your miles. On average, we found that one Virgin mile is worth $0.475, or 4.75 cents each. The average rewards program currency is only worth 1 cent each, so Virgin miles offers almost five times the value.

Virgin Atlantic partners with popular airlines such as Delta Air Lines and Air France/KLM. You can also use your Virgin points to book trips with these participating airlines.

Enhanced anniversary award benefit

If you spend more than $25,000 annually on the Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard® Credit Card, you can earn an annual reward benefit on your account anniversary. You have two options: a cabin upgrade or a companion ticket in the same cabin class that matches the cardholder's ticket.

If you opt for the latter option, there are several restrictions to be wary of. Although there are no blackout dates with the companion fare, you're responsible for paying any taxes or fees associated with the ticket. Additionally, the fare class that you book will depend on the cardholder's Flying Club elite status:

  • Red Tier members can book a primary ticket in Economy Classic or Premium and receive a matching companion fare.
  • Silver and Gold Tier members can book a matching companion fare in any fare class.

The value of this benefit will depend on how you take advantage of it, potentially worth hundreds of dollars and entirely negating the annual fee. You have two years to use this benefit before it expires.

Expedite your way to elite status

Owning this card can help expedite your way to elite status. For every $2,500 in purchases you make, you'll earn 25 tier-qualifying points. You can earn a maximum of 50 tier points per month. Flying Club offers two elite status levels beyond Red Tier, which is accessible for all members:

Tier
Qualification
Benefits

Silver tier

400 Tier Points in a year
  • 30% additional bonus points on every flight
  • Free seat selection in Economy Light
  • Premium priority check-in
Gold tier1,000 Tier Points in a year
  • 60% additional bonus points on every flight
  • Free seat selection in Economy Light for you and travel companions on your itinerary
  • Complimentary Exit Row seats in Economy Classic
  • Complimentary carry-on and checked baggage
  • Upper-class priority check-in
  • Clubhouse passes for you and one guest traveling on the same itinerary
  • One complimentary Clubhouse spa treatment plus 10% off thereafter
  • London Heathrow Revivals Lounge access

Frequent Virgin Atlantic flyers can quickly earn elite status in no time by strategizing their spending on this card. If you maximize the tier points you earn with the Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard® Credit Card each month, it would take you eight months to achieve Silver Tier and 20 months to achieve Gold Tier from spending alone. Keep in mind that you have to earn tier points in one calendar year — if you're aiming for Gold Tier, be prepared to strategize other ways to reach the requirements within a year.

How does the Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard® Credit Card compare to other credit cards?

The main draw to the Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard® Credit Card is the ability to earn Virgin points, which can be highly valuable depending on the redemption. However, it's worth comparing this airline card to other travel card options to fully understand if this is the best card for you.

Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard® Credit Card vs. British Airways Visa Signature® Card

The British Airways Visa Signature® Card is also affiliated with a U.K.-based airline. If you like the annual companion benefit on the Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard® Credit Card, you should consider the British Airways Visa Signature® Card's offering.

By spending $30,000 or more on your card each year, you'll earn a Travel Together ticket that's usable for two years. By booking award travel with your British Airways Avios, you can use the Travel Together ticket to book your companion in the same fare class, plus taxes and fees. As part of its sign-up bonus, the card offers an additional Travel Together ticket: 100,000 Bonus Avios after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening In other words, you can potentially earn two Travel Together tickets in your first year by spending $30,000 on the card.

Choosing between the two cards is simply a matter of preference — you'll choose between Flying Club and Avios programs. The British Airways Visa Signature® Card also comes with a $95 annual fee.

Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard® Credit Card vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

On Chase's Secure Website

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is arguably one of the best travel rewards cards out there. It comes with a similar annual fee ($95), but the Ultimate Rewards program is significantly better.

With this card, you can book travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal, including any flights, hotels and more, and receive a 25% points bonus. This effectively stretches the value of your Ultimate Rewards points to 1.25 cents per point, which isn't a bad deal considering its flexibility.

Alternatively, you can transfer your points over to Chase's 14 loyalty partners, including 11 airlines and three hotels. Among these partners are popular airlines such as United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and even Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.

If you're not loyal to Virgin Atlantic, you can quickly transfer your points to Flying Club in 1,000-point increments and still book award travel. However, if you opt for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card instead, you'll miss out on the enhanced anniversary benefit and the chance to earn tier points for elite status.

Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard® Credit Card vs. Citi Premier® Card

On Citibank's Secure Website

The Citi Premier® Card is another general travel rewards card that's a better choice for individuals who value flexibility. Citi ThankYou Points earned with this card can also be transferred to airline programs, including Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. You can transfer 1,000 ThankYou points for 1,000 Virgin points.

We also prefer the rewards rate on the Citi Premier® Card since it's catered for everyday spenders: Earn 3X points per $1 spent at restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels and 1X per $1 spent on all other purchases. You'll also receive a $100 annual hotel credit, which can be used on hotel stays of $500 or more. The Citi Premier® Card comes with a $95 annual fee, but the hotel perk alone can make up for it. At the end of the day, the Citi Premier® Card is better for all-purpose travelers looking for flight and hotel benefits.

Is the Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard® Credit Card worth it?

Airline credit cards cater to the most loyal frequent flyers looking for perks when traveling — and the Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard® Credit Card does just that. With this card, you have the chance to earn lots of valuable points, anniversary benefits and elite status. While the Flying Club program has its quirks, you can still save tons of money on travel.

The information related to Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard® Credit Card and British Airways Visa Signature® Card has been independently collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). ValuePenguin does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).