Today we’re reviewing the Virgin America credit card from Barclays. Virgin America’s frequent flyer loyalty program is known as Elevate. The Virgin America visa comes in a no-annual fee version, as well as a $49 per year annual fee version.
While we’ll provide you with some additional detail below, the annual fee version is definitely superior, and you’d still want to use it even with a broken arm!
If you’re unfamiliar with Virgin America’s loyalty program, you can check out our overview of the Virgin America Elevate Program here.
|Virgin America Card w/ No Annual Fee||Virgin America Card W/ $49 Annual Fee|
|Core Rewards||1 point per $1 of spend on all purchases||3 points per $1 of spend on Virgin America purchases; 1 point on all other purchases.|
|Sign-Up Bonus||2,500 bonus points after first purchase||10,000 bonus points after first purchase|
|Companion Ticket Bonus||None||$150 off of a companion ticket each year|
|Additional Spend Target Bonus||5,000 Elevate Status Points when you reach $25K in spend within a given calendar year.||Earn 10,000 Elevate Status Points when you reach $25K in spend within a given calendar year.|
|Balance Transfer Bonus||Earn 1 bonus point for each $1 of balance transfer made within 1st 30 days of account opening, up to a max of 2,500 bonus points||Earn 1 bonus point for each $1 of balance transfer made within 1st 30 days of account opening, up to a max of 5,000 bonus points|
|Foreign Transaction Fee||3% of each transaction in USD||3% of each transaction in USD|
Earnings Rewards With The Virgin America Card
The annual fee version gives you 3 points per dollar of spend, and 1 point per dollar on all other spend. The non-annual fee version just gives you 1 point on all spend. In a separate post, we estimated the value of Virgin America points to be around $0.02, which is exceedingly high for an airline loyalty program. Couple this with the 3 points per dollar on Virgin America purchases, and it’s like getting a 6% discount on airline ticket purchases—not too shabby!
Why The Virgin America Credit Card With Annual Fee Always Beats Out The Non-Annual Fee Version
While it’s nice in theory to not pay an annual fee, in this case, the theory doesn’t hold up to the reality. The reason is that the fee version of the card gives you a number of superior bonuses, which in sum total easily compensate for the additional $49 per year.
To start, you’ll get a companion certificate which serves as a $150 discount off of the additional ticket. While some companion certificates have sneaky terms, this one is the real deal. The only conditions are you need to do a minimum 14-day advance purchase, and you need to be on the same itinerary as the person using the certificate. We assume since you are interested in Virgin America’s loyalty program, there’s a good chance you could make use of this voucher. If true, this will more than cover the annual fee!
Secondly, you get 10,000 bonus points with the annual fee version of the Virgin America credit card, versus just 2,500 points for the no-annual fee version. That works out to an incremental 7,500 points. At 2 cents per point, these incremental points are worth $150. That will cover your annual fee for 3 years!
Finally, if you think you’ll spend $25K or more on this credit card in a given calendar year, you’d earn an incremental 5K bonus points with the $49 version of the card (10K points versus only 5K points for the no-annual-fee version). At roughly 2 cents per point value, that’s another $100 per year incremental versus the no annual fee card, more than covering the annual fee.
Redeeming Points on Virgin America
Redeeming points is thankfully very straight-forward on Virgin America (not always the case with airline loyalty programs!). You simply price out the ticket you want, and their website automatically tells you how many points would be required to obtain it. There are no blackout dates or other carve-outs. If you have sufficient points, you get the ticket.
GetDebit’s Closing Thoughts on the Virgin America Visa Credit Card
Well, like all loyalty programs, they only make sense if you like the brand and can make good use of it. Virgin America specializes in East Coast to West Coast (and vice versa) flight routes, so if your primary need is for flights to Europe, you may want to broaden your search. But if those routes work, then we think this is a very solid rewards card. (personally, we also dig the comfort and amenities of Virgin Atlantic relative to some other US carriers!).
And of course, we definitely recommend the $49 annual fee version versus the no-annual fee version, given that the companion certificate alone more than covers the fee.
You can apply for the Virgin America Visa (both versions) here.. Note that the link to the no-annual-fee version is towards the bottom of the page.