Last week, I wrote about the two brand-new Virgin Atlantic Reward and Reward+ credit cards from Virgin Money.

At various points in the article, I mentioned the British Airways (BA) credit cards. Undoubtedly, management at Virgin Atlantic Flying Club and Virgin Money would dearly love to persuade existing BA credit card holders to switch their everyday spending to the Virgin cards.

Several readers got in touch and were in two minds as to whether the Virgin Reward+ card, in particular, was worth ditching their BA Premium Plus cards for. I thought it would be a good idea to do an in-depth head-to-head comparison of the two premium card rivals vying for a place in your wallet.

I’m not going to debate whether Avios or Virgin miles are more valuable generally – this analysis is simply looking at which of these two premium cards gives you better value for money. 

This is the British Airways Premium Plus Card v the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Card.


Here’s a quick reminder of the headline figures for both of these cards:

British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus card

  • 25,000 Avios welcome bonus
  • Earns 1.5 Avios per £1 spent and 3 Avios per £1 spent with BA directly
  • 2-4-1 companion voucher earned after spending £10,000 in card membership year
  • The voucher is valid for two years
  • £195 annual fee

Representative 76.0% APR variable. Based on annual fee of £195 and assumed credit limit of £1,200. Interest rate for purchases: 22.9% p.a. variable.

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Credit Card

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Credit Card

  • Earn 15,000 bonus Flying Club miles with the first card purchase (within 90 days of account opening)
  • Earn 1.5 Flying Club miles for every £1 spent
  • Earn double miles for all direct bookings with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays
  • Spend £10,000 in a year and choose a credit card reward (including a 2-4-1 voucher)
  • Free access to over 1 million global hotspots via Boingo Wi-Fi
  • Annual fee: £160 – Unlike Amex cards, this is not refundable pro-rata if you chose to cancel.

This card has a representative APR of 63.9% based on a notional credit limit of £1,200 and a £160 annual fee. The representative APR on purchases is 22.9% variable. 


Welcome bonus

BA Premium Plus Card = 25,000 Avios

Virgin Reward+ card = 15,000 Virgin Flying Club miles

Winner – BA Premium Plus Card

Comments:  No debate about this one. A clear victory for the BA card.


Day-to-day earnings rate

BA Premium Plus Card = 3 miles per £1 spent with British Airways directly, 1.5 miles per £1 everywhere else.

Virgin Reward+ card = 3 miles per £1 spent with Virgin Atlantic/Virgin Holidays directly, 1.5 miles per £1 everywhere else.

Winner – Draw


Annual fee

BA Premium Plus card = £195

Virgin Reward+ card = £160

Winner – BA Premium Plus Card

Comments: Before you think I can’t count, I’ve given this to the BA card because of American Express’ generous policy of offering pro-rata refunds on annual fees. If you open the Virgin card, your £160 is a sunk cost. By contrast, if you decide six months down the line that the BA card isn’t working for you, you can still claw back 50% of your £195 outlay.


2-4-1 companion voucher

BA Premium Plus card = Can be used in any class including business/first class, on any route. Must start the journey from the UK. 

Virgin Reward+ card = Only top-tier Gold members can use it in Upper Class (Virgin speak for business class). Don’t need to start journey in the UK. 

Winner – BA Premium Plus Card

Comments: This is a real shame. I think Virgin have genuinely shot themselves in the foot by restricting the use of the voucher in Upper Class to top-tier members.

A big plus point for the Virgin card is the ability to use it even when departing Virgin destinations other than the UK. This would mean minimal taxes if used for a flight from Hong Kong for example.  The taxes when having to use the BA version from the UK are always a sore point.

Nevertheless, (for most people) the Virgin 2-4-1 sorely lacks the aspirational factor of using it to access business/first class flights.


Validity of the 2-4-1 voucher

BA Premium Plus Card = 2 years

Virgin Reward+ card = 2 years

Winner – Draw


Card usability/acceptability

BA Premium Plus Card = American Express

Virgin Reward+ card = Mastercard

Winner – Virgin card

Comments: An easy win for the Virgin card here. While Amex acceptance is growing, I still encounter smaller shops on a daily basis who won’t take Amex.


Other perks

BA Premium Plus Card = Access to a variety of discounts via Amex Offers

Virgin Reward+ card = Free access to Virgin Money lounges

Winner – Neither

Comments: I don’t place much value on either of the above benefits, simply because you don’t really need to pay £160 or £195 respectively to access them.

Virgin Money lounge access is also a perk of the free Virgin Reward card. Amex Offers are also available via the free BA Credit Card (as well as numerous other ‘free’ Amex cards).


Which card is right for me?

There is never going to be a definitive answer but your circumstances will help determine which card to opt for.

If you:

Tend to travel on your own

The Virgin Reward+ card makes a strong case here. A true companion ticket is useless to you and so the ability to instead choose a free upgrade to premium economy (an option available instead of the 2-4-1 voucher), even when travelling alone is very useful.

Usually travel with a companion

You can’t beat the 2-4-1 that comes with the BA Premium Plus Card really. The ability to use the voucher for first class flights and save as much as 400,000 Avios when doing so is amazing value.


Verdict

For me, as someone who tends to redeem and travel with a companion, the BA Premium Plus Card is the clear winner.

The aspirational aspect of using the 2-4-1 voucher in any cabin, the flexibility of the pro-rata annual fees as well as a general preference for earning Avios over Virgin miles are all reasons why I won’t be ditching the BA Premium Plus Card anytime soon.

That said, the Virgin Reward+ puts up a valiant fight and for many, it offers a tempting package. If you are a heavy spender and a majority of places/suppliers don’t take Amex, this card allows you to earn Virgin miles at an excellent rate and is accepted everywhere. Unless you qualify for the HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard, there isn’t an Avios-earning card that even comes close to matching that!

Similarly, if you’re a solo traveller, the BA 2-4-1 voucher is of little use. On the other hand, a free upgrade to premium economy, especially on an overnight flight, offers you real value.

If they were to just remove the Virgin Gold requirement for Upper Class 2-4-1 redemptions, the Reward+ card would be considered a properly strong BA Premium Plus rival.

At present, I would say it falls just short.

Which of the two cards would you pick? 

 

Comments

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