[edit 4/12/17: thanks to reader secstate for pointing out the existence of a second Virgin Atlantic Flying Club credit card issued by Bank of America. This post has been updated accordingly.]
With just two foreign airline co-branded credit cards to go in the series, today's edition covers the Virgin Atlantic co-branded credit cards issued by Bank of America.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club by Bank of America
Bank of America issues two co-branded credit cards that earns Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles:
- the "Black" Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard has a $90 annual fee and a signup bonus of 20,000 Flying Club miles after your first purchase, 50,000 Flying Club miles after spending $12,000 within 6 months, and 5,000 Flying Club miles after adding two authorized users (2,500 miles per user). It earns 1.5 Flying Club miles for purchases everywhere and 3 Flying Club miles for purchases on Virgin Atlantic. Finally, you can earn 7,500 Flying Club miles for spending $15,000 total each cardmember (not calendar) year and another 7,5000 Flying Club miles for spending $25,000 total each cardmember year.
- the "White" Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard has a $49 annual fee and a signup bonus of 12,500 Flying Club miles after your first purchase and 2,500 Flying Club miles after adding an authorized user. It earns 1.5 Flying Club miles for purchases everywhere and 3 Flying Club miles for purchases from Virgin Atlantic. You can also earn 2,500 Flying Club miles for spending $5,000 total each cardmember year, and another 5,000 Flying Club miles for spending $15,000 total each cardmember year.
As Frequent Miler helpfully explained, with the "Black" card all this nets out to:
"assuming no Virgin Atlantic purchases, the total earning rate (base earning + bonus miles) becomes:
First $12K spend: 5.67 miles per dollar
Next $3K spend: 4 miles per dollar
Next $10K spend: 7,500 bonus miles = 2.25 miles per dollar"
Finally, if you spend $25,000 on the card during a cardmembership year on either the "White" or "Black" card you also earn an "Economy Companion Reward Ticket."
Economy Companion Reward Ticket
It's extremely difficult to find any datapoints of anyone successfully redeeming an Economy Companion Reward Ticket, but the rules seem simple enough:
"If you spend at least $25,000 in Purchases using your card within a year (beginning on the date you open your account and continuing for every 12 month period thereafter), the primary cardholder will also qualify for an Economy companion reward ticket for half the standard miles of a reward economy seat, maximum one reward companion ticket per year. You must pay flight related taxes, fees and charges relating to the complimentary reward flight."
In essence, the benefit seems just as restrictive as the British Airways Travel Together Ticket, but less valuable since instead of eliminating the mileage cost of the second ticket entirely, the Economy Companion Reward Ticket merely halves the mileage cost of the second ticket, while leaving you paying the substantial taxes, fees and charges for both tickets. Also, it can only be redeemed for economy tickets, while the British Airways Travel Together Ticket can be redeemed for any class of service on British Airways mainline flights.
I've done some light scouring of the internet and I cannot find any reports of anyone successfully redeeming one of these tickets. If you or anyone you know has redeemed an Economy Companion Reward Ticket, let me know in the comments or by e-mail.
Earning Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles
After the complicated earning structure of the first year, Bank of America's "Black" credit card earns 1.5 Flying Club miles per dollar spent everywhere up to $15,000, 2 Flying Club miles per dollar if you spend exactly $15,000, and 2.1 Flying Club miles per dollar if you spend exactly $25,000.
You can also transfer flexible American Express Membership Rewards points and Citi ThankYou points to Flying Club on a 1000:1000 basis, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints to Flying Club with a 25% bonus when you transfer in increments of 20,000 Starpoints.
Redeeming Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles
Let me be clear up front: redeeming Flying Club miles for flights on Virgin Atlantic will never get you a free or cheap flight, simply because of the taxes, fees and surcharges they pass along on award tickets. On the other hand, just as I said about the Chase British Airways credit card, if you're in a situation where you need to fly to the United Kingdom on Virgin Atlantic and Flying Club award seats are available, you'll certainly save money compared to a paid ticket.
Another choice for redeeming Flying Club miles is swapping them for Hilton Honors points at a 10,000:15,000 ratio. At that ratio, $25,000 in unbonused spend on a new "Black" Bank of America Virgin Atlantic credit card would earn 191,250 Honors points, or 7.65 Honors points per dollar of unbonused spend. That's better, and cheaper, than earning 6 Honors points per dollar spent in bonused categories on an American Express Hilton Honors Surpass card.
There's also a special award chart for award flights on Delta, as long as there's low-level availability. If you ever manage to find low-level award availability with Delta, you could make a killing redeeming cheaply-earned Virgin Atlantic miles for that award, though I certainly wouldn't hold my breath.
Finally, it is apparently legal to redeem Virgin Atlantic miles for flights on Virgin Australia, although no one has ever done so.
Is it worth it?
If you live in a community well-served by low-level Delta award availability, then earning a slew of cheap Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles is an easy way to supplement your existing Delta SkyMiles award balances.
Likewise, if you're frequently required to pay for your own Virgin Atlantic tickets between the US and the UK, you may save money by redeeming Flying Club miles against the fare portion of your ticket's cost, thanks to their quite good award availability.
And finally, if you're moving heaven and earth to earn as many Hilton Honors points as possible for a big upcoming aspirational redemption, then earning a bunch of them through unbonused spend may offer an advantage over grinding out bonused spend on a Hilton Honors Surpass American Express.
But other than that, it's more difficult than I expected to find somebody who's willing to say, "I love Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, and here's why."