Updated: Feb 6
For some of us, we may be familiar with booking an Award Ticket with a major frequent-flyer loyalty program—like Delta SkyMiles®, United MileagePlus®, or American AAdvantage®. However, one program where you can get incredible value is Virgin Atlantic's Flying Club. Amazingly, you can get better value when redeeming your Award Ticket through Virgin Atlantic and flying on Delta's metal than redeeming your Delta Skymiles® to fly on Delta's own metal!
We are going to take a dive into Virgin Atlantic's Flying Club loyalty program to learn how we can book an Award Ticket—and compare it to Delta SkyMiles®—and book a ticket to Rome, Italy!
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Getting Started With Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Virgin Atlantic is a British airline that operates domestic and international routes. The airline's head office is in Crawley, England. Its main base is at London—Heathrow with a secondary base at Manchester. Virgin Atlantic is not a member of the 3 major airline alliances—Star Alliance, oneworld, or SkyTeam. However, they have many non-alliance airline partners. This means you do not need to fly Virgin Atlantic when you book an Award Ticket through them. You can redeem an Award Ticket through one of its non-alliance airline partners. (E.g. Delta, etc.)
Joint venture partners:
Air New Zealand
Other airline partners:
Getting started with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club loyalty program is a simple process that can be done online. When you create your account, be sure to enter your name and date of birth exactly as they appear on your government-issued ID. (E.g. driver's license, passport, etc.)
After you create your account, you will receive an email from Virgin Atlantic with your Flying Club membership number. You will need this number when logging into your account, booking an Award Ticket, or earning miles while flying on Virgin Atlantic or other partner airlines.
Virgin Atlantic's search engine can be wonky at times. For example, at times, when performing multiple searches, you will be unable to check/ uncheck certain boxes that need to be selected to complete your search. You may need to go back to the home page and repeat the search process; or, you may need to log out and log back into your account.
Virgin Atlantic has a published Award Chart when flying its own metal and separate Award Charts that varies with its partner airlines. One sweet spot is flying Delta metal. Not only are there amazing redemptions, but Virgin Atlantic appears to have access to Delta's saver-level awards that other partner airlines don't. This may be due to Delta owning 49% of Virgin Atlantic and having a vested interest in the profitability of Virgin Atlantic.
When flying Delta metal, it is best to book nonstop routes as Virgin Atlantic Flying Club will charge miles based on the number of segments. In addition, although you can book an Award Ticket online, sometimes you will need to call Flying Club at 800-365-9500 to book your ticket. This may need to be done when trying to book with a partner. It is generally a better idea to have your flight details ready instead of relying on a representative to find partner availability.
To find Star Alliance partner availability, use United's search engine—but don't log in if you have a qualifying United Chase co-branded credit card. When you have certain United Chase co-branded credit cards it shows extra award space that is not released to its partners.
To find SkyTeam partner availability, use Delta's search engine.
One negative aspect of Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is the fuel surcharges that it passes on to award flights. At times, they are unreasonably high. As a result, consider this when looking at the overall value of redeeming an Award Ticket.
With Award Travel, flexibility is the key! To get outsized value out of your Virgin Atlantic Flying Club loyalty program you may need to be a little more flexible with your departure/ arrival dates & times. If you are, you can find outsized value!
Credit Cards to Earn Flying Club Points
There are many ways to amass a plethora of Flying Club Points that can be redeemed for an Award Ticket. One of the easiest ways for most of us is by selecting the right credit card(s). Specifically, selecting a credit card that offers a large welcome bonus!
Of course, not all credit cards earn miles or points that can be redeemed for an Award Ticket through Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. Thankfully, Virgin Atlantic is a transfer partner of Chase, American Express, and Citi. They are transferred at a 1:1 ratio. This is great news and makes it very easy to stockpile Flying Club Points!
Chase, in my opinion, offers some of the best credit card products, and they have a robust transfer partner program. Any Chase Ultimate Rewards®-earning credit card can be used to accumulate points that can subsequently be transferred to Virgin Atlantic—provided you have one of the following Chase credit cards to complete the transfer: Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, or Chase Ink Business Preferred®.
In my opinion, the best credit card to get started within Award Travel is the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. The current welcome bonus is 60,000 Ultimate Rewards®! You can apply for this card here! If you would like to learn more about this credit card, please see the following post: Chase Sapphire Preferred—The Best Credit Card Just Got Better!
Citi also offers great credit card products and has been in direct competition with Chase. This makes it relatively easy to amass Flying Club Points. The following Citi credit cards earn ThankYou® Points: Citi Premier® Card; Citi Prestige® Card (not currently available to new applicants); Citi Custom Cash℠ Card; Citi® Double Cash Card; and Citi Rewards+® Card. Perhaps the best ThankYou® Points-earning card is the Citi Premier® Card with an 80,000 ThankYou® Points welcome bonus! You can also learn more about this card in the following post: Citi Premier Card—Don't Underestimate This Workhorse! This welcome bonus could be redeemed for three roundtrip tickets from the United States to Rome, Italy—with over 8,000 miles leftover! You can apply for this card here!
Another "must-have" credit card product of Citi is the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card. With a 20,000 ThankYou® Points welcome bonus, 5X rewards on your highest eligible spend category each month up to the first $500 spent, and no annual fee, this card shines brightly, and supplements your ability to earn Flying Club Points. You can learn more about this card in the following post: Citi Custom Cash Card—How to Use It & How to Not Use it. You can apply for this card here!
American Express also has excellent cards that earn Membership Rewards® Points that can be transferred to Virgin Atlantic: The Platinum Card®; American Express® Gold Card; Amex EveryDay® Credit Card; Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card; American Express® Green Card; and Blue from American Express®. They also have many business products. American Express also offers transfer bonuses to Virgin Atlantic periodically; the last one was a 30% bonus!
Virgin Atlantic also offers a co-branded credit card through Bank of America—the Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard®—that directly earns Flying Club Points.
Marriott is a transfer partner with Virgin Atlantic at a transfer rate of 3:1. In addition, for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred to Virgin Atlantic, you'll receive an extra 5,000 Flying Club Points. For example, 60,000 Marriott points can be converted into 25,000 Flying Club Points. Although this may not be the best way to use your Marriott points, it does give you additional options when redeeming an Award Ticket.
Marriott has several co-branded credit cards through Chase and American Express. These include: Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card; Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card; Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card; and Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card.
Hyatt is also a transfer partner with Virgin Atlantic at a transfer rate of 5:3. In my opinion, Hyatt is one of the best hotel transfer partners in existence—they are a transfer partner of Chase. I would not transfer any World of Hyatt points to Virgin Atlantic. Hyatt's co-branded credit cards through Chase include: World of Hyatt Credit Card and World of Hyatt Business Credit Card.
IHG is also a transfer partner with Virgin Atlantic at a transfer rate of 5:1. IHG is a transfer partner of Chase and the 5:1 ratio is a bad rate. IHG's co-branded credit card with Chase is the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card.
Strategically Working to Increase Your Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Points
There are several strategies you can use to increase your supply of Flying Club Points. This includes opening multiple credit cards—those that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards® Points, Citi ThankYou® Points, American Express Membership Rewards® Points, and Flying Club Points.
Families can work together in "two-player mode." This is a way for two individuals to work together to increase their credit card rewards which can then be redeemed for Award Travel. To learn more about this strategy, please see the following post: Getting Approved for a Credit Card While Unemployed—Why You Don't Want to Miss Out!
Taking advantage of the Shop Away shopping portal and other promotions offered by Virgin Atlantic are some additional ways to increase your Flying Club Points. It does create a little extra work to sign-up and access the links but it becomes second nature with practice.
Let the Award Booking Begin!
Let's assume that you applied for the Citi Premier® Card and received the 80,000 ThankYou® Points welcome bonus—along with the points earned by meeting the minimum spend amount—and are ready to book your first Award Ticket! Your origin is Atlanta, Georgia. Your destination is Rome, Italy. Your date of departure is Tuesday, January 11, 2022, and your date of return is Monday, January 24, 2022. We will compare the exact same flight details using Google Flights, Delta SkyMiles®, and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Points.
Your first step is to determine the cash price of a roundtrip ticket. Using Google Flights, we can find a cash price for the economy roundtrip at $637 between ATL and FCO. Below are the departure and return flights:
The departure and return flights are with Air France. Let's see how many Delta SkyMiles® are needed to redeem this same itinerary:
Delta wants 70,000 SkyMiles® + $239.77. This would be a bad SkyMiles® redemption. It would equate to ~0.6 cents per point value. This is not how you want to use your SkyMiles®.
Let's now see the value of using Virgin Atlantic's Flying Club loyalty program and how to book your Award Ticket with them. Your first step would be to log in and select your trip details. Be sure to select "One way" and "Show Price in Points."
Here is a pro tip: When booking an Award Ticket, it generally is better to book one way as opposed to roundtrip or multi-city. This gives you more control and flexibility when booking your ticket.
After you select the red search icon, the same itinerary as found on Google Flights and Delta is available on January 11, 2022, for only 12,000 Flying Club Points but $177.60 in fees.
Next, we will repeat the same process for our return flight. The same itinerary as found on Google Flights and Delta is available on January 24, 2022, for only 12,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Points but USD 238.30 in fees.
By using Virgin Atlantic Flying Club's loyalty program, a transatlantic roundtrip flight is available for 24,000 Flying Club Points! The fees are a bit high—a total of $415.90. This would equate a value of ~0.9 cents per point using your Flying Club Points.
In this instance, an argument could easily be made that the cash price on Google Flights is the best redemption. The cash price is a great rate and will probably not be around for much longer. Nonetheless, it is an easy way to save over $200 per ticket by using your Flying Club Points—and a much better way than using your Delta SkyMiles®.
Let's take this logic a step further—a family of 3 could fly roundtrip to Rome, Italy from the United States with just the 80,000 ThankYou® Points welcome bonus from the Citi Premier® Card—and still have over 8,000 ThankYou® Points leftover! The 72,000 ThankYou® Points transferred to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club would have a value of ~$648. You can apply for this card here!
When credit cards are used responsibly and intelligently, tremendous value can be had—especially when used for Award Travel. With loyalty programs constantly devaluing their miles & points, an "earn and burn" approach is one that you want to adopt—especially when you can redeem an Award Ticket for outsized value. We do not know how long Virgin Atlantic will keep its published Award Chart and partner Award Charts intact.
"Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is a loyalty program that contains hidden gems; a little digging can unearth a valuable find."
The key ingredients to being successful at Award Travel involve (1) strategically earning miles & points and (2) redeeming those miles & points for outsized value. You can learn more about this topic and receive assistance to get started by contacting a Credit Card Miles & Points Consultant. You can also learn more at the following post: Why Should I Consider Using a Credit Card Miles & Points Consultant?
Are you unsure of what credit card you should select? At AwardYourMiles, we have created various tools designed to help you in the Award Travel space. This includes our Miles & Points Calculator and our Credit Card Selector Calculator. The Miles & Points Calculator determines the value of the selected credit card in your first and second year of use based on your spending habits. The Credit Card Selector Calculator will provide you with the first-year value of all our credit cards contained within our database based on your spending habits. Try it out for FREE!
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