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Confusingly, Bank of America and Virgin Atlantic teamed up on two airline rewards credit cards tied to Virgin’s Flying Club program: the White Credit Card and the Black Credit Card. This post is about the Virgin Atlantic White Credit Card, the less generous of the two.
This is a solid card for people looking to save on international travel. When you sign up, make your first purchase, and add an authorized user, you get nearly enough Flying Club miles to cover the cost of a transatlantic flight – a sign-up bonus that’s easily worth hundreds, and perhaps more.
Moving forward, you earn 3 Flying Club miles for every $1 spent on Virgin Atlantic purchases, with no caps or restrictions. All other purchases earn you 1 Flying Club mile per $1 spent. Whether you’re planning an unforgettable trip to an exclusive honeymoon destination or an international hostel-hop, this card is worth a closer look.
Big spenders make out well with the White Card too. You get an additional 7,500 bonus Flying Club miles when you spend at least $15,000 per year, plus a half-price companion ticket when you spend $25,000 or more per year. You can also earn points toward higher Flying Club status tiers simply by using your card on everyday purchases.
The biggest drawback – one worth mentioning right at the top – is the extremely high out-of-pocket cost of award travel. No matter how much the underlying fare costs in dollar terms, you’re on the hook for at least $470 in taxes and fees for each round-trip award flight. This is higher than many other airlines, even controlling for international destinations.
If you’re interested in the Virgin Atlantic White Credit Card, here’s what you need to know about its features, advantages, drawbacks, and overall suitability.
Virgin Atlantic’s White Card has a two-part sign-up bonus.
First, you get 12,500 bonus Flying Club miles when you open your account and make your first purchase. Second, you get 2,500 bonus Flying Club miles for adding an authorized user to your account.
That’s a total bonus of 15,000 Flying Club miles, good for 75% of a round-trip ticket (less taxes and fees) from the U.S. East Coast to the U.K., or vice versa.
Earning Flying Club Miles
You earn unlimited 3 Flying Club miles per $1 spent on all Virgin Atlantic purchases. You earn 1 Flying Club mile per $1 spent on all other purchases, with no caps or limitations.
Annual Flying Club Miles Bonus
When you spend at least $5,000 in any cardmember year (the twelve-month period between your anniversary dates), you get 2,500 bonus Flying Club miles. When you spend an additional $10,000 during your cardmember year, you get 5,000 additional Flying Club miles, for a total annual spending bonus of 7,500 miles on $15,000 in purchases.
Redeeming Flying Club Miles
The best way to redeem Flying Club miles is for Virgin Atlantic award travel. You need at least 20,000 Flying Club miles (and up to 40,000 at peak times) to cover one round-trip economy flight from the U.S. East Coast to the U.K. From the West Coast, including hubs at San Francisco and Los Angeles, you need at least 25,000 miles (50,000 at peak times). Expect to use at least 40,000 miles for round-trip flights to the Middle East, Asia, and Australia, and significantly more for certain routes.
Don’t forget that every award ticket carries a tax-and-fee load of at least $470.
To redeem for round-trip fares before you’ve accumulated enough miles, use Virgin Atlantic’s Miles Plus Money feature to redeem miles and cash in the same transaction. Miles Plus Money redemption happens in multiples of 3,000 miles, starting at a minimum of 3,000. Each increment reduces the total fare by £18, valuing miles at roughly $0.01 (depending on exchange rates).
Half-Off Companion Economy Award Fare
When you spend $25,000 or more in a year, you get a “half miles” bonus companion economy award certificate. The certificate lets a travel companion book their flight for half the normal Flying Club miles requirement – for instance, 10,000 miles on a 20,000-mile trip – when you book an award fare for yourself at “full miles” price. This reward is redeemable on any route, so it makes sense to wait to redeem for longer, costlier flights.
Tier Points Bonus
You get 25 tier points toward higher Flying Club status levels for every $2,500 in purchases spent with your White Credit Card.
It takes 400 points per calendar year to move from Red (entry level) to Silver status and 600 points per calendar year to move from Silver to Gold status (the highest tier). As a Silver member, you get a 30% bonus on base Flying Club miles earned on airfare spending, plus priority boarding and other perks. Gold benefits are much more generous – they include a 60% mileage bonus, complimentary Virgin Atlantic lounge passes with ticketed travel, complimentary seat upgrades, one complimentary airport lounge spa treatment, and more.
Your monthly earnings are capped at 50 tier points ($5,000 spend), for a total of 600 points ($60,000 spend) per year. This card isn’t the only way to earn tier points. As a Flying Club member, you earn points on every qualifying airfare purchase, even if you’re not a cardholder.
Free FICO Score
Your statement and online/mobile account dashboard include a free, updated FICO score every month.
Overdraft Protection Transfer Program for Bank of America Deposit Customers
You can take advantage of Bank of America’s optional overdraft protection transfer program when you open a deposit account with the bank and link your card. When you opt into the program, Bank of America automatically draws on your White Credit Card’s cash advance credit line to cover transactions that would normally result in overdrafts. Each transfer costs $12, and the full balance begins accruing interest at the cash advance rate immediately. It’s therefore in your best financial interest to pay off these advances as soon as you can.
There is a $49 annual fee from the first year, but no foreign transaction fee. Balance transfers and cash advances cost the greater of $10 or 3%. Late payments cost up to $38, while returned payments cost up to $27.
This card has some additional benefits for all cardholders:
- Extended Warranties: Qualifying existing manufacturers’ warranties of 1 year or less are doubled, subject to certain restrictions.
- Retail Protection: Eligible purchased items are protected for up to 90 days and $1,000 per item from damage or theft.
- Emergency Travel Assistance: All cardholders enjoy 24/7 emergency travel assistance during domestic or international trips.
- Common Carrier Travel Accident Insurance: This bare-bones travel insurance policy provides up to $500,000 in protection for cardholders killed or seriously injured during common carrier travel.
- Emergency Roadside Assistance: This benefit provides 24/7 roadside assistance. Additional charges, such as towing and repair fees, may apply.
This card requires excellent credit.
- Easily Attainable Sign-Up Bonus. Virgin Atlantic’s White Credit Card has an easily attainable sign-up bonus. All you have to do to earn the full 15,000-mile measure is open your account, make your first purchase, and add an authorized user. Unlike most other travel rewards cards, there’s no minimum spend requirement. That’s a welcome change from highfalutin options that require $1,000 or more in purchase spending within 3 months.
- Everyday Spending Earns Tier Points. Every dollar you spend with this card gets you closer to a higher Flying Club status level. You can earn up to 50 tier points ($5,000 spend required) per month and 600 ($60,000 spend required) per year. That’s more than enough to move from Red to Silver status, and just enough to get from Silver to Gold.
- Nice Benefits for Heavy Spenders. If you can swing at least $15,000 in annual spending with this card, you’ll earn 7,500 bonus Flying Club miles. Spend another $10,000 and you’ll get a half-miles companion certificate – potentially worth hundreds of dollars when redeemed for a long-haul flight.
- Above-Average Return on Airfare Spending. This card doesn’t have a great baseline earning rate: just 1 Flying Club mile per $1 spent on most purchases. However, the return on airfare spending is excellent: 3 miles per $1 spent, better than the standard 2-mile-per-$1-spent common to most airline credit cards. Plus, thanks to lower redemption minimums (20,000 Flying Club miles for a round-trip transatlantic flight versus 40,000 miles or more on most other airlines), you can reap your rewards even faster.
- No Foreign Transaction Fee. Virgin Atlantic’s White Credit Card has no foreign transaction fee. That’s great news for international travelers, to whom this card is very clearly marketed. Some competing travel cards charge up to 3% on foreign transactions – in most cases, negating any earned rewards.
- Bank of America Deposit Account Holders Get Overdraft Protection. If you have a deposit account with Bank of America, you can avail yourself of the company’s optional overdraft protection transfer program. When you attempt a transaction that would normally result in an overdraft, the White Credit Card draws on your cash advance credit line to cover the deficit. Even with the $12-per-transfer fee, this is a big perk for cardholders who occasionally struggle with cash flow issues or need to shell out for big, unanticipated expenses.
- $49 Annual Fee. The Virgin Atlantic’s White Credit Card has a $49 annual fee. While that’s not excessive for the travel category, it’s still a big problem for light spenders and infrequent travelers. If you don’t spend heavily enough or fly Virgin Atlantic very often, you’re unlikely to come out ahead on this deal. Instead, consider travel cards with higher baseline earning rates – the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card ($95 annual fee, waived in the first year) comes to mind.
- High Taxes and Fees on Award Flights. Virgin Atlantic’s tax and fee surcharges cost award flyers an arm and a leg. No matter the destination or underlying dollar cost of the flight, you’ll spend at least $470 per round-trip ticket in taxes and fees. Needless to say, that’s a big problem for budget-minded travelers, who expect minimal out-of-pocket charges at redemption. For a low-cost alternative, try Chase’s United MileagePlus Explorer Card or the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express.
- Geographical Limitations on U.S. Origins. In the United States, Virgin Atlantic primarily serves major East and West Coast cities like Boston, Atlanta, New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. If you live outside these major population centers, you may struggle to snag a direct flight. Some competing airlines, including United and American, offer a greater variety of international routes at lower cost.
- Low Baseline Earning Rate (1 Mile Per $1 Spent). This card’s baseline earning rate is mediocre at best – just 1 Flying Club mile per $1 spent on everyday purchases. Unless you regularly fly Virgin Atlantic, look to a travel card that offers a higher rate of return on everyday spending. For independent professionals and business owners, Capital One Spark Miles for Business is the way to go.
- Limited Travel Benefits for Regular Cardholders. This card holds the promise of luxurious travel benefits. The problem is, you have to spend enough (or fly Virgin Atlantic enough) to earn Silver or Gold status. Simply opening a White Credit Card account won’t cut it. If you’re looking for a credit card that confers legitimate travel benefits to all users, check out Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard or the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express, which offer benefits like in-flight discounts and (in Platinum Delta SkyMiles’ case) discounted airport lounge access.
I’ve written a lot of credit card reviews, but Virgin Atlantic’s White Credit Card gave me more trouble than usual. So did its more generous stablemate, the Virgin Atlantic Black Credit Card.
On the one hand, these cards have tremendous potential value to high-spending Virgin Atlantic loyalists. If you can clear the $25,000 spending threshold each year, you’ll reap hundreds – perhaps thousands – of dollars in value each year, with either card.
Then again, these cards aren’t for everyday travelers. If you don’t regularly fly Virgin Atlantic, or have business that takes you to Europe, you’re better served by a card that lets you earn and redeem rewards on a wider range of goodies.