Virgin America Visa Signature review

Virgin America Visa Signature:

(Update 26 June 2014: this card is no longer available to new applicants. Prior cardholders were convered to the Barclaycard Arrival card. Virgin America has a new card issued by Comenity Bank.)

  • Card issuer: Barclays
  • Type: Visa Signature/Visa Platinum (automatically considered for lesser Platinum if rejected for Signature)
  • Sign-up bonus:
    • $49 annual fee Signature/Platinum versions: 10,000 miles after first purchase; 1 point per $1 in balance transfer in first 30 days of account opening, maximum 5,000 miles
    • No annual fee Signature/Platinum versions: 2,500 miles after first purchase; 1 point per $1 in balance transfer in first 30 days of account opening, maximum 2,500 miles
    • Note on balance transfers: current offer says 90 days on the main offer screen but 30 days in the official terms
  • Annual fee: $49 and no annual fee versions of both Signature and Platinum
  • Annual fee waived first year: No
  • Additional cardholders: $0
  • Foreign transaction fee: 3%
  • Rental Car Collision Damage Waiver (CDW): Secondary
  • Earning:
    • $49 versions: 3 points/$1 on Virgin America purchases, 1 point/$1 everywhere else
    • No annual fee versions: 1 point/$1 on all purchases
  • Redeeming (selected options):
    • Flights on Virgin America , Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia
    • Award flights on Virgin America are priced by dollar value of ticket
    • Update (see Karl’s comment below): redemptions on Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia are based on an award chart (Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia) and are priced 50% or less than the same awards booked through Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (high taxes & fees the same, though)
    • No other redemption options
  • Special benefit(s): None
  • Annual benefit(s):
    • 300 bonus points per $5,000 spend, up to 1,200 points per year
    • $150 off a companion; certificate issued in first year of card membership following first purchase and payment of initial annual fee ($49 Signature version only)

Review: The bonus is not big, but for those looking to redeem on Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Australia, there is effectively a 50% discount (on the points portion, not the taxes & fess) by using Virgin America Elevate points.

Also, the companion certificate on the $49 Visa Signature version may be useful to Virgin America flyers.

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  • Dan

    I’m surprised they have the nerve to even offer this deal!

  • Karl Mitchell

    You’ve missed the point. Virgin America points are worth roughly two miles in other programs. Consider that Amex Membership Rewards only offers 1:2 exchange, and that Virgin Atlantic redemptions are half the number of points as Flying Club miles. This is actually quite a good earn rate for such a cheap card, and the fact that it’s Visa Signature adds more value. The options for redemptions are, however, limited.

  • The Nomad

    exactly… I wouldn’t even call it a ‘deal’ 😀

  • @Karl Mitchell – thanks so much for writing, I should have done research on Virgin America’s Elevate program. For those who want to redeem on Virgin Atlantic/Virgin Australia, this does look like a great deal, sure the same high taxes but half or fewer the points.

  • Karl Mitchell

    Glad to help. I actually fly LAX-LHR quite a bit, and having flown with several of the other airlines I’ve found that I greatly prefer Air New Zealand (NZ) and Virgin Atlantic (VS) across all levels of service. Unfortunately, NZ availability is terrible, so I tend to focus on using miles for VS upper class. Despite the quite high fees, i feel like I get good value: 100,000 miles + $1000 for a $4000 ticket, so about 3c/mile. With the Virgin Atlantic Amex from Bank of America I would get from 1.5-2.1 airmiles/$, with the sweet spot being at $25,000 spend. Counting VA points as double the value of VS, the Virgin America card gives me the equivalent of 2-2.12 for VS, so better value except for close to that $25K. The downside is that it offers no tier advantage, or economy companion ticket, but I wouldn’t make use of those anyway. Another card that works is the Amex PRG, which gives a poorer basic earn rate even with the $30k spend bonus and frequent 15-30% transfer bonuses to both schemes. However, it also gives many opportunities for higher earn rates with gas, groceries and MR mall bonuses. For most higher spenders, the Amex PRG is probably better, and if you want tier or fly redeem in economy, the Virgin Atlantic Amex is a good deal with a really nice sign up bonus. But if you can’t hit the $30k spend reliably, or want the greater flexibility of a Visa, the Virgin America card is a good deal for Virgin Atlantic redemptions through sustained spending.

  • John

    Here’s what I’m wondering. You only get the 5000 points if you do a balance transfer within the first 30 days. Let’s say you want to take advantage of that 0% balance transfer offer for a number of months. Is it possible to buy a pack of gum, get your 10,000 purchase points, pay that off, and then transfer a balance all within 30 days? My mail offer states the following:

    “If you make a balance transfer you will be charged interest on purchases if you do not pay off your entire balance, which includes any transferred balance, by the payment due date each month. There is a [undefined in the offer] fee for balance transfers.”

  • @John – I do not know much about balance transfers, so asked a friend, here is a summary of his reply:

    “Interest charges are computed separately for the different types of transactions: purchases, cash advances, BTs, etc… The 0% BT offer terms usually state you need to be current with your payments, not pay in full.

    The only time I’d consider a BT would be if they were 0% (interest AND fee).

    Find out what the fee is for the BT by calling BoA. The CR representative may be able to provide detail on your hypothetical.”