The Virgin America Visa® Signature Card offers up to 15,000 bonus points for new customers, along with perks like no blackout dates, a low introductory rate on balance transfers, and $150 off companion airfares – here we’ll look a little more closely at the card to determine the value of the points offered by this travel rewards credit card, how to redeem points, and what the advantages and drawbacks are with this airline Visa Signature card.
15,000 Bonus Points
Many frequent flyer credit cards advertise big sign-on bonuses and easy-to-earn points, but not all points programs offer the same value. To figure out the value of the points offered, you need figure out exactly what those points can be used for, and how to redeem them.
Virgin’s points are good for redemption through Virgin America’s Elevate frequent flyer program. These points can only be used to book travel on Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic, and Virgin Australia – there are no other partner airlines that will allow you to book tickets using Elevate points because Virgin is not a member of one of the big three airline alliances.
When you get this credit card and make your first purchase, you’ll automatically get 10,000 Elevate points – enough for a free flight – and if you transfer a balance, you can get up to 5,000 more points. When you do a balance transfer within the first 30 days of opening the account, you’ll get one point per dollar transferred up to $5,000.
Where can you fly with 15,000 points? We did a search and came up with the following itineraries, flying round-trip, economy class - shown here with their cost in points or in cash:
- Chicago to San Diego, round trip: 12,744 points ($317 value)
- New York (JFK) to Las Vegas, round trip: 13,766 points ($318 value)
- Boston to San Francisco, round trip: 12,838 points ($308 value)
- New York (JFK) to London (Heathrow): 15,000 points ($800-$1400 value, depending on travel dates)
Another important thing to know, particularly if you are flying internationally, is that customers always have to pay taxes on reward travel. For domestic flights, this isn’t a big deal – the flights listed above will cost only $5 or $10 in taxes. The New York to London flight, however, will cost $650 in taxes. So depending on how much you’re saving on the flight, it may or may not be worthwhile. Depending on your travel dates, your free ticket can be worth $800 – meaning you’re only saving $150 after you pay the $650 in taxes – or it can be worth $1400 – saving you $750 after the $650 tax charge.
Besides getting those bonus points, you’ll earn three points for every dollar you spend on Virgin America flights, and one point per dollar on all other purchases. There are no blackout dates for booking award travel, but for best availability it’s smart to book as far in advance as possible.
$150 off Companion Fares
Each year, cardholders get $150 off a companion fare when booking travel on Virgin America or their partner airlines. All you have to do is make one purchase on the card each year and keep current on the annual fee to get this reward – some cards require as much as $30,000 in purchases each year to get a companion fare discount, but not so with this card. The annual fee of $49 is easily cancelled out if cardholders take advantage of this $150 travel discount.
As stated above, to get the full 15,000 bonus point award, you have to transfer a balance of at least $5,000 to your Virgin America card – a good thing to do anyway if you’re carrying a balance that high on an interest-bearing credit card. This card gives a generous 15-month zero percent interest rate on balance transfers, which can save you hundreds of dollars in interest charges.
The balance transfer fee is $10 or 4% of the total balance transferred, whichever is higher. For that $5,000 balance, the balance transfer fee would be $200. Keep in mind that if you have a balance of $5,000 on a credit card that charges a 12 percent APR (a pretty standard rate) then you’d pay $409 over the course of 15 months. With the Virgin America Visa Signature card zero-percent balance transfer offer, you’d pay nothing in interest and your entire payment would go toward paying down your principle, saving you $209 in interest.
Visa Signature Status
Another advantage of this card is that it carries the Visa Signature logo. That means cardholders get all the benefits of Visa Signature membership, including 24/7 concierge service, yearly summary statements, purchase protection, emergency card replacement and cash disbursement in case your card is lost or stolen, no pre-set spending limit, lost luggage reimbursement, roadside assistance, travel insurance, and access to exclusive travel packages and events throughout the year.
The concierge service alone is a huge perk of Visa Signature service – with just a phone call, you can get restaurant and hotel recommendations or reservations, help finding stores, doctors, or other necessities when traveling, and help planning a vacation.
Every card has its pros and cons – so what are the cons of the Virgin America card?
Annual fee - If you don’t like paying an annual fee, this might not be the card for you – it does have a $49 annual fee. However, as we’ve seen from the reward value calculations, the fee is more than paid for if you take advantage of the rewards offered by this card.
No Transferring Points – As stated above, Virgin isn’t a member of one of the major airline alliances, so their travel points are only good on Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic, and Virgin Australia. If you want to travel on a variety of airlines, or if Virgin doesn’t fly to the places you usually go or plan to go, this might not be the best card for you. However, if you do plan to fly on Virgin, and they go where you mostly need to go, this card could be the perfect travel credit card.
Foreign Transaction Fee – When a travel card has a foreign transaction fee, it’s always something of a drawback. This one has a 3% transaction fee for all purchases made outside the U.S. If you mostly travel domestically, this won’t matter, but if you travel abroad very often, you will probably want another card for those trips. Consider carrying a no-annual-fee credit card with no foreign transaction fee as well as having this card – then you’ll have a card for every occasion.
Buckle Up and Earn Points
For anyone in the market for a good travel credit card, this is one to seriously consider signing up for. Not only can you earn free flights, get discounts on travel companion fares, and take advantage of the perks that offers, you can save a bundle by transferring a balance and paying it off during the -month zero-percent APR introductory period. It may not be the most flexible travel card out there, but the annual fee is pretty low for a Visa Signature card, and the rewards can be worth hundreds of dollars each year.