If you’re part of the points obsessed (we already know you are) mob in the UK, it’s beyond a reasonable doubt that you’ve got a British Airways or Virgin Atlantic card in your pocket, and if you don’t you’re definitely thinking about it! Since the decision is one of monumental importance, and requires consideration of many factors, we figured we’d lay out the arguments for both to help you decide…
The Annual Fees
British Airways: £195 For Premium “Black” Card. £0 For “White” Basic Card.
Virgin Atlantic: £140 for Premium “Black” Card. £0 For “White” Basic Card.
The Verdict: On the surface, Virgin offers a lower annual fee for it’s premium offering, but as you know, annual fees can be more than justified by benefits, there’s a lot more to learn before making a decision here. If you want a basic card earning miles, the free card is an easy choice, though it will lack a lost of the benefits muscle of the premium cards.
The Sign Up Bonuses
British Airways Premium Card: 25,000 Avios for £3,000 in spending within first 3 months.
British Airways Basic Card: 5,000 Avios for £1,000 in spending within first 3 months.
Virgin Atlantic Premium Card: 25,000 Miles for £3,000 in spending within first 3 months.
Virgin Atlantic Basic Card: 10,000 Miles for £1,000 in spending within first 3 months.
The Verdict: The bonus sign up points alone justify the annual fees on the premium offerings from both airlines. In most circumstances you’ll maximize your earning and using of points by going for a premium card. This category is a virtual tie.
The Earning Rates
British Airways Premium Card: 1.5x Miles (Avios) For every £ spend. 3 Miles for BA spending.
British Airways Basic Card: 1.0x Miles (Avios) For every £ spend. No bonus for BA spending.
Virgin Atlantic Premium Card: 2x Miles For Every £ Spend On Amex Version. 1x On Visa Version. You get both, giving you greater purchase flexibility than the Amex only BA card. 4x On Virgin purchases via Amex version, 2x via Visa version.
Virgin Atlantic Basic Card: 1x Miles for every £ spend on Amex version. 2x on Virgin purchases with Amex Version. .5x Miles for every £ spend on Visa version. 1x per pound with Visa version.
The Verdict: On the surface the Virgin Atlantic Amex offers greater earning rates, but again, this is only a part of a larger equation. No minds should be made up yet. Flexibility to use a Virgin Atlantic Visa Version is definitely convenient for some purchases though.
The Vouchers You Get With Each
British Airways Premium Card: Spend Spend £10,000 and you receive a companion voucher valid for 24 months. When redeeming your miles (Avios) you only pay the miles (Avios) for one person, the second person “flies free”, juust charged taxes and fees. This essentially doubles the value of your miles. You can earn multiple vouchers by getting a partner/spouse a card as well. To use your voucher you must travel on British Airways, and cannot use the voucher on partners like Qatar, American, Cathay, Qantas or JAL.
British Airways Basic Card: Spend £20,000 and you receive a companion voucher valid for 12 months. When redeeming your miles (Avios) you only pay the miles (Avios) for one person, the second person “flies free”, juust charged taxes and fees. his essentially doubles the value of your miles. You can earn multiple vouchers by getting a partner/spouse a card as well. To use your voucher you must travel on British Airways, and cannot use the voucher on partners like Qatar, American, Cathay, Qantas or JAL.
Virgin Atlantic Premium Card: Spend £5,000 and you receive an upgrade from economy to premium economy for one person when making a booking in economy using your Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles. You can earn 2 upgrades per year. After spending £7,500, you’ll also receive a companion voucher for any paid flight in a full fare category. You’ll pay taxes and fees only on the companion ticket, but full fare tickets using cash only could be virtually unusable to many.
Virgin Atlantic Basic Card: Spend £10,000 and you receive an upgrade from economy to premium economy for one person when making a booking in economy using your Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles. You can earn 2 upgrades per year. After spending £15,000, you’ll also receive a companion voucher for any paid flight in a full fare category. You’ll pay taxes and fees only on the companion ticket, but full fare tickets using cash only could be virtually unusable to many.
The Verdict: It doesn’t often make sense to spend an extra £5-10,000 on either card just to avoid a £140-£195 annual fee. Whichever card you go with, the Premium card offers greater opportunity to double up on vouchers and rewards, not to mention higher earning rates for your money spent. British Airways card also allows you to use your voucher for Business and First class flights using miles, which makes their value much higher on this segment.
The Best Opportunities To Use Miles
British Airways: British Airways is a member of the OneWorld network, which includes airlines like Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Iberia, Finnair, Qatar, JAL, American and more. You can use your miles on any of these airlines. You cannot use your 2 for 1 voucher earned through your Amex to fly on partners, but the chance to redeem miles for one person for a first class flight for two is an excellent arbitrage opportunity, allowing excellent value.
Virgin Atlantic: Virgin Atlantic is not a member of a specific alliance, but they have great partners like ANA, South African Airways, Singapore, Air China and more. Since Virgin Atlantic increased the number of miles you’ll need to use for many of their flights in premium cabins, where passengers get the most value for their miles, using partners is often best. The Premium economy voucher, which you earn from the credit card can be useful however, getting to fly Premium Economy for an extremely low amount of miles and cash.
The Verdict: British Airways has a wider route map, especially with partners figured in. Virgin Atlantic’s premium economy upgrade- when using miles has become more valuable, since you can secure a return from London to New York for just 20,000 miles off peak, pay the taxes and get bumped up to Premium. British Airways miles (Avios) win, because they offer far more connectivity and opportunity to maximize points.
Are You Foreign Transaction Fees While Abroad?
British Airways: Yes, this is very, very stupid.
Virgin Atlantic: Yes, this is very, very stupid.
The Verdict: Unlike their US counterparts, UK credit cards haven’t figured out that it’s better to have no foreign transaction fees on a card, so that people actually use it abroad, than to have pesky fees. Amex gets a slice of the transaction anyway, so why pass on a fee to the user. Silly.
Overall the British Airways card offers more value potential, given their wider network of routes, the ability to use 2 for 1 miles voucher for first or business class at exceptional rates and their connectivity within Europe. The British Airways card is the winner. If your loyalty is with Virgin Atlantic however, a British Airways card does very little good for you. If you’re a Virgin Atlantic flyer, and Virgin Atlantic covers your preferred routes satisfactorily, their card is an obvious choice, with solid opportunity to earn two upgrades to Premium economy for a reasonable amount of miles. Whichever airline you choose, go for their Premium Card to get the most value for every £ you spend…