Or, consider other cards for 50,000 or more miles or points that transfer into United miles with additional flexibility for your everyday spending.
$1,000 toward travel or transfer to United, Southwest, and more.
Citi®/ AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ MasterCard.
Virgin America is relaunching its Visa Signature® credit cards for 2014 with two versions – a standard card with a $49 annual fee and a Premium card with a $149 fee.
And they’re doing some really interesting things…
First, the design is unlike any you’ve seen before. It’s vertical with the standard card in slate grey, while the Premium card is a cool silver.
Second, the Premium card is offering a benefit never before offered with an airline credit card.
No change or cancellation fees on Virgin America flights. That’s a savings of $100 every time you change a flight. Which can make flying Virgin America just as convenient as flying Southwest.
Alaska is the only other airline that will waive change fees, but only if you’re one of its top level most frequent fliers. This benefit is available to any Virgin America flier who holds the Premium $149 per year card and uses the card to buy the ticket directly from Virgin America. You can’t waive the fee if you bought the ticket with a different card. And unfortunately, the change fee waiver doesn’t include Elevate award tickets. You’ll still need to pay a fee to change those, which is not as nice as Southwest, which won’t charge fees for changes on award tickets.
Here are the highlights of features:
Virgin America Visa Signature – $49 annual fee
Virgin America Premium Visa Signature – $149 annual fee
All of the above plus:
Virgin America points are still a great deal – better than 2% cash back. Virgin America’s points program prices flights in points as a direct relationship to their cost in cash. And the conversion rate is about 2.2 cents per point, good on any flight or fare with no award charts to hassle with.
So…a flight that costs $100 will require about 4500 points, and one that costs $500 will require about 23,000 points. We know, because we checked many Virgin America flights to price them in both cash and points. That means this card earns you better than 2% cash value on all your spending, hard to beat if you fly to places Virgin America goes.
The checked bag fee is also waived for both the $49 annual fee and $149 annual fee cards. That makes the $49 annual fee card the cheapest one out there among airline cards that offer you a free bag. The others from United, Delta, and American charge $95 annual fees. That’s a savings of $25 per bag each way, so just one round-trip with a checked bag will save you the $49 annual fee. And you get the free first bag for both yourself and a traveling companion. The catch is you must book your flight with your card, and do it directly from Virgin America.
The companion ticket discount has few restrictions. You just need to make a 14 day advance purchase and the Virgin America companion ticket offer lets you take $150 off the cost of your companion’s ticket once per year. So for example if you buy 2 tickets to Cabo for $350 each you will pay $350 + $350 less $150, or $550. A savings of $150 from the $700 if you didn’t use the companion discount. If the ticket you want costs less than $150, then that second ticket will just be free.
Faster ‘Elevate’ status. Virgin America offers two tiers of status if you fly them frequently each year – Silver and Gold. They make you eligible for free upgrades to Main Cabin ‘Select’ when space is available and you also earn bonus points on your flights. Silver requires 20,000 status points to achieve and Gold requires 50,000 status points.
Premium Cardholders are eligible to earn up to 15,000 Status Points a year via credit card spending. You can receive 5,000 Status Points for each $10,000 of Net New Purchases made using your card, up to a maximum of 15,000 Status Points per calendar year. That’s a little faster than the old cards. The old annual fee based card let you earn 10,000 points after $25,000 in spend. Now you can earn 10,000 status points after $20,000 in spend, and earn a full 15,000 points after $30,000 in spend.
The bummer is the lower fee $49 version of the card doesn’t offer the ability to earn Status Points. With the old cards, even the no annual fee card let you earn points toward status.
You can also carry roll over your status points each year. So for example if you earn 33,000 Status Points via flying and card spending, enough for the 20,000 that earns Silver, but short of the 50,000 for Gold, 13,000 of those points (the extra above 20,000) will apply toward earning status the following year. That’s like Delta’s Medallion rollover benefit.
What’s the bad news? There used to be a no annual fee version of the Virgin America Visa. That’s no longer offered. It’s now $49 or $149 to play. And the bank issuing these cards is Comenity Bank. Never heard of them? Well, they are one of the biggest issuers of store credit cards from places like Pier 1, Talbot’s, Crate and Barrel, and more.
We don’t have a good sense of how their customer service will be for things like taking care of fraudulent charges or online account access. But they seem likely to impose higher interest rates than Barclays, the old credit card issuer did. Of course, you should be paying your rewards card off in full every month, as interest charges will wipe out the benefit of rewards. But still, very high interest rates aren’t a good thing.
Is the Virgin America Visa worth it? The $49 annual fee card is worth it if you plan to check a couple of bags a year. And with a 2% cash back value for your spending if you use your points for Virgin America flights you can earn that $49 fee back with just $2,500 in spending on the card each year. The $150 companion discount also more than pays for the fee if you use it each year.
The $149 fee card is worth it if you plan to change a flight or two after booking, or want that peace of mind. And of course the companion discount makes it a no-brainer each year if you travel with someone else.
Basically, if you fly where Virgin America goes, and can fly them more than once or twice a year it’s worth seriously considering one of these cards.
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