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New Virgin America Visa cards reviewed – No change fee benefit, 2% reward value

by on Sun January 5, 2014 • 9 Comments

Virgin America VisaVirgin 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

  • 15,000 bonus elevate points after spending $1000 in the first 90 days
  • Up to 3 points per $1 spent (3 points on Virgin America tickets, 1 point per $1 on all other purchases)
  • $150 off companion ticket once per year
  • 20% off RED inflight purchases
  • Free first checked bag for you and a companion.
  • $49 annual fee

Virgin America Premium Visa Signature – $149 annual fee
All of the above plus:

  • 20,000 (instead of 15,000) bonus elevate points after spending $1000 in the first 90 days
  • No change or cancel fees on Virgin America flights
  • Earn up to 15,000 status points per year
  • Carry forward additional status points at your annual renewal
  • $149 (instead of $49) annual fee

Good 2%+ cash value for Virgin America points

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.

> Click here for an application link

> Click here for all the fine print regarding the card benefits



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9 thoughts on New Virgin America Visa cards reviewed – No change fee benefit, 2% reward value

  1. Veronica

    I cant wait to use my flights pay off my balance and use my Southwest card!
    1. From day one when I received my card in the mail it came damaged and something else had been done wrong. I called and let virgin credit card service know.
    2. Waiting for my companion ticket! I called in the beginning few months or so of getting my credit card. Customer care said I should be getting and email shortly… I searched my inbox and spam… still nothing
    3. My card numbers and letters of my name started rubbing off ! So this time I called they said O we have new cards coming out and everyone will get one by end of the following month, so until then will send u the same one and will be getting new one in a month… at this point I stated I still hadn’t got my 150 companion ticket!!.. they did know nor had an answer so they said I had to go online and request a new email sent!
    4. Go online send and email…. NO RESPONSE!!!
    5. My second card again now the numbers and letters rubbing off. I had seen someone with the NEW card. I called again and asked hey I was suppose to be getting the NEW card what happened!? Keep in mind Ive been very very patient and happy! His response was there’s no new card! I said yes my first was thin black and the pink is see-through…. the new one is thicker the pink is solid and the numbers and letters aren’t just printer like the old one. He still stated NO and will still send you the same one. Again I asked about the companion ticket… he said he didn’t know!!!!!… luckily he was wrong and I got the new card
    6. I called today with virgin America bank on the phone and virgin America credit card on the phone asking WHY are you going to charge me my yearly fee and NOT even send my new companion code when Ive paid! She said another “batch” of codes are going out at end of month….o0ok If I DONT pay my BILL I get hit with a a LATE fee but I guess its the other way around?!?! I was still VERY nice on phone just VERY UPSET. So I said I still haven’t even gotten my code from the 1st year!!! After and hour on phone I had to go back to work and the credit card lady and bank were still going back and forth trying to figure it out. The bank lady was sooo kind to wait for an answer from virgin credit card and would call back with answer. I got a call back with voicemail saying here is the code it expires 5/31/15. somehow it opted out of email… that’s strange I still get the other emails from virgin…. and shouldn’t of they figured that out the last 5 times I called!!!
    7.I go online to BOOK!! You CANT use points and code!!! Ok great ill pay! UGGGGHH. So I try that way….NOPE still wont let me. I chose US dollars add promo got to end to pay… it doesn’t take off 150!?!?
    8. I call Virgin America. Asked if I could use point with code No, so I asked why it wont work with US dollars add code it wont take off 150… she didn’t know!!!! O my goooodness do random people answer your phones!? So I wait she said well you have to fly by 5/31/15!!!! ARE YOU KIDDING ME I JUST GOT MY CODE! So she said I have to call in morning when credit card service is open


      @Veronica – Sorry to hear about that and hope you make it known to both Virgin America and Comenity. Sounds like a lot of people are disappointed in the execution.

  2. Leigh

    Very disappointed! This card, supposedly a premium card, has proven NOT to be in my first 60 days. There are charges and policies at every turn which trap you into extra fees. Pay by phone? There’s a fee for that. Set up your card for auto bank draft? Not until the second day after your first regularly scheduled payment. Want to talk to a rep at night? Wait at least 20 minutes on hold.
    And you need to go online to print out a copy of your bill to mail it in. There is no auto email to remind you.

    I expected this to be on par with American Express or Capital One. It is not. I would definitely not recommend this

  3. whit

    Ok, I am still no pro when it comes to status. I was lucky enough to get a Platium status match with Virgin via my old AA Silver Status. Both have expired. I got this new card right away for the 15,000 miles–spent the money i had to quicky and have earned 21,000 points. My Virgin Status however has fallen to RED and I thought the 21,000 points would get me back to Platnium quickly. No? Is the only way to get back to Silver is to actually fly?
    Thanks for any help. I have been so fortunate to fly with status for two years, it is going to be hard to get back in line!

    1. MileCards

      @Whit – The status points are different from the points you can use for free flights. With the card you earn 5,000 status points for each $10,000 in purchases you make. So if you make $20,000 in purchases you’ll get 10,000 status points, and if you make $30,000 in purchases you’ll get 15,000 status points. These status points will be added to the status points you earn from flying as well.

      The 21,000 points you’ve earned on the card are points you can use toward free flights and don’t count for status.

      It’s confusing, yes, but the gist is most airlines try to make status points earnable only via flying or doing a lot of credit card spending, while earning points toward free flights is much easier.

  4. Andrea

    I already paid the old bank Barclay bank a fee of $69 00…. If I get the new card with virginamerica M I out that money and have to pay another fee

    1. MileCards

      @Andrea – You will definitely have to pay a new fee to get the new card, as it is from a different bank. However you might have luck getting Barclays, the bank of your old card, to prorate your annual fee if you cancel or waive it to keep the new ‘Arrival’ card they are sending. Good idea to give them a call and see what deal they can give you.

  5. Torsten

    Virgin America has a new credit card with interesting new features such
    as waived change fees. The 15,000 points sign up bonus is just ok
    especially given the $149 fee but the reward redemptions to SEZ and PPT
    look good.


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