Barclays Bank may be beginning to offer its own branded cards like the recently-reviewed Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard, but in the United States this bank is more known for its branded cards. The Virgin America Visa® Signature Card is one such offer from Barclays, and for a limited time, new cardholders can receive up to 15,000 bonus points after signing up, as well as a free companion ticket up to $150.
Flying on Virgin America
The first thing to consider before applying for any airline credit card is how often you will be able to take advantage of the card’s specific benefits. Because the points you earn when using this card and its rewards program are Elevate points, Virgin America’s loyalty program, you are expected to redeem your points for flight and other travel benefits through Virgin America. This is a relatively small airline if you’re used to flying Continental or Delta throughout the United States. For example, from Philadelphia, I can only fly on Virgin America direct to Los Angeles and San Francisco; from New York, I can only from direct from JFK to the same destinations plus Las Vegas.
Furthermore, the fares I’ve found with Virgin America have been for the most part more expensive than other airlines when flying the same route. I have, however, flown Virgin America when I was able to find a great fare, and there was nothing bad about the experience. The entertainment center was ahead of its time, and those who enjoyed watching television and movies had many options. The entertainment center also functioned as a game console. It’s been several years since I’ve been on a Virgin America flight, so I am not sure about new in-flight benefits.
Virgin America rewards program
With the Virgin America Visa Signature Card, cardholders earn Elevate points for each purchase, and these points can be redeemed for reward travel through Virgin America’s own site. When you redeem the rewards for flights on Virgin America, you won’t be restricted by blackout dates.
Each purchase with the card earns the cardholder one Elevate point per dollar spent, but purchases made from Virgin America earn three points per dollar. Unless most of your spending is with Virgin America, other cards’ rewards programs might offer better earning terms. You can generally do better than 1 point per dollar on your spending if you look around for better cash back cards.
This card carries with a $49 annual fee. This is a lower fee than other airlines’ loyalty credit cards, and the sign-up bonuses described below might make that annual fee worthwhile. Many cards under the “Visa Signature” banner charge annual fees, regardless of whether they are associated with an airline. That is due to the other benefits offered by Visa, all of which are in addition to the Virgin America rewards program.
Because the Virgin America Card is a Visa Signature card, cardholders receive access to a 24-hour, 7-day concierge who can help with any request you might have. The concierge can handle your travel arrangements, help you get tickets to an event, offer restaurant recommendations, and assist you with just about any other request. I’ve only used the concierge once, and that was to attempt to find low fares at the last minute. The response time for booking travel was 24 hours, so I booked the flight myself.
Virgin America Visa Signature Card offer
New customers today will benefit from up to 15,000 bonus Elevate points and a discount for companion travel up to $150. After your first purchase, the card will add 10,000 points to your Elevate account. (You can sign up using your existing Elevate account, or if you don’t have one, you can create it when applying for the card.) If you execute a balance transfer within the first 30 days, you will receive up to 5,000 additional bonus points for a total of 15,000. Balance transfers benefit from an introductory 0% APR for fifteen months, but there is a balance transfer fee of 3% or $10 during the introductory period, 4% or $10 afterwards.
Throughout the year, you’ll earn 300 bonus points every time you spend a total of $5,000, up to a total of 1,200 bonus points.
After your first purchase and once each year afterward while you’re an active cardholder, Virgin America will provide a discount code redeemable for a companion fare, worth up to $150. As the name implies, companion fares require you to purchase one airline ticket for yourself. If $150 doesn’t cover the full cost of a second ticket, the code provides a discount for that amount, otherwise a friend, family member, or other travel companion will fly free.
For those wishing to avoid the $49 annual fee, you can choose to apply for a slightly different arrangement of this card with different rewards. The free card doesn’t offer the three points per dollar when spending money with Virgin America, nor does it offer the free companion fare. The maximum sign-up bonus is 5,000 Elevate points rather than 15,000, with 2,500 after the first purchase and 2,500 after a balance transfer within the first thirty days.
The regular purchase and balance transfer APR for this card is a variable 15.99% or 24.99%, based on the quality of the cardholder’s credit. Cash advances feature a 25.24% APR.
If either offer appeals to you, apply for the Virgin America Visa Signature Card here. You should also review the full terms and conditions before applying to understand the costs associated with the card and its rewards program.
What are your experiences with flying Virgin America?
Updated October 19, 2012 and originally published October 17, 2012. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @flexo on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.