Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard Deep Dive: Maximize Earnings and Status

The Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard is easy to overlook.  Most of us in the US rarely fly Virgin Atlantic, so the card seems like an odd choice for an American audience.  And if we do fly Virgin Atlantic, the card doesn’t even offer any perks like free checked bags or priority boarding.  That said, the card does offer very strong rewards, especially if you spend $25K per year with card.  Further, Virgin Atlantic miles can be used to fly partner airlines such as Delta, South African Airways, ANA, etc., so you don’t have to fly Virgin Atlantic at all to benefit from this card.  Overall, in my opinion, this card is definitely worth a look.

Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard at Glance

Here are the basic card features you need to know about:

  • Issued by Bank of America as a World MasterCard
  • $90 annual fee not waived first year
  • Earning rate: Earn 3 miles per dollar with Virgin Atlantic purchases, 1.5 miles per dollar everywhere else
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Earn 25 Tier Points towards elite status per $2,500 in purchases (maximum 50 per month)
  • Earn 7,500 bonus miles with $15K cardmember year spend
  • Earn 7,500 additional bonus miles with $25K cardmember year spend
  • Earn a companion award ticket (or 1 class upgrade) with $25K cardmember year spend.

Maximizing Mile Earnings

Thanks to the card’s annual spend bonuses, you can maximize point earnings (and get the new companion award ticket) by spending exactly $25,000 per cardmember year:

  • Base earnings on $25,000 = 25,000 x 1.5 = 37,500
  • Big Spend Bonus = 15,000
  • Total miles earned: 52,500
  • Miles per $: 52,500 / $25,000 = 2.1

By spending exactly $25,000 per membership year, the card averages a whopping 2.1 miles per dollar spent. Please note that you may be able to do better with cards that earn points that are transferable to Virgin Atlantic especially if you wait for a transfer bonus.  For example, the Amex Blue Business Plus card has no annual fee and earns 2 points per dollar for the first $50K annual spend.  If you then wait for Amex to offer a 30% or so transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic (which they tend to do about once per year), you’ll average an amazing 2.6 miles per dollar.

Virgin Atlantic Elite Status

Virgin Atlantic offers two tiers of elite status: Silver and Gold.  Silver requires earning 400 Tier Points in 12 months.  Silver offers a few perks for those who fly Virgin Atlantic (details here) or Delta (details here).  Gold status requires 1,000 Tier Points in 12 months.  Gold offers more perks than Silver on Virgin Atlantic (details here) and gives you status benefits when flying Delta, Singapore, Air New Zealand, or Virgin Australia (details here).  It used to be easy to earn Virgin Atlantic status by flying Delta and crediting to Virgin Atlantic, but as of September 1 2017, Tier Point earnings when flying Delta are pretty dismal:

Fortunately, the Virgin Atlantic credit card makes it possible to earn status through spend alone.  You can earn up to 50 Tier Points per month with $5K monthly spend.  So, with one credit card it’s possible to earn up to 600 Tier Points per year.  That’s more than enough for Silver (which requires 400 Tier Points) and more than half way to Gold (which requires 1,000 Tier Points).

Maximizing Elite Earnings

Each Virgin Atlantic card can earn at most 50 Tier Points per month with $5K spend.  If you’re interested in earning status, you can maximize value by spending exactly $2,500 or exactly $5,000 each month.  If you have a second Virgin Atlantic card, you can earn even more Tier Points by spending $2,500 or $5,000 per month on that card as well.

With one card it is possible to earn at most 50 Tier Points X 12 Months = 600 Tier Points per year.  That would cost you $5K x 12 = $60K spend per year.  600 Tier Points gets you more than enough for Silver (which requires 400 points) and over half way to Gold (which requires 1,000 points).  With a second card you could spend your way to Gold status with a total of $100K spend split across the two cards.  For example, spend $5K per month on one card and $2,500 per month on the second card, and for two months add $2,500 more to the second card.

Maximizing Miles + Status

Above, I showed that $25K annual spend maximizes mile earnings, and $2,500 or $5,000 monthly spend maximizes Tier Point (elite status) earnings.  So, what’s the optimal strategy for both?

If you spend exactly $2,500 per month for 10 months, you’ll maximize point earnings with exactly $25K annual spend.  Plus, you’ll earn 25 Tier Points each month for a total of 250 Tier Points.  Unfortunately, if you insist on maximizing mile earnings in this way, you won’t earn enough Tier Points for Silver status.

Using Miles

Flying Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic offers dirt cheap awards on their own flights, but award fees are often quite steep.  The best deals are often for economy or premium economy flights.  Alternatively, you can think of upper class (business class) awards as being more like heavy discounts off of paid prices.

You can find full coverage of Virgin Atlantic award prices here: Virgin Atlantic award chart (U.S.-centric).

Flying Delta

Virgin Atlantic miles are often the best way to book nonstop Delta awards. Virgin Atlantic often charges far fewer miles than Delta does for the same Delta flights.  See also: How to book Delta flights with Virgin Atlantic miles.

Virgin Atlantic doesn’t publish a comprehensive award chart for Delta flights. They only publish award prices for Delta flights between the US and London (found here).  Here is a sampling of the one-way nonstop award prices that you can expect to find:
  • Flights within the US and Canada
    • Economy: 12.5K
    • First Class: 22.5K
  • US mainland to/from Hawaii
    • Economy: 20K
    • First Class: 37.5K
  • US to/from Mexico
    • Economy: 17.5K
    • First Class: 30K
  • US to/from the UK
    • Economy:
      • US East Coast (BOS, JFK,PHL): 10K standard season; 20K peak
      • US Central (ATL,DTW, MSP): 12.5K standard season; 22.5K peak
      • US West Coast (PDX,SLC): 15K standard season; 25K peak
    • Delta One:
      • US East Coast (BOS, JFK,PHL): 45K standard season; 57.5K peak
      • US Central (ATL,DTW, MSP): 47.5K standard season; 57.5K peak
      • US West Coast (PDX,SLC): 67.5K standard season; 77.5K peak
    • Peak season travel dates: 22 June – 6 September 2018, 13 December – 31 December 2018
    • Note: Expect to pay high taxes and fuel surcharges on flights between the US and London
  • US to/from Europe (other than UK)
    • Economy: 30K
    • Delta One: 50K
    • Note: Expect to pay moderate to high taxes and fuel surcharges on flights to the US, but none to Europe
  • US to/from Japan
    • Economy: 40K
    • Delta One: 60K
  • US to/from Australia
    • Economy: 50K
    • Delta One: 75K

Flying Other Virgin Atlantic Partners

Virgin Atlantic has other great uses besides flying Virgin Atlantic or Delta.  Some examples:

  • Fly US to Japan on ANA First Class for only 110K to 120K miles round trip.
  • Fly US to Sengal on South African Airways Business Class for only 50K miles round trip.
  • Fly US to the South Pacific on Air New Zealand Business Class for only 90K miles round trip.

Wrap Up

Thanks to the fact that the Virgin Atlantic World MasterCard offers 1.5 miles per dollar and it offers extra bonuses for high spend, it is possible to average 2.1 miles per dollar with this card.  That’s excellent.  Plus, this card makes it possible to earn Tier Points through spend in order to get elite status.  You’ll even get a companion award ticket after $25K annual spend. The biggest downside of the card is its $90 annual fee.

Whether or not this card makes sense for you depends on a number of factors.  Virgin Atlantic is a very specialized program that doesn’t always offer good value for its miles.  There are sweet spots where the value is terrific, but there are also plenty of cases where Virgin Atlantic miles offer poor value.  The best current use of Virgin Atlantic miles is undoubtedly to fly first class on ANA, but you can also get very good value using Virgin Atlantic miles to book Delta awards (rates effective 9/1/17 can be found here).  Considering that Virgin Atlantic allows one-way awards and charges only $50 for award changes, this may be the best way to book Delta flights when award space is available.  And if you can use some of the tricks presented above to get to Gold status with Virgin Atlantic, you can fly Delta with elite benefits such as free checked bags, priority boarding, free Sky Club access when flying to/from the UK, and free upgrades to Comfort+.

Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard

Annual Fee: $90

Card Type: Mastercard World Elite

Base

Earning rate: 1.5X everywhere

Big spend bonus: Companion award ticket with $25K annual spend; 7,500 bonus points with $15K cardmember year spend + an additional 7,500 points with $25K cardmember year spend; Also: 25 tier point towards elite status per $2,500 spend (max 50 tier points per month).

See also: An analysis of the Virgin Atlantic 90K offer

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

Regarding comments: Comments posted at the bottom of Frequent Miler pages and posts are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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Sam
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Sam

Looks like the Award chart really is increasing quite a bit after September 1st for use on Delta?

Sam
Guest
Sam

Thank you. That’s not bad at all. Maybe it makes sense to go for the card especially if moving forward in 2018 spend on Delta Cards alone will not allow Diamond Status. Maybe go for Platinum status and spend the rest on the Virgin Atlantic card.

Then again, 3X on Citi ATT Access More is really attractive and then just to transfer Thank you Points to Virgin Atlantic.

Thanks again

Bellevuemike
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Bellevuemike

VA charges surcharge dollars for award flights on delta, right?

P
Guest
P

IHG transfer still a viable option for Spire?

Eric
Guest
Eric

Great post as usual Greg! One question about the changes to earning while flying on Delta:

Does the word “ticketed” refer to when the flight was purchased or when the flight occurs?
I have a P Delta ticket originally issued in July for travel in November. Any idea if I earn the “old” 200% or the “new” 400% of distance flown if I credit to Virgin Atlantic?

Eric
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Eric

@ Bellevuemike not on Delta flights to Europe, but yes from Europe.

Bellevuemike
Guest
Bellevuemike

So a RT ticket to Europe on Delta using VS miles originating from the US has one half the surcharges?

In April, I flew VA upper class RT to Europe using delta miles and there were no surcharges given it originated from US.

Eric
Guest
Eric

@Bellevuemike Delta charges fuel surcharges on their own flights returning from Europe, and VA just passes them on when you use VA miles to book. Just as an example, when the VA website was allowing searches of Delta flights I noticed about 250 dollars in fuel surcharges on flights from Europe to the US.

Delta does not pass on fuel surcharges on VA flights, however, which is a great thing given how large they are.

bellevuemike
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bellevuemike

Delta does not charge surcharges for either leg of a RT as long as it originates from the US. They will charge for the european leg if it originates in europe or if it’s a one way from europe to the US.

So, I guess I’m still unclear as to whether a Delta flight RT to europe from US includes surcharges by VA that would not be incurred if Delta miles were used.

https://millionmilesecrets.com/2015/01/11/why-are-fees-on-1-way-delta-award-tickets-from-europe-higher-than-round-trip-tickets-from-the-us/

Eric
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Eric

@bellevuemike You are right about the round trips having no surcharges when booked through Delta, my mistake. Not sure about booking with VA though, and hard to check since the website functionality no longer works…

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[…] writing up a deep dive into the Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard, I decided to maximize spend on the card by spending exactly $2500 per month for 10 months.  I […]

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[…] on a Virgin Atlantic black card. Greg has previously delved pretty deeply into this card (See: Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard Deep Dive: Maximize Earnings and Status). The short version of the story is this: First, racking up a net 2.1 miles per dollar is pretty […]

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[…] does come to mind, as their co-branded credit card issued by Bank of America allows you to earn tier points from credit card […]

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[…] 1.5 miles per dollar for all spend, plus it offers bonus miles when you reach certain thresholds.  In a previous post I detailed how it is possible to average 2.1 miles per dollar with this card.  Additionally, […]

Troy
Guest
Troy

Great write up as always Greg, but one thing I was hoping to understand more is in regards to the “second” card references. Unless there is a business card I am unaware of, is BoA going to be so kind in issuing folks 2 cards to an individual?

peter
Guest
peter

Greg, please fix the error “Fly US to New Zealand on Air New Zealand Business Class for only 90K miles round trip” to 125K miles.

THEsocalledfan
Guest
THEsocalledfan

“The best current use of Virgin Atlantic miles is undoubtedly to fly first class on ANA, but I expect that Virgin Atlantic will devalue that award soon.” LOL, Gary has been saying that for about 5 years……and yet, I did just book it again…..

MSer
Guest
MSer

About the only reason I’d want the card is to earn Silver status and book Virgin Atlantic vacations. Amex 30% xfer bonus is the way to go. 900K MR -> 1.2M = enough for stays at Mahali Mzuri and Ulusaba