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Review: Virgin America Visa Signature Card

13 February 2013 by

Virgin America Visa Signature Card

Searching for a new rewards points credit card? The Virgin America Visa Signature credit card is designed to provide maximum benefits for those consumers who travel often. But how well does it rate against its competition and is it a solid choice for those looking for rewards credit card? We recently reviewed this relatively new credit card offer, its benefits and any potential traps that might not bode well for customers. What we found is outlined below.

At first glance, the Virgin America Visa Signature credit has a lot to offer consumers. A few of the many benefits include an impressively low introductory interest rate on balance transfers, a low and quite reasonable annual fee as well as several ways to make the most of card members’ travel budgets. Customer service is near the top in terms of satisfaction and access to the online account management is an easy process as well.

Barclays Bank

The Virgin America credit card is issued by Barclays Bank. It is also the official credit card of California-based Virgin America airlines, which is one of the most respected and highly ranked low fare airlines in the country. It’s been in business for six years and has been very successful in its efforts of providing quality travel options that are affordable. It was only natural, then, that co-branded credit card offers would follow that would add to the Virgin name here in the states while also benefiting Barclays Bank.

Consumers should know there are two versions of this co-branded Visa credit card. One comes with a $49 annual fee while the second offer has no annual fee at all. For the purposes of this review, we’re going to focus on the Virgin America card that has the $49 annual fee. Once you are approved for this Visa credit card, you’ll receive a Barclays membership number, you’ll be automatically enrolled in its Elevate program (more information on that further into this article) and the Virgin loyalty program.

Rewards Programs

In a time when rewards programs are taking over credit card offers, it can be easy to allow them to distract you as you go about the business of weighing one credit offer against another. Ah, but the Virgin America has an unusually impressive rewards program – and it’s a no frills effort when you go to redeem them. You will earn as many as 3 points for every dollar spent, based on what those purchases include. Not only that, but you’ll see an additional 10,000 points with your very first purchase. Collect yet another 5,000 bonus points if you take advantage of the balance transfer option – provided you do so within the first 30 days of membership – and you’ll have a 15 month 0% APR, which is great for those looking to pay down credit card debt. Throughout the year, you’ll be offered opportunities for even more bonus points. And of course, you’ll earn one point on every other dollar spent outside these parameters.

For those who prefer Virgin America as their airline, this is likely the right credit card for you, partly because you’ll earn triple points on all your Virgin America flights. The loyalty program, Elevate, is something card members are automatically enrolled in. And a few of those annual benefits include 10,000 status points when you spend $25,000 within the first calendar year of card membership. You’ll need to keep in mind, though, that these status points may not be redeemed for rewards travel. They are used only towards your Elevate status qualification – either Elevate Silver or Elevate Gold.

No Blackout Dates

Another impressive feature is the absence of blackout dates or seat restrictions when you use your rewards points for flights. Any flight, any day – it’s all about the freedom and versatility. Enjoy a $150 discount each year for a companion ticket. This is applied after your annual fee is paid and you’ve made your first purchase with your credit card each calendar year. Also, the companion ticket must be what the airline refers to as a “paid published airfare on the same itinerary”.

If there are any downsides to the Virgin America Visa, it’s the lack of a 0% intro rate on your purchases. This came as a surprise, really, to not only consumers, but those in the credit card sector who follow changes in the different perks and benefits that come with credit card offers. A good credit score is needed, but unlike other offers, the requirements aren’t quite as high as others and as a result, your APR will likely be higher. On average, it usually falls between 15.99% and 24.99%. Of course you can avoid that in its entirety by paying your balance in full each month.

Disclaimers

Virgin America makes this disclaimer:

Points required to redeem an Elevate travel reward on Virgin America will be publicly available on a seat and flight-specific basis.

That’s important to keep in mind. Of course, taxes and applicable fees are not part of the deal and will land on the shoulders of the card holders. Remember, too, that security fees are part of a new financial sector. You’ll pay $2.50 per segment, which can be paid via your Virgin America credit card or, of course, cash. And speaking of fees, the Passenger Facility Charge and Segment Fees are waived for domestic reward bookings. For those traveling internationally, it’s also the member’s responsibility to cover the taxes and other global fees.

There’s also another consideration. If for some reason, you’re not approved for this credit card offer, you may be notified of approval with its sister card, the Virgin America Platinum card. The benefits are different and not as many, but you’ll still enjoy perks and benefits.

The only other downside to this credit card offer is the confusion some experience when differentiating the Elevate loyalty program from the other perks and benefits. Each program has its own requirements. In the future, Barclays might discover combing the best of the two programs will better suit its needs and the needs of its customers.

Mobile Platforms

Finally, Barclays Bank is in the process of constructing a mobile payments platform. With a promise of bringing to customers what it sees as the future of payments, it’s currently readying a global effort that will include tap and go cards and new mobile phone apps. Interestingly enough, it says it has been “pioneering the future of payments in the UK, South Africa and now the US”. The problem is, there’s not really much left to pioneer; these options have been available for years. The bank also opted to tackle other countries – including Africa – ahead of its efforts here in the U.S. It already has millions of customers in the UK who are outfitted with contactless cards.

With no definitive deadline for the U.S., it says it will “soon” make mobile payments and the convenience that comes with these apps available here. On the flip side, many are already anticipating the new apps because of early talk that it will bring to the customer an all around and balanced effort that will allow for special coupons, reward redemptions and other offers. Not only that, but it promises “one click serving” opportunities that will put the customer immediately in touch with a live agent.

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