Best credit cards for earning Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles

Best credit cards for earning Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles

Compared to Virgin Australia Velocity points, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles aren't as widely collected by Aussie travellers – but for those jetting off from Hong Kong or Shanghai to London with Virgin Atlantic, or regularly zipping between the USA and the UK, they're a handy thing to have.

For instance, a one-way Virgin Atlantic 'Upper Class' (business class) ticket from Hong Kong to Heathrow sets you back 57,500 Flying Club miles throughout most of the year, or 67,500 Flying Club miles during the UK school holidays, Easter and Christmas.

Book that same flight through Virgin Australia Velocity and you'd need a much-higher 83,500 Velocity points, year-round.

Flying Club miles can also be used for premium economy and business class upgrades on Virgin Atlantic – including 'double upgrades' straight from economy to business class – and for reduced-cost 'companion seats' when one passenger is travelling on an eligible paid fare.

Although Flying Club miles can only be earned through American Express and Diners Club credit and charge cards in Australia, here are the best of the bunch for boosting your Flying Club balance.

1. American Express Explorer, Business Explorer credit cards

Offering the highest uncapped earning rates with Flying Club on everyday purchases are the American Express Explorer and Business Explorer cards, where cardholders can scoop up 1.25 Flying Club miles per dollar spent on most transactions.

However, this one's tricky, and a little complicated: although many other AMEX cards allow points to be converted directly to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, these cards do not, as Flying Club is not a transfer partner of the Membership Rewards Gateway program attached to the Explorer cards.

To get around that, you can convert your points over to the Starwood Preferred Guest hotel loyalty program instead on a 2:1 basis – giving you 1 SPG Starpoint per dollar spent – and can transfer those points onward from SPG to Flying Club at a 1:1 rate.

Starwood also kicks in 5,000 bonus miles for every 20,000 miles transferred to Flying Club, elevating that conversion rate to 1:1.25 when you transfer your points in increments of 20,000.

Crunching the numbers, this process gives you the equivalent of 1.25 Flying Club miles per dollar spent on your American Express Explorer or Business Explorer card, except on government transactions like ATO payments, where the number works out to be a very precise 0.3125 Flying Club miles per dollar.

2. American Express Business Accelerator Card

For business owners, the American Express Business Accelerator Card can prove more rewarding on smaller purchases, providing the equivalent of two Flying Club miles per dollar spent up to 100,000 miles per year, which you'd earn from $50,000 in charges.

As this card nets Membership Rewards Ascent points which can be converted directly into Flying Club miles at a 1:1 rate, the 'SPG shuffle' isn't necessary here – but once you've hit six figures of points each year, the card's earn rate decreases to one Ascent point (one Flying Club mile) per dollar spent.

There’s a lower annual fee to pay than with the personal Explorer and Business Explorer cards – $160 versus $395 – although payments to utility providers and insurers, in addition to government providers, always earn a reduced 0.5 Flying Club miles per dollar spent on the Business Accelerator card.

3. American Express Platinum, Business Platinum cards

Spend big on travel and dining? The American Express Platinum charge card dishes up a respectable three Flying Club miles per dollar spent at most restaurants in Australia and two Flying Club miles per dollar spent with airlines, hotels and on all overseas purchases via the Membership Rewards Ascent Premium program, where points convert directly to Flying Club at a 1:1 rate.

Business owners could also be earning two Flying Club miles per dollar spent on advertising, courier charges, purchases of computer equipment and at restaurants, airlines and hotels via the AMEX Business Platinum card, although both cards provide a reduced 0.5 Flying Club miles per dollar spent with utilities, insurers and government bodies.

You’ll pay $1,200 per year for the personal Platinum card – but can earn 80,000 Ascent Premium points (80,000 Flying Club miles) when you apply and spend $1,500 in the first three months – or $1,500/year for the Business Platinum card, aside 120,000 Ascent Premium points (120,000 Flying Club miles) when applying by January 31 2018 and spending $5,000 within the first two months.

4. American Express Platinum Edge credit card

If your spend is concentrated more on groceries and fuel than restaurants and travel, the American Express Platinum Edge credit card tempts with a much lower $195 annual fee – more than offset by a $200 travel credit every year – and an earn rate of up to three Membership Rewards Ascent points per dollar spent, equal to three Flying Club miles.

Purchases at supermarkets award points at the highest rate, with spends at major petrol stations closely behind at two Flying Club miles per dollar spent, uncapped. That's 100 miles earned on a $50 tank of fuel, or 450 miles on a $150 grocery shop.

Everywhere else, you'll earn the equivalent of one Flying Club mile per dollar spent, except with insurers, utilities and government bodies where you'll earn 0.5 Flying Club miles per dollar spent, when converting your points directly from AMEX's Ascent program to Virgin Atlantic.

5. David Jones American Express Platinum Card

Next in line, the $295/year David Jones American Express Platinum Card – and while you can convert the 'David Jones Membership Rewards' (DJMR) points you'll earn straight across to Flying Club, it actually makes more sense to convert your points through Starwood Preferred Guest, in a similar fashion to the AMEX Explorer cards.

That's because the same 2:1 conversion rate is applied from the DJMR program to both Flying Club direct transfers and to Starwood Preferred Guest, but SPG has its own 25% boost when converting points in chunks of 20,000, giving you 25% more Flying Club miles at the end of the day.

Take the SPG route and you can earn 2.5 Flying Club miles per dollar spent at David Jones, 1.875 Flying Club miles per dollar spent at supermarkets and petrol stations and 0.625 Flying Club miles everywhere else, including on government, utility and insurance payments.

A similar number of points can be earned via the standard David Jones American Express Card at a lower $99 annual fee, except that purchases at David Jones accrue the equivalent of 1.25 Flying Club miles per dollar spent when converting points to Starwood and then onwards to Flying Club.

Honourable mention: Diners Club Card + World Mastercard combo

The cards above are great if you regularly shop where American Express is accepted, but if you're also seeking Flying Club miles through a Visa or Mastercard, the only option available in Australia is the companion Mastercard attached to the Diners Club charge card.

Again, Flying Club isn't a direct transfer partner of Diners Club Rewards, but Starwood Preferred Guest is – so you'd begin by earning 0.75 Diners Club Rewards points per dollar of spend on that Mastercard, which convert to SPG on a 2.5:1 basis, giving you 0.3 Starpoints.

From SPG, Starpoints convert into Flying Club miles at a 1:1 rate, plus that handy 25% boost when converting in increments of 20,000 miles. Assuming you take advantage of that, you'll wind up with 0.375 Flying Club miles per dollar spent via the Diners Club companion Mastercard: not a particularly high earn rate, but when it's your only option, it's that or nothing.

As it'd already be in your wallet, using the actual Diners Club card which comes as part of the deal also provides the equivalent of one Flying Club mile per dollar spent via the same approach, except on government transactions which earn no points at all using either card.

Chris Chamberlin
Chris Chamberlin is a senior journalist with Australian Business Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!
 

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25 May, 2019 03:29 pm

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