Virgin America is the domestic carrier of Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic. It is 25% owned by Virgin Atlantic (since no foreigner can own more than 25% stake in a domestic airline). Virgin America's big plan was to bring the level and type of service that Virgin Atlantic was famous for to the cut throat world of domestic discount flights. With a TV entertainment system, it certainly has succeeded on that front. It's main hub is in the San Francisco airport and this card is most likely to appeal to those living around the SF area and fly the airline.
Features - Virgin America launched in August 2007 and by October 2008 had launched this card with Barclays1. The key features of this card is that you could earn triple miles (Elevate miles) for every dollar that you spend on Virgin America tickets and in-flight purchases like films, snacks, and cocktails on the airline’s RED™ in-flight entertainment system (just goes to show that not all in-flight entertainment is free). For other regular purchases, the usual one point per dollar rule applies.
Annual Companion Ticket Code - Every year (subject to using your card at least once and paying your annual fee), you will receive a coupon code that is good for a $150 discount on a companion ticket.
Bonus Points - Every frequent flyer card has some form of sign up bonus and this card is no exception. After your first purchase, you get 20,000 bonus Elevate miles. You can also earn up 5000 bonus miles for every dollar that you transfer to the card during the first 90 days. You would have to bear in mind a couple of things. Firstly, you must do an actually balance transfer and not use a balance transfer check. Secondly, this card does not offer any 0% teaser rates for balance transfer so you will be charged the regular interest rate.
You may be issued a no annual fee version of the card - If your credit is not great, you may be issued a no annual fee version of this card. The perks will be slightly less. For example, you can only earn one mile per dollar on all purchases. Secondly, the maximum bonus miles you can earn if you do a balance transfer within 90 days is the 2,500 miles rather than 5,000 for the regular $49 annual fee version. The sign bonus after the first purchase is only 2,500 miles versus 10,000 miles on the regular version.
No free baggage and No Boarding Priority - One of the features that other airline cards have but this card does not is the first free baggage and no boarding priority. But before we jump all over this, we have to understand how Virgin America does it's boarding. First to board are First Class and Main Cabin Select passengers (premium economy). They are followed by folks with kids etc and then those with no baggage will board first! This is quite a novel system. The rationale is that if folks with no baggage board first, it will save time because they will not blocking anyone (if they remember their seat numbers!). If you have very small bags (not to be put overhead, then you can be considered as one of those with no baggage.
Virgin America charges $20 per baggages (and you can check in up to 9 bags!). So if you want to board first, you have to check them in!
It is because of this system that I believe the card does not have the first bag free and priority boarding feature. That is because if too many folks have the card, then it is likely that the concept of "priority boarding" would have lost it's meaning!
Is the Virgin America Credit Card Good? - Many years ago, I used to fly Virgin Atlantic a lot (in business class for the company I worked with). It was (and still is) my favorite airline. The service was great, the lounge in the airport and the business class cabin was great as well. It is a great thing that Richard Branson has decided start this domestic airline because the US domestic carriers have cut cost so much that flying really isn't fun anymore. American Airlines take pride in their fleet being over 20 years old!
Those of you who live in California and fly this airline can attest to how great this airline is. I would suggest adding this card in your wallet so you can earn faster miles. The annual fee is reasonably low for an airline credit card. You can earn triple miles (not many airline cards offer that) and you get a nice annual companion ticket code every year. It's a shame that you cannot waive your baggage fee. But this airline prides itself in it's new fleet and great in flight amenities, which I'm sure is the reason people fly this airline.