'Virgin Red' loyalty scheme launches and you can earn points on shopping and switching - here's what you need to know
A new loyalty scheme called 'Virgin Red' has launched this month, which allows shoppers to earn points on spending at Virgin brands and major high street retailers, such as Boots and M&S. However, you're limited to spending points at Virgin brands and at a small number of retailers and charities.
The scheme is similar to a cashback website or a loyalty programme such as the British Airways eStore, as you earn points when you buy an item having clicked to the retailer's site via Virgin Red. You usually spend points via the Virgin Red app, though as you'll see below, the value of points varies massively by retailer and item - here's the key info...
You can earn points at Virgin brands and at retailers including Boots and M&S
You can earn points online only at around 40 retailers and service providers, including Virgin brands and major high street retailers Boots and M&S - though more will be added in future. See a full list on the Virgin Red website. Here are some examples:
- Asos - two points per £1
- Boots - up to three points per £1 (depends on the item)
- Etsy UK - five points per £1
- John Lewis & Partners - up to four points per £1 (depends on the item)
- Marks and Spencer - two points per £1
- Octopus Energy - 7,400 if you switch both gas and electricity
- Selfridges & Co. - four points per £1
- Virgin Atlantic - varies by route, eg, 5,700 points just for buying an economy classic return flight to Shanghai for one passenger (as well as miles earned when you fly via its Flying Club)
- Virgin Atlantic Holidays - one point per £1 when you book a holiday to Barbados
- Virgin Experience Days - 10 points per £1
- Virgin Limited Edition - varies by product, eg, 7,000 points per night staying at Ulusaba Private Game Reserve
- Virgin Voyages - one point per £1
- Virgin Wines - 750 points per order
If you're looking for other ways to boost your spending, see our Loyalty Points Boosting guide for tips on how to maximise Tesco, Nectar, Boots, and Morrisons points, and see our Top Cashback Sites guide for info on how to make hundreds when you shop online.
New. Earn 15,000 points with Virgin Money's new bank switch offer
On Monday 15 February, Virgin Money launched a new bank switching offer in conjunction with Virgin Red, which allows you earn to 15,000 points. To get the 15,000 points you need to apply online for the current account via the Virgin Red app or website and then, within 31 days:
- Complete a full bank switch using the Current Account Switch Service.
- Download and register for the Virgin Money mobile banking app.
- Transfer or set-up at least two direct debits to your new account and don't cancel them until Virgin Money sends you a Virgin Red promo code.
- Credit your linked Instant Access Savings Account with at least £1,000 and keep this in your account until Virgin Money sends the Virgin Red promo code.
- Use the promo code to credit the points to your Virgin Red account.
As an example, 15,000 points could get you a chocolate truffle masterclass (costs 5,250 points) and a case of wine (costs 9,000 points), or three quarters of the cost of a return flight between London and New York City (JFK airport), which costs 20,000 points - although you'd have to pay taxes, fees and charges of £258 on top.
Remember, there are other switching offers on the market though, such as one with HSBC, which pays you £125. You can find more details about this offer and compare it to others in our Best Bank Accounts guide.
You can spend points at Virgin brands and at outlets including Greggs
You can currently spend points at around 20 retailers and organisations, including at Virgin brands - though more will be added. See a full list on the Virgin Red website. There's only one retailer where you can spend points in store, which is Greggs. Here are some examples of what your points will get you:
- Edinburgh Food Project - varies, but 1,000 points enables the charity to buy enough diesel for its van to deliver stock to foodbanks and collect donations for three days
- Eve Branson Foundation - varies, but 1,750 points gets you an artisan tote bag
- Greggs - varies, but 325 points gets you a hot drink
- National Autistic Society - varies, but 5,000 points enables the charity to create a volunteer manual for an advice and support helpline
- Saint Fragrance - varies, but 6,250 points gets you a 'Powdery Skies' scented candle
- Virgin Atlantic - varies by route, eg, 20,000 points gets you economy return flights to New York for one person (plus taxes and charges, which can still be £100s).
- Virgin Atlantic Holidays - 3,000 points gets £16.50 off the price
- Virgin Experience Days - varies, but 5,250 points gets you a truffle making masterclass
- Virgin Limited Edition - varies by product, eg, 255,000+ points gets you a three-night stay at the Kasbah Tamadot in the Atlas Mountains
- Virgin Voyages - 3,000 points gets £16.50 off the price
- Virgin Wines - 10,000 points gets you a £50-off voucher
So... is Virgin Red any good?
It's always worth getting paid to spend on stuff you'd have bought anyway (so don't use that as a reason to spend unnecessarily) but this particular scheme won't always beat the competition, such as cashback websites and other similar programmes including the BA eStore.
For those who are loyal to Virgin and have no use for other similar schemes, then Virgin Red should win for you. However, it's still best to do a comparison at the time you buy something. We'd love to give you a full analysis of every product going to help show you which scheme is best but that's virtually impossible as rewards across the market can change daily.
But one example we've found shows Virgin is NOT always good value versus its rivals. If you're spending at Boots, you'll shell out at least £108.33 via Virgin Red before you have enough points for a hot drink from Greggs. But spend £108.33 at Boots via cashback site TopCashback and you'll get between 2% and 5% of your purchase back - so £2.16-£5.41 - which is more than enough to buy a hot drink from Greggs which typically costs £1.75-£2.
You can, however, currently get 500 bonus points if you sign up to Virgin Red and make your first purchase using the scheme between now and 31 July 2021 - which would be enough for a Greggs hot drink.
How to sign up and use Virgin Red
Here's how to earn and spend points using Virgin Red:
- Download the free Virgin Red app on your smartphone from either the Apple Store or Google Play store and fill in your details. You can also sign up on the Virgin Red desktop website.
- Log in (either to the app or to the desktop site), click on the retailer you want to make a purchase with and you'll be taken its website.
- Make your purchase as normal via the same browser window (otherwise it may not track).
- Points are automatically added to your Virgin Red account. How quickly they're added will vary by retailer. As with any loyalty or cashback scheme, sometimes the purchase isn't tracked but if this happens, submit a complaint via the Virgin Red website.
- To spend points, log in to the app (you can't spend via the desktop site for now) and go to the 'Spend Points' tab to select the retailer you want to spend with. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete your order. Points will be deducted immediately.
With Greggs, which is the only in-store retailer added to the scheme, you need to request a QR code to be delivered to your app. This will then be scanned in store. If you want to spend points at Virgin Atlantic, you need to link your Virgin Red account to a Virgin Atlantic Flying Club account. Click 'Account', followed by 'link account' in the Virgin Red app, and follow the instructions.
There's no expiry date to use points by but you can generally only use them to make a purchase in full - so you can't usually make partial points payments using half points and half cash, though there are a few exceptions.