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Virgin Trains Ticketing app – how do points compare to other reward schemes?

Virgin Red points can be exchanged for Greggs sausage rolls and flights abroad.

Virgin has launched a new free app where you can book train tickets for journeys across the UK, and earn points for every £1 spent if you’re a Virgin Red member.

The points can be accrued by those signed up to Virgin Red, and exchanged for things like Virgin Atlantic flights, concert tickets and even a Greggs sausage roll. But is this the best way to book your train tickets, or would you earn more using a cashback website or a reward credit card?

Here, Which? explains how the new app works, what the points are worth and other ways you can be rewarded for your spending.

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How does the new app work?

The Virgin Trains Ticketing app is available to download on Android and iOS, and you can create an account for free.

To use it, you simply enter the destination you're travelling to, your starting point and any railcards, if you have them.

Once you’ve selected your train and price, it will tell you how many Virgin Points your journey will earn, then take you through to the payment page.

Virgin does not charge a booking fee for e-tickets, and all tickets are governed by the National Rail conditions of travel. 

Are there any travel restrictions?

If your ticket has any restrictions, for example, if it's off-peak or only available to use on a specific train, this will be highlighted in the app in the same way as if you were to book your travel elsewhere. 

If you need to change the date and time of your ticket, or cancel your journey, you’ll be charged a £10 admin fee by Virgin. 

However, if your train is cancelled by the train provider, you’ll be able to get a full refund from the train operator. 

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How many points can you earn

You can get three points for every £1 spent. Therefore, a London to Edinburgh advanced single costing £87.75 would earn you 261 points. 

Points never expire and will be credited 56 days after travelling (or the last day your ticket is valid, if you didn't end up travelling). 

Your points will show up on your train booking account, but they can only be spent on the Virgin Red app.

What is Virgin Red?

Launched last year, Virgin Red is a free-to-join rewards club where you can redeem Virgin Points for experiences, food and drink and gifts. 

You don't need to be a Virgin customer to join, and you can earn points a number of ways, such as flying with Virgin Atlantic, shopping with affiliated retailers, and switching to a Virgin Money M Plus account. 

Here’s some of the rewards on offer and how many points they cost:

RewardHow many points you need
Greggs savoury item300 points 
Vue cinema ticket1,350 points
Six bottles of wine 9,000 points
London theatre tickets to Mamma Mia!40,000 points
Economy flights from London to Florida25,000 points plus taxes, fees and charges of £276

Rewards correct as of 7/7/22

You can also donate your points to a number of charities, including the UN Refugee Agency, mental-health charity Mind, the LGBT Foundation and Cancer Research. 

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Other ways to earn rewards

You might earn more using another method to book your trains.

Use cashback websites

Cashback sites pay you a cash reward when you click through from them to make a purchase. 

Cashback sites such as Quidco and TopCashback offer cashback on a variety of goods and services – including train travel. 

For example, new customers can get 5.25% cashback when they use Trainline, and existing customers can earn 0.52%. The maximum amount you can earn is £10.50. 

Therefore if you spent the same £87.75 on the London-to-Edinburgh ticket, you could get £4.60 in cashback as a new customer, or 46p as an existing customer. 

Cashback is paid within one to three months of completing a purchase, so if you left it to accumulate you could end up with a decent pot after a year. However, you need to make sure anything you buy is a result of clicking on a link from the cashback site – otherwise, the cashback won't apply to your purchase.

Use cashback credit cards

A cashback credit card is a type of reward credit card that pays you a percentage of what you spend back as a credit on your bill or, in some cases, straight into your bank account, either monthly, quarterly or annually. 

Treat them like a debit card to earn back more, but remember to pay back each monthly statement in full to avoid being charged interest.

You can also access retailers' offers. For example, American Express currently has an offer for 10% cashback when you book trains directly with LNER, and 5% cashback when you book with Avanti Coast. You just have to make sure you save the specific offer to your card first. 

Book directly with the train provider

Some train companies have their own loyalty schemes you can join. Here are some of the ones we found, but it’s worth having a look at the rail operator’s website before booking. 

  • C2C Smartcard: One of the perks of using a Smartcard is you can collect 1 point for every £1 you spend on C2C train tickets when you opt into the loyalty scheme in your online account. You’ll also get automatically repaid for any delays of more than two minutes.
  • Gatwick Express: Book via the Gatwick Express app or website and you can get a 10% discount on your tickets, whether single or return.
  • Heathrow Express: Collect one point for every £1 spent. 
  • LNER perks: Get £5 free plus 2% credit back every time you travel. 
  • Avanti Coast: Its partnership with Nectar ended in May; however, it's looking to launch an alternative loyalty scheme. 

Find out more: how to save money on train travel