The Virgin America media folks sent me an email today touting the new Virgin America credit cards. One thing caught my eye: get the "premium" version and there are no change or cancellation fees on non-refundable tickets. Of course, when you read the fine print, it doesn't sound quite as revolutionary. The basic card is well-priced at $49 per year annual fee and gives you 10,000 bonus miles with just a $1000 spend in the first 90 days; but the premium card costs $149 per year and gives you 15,000 bonus miles for the same spend, plus up to 15,000 "status" points. But when you read the premium card's somewhat confusing fine print (see below), it gets less exciting.
This clarification to an earlier edit of this post, provided by Virgin's PR, makes things clearer I hope.
For changes to non-refundable tickets:
When a guest makes a change to a non-refundable fare, the guest is required to pay the change fee (currently $100) plus any difference in fare.
For our new premium cardholders, the change fee will be waived - the cardholder will only need to pay any difference in fare.
For cancellations of non-refundable tickets:
When a guest cancels, the cancel fee is deducted [from] the total balance and then the remaining balance (if any) is credited to a travel bank credit which is valid for 12 months from the date of cancellation.
For our new premium cardholders, the cancel fee will be waived, therefore the full value of the ticket will be credited as a travel bank credit which is valid for 12 months from the date of cancellation.
Essentially, the premium card waives ever charging (change) or applying (cancel) the change cancel fee for any reservations originally paid with the card and that include the cardholder in the reservation, but otherwise the original fare rules apply in so much that a) any difference in fare still applies for changes or b) the original fare paid is credited to travel bank for cancellations.
Confused? I am still, sort of. It would have been great if holders of this card could cancel their non-refundable fares and just get a credit back to their credit cards, and that would make it truly revolutionary.
And frequent flyer tickets are still subject to rebooking or re-deposit fees. And speaking of how to really avoid change/cancel fees, read this.
The Fine Print
Flight Change/Cancel Fee Waiver. (Premium Cardholders only)
Premium Cardholders are eligible to receive waived change or cancel fees (as published at virginamerica.com) when purchasing non-refundable fares on Virgin America-operated flights. To receive the waived change or cancel fee benefit, you must include your Elevate account number in your reservation and use your Premium Card to purchase your ticket(s) directly from Virgin America. Your Credit Card Account must be in open and not in default at the time of making a change or cancellation to an existing reservation. The waived change or cancel fee benefit is only available on paid Virgin America marketed and operated flights; codeshare flights with a Virgin America flight number but operated by another airline are not eligible. The waived change or cancel fee benefit is not valid for Reward Travel, where the published Elevate redeposit fee will apply for cancellations.
When changing a reservation, you will be responsible for paying for any difference in fare in accordance with the original purchased fare rules. Premium cardholders must remain a named passenger on the reservation and include their Elevate account number in order to receive the waived change or cancel fee benefit. When changing or cancelling a reservation, any remaining funds will be credited to your Travel Bank account for future travel on Virgin America. The travel credit is valid within 12 months from the date of change or cancellation. To make a change or cancellation to an existing reservation, you must call the Virgin America Contact Center at 1.877.FLY.VIRGIN (877.359.8474) from the United States and Canada, 001.877.359.8474 from Mexico, or +1.650.762.7005 from other countries prior to your scheduled flight departure time. If you call from the United States, you may access a complimentary telecommunications relay service by dialing 711.