When Virgin Trains East Coast mentioned they were switching to Nectar some people asked me about Eurostar redemptions, these seemed poor to me as Nectar has a £10 booking fee for Eurostar journeys so you'd need to spend £12.50 in points to save the first £2.50.
Let's look at each in turn:
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club has fixed mileage rates for Eurostar trips, these rates are:
- 18,000 miles for a standard class return
- 30,000 miles for a standard premier return (standard premier is their product that includes first class seating and complimentary catering, but does not include the lounge access, late check-in and a few other benefits that business premier offers)
These are valid to Paris, Lille, Brussels or Disneyland Paris.
As well as Virgin Trains, Flying Club also has a number of partners in addition to their airline partners. One of the biggest in the UK is Tesco Clubcard, they also have a credit card you can use to earn additional miles.
As usual with Nectar the number of points needed is based on the ticket price, so 500 points = £2.50 off.
Currently with Virgin Trains East Coast you earn 2 points for every pound spent. With Sainsbury's you earn one Nectar point per pound.
The cheapest advance purchase London - Paris fares were showing as £36 each way making a total of £72.
Adding on the booking fee makes this a total of £82 to pay in points. As points are redeemed in £2.50 increments this means a total of 16,500 points for a return ticket.
So on the face of it that's fewer points than you'll need with Flying Club, BUT this is on the cheapest fares, if these are not available you will be paying more than this.
Standard Premier (First Class seating, but some restrictions over the Business Premier product)
If you want the comfort of first class and complimentary meals then Standard Premier would be for you.
The cheapest advance purchase London - Paris fares were showing as £79.50 each way making a total of £159.
Adding on the booking fee makes this a total of £169 to pay in points, as points are redeemed in £2.50 increments this means £170. This requires 34,000 points.
This means that it requires 4,000 more points than Virgin Atlantic Flying Club and this could be more if the cheapest fares aren't available.
How much do I need to spend to earn these points?
On Virgin Trains East Coast the earning on Nectar and Virgin Atlantic Flying club is the same. £1 spend = 2 points. It's supermarket schemes where Flying Club really shines.
At Tesco you earn 1 Clubcard point per pound, however 1 Clubcard point is a lot more valuable than a Nectar point. You can convert Clubcard points to Flying Club at a rate of 100 Clubcard points = 250 miles.
At Sainsbury's you now just earn 1 Nectar point per pound spent. A Nectar point is worth half a pence.
Supermarket spend alone
Standard class ticket is minimum of 16,500 Nectar points so that would mean spending £16,500 in Sainsbury's.
Standard class ticket is a fixed 18,000 Flying Club points. This is equivalent to 7,200 Clubcard points at Tesco so £7,200 spend.
Standard Premier ticket is a minimum of 34,000 Nectar points so that would mean spending £34,000 in Sainsbury's.
Standard Premier ticket is a fixed 30,000 Flying Club points which is equivalent to 12,000 Clubcard points at Tesco so £12,000 spend.
So on supermarket spend alone the answer is 'a lot' for both stores, but in both instances in Tesco you'd have to spend less than half to earn the reward.
Supermarket + Rail Travel
If you spent £2000 a year on Virgin Trains East Coast you'd get 4000 Nectar points or Flying Club miles. That would reduce the amount you needed to spend in the supermarket:
Standard class would then require another 12,500 Nectar so another £12,500 spend in Sainsbury's or 14,000 Flying Club which is 5,600 Clubcard so £5,600 to spend.
Standard Premier would then require another 30,000 Nectar so another £30,000 spend in Sainsbury's or 26,000 Flying Club which is 10,400 Clubcard so £10,400 to spend.
The Eurostar reward is still difficult to reach even with Flying Club but the comparison shows that it is the better option particularly if you can top up your points balance through other means rather than just train travel. If you use Tesco Clubcard then your balance will increase 2.5x faster than it would through Nectar. You can also top up your balance in other ways such as the Virgin Atlantic credit card and through other Virgin partners such as Virgin wines.
As mentioned before if you shop at Tesco you can also earn Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles faster than you can earn Nectar at Sainsbury's.