Is lifetime Virgin lounge membership worth it?
How long does it take before you're actually saving money?
Virgin Australia offers an unusual "lifetime access" option for access to its lounges.
Rather than paying a $330 joining fee and then a $420 annual fee each year, you can cough up $9,750 and become a lifetime member. If you're over 60, that's reduced to $6,750.
Straight talk: I do not have $9,750 lying around. But even if I did, I wouldn't want to spend it on a lifetime lounge membership, because the numbers don't add up.
Based on the current standard membership rates, I'd have to be a member for 23 years before it was cheaper to have paid for lifetime membership rather than just paying each year. For the over-60s, it works out cheaper after 15 years, but it's worth bearing in mind that travel insurance becomes much harder to score when you're over 80, though it's not impossible..
Realistically, lifetime membership being cheaper could take much longer than that. If you're flying Virgin often enough to want lifetime membership, there's a high likelihood you'll be Silver or above. In that case, your membership only costs $300 each year and the joining fee is waived. It's great that you're saving money, but it also means waiting even longer before lifetime membership is a better value deal.
In this case, it will take a whopping 33 years before lifetime membership actually saves you money. For the over-60s, you'll need 23 years to be ahead. The statistics are blunt here: the chances are you'll be dead before you turn 83, so you'll never actually catch up.
And here's the other thing: 23 years ago Virgin itself didn't exist. Qantas' main competitor was Ansett, which didn't go belly-up until 2001. Assuming that you'll still want to be using the same airline in 23 years, and that you'll still have that option, seems like a real stretch.
So my advice for Virgin Lounge users would be to just pay year by year. It's hard to argue that an annual renewal is such a hassle that it's worth paying almost $10,000 to avoid it.
Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears regularly on Finder.
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Picture: Angus Kidman