Review of British Airways Visa Credit Card

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The British Airways Visa Signature® Card now offers 50,000 bonus Avios after spending $2000 in the first two months, plus 2.5x Avios for every dollar spent on British Airways and 1.25x Avios per dollar spent on everything else. You can also earn a British Airways companion certificate valid for second passenger on British Airways award reservation after spending $30,000 on the card annually

All that being said, this can be an excellent deal, as I’ll outline below.

How to Earn Points:

Card Spend

The British Airways Visa offers 1.25 Avios points per dollar spent, regardless of the category.

Companion certificate

While it’s not bonus points per se, Chase offers a British Airways award companion certificate for any year in which you spend $30,000 on the card. I make an effort to try and earn the certificate each year.

It’s only valid for travel on British Airways and ultimately you still have to pay the high taxes and fuel surcharges which British Airways imposes for the second passenger, but when you break it down I’d say it’s still a good value. Say you spend $30,000 on the card this year. You’d earn the 50,000 Avios points sign-up bonus, 37,500 Avios points for completing the spend (since you earn 1.25 Avios points per dollar), meaning you’d have 87,500 British Airways Avios points to blow, along with a companion certificate. That basically equates to 175,000 Avios points of “buying power” for travel on British Airways when factoring in the companion certificate. This puts you well on your way to two First class tickets from many points in the US, especially given how many transfer partners British Airways has should you need to top off your account.

BA Travel Together Ticket

Transfers from Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards, and Starwood

British Airways Executive Club is the only airline program which partners with American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest. As a result it’s pretty easy to top off an account, and at times there are even lucrative transfer bonuses. For example, Membership Rewards is offering a 50% transfer bonus to British Airways through May 31, which is a great deal.

How to Redeem Points:

As I mentioned earlier, British Airways really devalued their award chart for North American flyers last November. Unfortunately they don’t publish an official award chart, though they do have a mileage calculator on their website.

While it doesn’t match in 100% of cases, here’s Iberia’s Avios award chart, which is similar to British Airways’ in most instances:

So while a lot of value was lost compared to the old award charts, there are still some fantastic values to be had. Paying only 4,500 Avios points for a flight of under 650 miles is an amazingly good deal. For example, New York to Montreal is available for 4,500 Avios points each way, when the fare is usually about $200 per direction:

Along the same lines, keep in mind that British Airways doesn’t charge close-in ticketing fees, so there’s no additional fee for booking close to departure.

Another great redemption is traveling from the west coast of the US to Hawaii, which is only 12,500 Avios points one-way in coach.

You can get some real bargains with British Airways for travel to Northern South America. For example, Miami to Lima roundtrip in LAN business class (which is a fully flat product) is only 50,000 Avios points roundtrip.

Now, British Airways does impose fuel surcharges for many of their award redemptions, though there are a few ways to avoid them:

  • Fly LAN
  • Fly Alaska Airlines
  • Fly American to destinations other than Europe and Asia

Other Cool Features:

No foreign transaction fees

While it’s becoming fairly common among Chase cards, this card comes with no foreign transaction fees.

Smart Chip Technology

This is a chip card, making it more widely accepted in Europe and beyond. If you don’t have a chip card you might have issues using your credit cards in parts of Europe.

Editorial Note: Neither this post, nor the comments, are provided by the Issuing bank, or any other advertiser. The comments below have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not the bank or advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Comments

  1. Gene says

    You really should mention that the taxes and fees on BA have gone through the roof in the last 12 months, making the companion voucher not really such a great deal anymore (at least not after the first year). I’ve been working towards earning another one, and based on the ridiculous fees I saw today, I regret wasting my spend on this card. For example, the fees for two first class tickets from SFO to LHR are now $2,400, up from $1,350 just one year ago.

  2. Z says

    Just FYI,
    There is (IMHO) a better deal to get the 100k miles, though it will take you a year to get all of them. If you apply for the card through BA.com, the current offer is 50k after first purchase AND 50k on the first anniversary of the card once you renew. So basically you only have to make one purchase then just keep the card around. You will have to pay the $75 annual fee twice though, but $150 for 100k Avios is worth it to me.

    Not sure what Ben’s opinion of this deal is, but I’d rather put the spend on a card I actually like (re:Sapphire Preferred) and passively wait for the Avios to flow into my account.

  3. says

    I think it’s worth mentioning that because you have to spend $20K, and because you get 1.25 miles per cent, it’s actually 125,000 miles after you meet the spend requirement.

  4. Z says

    Jeff,
    Do a dummy booking on BA.com. When you get to the payment stage, the offer should present itself.

  5. Z says

    I was just able to pull it up again when I tried. Try deleting any cookies you have from BA.com, or just use another browser. I have a screenshot, but unfortunately there’s no place to upload it here.

  6. Dave Op says

    I got the 100k mile offer back in the mid 2009. Can I get another bonus with this card?

  7. Nick says

    When you can buy an economy ticket, upgrade and earn miles for the same amount as the fees on a business class award ticket I see very little value.

  8. Jeff says

    Hi all,

    I followed Z’s instructions and did a dummy run on ba.com. Z is correct that the offer came up, but you have to book the ticket on the “new card” to get the sign up. Thoughts on getting the card, Lucky, with this offer without buying a ticket?

    Thanks!

  9. Robert Hanson says

    I got the offer for the card as listed above by Lucky, but no mention of second year bonus. If I could get the full 100K with only the yearly fees, I might consider it. Otherwise, I agree with Nick about there being very little value to this offer. Unless of course, you live in Miami, and are planning a trip to Lima. But I don’t and I’m not…..

  10. lucky says

    @ Z — Thanks for the heads up, I’m looking into this right now. Just to clarify, were you able to get this without first booking a ticket? That seems to be the major barrier.

    @ Dave Op — The offer can only be earned once, or at least that’s what the rules say. There’s a chance you might get away with earning the bonus again, though you’re not supposed to be able to.

    @ Pegasus — You can do that, and it would cost 12,500 miles in coach or 37,500 miles in first class one-way. It’s one of the better values since there are no fuel surcharges.

  11. lucky says

    @ Nick — The value I see is in first class redemptions. While business class is pretty attainable through upgrades, first class isn’t.

  12. Z says

    Yes, I was able to get the credit card without booking the ticket. After I applied and was approved, I just let the booking timeout.

  13. Paul says

    Thanks for this helpful post! I wonder if NYC to Bermuda on AA has the high fees associated with travel to Europe?

  14. lucky says

    @ Paul — While there don’t appear to be any fuel surcharges, there are some additional taxes they pass on to the the consumer, it seems. A roundtrip award between New York and Bermuda costs $101.15 when booking with BA miles, compared to $63.30 when booking with AA miles.

  15. Jay says

    It’s a scam. Why? Because the taxes on a US city to London flight (London is their hub, so ALL BA flights are directed there) are $650 US. That’s right. And the companion voucher? Another $650 US in taxes. So a pair of ostensibly free tickets cost $1300 US in taxes. Try to book a flight and you will discover just this outrageous misrepresentation. I spoke to both BA and Chase about this. They acknowledged how shocked people are when they discover this. It is really fraudulent. Sham on both the bank and the airline.

  16. Matt says

    @Jay

    Are these taxes on all flights you try to book with Avis or just with the companion ticket?

  17. lucky says

    @ Matt — The amount sounds to me like the standard taxes on a coach award to Europe using Avios.

  18. Matt says

    For the 50000 avios with your first purchase and another 50000 avios on the one year anniversary, does the first purchase have to be on a British airways flight or can it be as simple as a cup of coffee?

    Also, if my wife and I each sign up, are an we household link these avios?

  19. lucky says

    @ Matt — The purchase can be on anything, and you can most definitely create a household account.

  20. T says

    Does anyone know how I would use avios points to go from the US to either New Zealand or Australia?

  21. lucky says

    @ T — Most practically you could use them on Qantas or otherwise on Cathay Pacific through Hong Kong, as they serve several destinations in Australia and New Zealand.

  22. Steelrain6 says

    Jay is right on! I just stopped myself from getting this card…the fee is now $95. For all the hassle I might as well just purchase a full price econo ticket to London and use residual avios for potential upgrade. I was shocked at this, I used to be a rewards member with United and points = free ticket, no taxes or fees.

  23. Phil says

    I signed up for this card last year, thinking it was a great deal. I also charged the $30,000 necessary to get the companion certificate. It’s anything b ut great.

    Here are the huge problems with this card:

    1. BA charges outrageous “fuel surcharge” fees and taxes on these supposedly “free” flights. A random trip from Seattle to London in Business comes in at more than $1,150 per person in fees!

    2. There is ZERO flight availability in at least Business Class unless you book literally months in advance, and only limited availability then. I finally dumped my 140,000 Avios points on a flight booked 10 months ahead – nothing prior to that was available.

    3. If you want to fly first class internationally, forget it. I couldn’t find a single available flight, any time, anywhere, even 11 months out.

    By the way, the BA Executive Club service center confirmed that this was always the case with availability.

    4. If you live in the States, getting beyond Europe on your Avios points is very difficult unless you have a huge number banked.

    All in all, this card is the worst rip-off I have ever seen, and I rue the day I fell for the “great” offer. Needless to say, once this trip next year is over I’ll be dumping this card permanently.

  24. Peter Townsend says

    Totally agree with Phil on all points – particularly availability. Whereas other airlines load up a few available seats per flight (on line and get them as they load 335 days ahead) try finding a return flight for any of your ‘out’ booking from any airport in any country. You’ll discover you just can’t do it.
    I’m offloading mine and dumping BA after 35 years of flying with them and their Chip card is going to with its annual fee.
    You blew it BA.

  25. Andy says

    @Phil and all,

    Thanks for sharing your comments with us.

    It seems through my reading that booking AA short distance flight using Avios points are most economical. Do these reward flight (e.g., NY City to Toronto) also get high surcharge?

  26. lucky says

    @ Andy — No, not really. There are no fuel surcharges, so a domestic award will run you $5-10, while an award to Canada will run you $50-60 roundtrip (due to higher international taxes).

  27. Gregorso says

    I did a dummy booking at BA.com and the offer for the BA Signature Visa came up. It doesn’t say anything about bonus miles…not 50K, not 100K or anything. Are we sure that you don’t have to apply through one of the other websites to get the bonus offer?

  28. Lucy says

    This offer looks too good to be true. That’s because it is. I signed up planning a nice trip to Europe. What I found out was that no matter how many points you have, you still have to pay at least $650 in taxes, fuel surcharges and fees. They’re con-artists and I don’t think anyone should support them.

  29. lucky says

    @ Lucy — While there are huge fuel surcharges for travel on British Airways, they don’t impose them for domestic US itineraries on American, or for flights on LAN and Aer Lingus. Have you considered booking on them instead?

  30. Beck says

    There are benefits to using this Card. I flew my neice in for a funeral from Bangkok to Chicago. One stop in Japan. I was charged a $15 surcharge and all went well. This was coach. So if you avoid going to Great Britain and using “partner carriers” this is a great card. Also, I flew myself and two daughters from Chicago to Denver over Easter (15000 avios and $5/ea ticket). Bargains!

    I did not get an additional 50K miles upon my first year anniversary. I’m calling!

  31. Phil says

    Some time ago, I cheerfully signed up for the British Airways Visa card, with its offer of 100,000 miles and – if I charged $30,000 to the card in the first year – a free companion ticket. I guess I should have listened to my old ma’s sage advice that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

    I duly ran up the charges and received the companion fare. Thinking it would be great to take my wife somewhere on an international first-class ticket – after all, BA prominently features “quotations” from fliers saying what a great experience they had doing just this – I tried to book something – anything – with my miles and companion ticket. Only to find that international first-class is NEVER, EVER available, on any route, even 11 months in advance.

    I finally settled for Club World (i.e. Biz Class) tickets to Greece, and was stunned that this so-called “free” flight came with a staggering TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS in “fuel surcharges”. I could have flown us both there in coach for less than that.

    As if that wasn’t insulting enough, BA now emails me to tell me that I can reserve a seat in advance for anywhere from $34 to $98 per seat, per flight – and this is for Business Class!

    Which leads me to ask: why does ANYONE join the British Airways frequent flier program? It is an astonishing ripoff from start to finish.

    Disgustedly yours…

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