Best Credit Card For Earning British Airways Avios

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Update: This offer for The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN is expired, but there’s currently an opportunity to earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership. Learn more about the special offer here.

UPDATE: The offer for the Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN is expired. You can find the best current offer here.

Reader Bill sent me a question asking the following:

If I want to earn British Airways Avios, do you think I’m better off spending money on an American Express Membership Rewards Card and hoping for a transfer bonus or spending money on the Chase British Airways Visa Card?

The unique thing about British Airways Executive Club is that they’re the only program to partner with all three major “transferable” points currencies — American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest. In addition to that they have their own co-branded Visa Card issued through Chase.

So practically speaking you can earn British Airways Avios several different ways:

1) Earn British Airways Avios using the British Airways Visa Signature® Card

The British Airways Visa Signature Card is unique in that it offers a flat 1.25 Avios per dollar spent (and 2.5 Avios per dollar spent on British Airways, though I’m guessing that’s not especially useful to most in the US).

That’s a pretty good return for everyday spend, though there aren’t any category bonuses. The one big thing working in favor of using this card is that if you spend $30,000 on it in a calendar year you earn a British Airways companion certificate, whereby you only have to pay the taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges for the second passenger on a British Airways award.

2) Earn British Airways Avios using American Express Membership Rewards via the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express or The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN:

American Express Membership Rewards points convert to British Airways Avios at a 1:1 ratio, so on the surface you’d be better off using the British Airways Visa Signature Card. The major difference is that the Premier Rewards Gold Card and Business Gold Rewards Card both offer hefty category bonuses.

  • The Premier Rewards Gold Card offers 3X points for flights booked directly with airlines. 2X points at US restaurants, US gas stations, and US supermarkets. 1X points on other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.
  • The Business Gold Rewards Card offers three points per dollar in one of five categories (you can choose airfare), two points per dollar on the remaining four categories, and one point per dollar on everything else. Terms and limitations apply.

So not only do you have amazing earning potential in select categories, but on top of that American Express Membership Rewards often runs transfer bonuses for conversions to British Airways Avios. For example, through December 31, 2013, they’re running a 20% transfer bonus, though historically we’ve seen even bigger transfer bonuses than that. This year alone we’ve seen a 30% transfer bonus and a 35% transfer bonus, and last year we even saw a 50% transfer bonus.

So, for example, if you put $30,000 of airfare on the Premier Rewards Gold Card you’d earn 90,000 Membership Rewards points.  If you were to then make a transfer to British Airways during a 50% transfer bonus, those 90,000 Membership Rewards points would turn into 135,000 British Airways Avios, which is 4.5 Avios per dollar spent on airfare.

The only downside to the Membership Rewards cards versus the British Airways Visa Signature Card is that the annual fee on both of these cards is quite a bit higher ($175 per year, though waived the first year), and your spend wouldn’t count towards a companion certificate. To many people that’s a non-issue, since many think the best uses of British Airways Avios are for travel on airlines other than British Airways.

3) Earn British Airways Avios using Chase Ultimate Rewards via the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, and Ink Plus® Business Card:

Since British Airways’ co-branded credit card is issued by Chase, they’re also transfer partners of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. Points transfer at a 1:1 ratio, and we haven’t seen any transfer bonuses. That makes sense because Chase obviously doesn’t want to cannibalize business on their co-branded British Airways Card. It’s probably the same reason we haven’t seen any transfer bonuses from American Express Membership Rewards to Delta SkyMiles lately, since American Express issues both cards.

So without a transfer bonus why would you use one of these cards over the British Airways Visa Signature Card? Well the benefit would be the category bonuses.

  • The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers double points on dining and travel
  • The Chase Ink Bold and Chase Ink Plus offer 5x points on the first $50,000 spent annually at office supply stores, and on cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services; 2x points on the first $50,000 spent annually at gas stations and on hotels.

In general, however, I wouldn’t generate Chase Ultimate Rewards points with the intent of transferring them to British Airways. There are so many more valuable transfer partners, like United MileagePlus and Hyatt Gold Passport, and those points are much more difficult to acquire. Add in the American Express Membership Rewards transfer bonuses, and even with the category bonuses you’re not going to earn BA Avios as quickly through Chase.

4) Earning British Airways Avios with the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Card from American Express:

The Starwood Preferred Guest Cards accrue one Starpoint per dollar spent. One of the main benefits of these cards is that for every 20,000 points you transfer to one of their airline partners you get a 5,000 point bonus, meaning when transferring in the right increments you’re basically earning 1.25 points per dollar spent.

That being said, that’s the same earnings rate you’d get directly with the British Airways Visa, so that’s not much of a selling point, especially since you’re only getting the same rate in 20,000 point increments.

The other downside to transferring Starpoints to British Airways is that the transfers aren’t instant (unlike through American Express Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards), so if you’re looking to top off an account for an award you’re eying, it can take one to two weeks to do so.

Conclusion

British Airways Avios are so easy to come by are because of the number of transfer partners they have. Generally speaking I think the best credit card for earning British Airways Avios are the American Express Membership Rewards Cards (given the category bonuses and frequent transfer bonuses) and directly through the Chase British Airways Visa if you want to actually fly on British Airways (for the companion certificate).

While Chase Ultimate Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest are also a way to rack up British Airways Avios, I generally wouldn’t recommend transferring from them unless you just need to top off an account for an award. There are typically much better uses of those points currencies.

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Comments

  1. How convenient of Bill to ask a question that allows you to post so many affiliate links! Perhaps you should give Bill a little bonus from the money you make off this post. If you like I can ask a similar question about earning hotel points if you promise to make it worth my while.

  2. “To many people that’s a non-issue, since many think the best uses of British Airways Avios are for travel on airlines other than British Airways.”

    Ben, could you elaborate on this? Thanks.

  3. This is a dumb question- but I’ve never had an Amex Mem Rewards card – is there a fee to transfer your points to hotels or airlines? Like to transfer points to British Airways, when there’s a bonus – is there a fee charged for that? If so, how much? thanks!

  4. @Mary Elizabeth – There is no fee to transfer points from Amex Mem rewards card to other airlines. However, most of the transfer is NOT instant. It may take few days for transfer to occur.

  5. @Jared: You’re finally realizing that all these “questions” from readers are simply made up so the bloggers can pimp their affiliate links so often? Although I must admit, I like the creativity Lucky used this time. I assume “Bill” is his plumbing Bill, or his restaurant Bill, or his grocery Bill, or his car repair Bill. The Bill needs to get paid, so it asked a question which Lucky so conveniently answered along with 8 affiliate referral links. 😉 Lucky, once you’ve taken up Jared on his Hotel credit card offer, I’d be happy to e-mail you a silly question about cashback cards so you can then pump your Barclays Arrival, etc links some more too. 🙂

  6. Yea, I’m going to join the chorus in calling this a particularly bad post…

    I mean, dropping the “let’s say you spend 30K on airfare” like it’s common is ridiculous

  7. I found the information in this post extremely helpful. I have all the different currencies but not the BA card and I use Avios for short flights. There us no reason to be mean and attribute nefarious motives to the writer for presenting a comprehensive guide to getting Abios.

  8. @ David O — I’ll have a post about the best use of British Airways Avios soon, but basically British Airways imposes huge fuel surcharges when you book awards for travel on them. However, they don’t impose fuel surcharges for travel on Aer Lingus, Air Berlin, LAN, and many American flights, for example, which can be a much better use of Avios.

  9. Thanks Ben.
    BTW, I agree with Sofia. I have the BA card and the AMEX, and found the post helpful. I just got an offer from BA to double my miles if I spend $5,000 in the next 60 days, so it was also quite timely.

  10. Wow gregorygrady is really on a rampage this week. First Mommy Points now this. Can I ask why you read all these blogs if you hate them so much?

  11. My husband has the Amex Gold, with no fee the first year and a plan to close before the fee hits.

    If we “hold out” for a better BA bonus but lose, can he xfr his MR to my MR account? I hate to think he’d end up xfring 1:1 to BA. Thanks

  12. @ Colleen — Unfortunately there’s no way for him to transfer his Membership Rewards points to your Membership Rewards account, but he can transfer it to a mileage account in your name. Alternatively if he has another card that accrues Membership Rewards points he can associate those points with that card when he cancels the Amex Gold.

  13. @Jared and @gregorygrady – if you don’t like the posts, then why read them? There are plenty of other blogs out there that don’t offer as much information as Ben does. Maybe you could hang out there.

  14. Very good post.

    But how about having both ! One can easily transfer some MR to Avios to top of with a bonus and at the same time MS with my Chase Avios which gives me 1.25 points, a free companion pass and 10% rebates even if seasonal.

    Apply for both that is !

  15. @Lynn: Just because I can. Somebody needs to keep these bloggers honest. 😉 And Lucky is about the only stand-up blogger that doesn’t censor comments (actually MMA doesn’t censor comments, but he’s certainly no stand-up blogger, more like pond scum). Mommy deletes comments, gleff bans commenters, and I don’t even want to get into Kim Jong Delta Points.

    @bo: If you don’t like my comments, why do you read them? Surely there are other comments you can read and respond to?

  16. Lucky, Not sure if you know, but I have a couple of quick questions about the impact of BAEC country of residence on credit card rewards…

    – My partner’s BAEC account is US-based, and he has two earned & unredeemed Chase 241 vouchers. I know that if we move his BAEC account to the UK, he will no longer earn miles from his BA Chase card, but will the existing, earned vouchers also be invalidated?

    – Can Chase Ultimate Rewards points be transferred to a UK-based BAEC account? What about Amex Membership Rewards?

    As you might infer, we’re contemplating ditching the Chase BA card for our US spending and moving to the Chase Sapphire Card or an Amex. This way, my partner can get sign up for the BA UK Amex and get 241 vouchers originating in the UK (*much* more useful to me as that’s where we live most of the time) at only £10k spend, and use Chase Saphire or Amex as our US credit cards and just transfer the points into Avios.

    Thoughts?

  17. @ Brian — All great questions, I’m afraid I don’t have the answer to the first one about the companion voucher, though I’d guess they’d be invalidated. I believe you can still transfer Ultimate Rewards points to a UK based account, though.

  18. Thanks Lucky, what about membership rewards points, can US MR points be transferred to a UK BAEC account to your knowledge?

  19. Also, Lucky, do you know if ex-US restaurants are normally coded to earn the 2x Chase points, or if that’s only really good for the US?

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