Maximizing The British Airways 10% Visa Discount

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One of the long standing perks of the British Airways Visa Signature® Card is the ability to receive a 10% off discount when purchasing flights on British Airways.

In theory this is a “limited time” offer, but was a feature of the card when I first applied for it in 2011, and it seems to keep being brought back. However, it’s something I’d forgotten about until recently, and figured it might be helpful to go over what I think are the best ways to maximize the 10% discount.

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The 10% discount is taken on the total fare – which includes taxes, fees, fuel surcharges, etc. You do have to be an US based British Airways Visa cardholder, and must be flying a roundtrip from the United States.

The discount is valid for up to eight passengers, and is valid in any cabin of service. All flights must be operated by British Airways or OpenSkies.

As an example, let’s say you’re interested in flights between Los Angeles and London this fall:

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In order to receive the 10% discount on British Airways flights, you’ll want to click through the portal at ba.com/chase10.

Once there, you’ll select your flights. Unlike many portals, availability and pricing seem to match what is otherwise publicly available, so you’re not being forced into more expensive flights in order to take advantage of the discount code.

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After selecting your flights, you have the option to enter the promotion code, CARDOFFERU, at the bottom of the screen.

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The new total is then shown, which reflects the discounted price.

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On the surface, this isn’t that fantastic of a discount.

Granted, 10% off is better than nothing, but using this on economy fares is typically going to save you ~$100.

The best way to maximize the 10% visa discount on British Airways, in my opinion, is by booking a higher class of service, and then using Avios to upgrade.

I typically encourage people not to use miles to upgrade when they’re purchasing their own ticket, but airlines with high fuel surcharges are a bit of an exception.

Breaking down the earlier fare between Los Angeles and London, you can see that over $700 of the fare is comprised of taxes, fees, and vicious fuel surcharges:

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If you were to redeem miles for these flights, you’d need 50,000 Avios for the roundtrip flight in economy, and would still be on the hook for ~$710 in fees!

I value British Airways Avios at 1.3 cents each, so 50,000 Avios would be worth about $650 to me. So the “relative” cost of an economy award would be ~$1360.

That’s hardly a bargain, and is a terrible use of miles.

Alternatively, you can use your discount code to purchase Premium Economy tickets. For the exact flights we were looking at earlier, Premium Economy is $1264, once the discount is factored in.

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That’s already a better value, in my book, and even Premium Economy is going to be an improvement over coach for an 11+ hour flight.

Best of all, upgrades from premium economy to business require relatively few Avios. Given how easy it is to accrue Avios, this can be a great way to secure premium cabins on more direct routes, and can take some of the sting out of paying high fees for British Airways flights.

British Airways has a ridiculous chart outlining how many Avios are needed to upgrade on a given route:

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That’s far too complicated, in my book, and the bottom line is that upgrades from premium economy (World Traveler Plus) to business (Club World) are just 12,500 Avios between most of North America and London.

Because British Airways has a distance-based award chart, redemptions from the East Coast are slightly less, so between New York and London you’d be looking at 10,000 Avios each way.

Upgrades To London From:Economy to BusinessPremium Economy to BusinessBusiness to First
East Coast
(New York, Washington Dulles, Miami, etc.)
20,00010,00020,000
West Coast
(Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, etc.)
25,00012,50025,000

British Airways is very good at managing their inventory close to departure, and it’s not unusual to see five or more business class seats a day or two prior. So if you are taking a cruise, or otherwise have fixed dates, this can actually be a really strategic use of miles.

Even factoring in the more expensive base ticket, by going this route you’re still coming out ahead, as far as I’m concerned. You’re only spending a few hundred dollars more than you would for an economy award ticket, half the Avios, and you earn miles.

It can also occasionally make sense in some situations to use this approach to upgrade from Business to First.

Over Thanksgiving, for example, business class fares are relatively less expensive, and there are often reasonable fares in summer as well.

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This certainly isn’t a bargain, and is more than I would ever consider spending personally, but  in comparison to paid first class this is a reasonable alternative.

Keep in mind that in many cases, you’re not going to see upgrade space at the time of ticketing. Space may not open up until a day or two prior to departure, so you’ll want to make sure you’re comfortable with your “back up option” just in case.

Have you used the 10% off benefit offered with the British Airways Visa Signature® Card? What do you think the best value is here?

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Comments

  1. Awesome article, thanks for pointing out 🙂
    Especially the second part – to use miles for upgrade from PE to J… !

  2. It looks like you can do a double upgrade too, no? I realize BA F might not be the best TATL F but it doesn’t seem like a terrible redemption if you can make it work and would have to pay the fuel surcharges regardless too.

  3. @AdamH

    BA F is totally fine…I would fly them again.
    It is their biz that is so dreadful… I do not understand people who fly it voluntarily.

  4. Not sure if you can open one with a US address but the Avios (not the BA site but avios.com – ) currently have a 50% sale on 21 routes. 10000 miles and £149 per economy sector from the East Coast to London is, to my mind, not a bad deal. 12500 from the West Coast + the fee isn’t bad either. Granted, it’s still ridiculous that they have these fees, but at half price this makes it, almost, bearable,

    Just to put some perspective on the next cabin upgrades. Economy to Premium Economy is a waste of space. Principally, because you can’t upgrade all the buckets. PE to CW is, in my opinion, well worth it. Primarily, because I can upgrade any fare (even a sale) and still get he miles for PE. For example, if I fly book Gatwick to Barbados in PE in a sale for around £800 return and use 25000 miles to upgrade, I’ll get 12600 miles back (as a Bronze). £800 and 12500 miles for a BA ‘reward’ flight isn’t that bad.

    Although, I should add that I generally try not use my miles on BA flights and would much rather fly somebody like Air Berlin to JFK for less. My last trip to Barbados was LHR-DUS-JFK-MIA-BGI-MIA-DUS – LHR which almost cost about the same as the ‘tax’ BA wanted for a LHR-JFK one way in business (and I paid for JFK-MIA-BGI-MIA and the LHR-DUS return).

    Sorry, digressed a bit 🙂

  5. When paying cash but upgrading with Avios, is it possible to credit miles to another airline (like AS)?

  6. @Gregory

    I’m almost certain it’s not. afik, an Avios upgrade is consider a reward ticket, or at least that’s what BA have told me when I’ve tried to change a booking. Unless it’s possible to switch schemes after you’ve checked in? But that’s one for the experts.

  7. @ Gregory @ David — Absolutely, though be prepared to have to submit your original receipt to the mileage program, as the boarding pass will no longer show your purchased fare code.

  8. @lucky — By the point I have a boarding pass (and original receipt), presumably the miles would already be destined to credit to BA (since I would assume my Executive Club number would have to be associated with the booking to allow the Avios upgrade)? I’m wondering if it would be possible, after the upgrade is made with Avios but before flight time, to change the FF number on the booking and have it successfully credit to AS. (Feel like I’ve done things like this before with the AY site, but I’m not sure how the upgrade might affect things.) Thanks!

  9. @Lucky

    Fair point! But I’ll have to disagree on the ‘Avios rich cash poor’ bit. If you are Avios and cash poor (and don’t mind economy) then a half price economy redemption sale is not that bad a deal. A friend of mine is over the moon to have booked a LHR-ORD return for 20000 and £298 rather than the £800 it would have cost otherwise. To see his daughter, when otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to, to him is worth it. Although that probably falls into the ‘specific use’ category.

    Disclaimer: I, on the other hand, spent almost as much and 50000 on a one way from LAX-LHR purely to try out BA’s A380 CW product – shame I can’t upgrade a reward seat. Personal choice/each to their own.

  10. Ben, I had pe booked on yvr-lhr-ala and was told that in addition to miles I would have to pay difference in yq which was quite substantial. BA charges different YQs for different classes and I was told that I would still be responsible for the difference. I decided just to fly pw which was ok.

  11. Great post! Does anyone know if it’s possible to make a booking for someone else and use your BA visa and your adios poi ts to upgrade the other person?

  12. I have a feeling that you have never done this.
    You’re missing taxes/fees associated with upgrade from PE to WC.

  13. @ Gregory — Haven’t done it personally, but checked with friends who have, and they were able to credit miles to Alaska and American without issue. You don’t have to associate your Executive Club number with the record, as anyones Avios can technically be used to upgrade the ticket.

  14. @ Komal — The cardholder has to be traveling in order to receive the 10% discount, but you can use your Avios for anyone.

  15. Taxes are higher on a premium economy ticket than on economy. The UK charges a higher rate of tax on anything above economy.

  16. Big question on the upgrade from premium economy to Club World – how limited is the availability? That is nearly always the catch on getting into business or first with miles.

  17. I just took two premium economy flights on British Airways from JFK to LHR – I’m not sure I get the utility on booking F or even Club World on that particular route. The flight is about 5 and a half hours from NYC to LHR and 7 hours back. I did both flights during the day – the premium economy seat and IFE are all I really need to have a comfortable flight. I guess a better English Tea service may be nice, but I’d rather take two round trips from NYC to LHR in Premium Economy than take one in F.

  18. Ok, so allow me to pose another question/twist regarding this. I was planning on achieving the BA 30,000 spend companion pass and doing a First Class JFK-LHR flight, and using the companion pass with a buddy, and we agreed that he would pay the high extra fuel/tax charges (which should be 1-2K). The questions would be, would a 10% discount apply if a BA visa was used for paying those charges, and also, would it be just a better deal to use the companion pass for premium economy seats (as suggested above) and use miles to upgrade both? Is this possible?

  19. @ VG — Depending on the route it’s not great in advance, but last-minute is typically plentiful.

  20. @ regan — The companion certificate is only valid on award flights, and this discount is only valid on revenue flights. So they’re entirely separate.

  21. @ Lucky – I believe others are correct in saying that upgrading from Y/Y+ to J/F will require a significant hike in YQ (e.g. for LAX-LHR, Y! for Y/Y+ is $458 but goes up to $904 for J/F). I tested it with a random booking (AUS-LHR r/t) and BA site gives $1,276 in taxes+fees which implies $904 YQ. Granted, it still may be worth it for a longer trip but something to keep in mind.

  22. Lucky,

    Is it possible to upgrade on BA with Avios if the tix are purchased with the AARP Discount?

    Also, is it possible to do the same on a BA partner?

    Thanks for the help.

  23. @ Joan — You can upgrade a BA ticket if you used the discount. However, you can’t upgrade partner tickets if you booked on BA ticket stock.

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