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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.
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:
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.
After selecting your flights, you have the option to enter the promotion code, CARDOFFERU, at the bottom of the screen.
The new total is then shown, which reflects the discounted price.
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:
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.
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:
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 Business||Premium Economy to Business||Business to First|
(New York, Washington Dulles, Miami, etc.)
(Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, etc.)
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.
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?