Is The BA Visa Still Worth Acquiring?

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Reader Paul emailed me the following question (among other things):

In light of the upcoming Executive Club devaluation, should I still apply for the British Airways Visa Signature® Card?

Here are my thoughts:

BA Visa basics

For anyone not familiar with the British Airways Visa Signature® Card, it offers 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

Interestingly the application specifically states that the bonus offer is available to you as long as you have not received a new cardmember bonus for this product in the past 24 months. I had the card a few years back, so it seems I’d actually be able to re-apply and get the bonus.

In terms of the rewards structure, the card offers:

  • 3 Avios for every $1 spent on British Airways purchases and 1 Avios for every $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Companion certificate valid for second passenger on British Airways award reservation after spending $30,000 on the card annually

The Executive Club devaluation

British Airways Executive Club is indeed devaluing their award chart substantially for bookings made as of April 28, 2015.

Executive-Club-Changes

British Airways devalued their award chart in 2011 and we thought the world was coming to an end, though in the meantime we’ve found a lot of value as British Airways has switched from a zone based award chart to a distance based award chart.

I’m not trying to put a positive spin on this since it’s overwhelmingly negative, though I do tend to think collectively we are always a bit shocked when programs devalue, and over time we find some “sweet spots” that represent a great value.

The greatest selling point of Avios

From the perspective of a US points collector, the single greatest selling point of Avios is how useful they are for shorthaul award redemptions. Executive Club charges the following for shorthaul redemptions:

  • 4,500 Avios for a one-way economy flight of 1-650 miles
  • 7,500 Avios for a one-way economy flight of 651-1,151 miles
  • 10,000 Avios for a one-way economy flight of 1,152-2,000 miles

To “zoom out” a bit, here’s their current distance based award chart:

Avios-Chart

Meanwhile here’s the new distance based award chart, which has both peak and off-peak pricing:

New-Avios-Redemption-Chart

The important thing to keep in mind is that the single best use of Avios isn’t changing — you can continue to redeem Avios for shorthaul economy redemptions at the same cost as before.

Are those redemptions aspirational? No. But they’re practical, especially as the cost of last minute domestic airfare continues to skyrocket. I redeem Avios for domestic tickets multiple times a month, and can never have enough Avios.

Alaska Airlines 737 SeaTac Airport
Redeem your Avios for shorthaul travel on Alaska

The best way to earn Avios isn’t with the BA Visa

The great thing about British Airways Avios is how easy they are to rack up. That’s in no small part thanks to how many transfer partners they have including American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest. While the British Airways Visa Signature® Card already offers an above average return of 1.25x Avios per dollar spent, you can do even better than that by taking advantage of the category bonuses on other cards.

Long term if the goal is to rack up Avios I wouldn’t actually be directing my spend to British Airways’ co-branded credit card, but rather would be taking advantage of the category bonuses offered by some partner cards:

CardCurrent BonusDetails
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 within three months, plus an additional 5,000 points when you add an authorized user and they make their first purchase within three months• $95 annual fee, waived the first year
• No foreign transaction fees
• 2x points on travel and dining
The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card and Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American ExpressAmex EveryDay®: Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® points after you make $1,000 in purchases with your new Card in the first three months.
Amex EveryDay® Preferred: Earn 15,000 Membership Rewards® points after you make $1,000 in purchases with your new Card in the first three months.
Terms and Conditions apply
Amex EveryDay®:
• Get 2x points at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1X). Earn 1X points on other purchases.
• Use your Card 20 or more times on purchases in a billing period and get 20% more points on those purchases less returns and credits.
Amex EveryDay® Preferred:
• Earn 3X points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1X). Earn 2X points at U.S. gas stations. Earn 1X points on other purchases.
• Use your Card 30 or more times on purchases in a billing period and get 50% more points on those purchases less returns and credits.
Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express25,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $2,000 within three months
Terms and Conditions apply
• $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $195
• 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 from American Express OPEN50,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $5,000 within three months
Terms and Conditions apply
• $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $175
• 3X points on one category of your choice from the following: Airfare purchased directly from airlines; U.S. purchases for advertising in select media; U.S. purchases at gas stations; U.S. purchases for shipping; U.S. computer hardware, software, and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers. 2X points on the 4 remaining categories. 1Xpoints on other purchases. Terms and limitations apply. 3X and 2X apply to the first $100,000 in purchases in each of the 5 categories per year, 1X point per dollar thereafter.
Mercedes Benz Platinum Card from American Express50,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $3,000 within three months
Terms and Conditions apply
Annual fee: $475
• No Foreign transaction fees
• Lounge access with Delta, Priority Pass Select, and others; access to American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts; a $200 annual airline fee credit, 20% Travel Bonus when using Membership Rewards® Pay with Points
The Platinum Card® from American Express40,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $3,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months
Terms and Conditions apply
Annual fee: $450
• No Foreign transaction fees
• Lounge access with Delta, Priority Pass Select, and others; access to American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts; a $200 annual airline fee credit, 20% Travel Bonus when using Membership Rewards® Pay with Points
The Enhanced Business Platinum® Card from American ExpressEarn up to 75,000 Membership Rewards® points! Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
Terms and Conditions apply
• Annual fee: $450
• No Foreign transaction fees
• Lounge access with Delta, Priority Pass Select, and others; access to American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts; a $200 annual airline fee credit
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American ExpressEarn 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Then, earn an extra 10,000 bonus Starpoints® after you make an additional $2,000 in purchases within the first 6 months. Offer ends 4/5.• $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
• Get a 25% bonus when transferring 20,000 points to an airline partner
Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Card from American ExpressLimited Time Offer: Earn up to 35,000 bonus Starpoints® - Offer ends 04/05/2017. Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Earn an extra 10,000 bonus Starpoints® after you make an additional $3,000 in purchases within the first 6 months.• $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
• Get a 25% bonus when transferring 20,000 points to an airline partner
British Airways Visa Signature® Card50,000 Avios after spending $3,000 within three months• $95
• No Foreign transaction fees
• 1.25x Avios per dollar spent
• Companion certificate valid for second passenger on British Airways award reservation after spending $30,000 on the card annually

So, is the card worth acquiring?

Yes, I think. This is an easy sign-up bonus, and as long as you haven’t received a bonus on the card in the past 24 months, you should be eligible for the bonus. Back in the day we saw some 100,000 point sign-up bonuses on this card, though it has been a while since we’ve seen that. Besides that, the past couple of times they offered that bonus there was $20,000+ minimum spend required to get the bonus.

50,000 Avios with a low minimum spend is a darn good deal. 50,000 Avios is enough for more than 11 one-way tickets of up to 650 miles each — that’s a lot of potential value, given how much last minute shorthaul tickets can cost.

Personally, I’m even tempted to go for the companion certificate by spending $30,000 on the card. Even post-devaluation, a roundtrip first class ticket between New York and London will cost 136,000 Avios, so that would cover two passengers. You’d just have to pay the (exorbitant) taxes and carrier imposed surcharges, which are getting all too common nowadays.

British-Airways-First-Class
Redeem your companion certificate for travel in British Airways first class

Bottom line

I think the British Airways Visa Signature® Card is one that a lot of people are overlooking nowadays, given that it’s not quite as lucrative as it used to be back when it had mega sign-up bonuses.

Ultimately it’s a great card to acquire with points that are extremely practical. I mention this because I’m about to apply for this card again, given that it has been almost five years since I last applied for it.

Do you have the British Airways Visa Card? If not, did you have it at some point?

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Comments

  1. I’ve had this card, however I got rid of it recently once I realized how impossible it was to find award tickets in the class of service I wanted.

    I got the 2-for-1 cert by meeting the spending threshold, which expires in early 2016, and I was unable to use my points for the awards I was considering for travel early this year (I started looking a year ago, so I was looking a year out), and nor am I able to book the 2-for-1 award for travel this year.

    Note also with the 2-for-1 cert, OUTBOUND travel must be completed by the expiration date, assuming you can even find ability to use the 2-for-1 cert. One cannot book the trip to start after the expiration date. In my case, I will likely let the cert. expire without using it.

  2. I’ve had the card for years, earned a couple of companion certificates so far. I was able to book using one for this June/July, made the booking last year within a few days of the dates coming into range. I’m looking forward to my first confirmed First!

    Just signed my wife up for a card to get the bonus, need to build up our household balance again

  3. I’m getting rid of mine. The ridiculous surcharges on awards + annual fee + horrible award availability + almost no way to redeem companion certificate = byebye!

  4. Canceling mine when the fee is due next month. Avios have their uses, but for someone whose travel is mostly focused on a couple of “big” trips per year rather than lots of shorter ones, it doesn’t make sense to try and build up a big balance. After I use up what I have, I’ll just transfer UR points when booking with Avios.

  5. Just got approved through your link (hopefully it tracks correctly). Don’t plan on making any purchases after the sign up bonus (I have better cards for that), but 50k avios with no annual fee will come in handy when traveling DCA-ORD every few weeks to visit my fiance.

  6. I picked up the 100,000 bonus in 2013. Got the companion pass last year and used it for first JFK-LHR, nice three-day stopover in London, then business LCY-FLR. Wonderful 5th anniversary trip for my wife and me. Sure the fees were high, but availability was great. I’ll be holding out for another 100,000 bonus. Wouldn’t be surprised to see one this summer after the devaluation kicks in.

  7. Lucky, do you or one of your readers know the answer to this question..I called BA to cancel my husband’s BA cc (in the hopes of getting a new one sometime in the future) and the customer service agent told me that his miles (the ones he got as a bonus when he opened the card) would be taken back if he canceled the card. I thought she mistakenly thought there would be no activity on the account and assured her there is still activity. However, she said that the agreement is that you can keep the bonus miles as long as you keep the card. I have never heard of this and wondered if anybody else had…??

  8. I have saved thousands with the short-haul redemptions…and yah, I suppose that I could cancel the card (I got it back when they did the 100K miles bonus) and still keep my Avios, but….I like to be able to “load” at least two programs at once. I can do manufactured spend on my BA Visa, and rack up Avios; and then I can put my usual 3K (or more) a month spend on my Amex Plat; and then transfer those miles to Air Canada/Aeroplan, and book flights on United. Yah, I don’t like the 95/year fee…maybe I can persuade them to drop the fee when the card is up for renewal. And my GAWD do I love it when they run transfer bonuses from Amex to BA.

  9. Just received the BA credit card and have spent the minimum requirement of $2,000 and 50K miles have posted to my account. Where and how do I make reservations to fly domestically. Where do I find what is available. Many thanks,

  10. So-a deal if you fly flights of less than 650 miles. Maybe, if there’s availability.

    For the rest of us, BA is a complete waste of time. Ben might have skipped the adjectives and just listed sample fees for a TATL flight, which are often $400-500. Then there’s the crowded BA Business class configuration and tepid in-air service.

    On the plus side, a good airline if you want a beef filet cooked in an oven.

    If you read the BA posts on Flyer Talk, it seems even many of the die hard BA apologists are looking elsewhere. With decent LCCs now at the ready on many Europe routes, BA just isn’t a top choice anymore.

  11. Don’t waste your time and credit score impact with this card. The companion pass is next to worthless and there are many other ways to earn Avios.

  12. Totally agree with Lucky. We have racked up a pile of Avios, 500k+. And just keep getting more. Its time for us to score another card for spouse and myself. Family can use Avios via the Household account pooling feature. We use these points to fly to Hawaii, Portland, Alaska, New Orleans, and anything else with short distance or close booking. Never booked with BA, except when we had a LHR-MUC flight on them. 4.5k for a one way on BA. Best deal in the UK

  13. I’m a fan of this card not only when I was flying BA but for those who fly USAirways. My friend opened this card after I told him he could get 3 tix to Disney – he made the spend and actually ended up with 4 tix to Orlando. While not the best ROI IMO – for him, he loved it bottom line he saved $1,000! For me, I used the companion tix last summer to Paris/London with my niece. The fees were $1,200 per Club World ticket (ouch), however, in June the coach fares were over $2k for our itinerary so I saved with the redemption and obviously had a better flight experience. I’ve also redeemed the Aer Lingus BOS-DUB for 50k and a few one ways redemptions from London. For me, this has been a good card to have especially on the East Coast in USAirways land

  14. @ Eddie — Yes, they have a distance based chart, and you can use them for travel on BA, or otherwise for travel on airberlin or any of their other airline partners. Lots of value to be had.

  15. Just got a letter in the mail indicating that the visa will, as of April 30, start earning 3 avois for $1 of BA purchases (from 2.5) and 1 avois for $1 in all other spending (from 1.25). This along with the avios devaluation by BA really dings things…

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