Is The British Airways Card Worth It?

Filed Under: British Airways, Chase
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The British Airways Visa Signature® Card is a pretty compelling credit card that a lot of people are eligible for. It has a generous welcome bonus, Avios can be invaluable for short-haul redemptions, the card has some unique perks, and it’s easy to complement this card with another one that earns Membership Rewards or Ultimate Rewards points.

So in this post, I wanted to take a closer look at the benefits of this card, and whether or not the British Airways card is worth it.

British Airways Visa Card welcome bonus

The British Airways Visa Signature® Card offers a welcome bonus of up to 120,000 bonus Avios, structured such that you’ll earn 4 Avios per $1 spent on all purchases within your first year up to $30,000.

Personally I value Avios at ~1.3 cents each, so to me 120,000 Avios are worth ~$1560.

Is this new welcome bonus actually a good offer?

120,000 Avios sounds like a lot, but the new bonus on the card is actually not quite as good as the previous offer. The previous version of the offer was structured as follows:

  • 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening
  • 25,000 additional bonus Avios after you spend $10,000 total on purchases within your first year from account opening
  • 25,000 additional bonus Avios after you spend $20,000 total on purchases within your first year from account opening

In other words, if you spent $20,000 within the first year you’d earn a minimum of 120,000 Avios (100,000 Avios, plus an additional 20,000 Avios through spend). So under most circumstances the new offer isn’t actually better.

British Airways Visa Card eligibility

The welcome bonus on the British Airways Visa Signature® Card is available to those who don’t currently have the card, and who haven’t received a new cardmember bonus on the card in the past 24 months.

Keep in mind all Chase cards also have a 5/24 rule, whereby you likely won’t be approved for a card if you’ve opened five or more new card accounts in the past 24 months.

British Airways Visa Card annual fee

The British Airways Visa Signature® Card has a $95 annual fee. There’s no additional fee to add authorized users.

Earning Avios with the British Airways Visa Card

The British Airways Visa Signature® Card offers one Avios per dollar spent, and two Avios per dollar spent on British Airways purchases. Unless you’re trying to earn a companion voucher (as I’ll be talking about below), personally I wouldn’t put too much spend on this card.

Keep in mind that British Airways Executive Club is transfer partners with Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards, so it could make sense to put spend on one of those cards if you want to earn Avios. I’ll talk about that more below as well.


Redeem Avios for travel in Cathay Pacific business class

Redeeming Avios with the British Airways Visa Card

British Airways Avios are a unique points currency, given that they have a distance based award chart. This means that Avios are valuable for many types of award tickets where other programs wouldn’t be useful.

Here’s British Airways’ award chart with the cost of one-way travel (partner awards are booked at the “peak” level):

Zone // Flight DistanceEconomyPremium EconomyBusinessFirst
Zone 1
1-650 miles*
*Not available in North America
6,0009,00012,50024,000
Zone 2
651-1150 miles
9,00012,50016,50033,000
Zone 3
1151-2000 miles
11,00016,50022,00044,000
Zone 4
2001-3000 miles
13,00025,75038,75051,500
Zone 5
3001-4000 miles
20,75041,25062,00082,500
Zone 6
4001-5500 miles
25,75051,50077,250103,000
Zone 7
5501-6500 miles
31,00062,00092,750123,750
Zone 8
6501-7000 miles
36,25072,250108,250144,250
Zone 9
7001+ miles
51,500103,000154,500206,000

There are so many great ways to redeem Avios, especially for flying shorter distances, where other programs have disproportionately high award costs.

This includes short-haul business class within Asia on Cathay Pacific, short-haul flying within South America on LATAM, domestic travel within the lower 48 US on Alaska and American, travel between the US mainland and Hawaii on Alaska, short-haul travel within Europe on British Airways, travel within Australia on Qantas, and much more. I find Avios to be invaluable as part of my overall miles & points strategy, as they’re useful in areas where other currencies aren’t.


Redeem Avios for travel on LATAM

No close-in ticketing fees

One of the things that I love about British Airways Avios is that there are no close-in ticketing fees. While American and United charge up to a $75 fee for making a booking within 21 days of departure, with British Airways you can make a booking until the day of departure without paying close-in ticketing fees.

This goes especially well with British Airways having a distance based award chart, since it means you can book last minute short-haul award tickets and pay just the Avios and taxes.

The ability to form household accounts

Often one of the big challenges people have with points is figuring out how to pool them, since you typically need enough points in a single account for a redemption. One of the cool features of the British Airways Executive Club program is that you can form household accounts. This allows you to pool the Avios you earn with up to six other people registered at the same address as you.

This is especially awesome in the context of a credit card sign-up bonus, since you can pool a ton of Avios in a single account if you have two people sign-up for the card in a household, etc.

10% discount on British Airways flights

One of the benefits of the best benefits of the British Airways Visa Signature® Card is that it offers a 10% discount on the purchase of a British Airways ticket by using promotion code CHASEBA10 at the time of booking. There are some restrictions, like you have to be originating in the US and traveling exclusively on British Airways metal, but you can save big money with this benefit.

Best of all, the 10% discount can be stacked with the AARP discount of up to $200 per British Airways business class ticket, which potentially translates to some significant savings, especially since British Airways often publishes great discounted business class fares.


I’ve used this benefit to book quite a few discounted British Airways business class tickets

A companion certificate after spending $30K in a year

One of the potentially cool perks of the British Airways Visa Signature® Card is that you can earn a “Travel Together Ticket” when you spend $30,000 on the card in a calendar year. Cardholders can earn up to one of these per year, and it will be deposited in your Executive Club account 4-6 weeks after you’ve completed the required spend.

With this certificate you can book a British Airways award ticket at the full cost of Avios and carrier imposed surcharges, and then for the second person you just have to pay the surcharges. While British Airways has hefty surcharges for travel on their own flights, this can still represent a great deal for first & business class travel, given how much those tickets would otherwise cost.

This isn’t for everyone, though it has the potential to represent a good value, and I know it’s a feature that many value.


Using a companion certificate for travel in first class can be a great value

My experience applying for the BA Visa card

I had the British Airways Visa Signature® Card years ago (it has probably been about five years), and the cardmember bonus is available to those who haven’t gotten the bonus on the card in the past 24 months.

So I applied for the British Airways Visa Signature® Card online. The application process was easy, and upon completion I received a notice thanking me for applying, and asking me to call in to finish processing my application. I wasn’t surprised by this notice, since I didn’t think I’d get instantly approved.

British-Airways-Application

Instead I viewed this as a positive notice, since typically you get this message when you’re likely to be approved, but they just need to verify some things or change credit lines around.

I phoned up Chase, and the representative went through my credit report, etc. He spent about 10 minutes analyzing my credit, and then said I could probably be approved, but asked if I’d be willing to move around some credit lines. This didn’t surprise me, given how much credit I have with Chase across my various cards.

The analyst asked how much credit I was looking for on the British Airways Visa Signature® Card. I said $10,000 would be ideal, and he asked if they could move $5,000 worth of credit lines from another card in order to accommodate that.

I said that was fine, and the entire call took about 15 minutes. The agent said the card was conditionally approved, but would have to go through a senior analyst, and that I should receive a final decision within a week or so. I received my card in the mail about a week after that.

Best British Airways Visa Card alternatives

Typically I suggest that the best substitutes for a card are ones with similar perks, though in this case I actually think transferable points cards would be better substitutes for the British Airways Visa Signature® Card.

British Airways Executive Club is transfer partners with Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards, so you could maximize your British Airways Avios by taking advantage of some of the bonus categories offered on these cards:

Bottom line

The British Airways Visa Signature® Card is relatively easy to be approved for (if you have excellent credit), has a generous welcome bonus, and comes with some perks that more than justify the annual fee.

It could be worth putting spend on the card to earn the companion ticket, but otherwise, I’d generally recommend using a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card in order to earn Avios, given the generous bonus categories.

But a lot of people should be eligible for the British Airways Visa Signature® Card, and it really does have an excellent welcome bonus and some useful perks.

Regarding Comments: The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.
Regarding Comments: The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Comments

  1. Sorry lucky… but 1 reason to not apply… BA sucks, and It’s going downhill. Terrible service in Y, not enough food nor toilet paper and retro 2-4-2 business, at least United has new seats, I don’t think BA will ever do so… to make record profits… charging a premium to fly a Low service Carrier (LSC)
    They should really get rid of Cruz

  2. Agree with Ethan, BA and avios suck. Got this card when it was 100.000 avios bonus…still have most of them. You just cant use them. And for short haul flights in Asia and Europe, most of the times the fees that BA charge you are more expensive that going with another airline and pay cash for the ticket. Ben, I understand that you make a living out of referral and I am ok with that, as long as you dont recommend a product that are not good for the customer. Anyways…what happened with Ford posts? He is no writing anymore?

  3. Another great reason to have avios readily available is if you travel with an infant. I just booked a couple of transatlantic flights where I used AA miles for my ticket and paid 5.60 in surcharges. AA wanted around 1K for the infant so I booked my wife on the same flight through BA and ended up paying 10% of miles and only $30.

  4. Got this card 3 months ago and decided to just go for the 75k bonus. Booked tickets from Lima to Rio on Latam. 5hr 25 min flight was $884 (12.5k miles each) in economy and $1,735 (25k miles each) in prem economy. Fees were just $26.50 per person. For our family of 4 we topped off our account with through AMEX MR’s and booked the prem economy.

  5. I’m definitely jaded—and definitely understand that without posts like this one you may not be able to provide the wonderfully helpful content that is otherwise elsewhere on the blog. But this (type of) post just reeks of an attempt to get people to sign up for the card so you could get a referral bonus.

    That being said, I think you’ve already at least mentioned the Citi AAdvantage cards multiple times in the past few days, but you could have a post about reduced mileage awards. There are some somewhat surprising destinations on the list for this quarter (e.g., SFO, EWR, etc.—the agent I talked with last night couldn’t believe it when I said I wanted to book a SFO-JFK award on reduced mileage). With the 7,500 mile discount and the 10% rebate, a roundtrip SFO-JFK is just 15,750 miles in Y, or EWR-LAX in J would be 38,250 miles.

  6. I would recommend against this card. I took it when it was with a sign-on bonus of 100,000 and I was able to get the companion ticket. Now reality is, you can only use the companion on a BA flight that originate from the US to the UK and if you want to book a business class, the fees you have to pay are horrific. Furthermore, the availability to use the companion ticket is almost inexistant!!
    The only good use of this card is if you want to get avios to spend on US domestic flights.
    I will not comment on the BA aircraft, business class situation and catastrophic economy class evolution as everyone is aware of it.

  7. Wish I could get my hands on this card! Sounds brilliant compared to the sign on bonus for the UK based BA Amex card. (5,000 avios sign on bonus or 25,000 if you want to get the premium card and pay £195 annual fee)
    Sadly I live in the UK.
    In defence of using Avios. They are absolutely brilliant when it comes to redeeming for flights on BA short-haul as reward flight savers and especially for other OW airlines. Examples include Aer lingus from Dublin. 26k Avios in Y to boston/ Chicago/ Washington and $100, or quadruple your miles for business class. Redeemed 75k Avios for a JAL business seat from HEL to NRT (+$15!). 9,000 Avios plus $5 for a domestic JAL flight to Hokkaido
    And most recently, booked flights with Qantas domestic for peanuts. Love it!
    Agreed Re: BA, has a long way to go getting back to being a premium airline. Can’t remember the last time I purchased a cash ticket for a BA flight and now just use them for positioning in Europe for Qatar flights.

  8. @ Ben — The 10% discount is great for premium fares, and the sign up bonus is decent.
    However, the “huge” value in Avios is 1.3 cpm (your valuation; mine is more like 1.1 cpm). The companion certificate is merely fancy toilet paper.

  9. Funny how you say it’s great when you want to sell the card, but paint a more honest picture when reviewing BA…

  10. @ BBTBphile — There are so many great uses of Avios that don’t involve flying British Airways. That doesn’t change my opinion of British Airways’ onboard product. I actively collect Avios for the purposes of redeeming on partners. That’s why almost all of the examples I shared are of partner redemptions. Typically there’s an inverse correlation between the quality of an airline and the quality of their frequent flyer program.

  11. MarkG,

    I’ve had little problem using Avios. I’ve had three free companion tickets in Club World to London, and have had a number of free flights in F or J, plus a round-trip to Tokyo on JAL.

    Is it the best currency out there? No. Is it still pretty good? I think so.

  12. @Lucky hate to say this again but u can barely see AA avability when needed… BA or Oneworld in general is terrible in US domestic travel.
    For US domestic award travel, a fact that i guess majority could agree is Avianca / United is the best…
    May be it is time for you to ping AA again to remind what a terrible job they did in award availblity?

  13. @Lucky — Correct me if I’m wrong, but when you say that the 5/24 rule doesn’t apply, isn’t that somewhat misleading? While it might not count towards GETTING this card (e.g.: “George” is at, let’s say 6/24, they may still receive this card), but the card will be added to the total (e.g.: “George” will now be at 7/24), and it will now take that much longer to get out from under the 5/24 rule. In other words, it may not apply to receiving the card, but it will still add to the overall total — something bloggers consistently fail to mention.

  14. Like @Martin I’ve used the Companion voucher most years to fly LAX-LHR return in J and F. It is definitely feasible to find pairs of award tickets just keep checking ba.com and be a bit flexible. Of course, those who don’t like the BA product leave more space for those of us who do……

  15. if you can work it to avoid BA, rock on. Last week LHR/ORD Christmas Day….in “First”, horrendous…. “what champagne do you have”, “oh the fizzy kind”, said with a slur… insert “gasp”….. terrible food, not a single proactive service element and when I asked to have cabin temp turned down from a steam bath the attitude can’t be described – well, a mixture of disqualify and the manure thrown in your face . When asked what I wanted for second meal (it’s akways afternoon teas…no???), “what do you have?”, “i don’t know know, I guess it depends how hungry you are, I’m just filling in and shouldn’t even be working today look at your menu I’m busy I’ll be back when you know what you want”…… seriously could you write a worse case customer service scenario????, no plates/dishes cleared and no bells answered, so I plopped them all in napkin and handed it to the group of snarky crew deeply ingrossed in some bs convo oblivious to job at hand…… people have put up with too much of this kind of bs in first from
    BA and I for one won’t put up with they petulant prissy bs! Oh, the CSD, in Santa Hat, for what it’s worth also very slurry on PA during announcements…….. pathetic …… don’t get me going on lounges …… disgracefully crap BA, your a national disaster

  16. @Lucky: please correct me of I am wrong. Last time I attempted to combine the 10% discount with avios and was told it is not possible.

  17. Just booked UA to London from Chicago next week in business using award miles. $75 late booking fee. BA, who I still have a ton of miles accrued on from my working days, wanted over $500 in taxes and fees. That’s just silly.

  18. JH,

    FYI the champagnes on board are described on the menu card you are given shortly after boarding. I suspect the cabin crew get a bit pissy when pax don’t bother to read the menu and ask “what have you got?”

    And very few people can tell one champagne from another anyway

  19. @Martin

    — In re: Champagne, speak for yourself; I know plenty of people (myself included) who can tell he difference.
    — In re: Menu items, just because it’s on the menu card doesn’t mean it’s actually onboard, as my recent flights on Alaska have shown.
    — In re: Customer Service, I’d merely say that there is never an excuse for “the cabin crew get[ting] a bit pissy.” Indeed, even so, how do you explain the comment by the FA that, “I’m just filling in and shouldn’t even be working today . . .”

    And in general, @Lucky is right about one thing: use Avios for flights on partner airlines that don’t include ridiculously high “fuel surcharges.” For example, on AA short -haul flights within the US; on Iberia, Qatar, etc.

  20. Martin – many carriers serve champagne on the ground that is not listed in their menu, to avoid duty (the menu/wine list had not been distributed at this point). I’m
    Not aware of a non “fizzy” champagne and so that didn’t set a goMy overall comments were to point out that the staff are not trained to provide what is a very sub standard first class product and service that would perhaps be more fitting in a diner and then the unprovoked rudeness, which is never justified – I didn’t complain as I found the CSD no better, and frankly unkempt. If your ok with all of this in a premium god bless you for drinking the BA best of British kool aid….. I’ll take my business elsewhere.
    Jason, I’m with you!

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