Update: This offer for Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard has expired. Learn more about the current offers here.
The British Airways Visa Signature® Card is one of Chase’s popular co-branded airline credit cards. British Airways Executive Club is a great frequent flyer program, so in this post I wanted to take a closer look at this card, especially in light of the improvements that were made to it over the summer. Who should be applying for this card, under what circumstances is it worth spending money on the card, and more.
This is a card that I picked up just a few weeks ago, and it’s one that lots of other people would benefit from as well, in my opinion.
British Airways Visa Card Basics for January 2020
There is lots to love about the British Airways Visa Card. The card has a big bonus of up to 100K Avios, it has a reasonable annual fee, it offers statement credits when you pay carrier imposed surcharges, and it earns points that can be useful whether you’re looking to redeem for premium cabin international flights or domestic economy.
So let’s take a look at what you need to know about this card, and what the best alternatives are.
Welcome Bonus Of Up To 100K Avios
The British Airways Visa offers a bonus of up to 100,000 Avios. That bonus is tiered, as follows:
- Earn 50,000 bonus Avios after spending $3,000 within the first three months
- Earn an additional 50,000 bonus Avios after spending a total of $20,000 within the first year of account opening.
Personally I value Avios at ~1.3 cents each, so to me 100,000 Avios are worth ~$1,300.
Those 100,000 Avios don’t include the points you usually earn for spending, so that means:
- Spending $3,000 will earn you a total of 53,000 Avios, which is nearly 18 Avios per dollar spent
- Spending $20,000 will earn you a total of 120,000 Avios, so incrementally you’re earning nearly four Avios per dollar spent (for $17,000 of spending you’re earning an incremental 67,000 Avios)
Assuming you spend enough on credit cards to reach the $20,000 of spending, I think it’s absolutely worth it. There could also be big value in spending $30,000, because that earns you a Travel Together Ticket, which I’ll talk more about below.
Redeem your Avios to fly British Airways’ new A350
$95 Annual Fee
The BA Visa has a $95 annual fee. This is not waived for the first year, and there’s no additional fee to add authorized users.
The welcome bonus on the British Airways Visa isn’t available to those who currently have the card, or those who have received a new cardmember bonus on the card in the past 24 months.
All Chase cards are also subjected to the 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. Then it’s worth being aware of Chase’s other general policies on card approvals.
Earning Avios With The British Airways Visa Card
The British Airways Visa Card has no foreign transaction fees and offers contactless payment, but does the rewards structure actually warrant putting spending on the card? It might, but only thanks to additional bonuses offered by the card.
Earn 1-3x Avios Per Dollar Spent
The card doesn’t have terribly exciting bonus categories. You earn:
- 3 Avios per $1 spent on purchases with British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia, and LEVEL
- 2 Avios per $1 spent on hotel accommodations
- 1 Avios per $1 spent on all other purchases
This isn’t a card I would be putting much spending on unless you’re trying to earn a Travel Together Ticket, in which case it could definitely be worth it. More on that below.
British Airways Executive Club is transfer partners with Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards, so it could make sense to put spending on one of those cards if you want to earn Avios at an accelerated rate.
Redeem Avios for travel in Cathay Pacific business class
No Foreign Transaction Fees
The BA Visa has no foreign transaction fees, so it’s potentially a great card to use for purchases abroad.
The BA Visa Card features contactless pay technology. This means you can pay using your card without even swiping it whenever you see the contactless pay symbol.
How To Redeem British Airways Avios
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 (and conversely, aren’t useful when many other programs may be).
Here’s the award chart for travel on British Airways, Iberia, and Aer Lingus:
|Zone // Flight Distance||Economy|
Off Peak // Peak
Off Peak // Peak
Off Peak // Peak
Off Peak // Peak
*Not available in North America
|4,000 // 4,500||5,750 // 6,750||7,750 // 9,000||15,500 // 18,000|
|6,500 // 7,500||9,500 // 11,250||12,750 // 15,000||25,500 // 30,000|
|8,500 // 10,000||12,750 // 15,000||17,000 // 20,000||34,000 // 40,000|
|10,000 // 12,500||20,000 // 25,000||31,250 // 37,500||42,500 // 50,000|
|13,000 // 20,000||26,000 // 40,000||50,000 // 60,000||68,000 // 80,000|
|16,250 // 25,000||32,500 // 50,000||62,500 // 75,000||85,000 // 100,000|
|19,500 // 30,000||39,000 // 60,000||75,000 // 90,000||102,000 // 120,000|
|22,750 // 35,000||45,500 // 70,000||87,500 // 105,000||119,000 // 140,000|
|32,50 // 50,000||65,000 // 100,000||125,000 // 150,000||170,000 // 200,000|
Then here’s British Airways’ award chart for travel on partner airlines, excluding Aer Lingus and Iberia:
|Zone // Flight Distance||Economy||Premium Economy||Business||First|
*Not available in North America
The basic things to be aware of include the following:
- For the British Airways award chart, peak and off-peak pricing varies based on the day you’re flying
- Pricing is per segment, so no matter what type of award you book, you’ll pay individually for each segment
- Travel on British Airways and many partner airlines is subjected to carrier imposed surcharges, which is the frustration that many people have with the program
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 charges 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.
Avios are great for booking last-minute American award tickets
The Value Of 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.
British Airways Visa Card Benefits
There are some benefits to the British Airways Visa Card that could alone justify having this card. For some people, it will be worth spending money on the card to unlock some perks, while for others just having the card and not spending money on it offers sufficient benefits.
So let’s look at how those benefits work.
10% Discount On British Airways Flights
One of the benefits of the best benefits of the British Airways Signature Visa is that it offers a 10% discount on British Airways flights starting in the US when you book by March 31, 2022. Not only is the promotion valid for a couple more years, but odds are good that the promotion will be extended again.
To take advantage of this, just book through ba.com/chase10, and use your card to pay while using promotion code CHASEBA10.
If you fly British Airways with any frequency, this could cover the annual fee over and over.
Save on British Airways business class tickets with this benefit
British Airways Travel Together Ticket
One of the potentially great perks of the British Airways Visa is that you can earn a Travel Together Ticket when you spend $30,000 on the card in a calendar year.
This companion ticket 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.
It could be especially worthwhile to go for this the first year. In order to unlock the full sign-up bonus you need to spend $20,000, so at that point, it’s just an incremental $10,000 worth of spending to get the companion ticket.
The Travel Together Ticket can be worth it for first-class travel
Reward Flight Statement Credit
This is a new perk of the card, and it’s potentially awesome. One frustration many people have with British Airways Executive Club is the high carrier imposed surcharges that apply to many award tickets. Having the British Airways Visa can take some of the pain out of that.
If you have this card and redeem Avios for a reward flight, you can receive up to $600 in statement credits annually. You can earn up to three statement credits, as follows:
- Earn a $100 statement credit for an economy or premium economy booking
- Earn a $200 statement credit for a business class or first class booking
There are some basic terms to be aware of:
- You have to pay for the taxes, fees, and carrier imposed surcharges with the British Airways Visa in order to get the statement credits
- The booking must be for a transatlantic itinerary originating in the United States with the transatlantic portion of the ticket on British Airways (though it’s fine if a connecting flight is on a partner airline)
- One-way or roundtrip travel seems to be eligible
- The reservation must be made out of the primary cardmember’s Executive Club account, though it’s fine if someone else is traveling
- The statement credit will post within 45 days of the eligible reservation being made, and will be reversed if the ticket is canceled
The statement credit can take some of the sting out of award redemptions
Is The British Airways Visa Card Worth It?
The British Airways Visa Card is offering an excellent sign-up bonus. This can be worth it regardless of if you’re a big spender who can easily knock out the $20,000+ worth of spending, or if you just plan on qualifying for the 50,000 Avios after spending $3,000.
Personally, this isn’t a card I would use for everyday spending, though, since you can earn British Airways Avios at a better rate with other American Express or Chase cards.
- The card could be worth having if you fly British Airways with any frequency, since the value of the 10% discount will add up quickly
- If you redeem Avios on British Airways, the Travel Together Ticket could be well worth it, especially the first year, when you’re spending $20,000 anyway to unlock the full sign-up bonus
- The up to $600 in credits for carrier imposed surcharges can cover the annual fee on this card over and over, if you redeem Avios for travel on British Airways that originates in the US with any frequency
Best Alternatives For Earning Avios
- Both of these points currencies can be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to British Airways Executive Club
- Many American Express and Chase cards offer bonus categories that can earn you points at an accelerated rate
- Sometimes we even see transfer bonuses to British Airways; for example, this year we’ve seen a 40% transfer bonus from Amex and a 30% transfer bonus from Chase
With that in mind, which cards should you consider? Here are some of my favorites:
- The Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card (review) offers 3x points on dining and travel
- The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (review) offers 2x points on dining and travel
- The Chase Freedom Unlimited® (review) offers 1.5x points per dollar spent on everyday purchases
- The Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card (review) offers 3x points on the first $150,000 spent per cardmember year on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable and phone services, and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines
- The American Express® Green Card (review) offers 3x points on dining, travel, and transit
- The American Express® Gold Card (review) offers 4x at restaurants, 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 of spending per calendar year), and 3x points on airfare
- The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express (review) offers 2x points on the first $50,000 spent per calendar year
Comparison: Virgin Atlantic Card Vs. British Airways Card
While the cards are associated with two different airlines, it’s interesting to compare the cards issued for British Airways and Virgin Atlantic in the United States. I’ve talked a lot about the British Airways Card, so how does the Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard® compare? Here’s what you need to know about this card:
- It offers 1.5x miles per dollar spent, which is pretty great
- The card offers some useful perks 15,000 bonus miles when you spend $25,000 on the card per year, the potential to earn status with spending, and also the ability to earn an upgrade voucher or companion ticket with spending
Redeem miles for Virgin Atlantic’s A350 Upper Class
So both cards could make sense, I think it comes down to whether you fly British Airways or Virgin Atlantic more. Both cards can more than pay for themselves depending on how much you value the companion perks they offer.
I’d probably give the British Airways Visa the slight edge for the potentially richer perks.
British Airways Visa Card Summary
The British Airways Visa is one of the better co-branded airline credit cards out there, in my opinion. The card offers an excellent sign-up bonus, and it can be worth spending money on the card to earn a companion ticket.
Beyond that, the card can be worth having for the discounts offered on both paid tickets (up to 10% off) or award tickets (up to $200 in statement credits), which can cover the annual fee over and over.
However, when it comes to earning British Airways Avios long term, personally I’d much rather earn Amex or Chase points, and transfer them to British Airways. Not only does this allow you to earn points at a much faster rate, but it also gives you a lot more flexibility with your points.