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 Distance||Economy||Premium Economy||Business||First|
*Not available in North America
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.
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:
- The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers 2x points on dining and travel, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card offers 3x points on dining and travel, and those points can be converted 1:1 to British Airways
- The Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers 1.5x points per dollar spent on everyday purchases, and in conjunction with select other cards, those points can be converted into Ultimate Rewards points, and then British Airways Avios
- The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express offers 3x points at US supermarkets (on up to $6,000 of spend per year) and 2x points at US gas stations, plus a 50% points bonus when you make at least 30 transactions per billing cycle, and those points can be converted 1:1 to British Airways
- The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express offers 2x points on the first $50,000 spent per calendar year, and those points can be converted 1:1 to British Airways
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.