Review: British Airways Visa Signature Card

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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 shorthaul 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. Here’s what you need to know about the card:

British Airways Visa Card welcome bonus

The British Airways Visa Signature® Card offers a tiered welcome bonus of up to 100,000 bonus Avios, as follows:

  • 50,000 bonus Avios after spending $3,000 within the first three months
  • An additional 25,000 bonus Avios after spending a total of $10,000 within the first year
  • An additional 25,000 bonus Avios after spending a total of $20,000 within the first year

The great thing about this welcome bonus is that it’s pretty lucrative regardless of whether you just plan on spending $3,000 within the first few months, or if you’re a big spender, and plan to spend $20,000 on the card within the first year.

Assuming you spend a lot on credit cards, the incremental spend math on this card works out very nicely:

  • If you spend $3,000, you’re earning ~17.7 Avios per dollar spent (53,000 Avios for $3,000 of spend)
  • If you spend $10,000, you’re earning an incremental ~4.6 Avios per dollar spent (32,000 Avios for $7,000 of spend)
  • If you spend $20,000, you’re earning an incremental 3.5 Avios per dollar spent (35,000 Avios for $10,000 of spend)

This is as good as the welcome bonus on the card gets, as we haven’t seen a better bonus in years. The spend thresholds for earning the full 100,000 Avios also don’t get lower.

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.

This card isn’t subjected to the 5/24 restriction, meaning that you can be approved even 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.


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 DistanceEconomy
Off Peak // Peak
Premium Economy
Off Peak // Peak
Business
Off Peak // Peak
First
Off Peak // Peak
Zone 1
1-650 miles*
*Not available in North America
4,000 // 4,5005,750 // 6,7507,750 // 9,00015,500 // 18,000
Zone 2
651-1150 miles
6,500 // 7,5009,500 // 11,25012,750 // 15,00025,500 // 30,000
Zone 3
1151-2000 miles
8,500 // 10,00012,750 // 15,00017,000 // 20,00034,000 // 40,000
Zone 4
2001-3000 miles
10,000 // 12,50020,000 // 25,00031,250 // 37,50042,500 // 50,000
Zone 5
3001-4000 miles
13,000 // 20,00026,000 // 40,00050,000 // 60,00068,000 // 80,000
Zone 6
4001-5500 miles
16,250 // 25,00032,500 // 50,00062,500 // 75,00085,000 // 100,000
Zone 7
5501-6500 miles
19,500 // 30,00039,000 // 60,00075,000 // 90,000102,000 // 120,000
Zone 8
6501-7000 miles
22,750 // 35,00045,500 // 70,00087,500 // 105,000119,000 // 140,000
Zone 9
7001+ miles
32,50 // 50,00065,000 // 100,000125,000 // 150,000170,000 // 200,000

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

This includes shorthaul business class within Asia on Cathay Pacific, shorthaul 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, shorthaul 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

Also keep in mind that British Airways doesn’t charge close-in ticketing fees, so Avios can be ideal for booking last minute domestic travel on Alaska and American, when you’ll sometimes otherwise be charged up to $75 for last minute bookings.

British Airways Visa Card perks

The British Airways Visa Signature® Card offers some other potentially valuable perks, including:

10% off British Airways flights

Those with the British Airways Visa Card can save 10% off the cost of a roundtrip ticket originating in the US when they pay with their card and use promotion code CARDOFFERU at the time of booking. This is a fantastic way to save money on the cost of a British Airways ticket, especially as this perk can be combined with the AARP discount of up to $200 per ticket.


This perk can help save you on the cost of a British Airways ticket

Travel Together Ticket

You can receive a Travel Together Ticket valid for two years when you spend $30,000 on the card in a calendar year, which can cover the Avios component of a British Airways award ticket for a second passenger (you still have to pay taxes and carrier imposed surcharges for both passengers). While there are high surcharges involved, this could represent a great deal for first & business class tickets, given how much those could cost if paying cash.

Also keep in mind that if you earn the full welcome bonus on the card you’ll have already spent $20,000, so you’d just need to spend $10,000 more to get a companion certificate, which isn’t that much incremental spend.


Redeeming a Travel Together Ticket for first class can be a great deal

No foreign transaction fees

The card has no foreign transaction fees, making this a great card for purchases abroad.

Best British Airways Visa Card substitutes

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:

Through November 15, 2018, Amex Membership Rewards is even offering a 40% bonus when you convert points into Avios, which can make your Amex points stretch even further.

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.

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Comments

  1. One issue with all Chase cards is the fear of Chase total shutdown. How do you evaluate the benefit of getting the card vs the risk that applying will trigger all your Chase cards being cancelled?

  2. I’ve thought about this card time to time considering how useful AVIOS are. Lucky, do you have / have you had / this card and have you ever earned the companion ticket? If so did you find it useful?

  3. @Jimmy Gottfredson – I’m not Lucky, but I have this card and did earn and use the Travel Together ticket for a trip in first class from Boston to Singapore with a 3 day stopover in London. It was a great value despite having to pay around $1,600 in taxes/fees.

  4. I have this card and use it as my non-bonus spend. If you have $10K a year of non-bonus spend, that’s 4.6 avios per dollar, which is the best non-bonus spend of any card I have seen. Even the 3.5 avios per dollar if you miss the initial bonus is the best non-bonus spend return around.

    You have to be thoughtful about your non-bonus spend because the difference between $9,999 and $10,000 or $19,999 and $20,000 is potentially a $200 points miss, but if you hit those thresholds, it is the best return on non-bonus spend around.

  5. I have this card and used travel together ticket to fly F from sfo to London to Johannesburg and back. I think around 340k points in F for two people for that long of a trip is worth it’s weight in gold despite paying a hefty tax. I think it cost around same amount of points using Delta points to go from Johannesburg back to SF for one person in business class!

  6. Would you argue that achieving this cards’ sign up bonus, along with the Iberia and Aer Lingus Avios card sign up bonus is a good way to accumulate a hefty portion of avios once completing the $10,000 in spend each? I believe you’ve mentioned in the past that avios from each program can be transferred amongst each other. I think the return on spend would be greater than lets say just solely using the Reserve for that same spend, even if it is bonused. Let’s say you only meet the $10k threshold on each: 225,000 avios for $30,000 in spend. Best case scenario if you solely used the Reserve for that spend would be 90,000 UR points which only translates to 90,000 avios (although the flexibility is slightly more valuable with UR but perhaps does not account for the gap between the two 225,000 – 90,000 = 135k net gain in avios.) Come to think of it, I do not believe there has been an Aer Lingus credit card review or mention on this site if my memory serves me correct. Also, now that I write all of this, I cannot even see anywhere on the Chase website that you can still apply for the Iberia card. Has this been closed to new applicants already?

  7. I have used the travel together ticket at least a half dozen times for First travel from BOS to Asia or Africa.

    Yes, the taxes can be high (380k + $3000 for 2 BOS to JNB in peak), but for the number of points and the availability, it can’t be beat. On most other accessible points currencies, 380k miles won’t get you 2 roundtrip business class BOS to JNB — nevermind in peak time with good availability.

    I’ve tried ANA, SQ, CX, etc, and I still think BA First, for the price and availability with the companion ticket, is the best value.

  8. I frankly think the card is a real waste other than the signup bonus. If you want to fly to South Africa, go on Cathay through Alaska Airlines. You can fly through Hong Kong for 70,000 miles each way in First. Even business class is just BritishAgony. The taxes and fees are ridiculous.

    I have had the card for years. I only keep it and sometimes fly BA because I can take advantage of the 10% off and can get some occasional great fares. Also, lots of Alaska Mileage. Not sure if it is still stackable with AARP. Still most of the time will use my Platinum Card to buy a ticket anyway.

  9. @nevsky are you saying one can fly from US to HK then to South Africa for 70k Alaska miles for one person in F? Or is it 140k in F one way and 280k for round trip for one person? it is still not bad given superior product when comparing Cathay F with BA F. With that said, unfortunately not possible to get two F seats in advance and I’m pretty sure my other half wouldn’t want to sit in J while I’m in F and vice versa…

  10. @Kevin. Correct. 140,000 round trip in F. 62,500 each way in J. Still a nice way to fly, even in business. Also, I think the taxes and fees are relatively small. Also, a stopover in Hong Kong is not too bad either.

  11. @David – you’re talking about earning a bonus, which isn’t non-bonused spend. After you earn this card’s bonus, toss it and use a card that earns transferable points.

  12. @Nevsky A few things:
    1) Alaska miles are really hard to get compared to Avios…you can get Avios from Chase, Amex, etc. So it’s not easy to get those 140k miles.
    2) It’s nearly impossible to find 2 seats in CX First anymore except at the last minute…so this doesn’t work for most points travelers.
    3) Cathay or SQ to Africa makes sense from the west coast. For those of us in the east, you aren’t going to fly to HKG or SIN to go to JNB/CPT.

  13. I wasn’t going to Wade into this but I’ve had this card for several years and have earned the companion pass but the pass is really hard to use effectively. I still like the card for certain uses but spending 380k in Avios (at say 1.5 cents even) is about $6k in value plus $3k in fees for east coast to JNB is kinda average in my book. The best use of Avios is short haul in Europe or on AA metal. God forbid you try to use them for short haul on routes like AMM-TLV or on premium cabins to or from LHR adding the UK taxes. Again it’s a good card but the companion pass is not one of it’s better benefits.

  14. Maybe for South Africa…just maybe. Asia can be done direct from the east coast any number of ways you all know for around that on AA or JL or CX and less through AK. Or ANA. None of those options have fees anywhere near approaching the (should be illegal) BA fees.

    I just priced two F BOS-HND and got 320k (1/2 of 640) + $4800+ in fees. Don’t make me laugh.
    How is 160K +2400 r/t a deal? AA’s partner chart for JL is 160k rt, direct, and a couple hundred. And that’s full price not BA’s “deal” and you can use Canadian gateways too. That’s not even the cheapest way to go to Asia, see AK comment above, and others.

    BA metal is a tremendous ripoff.

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