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This is the next installment on my new Maximizing British Airways Avios series. Other posts include Master FAQ Post on British Airways 100,000 Mile Offer, Spotlight on Taxes and Fees, Distance-Based Awards, Household Accounts, Using Avios to Upgrade Paid Tickets, The Avios and Cash Option, Save Money on Fuel Surcharges by Transferring British Airways Avios to Iberia, Using Avios For Non-Flight Redemptions.
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – British Airways Visa
One of the main benefits of the Chase British Airways Visa is the “Travel Together” companion ticket you get when you spend $30,000 within a calendar year. That’s no small amount of money, but let’s put it in context. For the current 100,000-Avios bonus, you get 50,000 Avios with your first purchase, another 25,000 Avios when you hit the $10,000 spend mark within a year, and an additional 25,000 if your total spending hits $20,000 within that year. So if you’re putting all your expenses on the card and aiming for that $20,000 mark, you might be within striking distance of the $30,000 threshold necessary to score this ticket.
Now, there are a lot of offers for “free companion tickets” from credit cards and after reviewing the terms and conditions, I usually come to the conclusion that the companion tickets are of little value. In fact, so many of them require expensive fare classes – often more than twice the price of a cheap ticket – that the value and purpose of the “free” extra ticket is totally negated.
The BA Visa Travel Together Ticket works a little differently, because you use it in combination with an award redemption instead of a “buy one get one free” situation. In my opinion, the true value in this lies when you redeem for premium awards since BA taxes and fees are so expensive that if you were just to use this for coach tickets, you wouldn’t be saving that much money.
Let’s take two examples. For the first, say you wanted to get from Philadelphia to London in business class. That award prices out at 80,000 Avios plus just under $1,100 in taxes. If two award seats were available and you wanted to use your companion voucher, you’d book the first seat for 80,000 Avios and get the second seat for 0 additional Avios. You’d only have to pay the taxes and fees on both tickets, so just about $2,200 total for two business class seats to London. Not bad, especially considering these tickets can cost in the ballpark of $4,000-$5,000 each.
For a second example, if you wanted to redeem 150,000 miles for a Los Angeles to London First Class flight and $1,173 in taxes/fees, you could use the Travel Together Ticket to get another First Class ticket for 0 additional miles and an additional $1,173 in taxes and fees. Overall, two First Class seats for 150,000 miles and $2,346 – that’s still a chunk of cash, but I’d say it’s an amazing deal considering these tickets would cost almost $15,500 each. In essence 150,000 Avios save you $28,654 or a whopping 19 cents per Avios!
1) The Travel Together Ticket must be used on British Airways flights only – no Oneworld partners or codeshare flights. This means all flights go through London and will have $600+ fees.
2) All flights must originate and end in the United States.
3) The cardholder must travel on the entire itinerary
4) The companion must be on the exact same itinerary as the cardholder
5) These are only good on roundtrip awards
6) Vouchers are valid 2 years from date of issue (and usually arrive electronically 4-6 weeks after you earn it)
7) Vouchers will be posted to your online account and can be redeemed online (unless you have a Household Account–which I’ll discuss in a later post–and redeem for someone outside of your household)
8 ) You can use the vouchers for mixed itineraries, like coach on the outbound and business class on the return
9) Open jaw itineraries can be booked over the phone
10) A cardholder can only earn one (1) companion voucher per calendar year
11) No Avios can be earned on the voucher
12) Additional cardholders on the account are not eligible to qualify for vouchers
13) Outbound travel must take place before the voucher’s expiry date, but inbound travel can take place beyond the expiry date
You can see the full terms and conditions here.
You only have until December 31, 2012, to hit the $30,000 qualifying threshold, leaving just 8 months left in the year, so if it’s not in the cards (so to speak) for this calendar year, you can start planning ahead to 2013.
That covers the basics, but if you have other questions, feel free to post below. Overall, these companion certificates can save you major miles, but they aren’t for those looking to minimize cash outlay on awards. Plus, you earn 1 Avios per dollar with the BA card, so if you get the 100,000 mile sign up bonus and spend $30,000 during the remainder of 2011, you’ll end up with 130,000 miles, which, with the Travel Together Ticket, would equal two First Class tickets to London. Not bad, since, as we saw, those tickets alone can cost upwards of $30,000 (though who really pays that much, besides Madonna)?