Travel Tuesday Top 10: Benefits of the British Airways Visa

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Update: The offer mentioned below for the Platinum Card from American Express has expired. View the current offer here.

Update: The offer mentioned below for the British Airways Visa has expired. View the current offer here.

The British Airways Visa is one of the most lucrative travel credit cards on the market what with periodically high sign-up bonuses, a host of valuable perks and benefits, and the ability to accrue Avios in British Airways Executive Club which, like every frequent flyer program- has some weaknesses, but also some incredible strengths. The current offer, scheduled to be pulled in early February, is 50,000 bonus Avios after you make $2,000 in purchases within 3 months of account opening. These days, generating spend is as easy as ever with Bluebird and many other prepaid cards that can be used to pay expenses (like taxes) at much lower rates than we’ve ever been able to.

When I ranked and valued the top Chase credit card offers, this one came in as #2, with a potential value of $1,612- $2,612 depending on how much you leverage the card benefits. This post sums up the benefits directly related to the card, but if you want to learn more about maximizing Avios in general, make sure you read our Maximizing Avios series: Master FAQ Post on British Airways 100,000 Mile Offer, Spotlight on Taxes and Fees, Distance-Based Awards, Travel Together Companion Ticket, Household Accounts, Using Avios to Upgrade Paid TicketsSave Money on Fuel Surcharges by Transferring British Airways Avios to IberiaUsing Avios For Non-Flight Redemptions.

1. The Bonus: It only comes around once or twice a year, and there’s no guarantee it’ll ever be back, so if you have considered getting the British Airways Visa, now is the time to do it since it currently it carries a sign-up bonus of 100,000 Avios. Cardholders earn 2.5 Avios per $1 on British Airways purchases, and 1.25 Avios per $1 on other purchases, so if you’re going for that full bonus, you’re earning at least 125,000 Avios, more than enough for a roundtrip business class ticket from the US to Europe.

2. “Travel Together” Companion Ticket Redemptions in Business or First Class: One of the main benefits of the Chase British Airways Visa is the “Travel Together” companion ticket. This is an example of a credit card calendar year spending threshold bonus. You  earn one of these get when you spend $30,000 within a calendar year. Unlike many other companion tickets, though, the “Travel Together Ticket” works a little differently. Rather than having to buy a full-fare ticket and get the second one for free, you use this one in combination with an award redemption, so you’re basically getting two half-price awards. The true value in this lies when you redeem for premium awards like business or first-class seats since British Airways taxes and fees are expensive, so if you were just to use this for coach tickets, you wouldn’t be saving that much money. Just to keep in mind, the travel must be solely on British Airways (no Oneworld partners), the cardholder must be on all legs of the exact same itinerary as the companion, itineraries must be roundtrip and originate and end in the US, vouchers are good for 2 years after issue, and only one Travel Together ticket can be earned per card account per year. To see how you can pull value out of this, take the example of a Philadelphia-London round trip in first class  next month.

You essentially get two award tickets for the same mileage as one.
You essentially get two award tickets for the same mileage as one.

A single first class award ticket costs 120,000 Avios and $1,151, but using the Travel Together ticket, you’re still just paying 120,000 Avios and then $2,302 for both tickets.

That same ticket would cost $11,529
That same ticket would cost $11,529

Those same tickets are going for $11,529. Each. So your 120,000 Avios are worth a whopping 17.3 cents each – a truly great value if you don’t mind shelling out for BA’s exorbitant taxes and fees. But this example makes it clear why it would be worth it to do so.

3.  1.25 Avios per dollar spent. Most airline mileage earning credit cards  only give 1 mile per dollar spent, but the base rate on the British Airways Visa is 1.25, which essentially is a built-in 25% bonus. The earning on British Airways purchases is 2.5 Avios per dollar spent.

4. 10% Cardholder Discount: Among many potentially valuable lesser-known perks cardholders of the British Airways Visa get 10% off any British Airways flight when you book tickets with your card using the promo code CARDOFFERU from now through December 31, 2013. And that 10% doesn’t just come off the base fare, but off all the taxes and fees as well – which can represent huge savings, especially considering these taxes and fuel surcharges even on economy tickets can range up to over $600 – and that it covers up to 8 friends and family members traveling on the same flight Plus you still earn 2.5 Avios per dollar spent on BA tickets when you use the card. Just note that the 10% discount is only off fares, taxes and surcharges, not off baggage or seat selection fees, and only on British Airways flights, not codeshares. You must also be a US resident paying in US dollars with a valid British Airways Visa card issued by Chase and travel must be from the US to London and beyond.

The 10% cardholder discount is one of the card's most valuable benefits.
The 10% cardholder discount is one of the card’s most valuable benefits.

5. No Foreign Transaction Fees. This card is a great choice to take abroad with you because it doesn’t levy foreign transaction fees. Many credit cards charge 2.7- 3% just for using the card abroad, which totally negates the value of any points/miles earned.

6. Smart Chip Technology (Chip & Signature) In addition to no foreign transaction fees, it has built in chip-and-sign SmartChip technology. For those of you who don’t know, a SmartChip is embedded in a credit card kind of like the ones in Europe, which support “chip and pin” transactions where you just insert your card into a reader and enter a pin and your charge is done. This one still requires a signature, but it makes transactions quicker when using it abroad, especially at machines that only take chip cards. Ths way you can be sure to collect points by making charges at places where you might not be able to otherwise like at restaurants and public transportation machines like metro/subways, public bike systems and parking meters.

Having a SmartChip makes it easier to use this card abroad.
Having a SmartChip makes it easier to use this card abroad.

7. Michelin Dining Promotions: In 2011 and 2012 Chase and British Airways offered up to $100 statement credit for dining at NYC Michelin restaurants. I was able to take advantage of both, which more than made up for the $95 annual fee each year. No news yet on it coming back in 2013, but if I was a guessing man, I’d say yes since it was a very popular promotion with cardmembers.

8. Visa Signature Hotel Benefits: The British Airways Visa is a Visa Signature card, which means you get a whole bunch of separate benefits like their Luxury Hotel Collection program (which I just used for a bunch of perks at the exclusive 12 Apostles hotel) and even a Sonoma Wine program that gets you free tastings and discounted shipping at top wineries in Sonoma. 

Some Visa Signature benefits in cheap hotel cities like Vegas can outweigh the entire cost of the room!
Some Visa Signature benefits in cheap hotel cities like Vegas can outweigh the entire cost of the room!


9. 24/7 Concierge Access: Another useful Visa Signature perk is their concierge service that 800-953-7392 (U.S.)
630-350-4551 (collect outside the U.S.) that can help with everything from restaurant recommendations and reservations, Travel arrangements, Business-related assistance such as conference and hospitality service and more. Generally only high- annual fee cards like the Amex Platinum provide such services, so to get it on a $95 annual fee card is a nice perk- even if you only use it a couple times.

10. Flexibility in Combining Avios: While not necessarily a perk of the credit card, if multiple people in your family/ circle of friends get the credit card and sign-up bonus, you can pool the miles together in a central account and redeem for awards using British Airways’ Household Account feature.
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