Travel Tuesday Top 10: Benefits of the British Airways Visa

by on January 22, 2013 · 21 comments

in British Airways, Top 10

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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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Paul

    sounds like a great deal, why aren’t offers like this ever available in the UK?

  • thepointsguy

    My best guess is that competition is less fierce and the profit margins are lower in other countries. Doesn’t seem fair, but at least there are some decent credit cards in the UK.

  • Paul

    Another pure fluff advertisement article from TPG. You bring nothing new here, only rehash points you’ve talked about time and time again, to get more attention to your sign up bonuses!

    You are getting almost unethical too. Number 3 makes it sound like the earning rates are amazing, when we all know there are much better cards for earning points (Sapphire, Ink)

  • thepointsguy

    The site traffic has grown exponentially, so what may seem like a “rehash” to you, may be completely new content to someone else. I apologize if every single post isn’t completely new and entertaining, but I can’t please everyone.

    As for being unethical by stating “Most airline mileage earning credit cards earn 1x on base purchases”- how is that wrong? The Sapphire/Ink are NOT airline cards- they are transferable point credit cards.

    I was simply comparing the BA visa to other airline co-brand cards (the ones that deposit directly into your airline account). Yes, the United Club offers a 1.5 base miles on every purchase, but the annual fee is over 4x at $395.

  • Cory

    Then stop reading his blog! There are others who enjoy the feedback and reviews he posts. What we do not appreciate, however, is your negativity.

  • Teddy Winstead

    I did this, got my 100k miles + companion certificate.
    I’m finding that their award availability is garbage. Not as bad a DL, but pretty awful if you want to use your Avios to go any further than LHR.
    For instance – DFW-LHR – great. LHR-BKK, LHR-HKG, LHR-DPS, LHR-??? almost nothing or the dates that are available are like 6 weeks apart – even if you check 8-10 or 11 months out.
    And don’t get me started on using the miles to travel to Europe – LHR to anywhere in “Club Europe” = Southwest exit row.
    I understand there are great values are to be had for domestic travel in the USA, but I want to use my companion certificate (have to use BA metal) and get something great for my miles.

  • thepointsguy

    I would recommend searching for your US to LHR segment separately from the LHR- onward segment and then piecing it all together once you see what’s really available. But agree, BA availability on certain premium routes can be tricky

  • Jonatas Silva

    If you use your avios for the BA rewards flight saver program, which offers a flat fee on taxes and surcharges.

    Then you can get a lot of trips connecting through london or mardrid, for very short points and just $22.50 in taxes and fees one way.

    I booked a round trip Dublin to Moscow for 20k avios and only $45 in taxes and fees!

  • Jackcannata

    Is this card churnable? I cancelled mine in July 2012.

  • john K

    I didn’t read the T&C thoroughly, but I’ve spent the first $1,000+ and the statement posted, but no 50,000 avios points. At first, they tell me to wait 5-7 business days after close of statement, but now, they said I had to wait 4-6 weeks for the bonus to post as per T&C. Is this true??

  • Lyons

    I did this one last year and met the 30k spend to get my companion pass. Just booked 3 days ago Phoenix to London first class round trip for 150,000 miles, companion pass and $2,300 in taxes and fees. Listed price per ticket- $17,750.

  • Tracy Soldan

    It’s mostly due to legal limitations. Different countries have different laws. The UK has stricter limitations on credit offer incentives, such as minimum-spend sign up bonuses.

  • Zeke Kersey

    Hi Brian,
    I’d like to mention one of the specific Visa Signature Benefits, that of the extension of the manufacturer’s warranty. Though sometimes the third-party administrator of this benefit can be tiresome to deal with, it’s well worth it when your JVC flat screen stops working 14 months after purchase and 2 months after the JVC 1 year warranty ends. Though it took nearly four months to jump through the hoops of the warranty program, they did indeed cover a replacement TV up to the cost of the dead one. So that benefit alone is equal to nearly 6 years of the annual fee to me.

  • Zeke Kersey

    Jackcannata, I’d say it may well be churnable. In my case, I’d had a BA/Chase Visa for a few years and missed the 100K bonus the first time they did it (3 years ago if I remember correctly) and then the next time they did it I thought and thought about it and couldn’t find anything in the small print expressly saying “for new accounts only” (it may be different now so read through it) so I canceled my then BA card on a Thursday night and applied for the new one via their web-linked form 10 days later and got it with the 100K miles.

  • PJ

    this is where I first discovered a 100K sign on bonus on British airway card and started my 2MM+ miles/points collection. Still enjoy reading every post here

  • Gordon_mc

    It all sounds wonderful… but I’ve got TWO Companion Certificates / Travel Together Ticket awards, and am finding them to be pretty darn useless so far.

    The last couple of BA trips I’ve booked, I ended up using AA miles for instead of being able to use BA miles + a TTT, because BA has basically zero availability of such flights.

    e.g. Last August, I started looking for flights SFO -> LHR in Club World or First on BA for this June. After a few months of not seeing any availability, I booked BA first class via AA for 62.5k AA miles each way (good deal).

    I figured that maybe the TTT only becomes usable for flights booked with shorter notice – so to test that theory I’ve been monitoring the availability of SFO -> LHR Club / First flights using the TTT ever since. Guess what – I can use it if I fly next week, but other than that, I can get an outbound flight (with no return available – what good is that?), on ONE day in Feb, or ONE day in March … zero in April, May, June, etc.

    In case I was just misunderstanding how to use the TTT on their webpage, I called BA and asked them for help … and they confirmed zero availability.

    Right now I am having a hard time seeing the value in what I had originally thought would be a good perk. At least one of our BA cards (my wife & I have one each, to let us earn 2 TTTs per year) is likely to be cancelled before the annual fee is due this year, if I can’t find some way to get decent value out of the TTT.

  • Justin Jimenez

    I booked a ticket LHR-JFK in club world with the BA Visa but i forgot about the 10% code. Any idea if it can be done retro?

  • Matt

    I got this card last year in the summer, but my card doesn’t say its a Visa “Signature” card. Is this only on newer cards? Or are the services still applicable to any British Airways Visa credit card?

  • jv1975disqus

    The Travel Together thing is the biggest scam I’ve seen in years of membership in FF programs. Claiming the miles are worth 17 cents a piece is pretty disingenuous – unless you would normally pay $10k a piece for a short (7 hour) 1st class flight, then they are worth nowhere near that (and I suspect that anyone who’s shelling out that kind of cash doesn’t really care about FF miles and “bonuses” like this).

    The fact that you have to use the miles on BA flights makes this worthless. Actually *that* may be an even bigger scam. I randomly checked a flight from NY to Africa (I forget where exactly, but it’s not important). BA’s price was about $1200. Digging down, the fare was about $60 each way. That’s SIXTY dollars. The rest? Various surcharges and taxes, that you still have pay if you’re redeeming miles.

    Bottom line – it’s usually cheaper to buy a flight on another airline than it is to pay the surcharges on BA, not even considering the value of the miles you’re using. You choose – you can spend about $1000 on another airline, or about $1000 PLUS 100k miles or so on BA. Tough choice, huh?

    The ONLY way to use BA miles is on other airlines (AA, Japan Air, etc.). Those can offer an excellent value, particularly for shorter flights.

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