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Should You Get the British Airways Card Now or Wait?

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Until recently, the British Airways Visa Signature Card offered a sign-up bonus that could earn you a total of 100,000 Avios. That offer recently ended though, and you may be wondering if it’s still worth signing up. TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Nick Ewen explains the pros and cons of applying now.

The British Airways Executive Club program has been hit with a few changes over the last couple of years, including the removal of 4,500-Avios award flights in North America, a decreased transfer ratio with American Express Membership Rewards and last spring’s significant devaluation. Despite these drops, the program still offers some compelling redemption options and a lucrative co-branded credit card. Now that the 100,000-point bonus on the British Airways Visa Signature Card has dropped to a more “normal” level, I want to analyze whether it still makes sense to apply for this card or pursue other options.

That Travel Together ticket could be worth thousands of dollars if you redeem for business or first class.
The British Airways Visa offers some nice benefits, but is it worth it with the lower sign-up bonus?

Let’s begin with a quick overview of the perks provided on the BA Visa:

  • 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
  • Every calendar year you make $30,000 in purchases on your British Airways Visa card, you’ll earn a Travel Together Ticket good for two years.
  • In addition to the bonus Avios, you will also get 3 Avios for every dollar spent on British Airways purchases and 1 Avios for every dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Pay no foreign transaction fees when you travel abroad.
  • Chip Technology allows you to use your card for chip based purchases in Europe and beyond, while still giving you the ability to use your card as you do today at home.

The now-expired 100,000-point offer actually had three components. The first was the same as the current offer, but then you could earn two more pops of 25,000 Avios during your first year: one when you hit the $10,000 spending threshold and another when you reached $20,000.

Both the old and new offers require a significant amount of spending to earn the full bonus. Assuming that your purchases are solely with non-British Airways merchants (and thus only earn 1 Avios per dollar spent), here’s how your earnings break down at each of the key thresholds:

$10,000:

Offer

Sign-up Bonus

Regular Earnings

Total Earnings

Return

Old (100,000)

75,000 Avios

10,000 Avios

85,000 Avios

12.75%

New (75,000)

50,000 Avios

10,000 Avios

60,000 Avios

9%

$15,000:

Offer

Sign-up Bonus

Regular Earnings

Total Earnings

Return

Old (100,000)

75,000 Avios

15,000 Avios

90,000 Avios

9%

New (75,000)

75,000 Avios

15,000 Avios

90,000 Avios

9%

$20,000:

Offer

Sign-up Bonus

Regular Earnings

Total Earnings

Return

Old (100,000)

100,000 Avios

20,000 Avios

120,000 Avios

9%

New (75,000)

75,000 Avios

20,000 Avios

95,000 Avios

7.125%

As you can see, in all of these cases, the old offer is either equal to or superior than the current one. As a result, you may immediately assume that you should wait for another 100,000-point bonus. However, there’s no guarantee that such an offer will come back. Credit card issuers look at many factors when determining a sign-up bonus, including number of new cardholder acquisitions and retention rates. The bonus could jump back up next month, next year or never.

Despite this uncertainty, the current offer is still a compelling one. British Airways’ distance-based award chart provides some really great redemptions, and if you can hit the $30,000 spending mark in a calendar year, the Travel Together ticket can also be a terrific value. The no foreign transaction fee benefit can also save you money when you are traveling abroad, though the card does carry a $95 annual fee, it is not waived for the first year.

Should you consider other options?

BA's entire long-haul fleet has rear-facing business-class seats.
Are there better options than the BA Visa card? Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Despite these perks and the lucrative sign-up bonus, you might be better off pursuing a different card (or two). For starters, the British Airways Visa Signature Card requires a relatively high level of spending to earn the full sign-up bonus. Not everyone can spend $15,000 a year on a credit card, and if you don’t hit that threshold, you’ll only take home 50,000 Avios instead of the full 75,000.

In addition, another big drawback to the BA Visa is that you’re locked into earning Avios. Sure, the full sign-up bonus is worth $1,125 based on TPG’s most recent valuations, but you’re restricted to using those points for flights on British Airways (and its horrendous fuel surcharges) along with its partner airlines. There are two other options that don’t force you into that position but still offer similar value.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

chase sapphire preferred featured
The Sapphire Preferred is one of my go-to cards in my wallet.

One of the best alternate credit cards in this context is the Sapphire Preferred. Chase raised the standard sign-up bonus on the card in November, as it now offers 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening. You can also earn an extra 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first three months from account opening. This haul is worth $1,155 based on TPG’s valuations, $30 more than the BA Visa.

In addition, the Sapphire Preferred offers some key benefits that outshine the British Airways card:

All of these perks make the Sapphire Preferred a great option as a starter card but also make it ideal for experienced award travelers. Using the card for a year can unlock some terrific redemptions, and it’s actually the card that TPG uses most frequently himself!

Ink Plus Business Card

The Chase Ink tops the list this month thanks to an increased sign-up bonus.
The Ink Plus card is another terrific option that can still net you British Airways Avios but allows the flexibility for other redemptions.

Another terrific option is the Ink Plus, also issued by Chase. This card is marketed as one for small businesses, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of its benefits as a sole proprietor who sells items on Ebay or Amazon. Chase bumped the card’s sign-up bonus back in September; you can now earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months after account opening (worth $1,260, or $135 more than the BA Visa). Like the Sapphire Preferred, these points can be transferred to a variety of partners, including Hyatt Gold Passport and United MileagePlus.

The card also provides some terrific bonus categories. You can earn 5x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary year. You’ll also earn 2x points per dollar spent at gas stations and hotel accommodations each year (also up to $50,000 in combined purchases). Both of these represent a superior value over the BA Visa.

Why these cards are more time-sensitive

chase
Chase has recently made it harder to get approved for cards that earn Ultimate Rewards.

There’s another reason why these two cards are terrific alternatives over the British Airways Visa Signature Card: Chase’s new rule regarding cards that accrue Ultimate Rewards points. I addressed this in my post on the application restrictions for major card issuers back in October, but the basic gist is this: As of early 2015, reports began to emerge of Chase automatically rejecting applications for these two cards if you’ve opened 5 or more new credit cards in the previous 24 months. This may not be a problem for a casual traveler, but for a points and miles enthusiast like me, this presents a significant issue!

However, as of now, this restriction doesn’t apply to other co-branded cards like the BA Visa and Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card. As a result, if you’re just getting started in the hobby, I would strongly encourage you to pick up either the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Plus first before moving onto other Chase cards with less restrictive application rules. That way you won’t inadvertently shut yourself out of a card that earns incredible valuable Ultimate Rewards points and leave the door open for the British Airways card in the future!

Bottom Line

The British Airways Visa Signature Card offers some terrific perks, even with the end of the 100,000-Avios offer. However, there are some compelling reasons to consider other credit cards from Chase that provide similar value from the sign-up bonus but also offer superior earning rates and added flexibility for award redemptions. Everyone has their own rationale when it comes to applying for and then keeping certain credit cards, but hopefully this post has demonstrated why waiting to apply for the BA Visa may be the best plan.

Are any of you planning on applying for the British Airways Visa despite the lower sign-up bonus?

British Airways Visa Signature® Card

Apply Now
  • 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
  • Every calendar year you make $30,000 in purchases on your British Airways Visa card, you'll earn a Travel Together Ticket good for two years.
  • In addition to the bonus Avios, you will also get 3 Avios for every $1 spent on British Airways purchases and 1 Avios for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Pay no foreign transaction fees when you travel abroad.
  • Chip Technology allows you to use your card for chip based purchases in Europe & beyond, while still giving you the ability to use your card as you do today at home.
Intro APR Regular APR Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Rating
N/A 16.24%-23.24% Variable $95 0% Excellent Credit