What Is The Best Travel Credit Card For a London-Based Expat?
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
TPG reader Jeff is moving from Chicago to London and thinking of switching loyalty from United to another airline and is wondering what his best credit card options are:
"My wife and I are relocating from Chicago to London for two years (work rotation). I currently travel for work in the US and have platinum status with United. As such, we also have the United Explorer card. I won't be traveling as much in the UK, and given the points devaluation that is about to happen we are considering closing the United card and opening something new that will have a more practical purpose for traveling out of London.
I know you rank the Barclaycard Arrival high but do you think it may be worth looking into the British Airways Visa? We'd receive 50,000 Avios as an introductory bonus. Considering most of the travel we'll be doing will be done as cheap as possible I'm not sure we'd be able to use the points on airlines like Ryanair. Anyway, any thoughts or suggestions you had on the matter would be great."
Just traveling abroad can be stressful, but moving abroad is even more so, and there are a lot of factors to consider, including the airlines you're going to be flying and which credit cards you should be carrying.
Jeff is rethinking his loyalty to United after their massive miles devaluation yesterday, especially because he'd likely be taking advantage of their partner awards due to living in Europe and flying carriers like Lufthansa, which just skyrocketed in price.
So Jeff wants to know whether switching to British Airways would make sense for him. While the Chase United Explorer card would be great if you were flying on United and taking advantage of its benefits like free checked bags and priority boarding, especially if you don't have elite status. But from an earning perspective, a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a better option since you earn 2.14X points per $1 on dining and travel including United ticket purchases rather than just 2X miles per $1 on the Explorer - and you can then transfer those Ultimate Rewards points to United at 1:1 if you so choose and you're already doing 7% better than with the Explorer card. And that's not even including the option to transfer those points to other partners like British Airways and Virgin Atlantic or Hyatt as well.
Given Jeff's situation, I think you are better off having the option to transfer to your old standby, United, as well as the UK-based carriers you think you're likely to fly - BA and Virgin - with one of the Chase Ultimate Rewards cards including the Sapphire Preferred, but also the Ink Plus or Ink Bold if you want a business card.
Now, the British Airways Visa is a pretty good card that currently carriers a 50,000-Avios bonus when you spend $2,000 in 3 months. When you spend $30,000 in a calendar year, you also get a "Travel Together" Companion Ticket, which will incur some large fees when transiting through London but can still be a great value if you use it on business or first class awards. Just note that your travel must be roundtrip and commence in the US for the companion ticket.
That card's earn ratio is also pretty good at 1.25 Avios per $1 on all purchases and 2.5 per $1 on BA purchases, so you're earning more than the 1 United mile per $1 on the Explorer card.
It really just depends on your needs, and Avios' value can vary from decent to very good depending on how you maximize BA's partners and its distance-based awards by flying throughout Europe on expensive short-hauls. However, I'd say that overall if you're not going to be able to hit the Companion Pass threshold, then you're probably better off with the Sapphire Preferred thanks to its everyday earning potential and the fact that you can transfer those points to United, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, that that might be just the versatility you need from your points. The good news is, none of these cards have foreign transaction fees, so you've got a lot of great choices.
Good luck with the move!