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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – British Airways Visa Signature Card
The British Airways Executive Club program has legions of fans here in the United States, although it’s been a tough year for Avios collectors, due to a major devaluation. Now, the program has returned to one of the formulas that attracted so many to it in the first place: The British Airways Visa Signature Card from Chase just announced an offer that could earn you a sign-up bonus of 100,000 Avios.
How The New Offer Works
Like with this card’s standard offer, you can earn 50,000 bonus Avios (the term BA uses for miles) after spending $3,000 within the first three months of account opening. But with this offer, you can also earn an additional 25,000 bonus Avios when you spend $10,000 total on purchases made within the first year for a total of 75,000 bonus Avios. You can earn another 25,000 bonus Avios when you spend $20,000 on purchases total within your first year of account opening, for a total of 100,000 bonus Avios.
As with the credit card’s previous offer, you can also earn a Travel Together Ticket good for two years when you make $30,000 in purchases within a calendar year. This allows you to book two award tickets on BA flights with the miles required for just one, however you’ll pay taxes and fees on both tickets.
When using this card for spending, you earn 3 Avios for every dollar spent on British Airways purchases and 1 Avios per dollar on all other purchases. As with most other travel rewards cards offered by Chase, this card is equipped with an EMV chip to offer additional compatibility with the next generation of secure credit card terminals already in use in Europe, which are rapidly being deployed in the United States. There’s a $95 ongoing annual fee, and $0 foreign transaction fees.
Here’s a breakdown of what you can earn:
|Spend||$3k within 3 months||$10k within first year||$20k within first year||$30k in calendar year|
|Earn||50,000 Avios||25,000 Avios||25,000 Avios||Travel Together Ticket|
Finding Value in This Offer
Let’s look at the three recent changes to this program and see how much they’ll actually affect cardholders. First, British Airways implemented a major devaluation in April, then the bonus categories on the British Airways Visa changed in May, which raised the bonus for British Airways tickets while lowering rewards for other purchases. Then in June, American Express announced that it would decrease the transfer ratio from Membership Rewards to Avios from 1:1 to 1,000:800. This new rate goes into effect on October 1, so you still have some time to transfer points under the old rate.
Of these, the least consequential is probably the change in the Membership Rewards program, as savvy reward travelers will either earn points from their British Airways Visa Signature Card, simply transfer their Ultimate Rewards or Starwood Preferred Guest points or just wait for one of American Express’ regular transfer bonuses.
Next is the change in the earnings ratio on the British Airways Visa. This brought it in line with nearly all other airline reward cards which only offer 1 point per dollar spent on most purchases, but on the bright side it increased the bonus for BA purchases from 2.5x to 3x. On the whole, I suspect most cardholders will be worse off, but it’s easy to understand why BA would want to shift rewards to those who actually make purchases with the airline.
Finally, there’s the more serious issue of the flight award devaluations. The number of Avios required for business and first-class redemptions during so-called “peak” periods increased by 50%, while other periods increased by 25%. These changes hurt, especially since the “off-peak” award pricing only applies to flights on British Airways and Iberia, not their partners.
But there are still a few redeeming factors. First, the best value in the distance-based Avios chart has always been for short-haul flights in economy class, especially on BA partners American/US Airways and Alaska, where the price of awards remains unchanged. In fact, the off-peak rates for economy-class awards actually went down, but only if you’re using your Avios for flights on BA and Iberia.
So you could apply for this offer and receive a total of 120,000 Avios after spending $20,000 in a year, as compared to less than half the number of Avios with the regular offer. Looking at the bright side, even after a 50% devaluation of premium-cabin flights, you’re still coming out far ahead when you use this offer to get more that twice the rewards.
Great Uses for 120,000 Avios
The most effective way to evaluate any credit card offer is to look at the rewards you can earn from it. Here are five of the best redemptions for 120,000 Avios:
1. Short-haul trips galore. At just 4,500 Avios for flights under 650 miles, this is still an incredible sweet spot on the award chart — the equivalent of a stunning 26 one-way flights (or 13-round trips). This distance includes city pairs such as Denver-Dallas, Miami-Atlanta, Chicago-Washington, New York-Toronto and Miami-Cancun. Use the awards off-peak in Europe, where they’re only 4,000 Avios each, and you get 30 one-way flights or 15 round-trips. Furthermore, American (and to a lesser extent Alaska) often makes several seats on some flights available as awards, so you can really use this benefit for families and other small groups. Finally, these awards can offer huge savings when used the for last-minute flights, which are often exorbitantly priced, especially since there are no close-in booking fees.
2. Plenty of medium-haul trips. At 7,500 Avios each way, flights in economy class that are 650-1,150 miles are also a great value. If you earn all the bonus Avios, you’ll end up with 16 one-way flights or eight round-trips between city pairs such as Miami-New York, Chicago-Orlando, Philadelphia-Nassau, Bahamas, Dallas-Mexico City and Charlotte-Houston. Use your Avios for these flights within Europe, and you can qualify for lower-priced off-peak awards in economy class on aircraft where “business class” amounts to little more than an empty middle seat.
3. Short trans-oceanic flights. It’s not that bad to sit in economy class for six hours, especially when it costs you very little to do so. BA partner Aer Lingus offers flights from Boston to Dublin, which fall just under 3,000 miles and require a mere 12,500 Avios each way. Likewise, flights on American and Alaska from the west coast (including Phoenix and Anchorage) to Hawaii are in this range. This credit card offer is good for four round-trips along such routes, and leaves you just 5,000 Avios away from a fifth.
4. Travel Together Ticket. I’ll argue that there’s still significant value here. Spend $30,000 on the British Airways Visa Signature Card in a calendar year to earn this benefit, and you’ll end up with at least 130,000 Avios. This is enough for a one-way first-class award from Chicago to London, which is 68,000 Avios off-peak and 80,000 Avios during peak travel times. Yes, you’ll have to pay outrageous taxes and fuel surcharges ($441 on this route) on both flights (since this benefit can only be used for awards on BA metal), but you’ll end up paying a small fraction of the cost of revenue tickets. And adding a second international first-class award seat for less than the price of a highly discounted economy-class ticket is still a bargain, even in light of the painful devaluations.
5. Infant awards. BA is one of a select few airlines that will let you use miles/Avios to book an infant award. While nearly all other carriers charge 10% of the airfare just to hold a child in your lap, BA will let you ticket an infant for 10% of the miles used to book your award. When you consider that many airlines base their charges on a full-fare ticket, the infant fees for a business or first-class ticket can cost hundreds of dollars. Using a few thousand Avios to add your infant is a bargain that can offset the cost of adult fuel surcharges and infant charges, which are reportedly just 10% of those for adults. For more information, read my Comprehensive Guide for Flying with an Infant.
Are you considering this sign-up offer? Share how you’d redeem 100,000 Avios in the comments below! With great travel benefits, 2x points on travel & dining and a 50,000 point sign up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game. Here are the top 5 reasons it should be in your wallet, or read our definitive review for more details.
With great travel benefits, 2x points on travel & dining and a 50,000 point sign up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game. Here are the top 5 reasons it should be in your wallet, or read our definitive review for more details.