Credit Card Review: The British Airways Visa Signature
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There are some lucrative credit card options from foreign airlines that are often overlooked. Among them is the British Airways Visa Signature Card — the only cobranded credit card that BA offers in the US.
It has a $95 annual fee that isn’t waived the first year, and it doesn’t come with benefits like a free checked bag or priority boarding. Nevertheless, it’s considered one of the more valuable airline cards on the market because of its big welcome bonus and money-saving perks. Let’s examine whether the card deserves a spot in your wallet.
Who Is This Card For?
Anybody who buys at least one British Airways flight between the US and Europe each year should find value in the British Airways Visa Signature Card. The card offers a good return on spending with the airline and gives you a 10% discount on flights. That discount can really go a long way and can easily offset the card’s annual fee.
If British Airways isn’t your carrier of choice for transatlantic travel, you might still want to consider the card for its hefty sign-up bonus, which is especially valuable for those who book a lot of last-minute or short-haul American Airlines awards.
One important thing to keep in mind is that although the British Airways Visa Signature Card has long been exempt, this card now falls under Chase’s infamous 5/24 rule. This means that if you’ve opened more than five credit cards in the past 24 months (from all banks, not just Chase), you likely won’t be approved — even if you have a nearly perfect score.
The British Airways Visa Signature Card has a fantastic welcome bonus of up to 100,000 British Airways Avios. That’s worth a whopping $1,500 based on TPG’s valuations. But you’re going to need to commit a significant amount of spending to the card to earn the full bonus.
The card is offering 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening and an additional 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $20,000 total on purchases within your first year.
The card outdoes most other cobranded airline cards on the earnings side. Most airline cards offer 2 miles per dollar on purchases with the carrier, but the British Airways Visa Signature Card gives you 3 miles per dollar on British Airways purchases, and one 1 per dollar on everything else. Based on our valuations, that equates to a very solid return of 4.5% on British Airways purchases and a 1.5% return on all other spending.
British Airways imposes hefty taxes and surcharges on its own award tickets, so the best uses for Avios are actually for partner awards. There are over a dozen Oneworld alliance airlines you could redeem your points on such as American Airlines and Iberia, as well as several non-alliance partner airlines such as Alaska Airlines. Plus, unlike some other airline programs, including American Airlines, British Airways doesn’t charge any close-in booking fees on last-minute awards.
Thanks to British Airways’ distance-based award chart, one of the biggest sweet spots in the program is for short-haul awards. The program charges just 9,000 miles for award flights that are 651 miles to 1,151 miles long, and 16,500 miles for business.
Partner American Airlines, on the other hand, requires 12,500 and 25,000 miles respectively for domestic awards that cover more than 500 miles in distance. So, an American Airlines flight between New York (JFK) and Miami (MIA) for example, is over 30% cheaper when booked through the British Airways Avios program. Even better, American Airlines is known for frequently flying long-haul international aircraft on shorter domestic routes like this one. Alternatively, you might want to use your miles to fly from West Coast cities to the Hawaiian islands for just 13,000 Avios each way.
Depending on the award, you may be able to squeeze even more value out of your Avios by transferring them. As the mileage currency of British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus, Avios can be transferred between the three airlines. Iberia tends to charge significantly lower taxes and surcharges than British Airways and periodically offers discounted award redemption rates, including business class to Europe for just 25,500 miles one-way.
Although the card lacks many of the usual cobranded airline card perks like a free checked bag and priority boarding, the ones it does offer can still save British Airways flyers significant cash.
- Travel Together Ticket — Every calendar year you make $30,000 in purchases on your card, you’ll earn a Travel Together Ticket. This allows you to bring a companion along on an award ticket, and it’s valid for two years from the issue date. There are a few restrictions to the benefit: You must pay taxes and fees for the companion, it’s only valid on round-trip British Airways flights, you must depart from and return to the US and your companion must fly the exact same itinerary as you.
- 10% Discount on Flights — Get 10% off the entire purchase of all British Airways flights when you book direct using the promo code CHASEBA10 by March 31, 2020. (Note that although this promotion technically has an end date, it has been extended year after year.) This can be bundled with the British Airways AARP discount to save even more.
- No Foreign-Transaction Fees — Pretty straightforward. This means that you can safely make purchases overseas without accumulating extra charges.
- Visa Signature Perks — As a Visa Signature card, the BA Visa Signature offers perks including lost/delayed baggage protection, purchase protection, extended warranty protection, secondary car rental insurance and access to the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection.
Which Cards Compete With the British Airways Visa Card?
British Airways is a 1:1 transfer partner of both American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards, as well as a 3:1 transfer partner of Marriott, so it’s very easy to rack up Avios through credit cards.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card also comes with a $95 annual fee, and earns 2 points per dollar spent on travel and dining and 1 point per dollar on everything else. We value Chase points at 2 cents apiece, so you’re looking at an effective return of 4% on BA airfare purchases with the Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. 4.5% with the British Airways Visa.
Although the return on the Chase Sapphire Preferred is slightly lower, it earns bonus points on a lot more types of purchases as travel and dining are both broadly defined to include spending on items like public transit and meal delivery services. The card is currently offering a welcome bonus of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months, and those points can be transferred to airlines spanning all three major alliances, giving you a ton of flexibility on the redemption side.
The American Express® Gold Card has a higher annual fee of $250 (see rates & fees), but it offers higher earning rates, and comes with a number of valuable perks that offset the annual fee including up to $120 in annual dining credits and up to $100 annual airline fee credit. The card earns 4 points per dollar on dining and US supermarkets (capped at $25,000 per calendar year at US supermarkets; then 1 point per dollar), 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly from the airline or amextravel.com and 1 point per dollar on everything else. It is currently offering 35,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
Like with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, those points can be transferred to airlines spanning all three major alliances, giving you much more flexibility when it comes time to redeem.
Diversifying your portfolio of loyalty currencies is critical in the world of travel rewards, and the British Airways Visa Signature represents a fantastic way to do that. Being able to earn up to 100,000 bonus miles in your first year is huge. With basic economy now being offered on transatlantic flights, it’s a bummer that this card doesn’t offer free checked bags or priority boarding, but its 10% discount on flights makes up for it.
For rates & fees of the Amex Gold, click here.
Featured image by The Points Guy.
One of the biggest benefits that this card offers is a Travel Together ticket (good for two years) that can be earned annually after you spend $30,000 in a calendar year. You'll earn 3 Avios per dollar spent on British Airways purchases and 1 Avios per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Earn 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
- Plus earn an additional 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $20,000 on your purchases within your first year of account opening.
- 3 Avios per $1 spent on purchases with British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia, and Level.
- 2 Avios per $1 spent on hotel accommodations, plus 1 Avios per $1 spent on all other purchases.
- 10% off British Airways flights starting in the US when you book by March 31, 2020.
- 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.
- Pay no foreign transaction fees when you travel abroad.
- Simply tap to pay with your contactless British Airways Visa Signature Card. Just look for the contactless symbol at checkout. It's fast, easy and secure!