Finally, a way to combat high fuel surcharges: British Airways Visa Signature credit card review
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British Airways Visa Signature Card overview
The British Airways Visa Signature Card might not be your top choice for using one of your valuable 5/24 slots with Chase, but if you’re tired of paying hundreds of dollars in fuel surcharges on award flights to and from London, this is the closest thing to a solution you’ll find. Card Rating*: ⭐⭐⭐
*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
When it comes to premium-cabin awards flights between the U.S. and Europe, I’d written off British Airways because of the egregiously high fuel surcharges that get tacked on, but a recent update to the British Airways Visa Signature Card offers a potential remedy — statement credits against these high award taxes.
There are some lucrative credit card options from foreign airlines that are often overlooked and the British Airways Visa Signature Card — the only cobranded credit card that BA offers in the U.S. — is among them. It has a $95 annual fee that isn’t waived the first year nor does it come with benefits like a free checked bag or priority boarding. Nevertheless, it’s 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 U.S. 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 starting in the U.S. when you book by March 31, 2020 through the website provided in your welcome materials. That discount can easily offset the card’s annual fee.
If you frequently redeem Avios for British Airways flights from the U.S. to London, you can also get huge savings in the form of annual statement credits of up to $600 to offset award taxes and fees. Or 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: Although the British Airways Visa Signature Card used to be exempt, this card now falls under Chase’s 5/24 rule. If you’ve opened more than five credit cards in the past 24 months (from all banks, not just Chase), your application will be automatically rejected — even if you have a nearly perfect score.
The British Airways Visa Signature Card has a fantastic sign-up 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 have to spend a significant amount to earn it.
The card is offering 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening and an additional 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $20,000 total on purchases within your first year.
Although the card lacks many of the usual cobranded airline card perks such as a free checked bag and priority boarding, the ones it does offer can still save British Airways flyers a significant amount on both cash and award tickets.
- Award ticket statement credit. Receive a statement credit three times a year of $100 for Economy (World Traveller) and Premium Economy (World Traveller Plus) seats — or $200 for Business (Club World) and first-class seats — when you book a reward flight to London traveling on British Airways and pay taxes, fees and charges with your British Airways Visa Signature Card.
- 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 U.S. 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 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. This is pretty straightforward: You can 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.
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 Avios per dollar on British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus and Level purchases, 2 Avios per dollar on hotel accommodations and 1 per dollar on everything else. Based on TPG valuations, that equates to a very solid return of 4.5% on British Airways purchases, 3% on hotel stays and 1.5% 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 more than a dozen Oneworld alliance airlines on which you could redeem your points 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 a mere 9,000 miles for award flights that are 651 miles to 1,151 miles long, and 16,500 miles for business.
Further Reading: Maximizing the British Airways distance-based award chart
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 more than 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.) 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.
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. TPG values 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 purchases because travel and dining are both broadly defined to include 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 three months. Those points can be transferred to airlines spanning all three major alliances, giving you a ton of flexibility.
The American Express® Gold Card has a higher annual fee of $250 (see rates and 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 credit for up to $100 in annual airline fees. The card earns 4 points per dollar on dining worldwide and U.S. supermarkets (capped at $25,000 per calendar year at U.S. 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.
As with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, those points can be transferred to airlines spanning all three major alliances, giving you much more flexibility.
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.
Apply here for the British Airways Visa Signature Card with an up to 100,000 Avios sign-up bonus.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold, click here.
Featured image by Nicky Kelvin / 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!