Chase just came out with a new sign up offer for their British Airways Visa Signature Card giving applicants 50,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first three months, plus the first year annual fee waived. This promotions is very similar to the standing offer they’ve had for over the past year, but you not do not need to pay the $95 annual fee the first year. While saving $95 is great, it is nearly not as good as the 100,000 point offers they’ve had in the past – although we have not seen that offer in quite some time and since a new offer was just announced, my assumption is we will not see it again for awhile.
So you might be saying to yourself (if you live in the US) – “British Airways is an international airline and does not fly domestically.” While that is true, since British Airways is part of the OneWorld Alliance, you are able to redeem your points for partner airlines (i.e., American Airlines, LAN, Iberia etc.), making these points extremely lucrative and available for flights not just to Europe on BA!
Quick Recap of the Credit Card Features:
- New: $0 Intro Annual Fee The First Year, Then $95.
- 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.
- Smart 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.
British Airways Avios Program Overview:
The Avios program has many pros and cons and it is extremely important to fully understand the program before applying. Unlike many other programs, you redeem your Avios points based on distance and segments, not zones. Depending on your travel desire, this can be a huge advantage or disadvantage. Ultimately, the best redemption of your points will be for US domestic short and medium-haul flights, flights from the US to South America, and a few select flights from the US to Europe. One of the great perks with British Airways is that round-trip redemption is not required (unlike the current Delta and US Airways program) allowing you to redeem for one-way trips. If you use your points strategically, these 50,000 points could result in over a thousand dollars of free travel.
For a real life application, a few years ago I booked my husband a flight from JFK to Montreal for 4,5000 Avios points + $2.50. This flight would have been $190, giving me a value of 4.2 cents per point. If I were to utilize the bonus points for this high redemption always, these 50,000 points can be valued at over $2,000!
Unlike other airlines, there is no standard chart outlining the points needed for an award redemption. In my opinion, this is one of the more frustrating aspects to the program. You will need to enter the two city pairs on this online calculator to see the points required. However, if there are no direct flights you will need to enter the individual segments and add up the points for segment to find the total points needed. For example, to check Houston to Atlanta which has no direct flights on American Airlines, you will need to enter Houston to Dallas (which is 4,500 points) and then Dallas to Atlanta (another 4,500 points). This means the total points needed for the entire Houston to Atlanta route will be 9,000 points one-way. For non-direct routes, you will need to do some prior research to check the connecting city. I personally use Kayak.com when searching for various routes.
- Short-haul: Only requires 4,500 points one-way! Typically, these are for flights less than 650 miles. As mentioned previously, a flight from NYC to Montreal can be booked at just 9,000 points round trip where flights can easily cost over $400. Another great redemption would be from NYC to Toronto, another extremely expensive flight, but again only 4,500 points each way. The 50,000 points earned can get you 5 free round-trip flights, and if used on a $450 RT ticket, worth close to $2,200! This value is on the high end and will depend on your redemption.
- Medium-haul: Only requires 7,500 points one-way. The 50,000 points will allow you to fly from Boston to Miami 3 times round-trip. Typically this flight averages $300, so a savings of $900 and this is more on the conservative side.
- Long-haul: Requires 12,500 points one-way. This ends up being the same 25,000 points needed for a round-trip domestic flight that other carriers offer. Normally, I would not recommend redeeming 25,000 points for a domestic flight, but it really depends on your needs. These 50,000 points from the bonus will give you 2 coast to coast flights. While probably not the best value for your points, it will still probably save you about $700.
- South America: A great use of your Avios points as there are no fuel charges! The number of miles required will be based on your departing and arrival city. If you are able to swing a direct flight (typically JFK, LAX, MIA, DFW) you could redeem anywhere between 20,000 to 60,000. For those without direct flights, you will need to redeem additional points for the first segment. For flights to South America fees will only run around $100, which is not bad once you think about the cost of purchasing the ticket right out – over $1,000!
- Europe: Typically, not a great redemption as there are hefty taxes/fuel charges. Although a round-trip ticket from JFK to London is only 40,000 miles, but the fees will run you $653.34! Dissimilar to American Airline miles, with Avios points you will get hit with these high fees regardless if redeeming on BA or AA operating flights. While the fees going to the UK is probably the highest of all of Europe, other European cities will still cost at least $500 – and this is just for coach! Business class will be at least $750 in fees. BUT… you can redeem your points on American Airlines or Iberia and fly to Madrid or Barcelona for only 40,000 points plus a little over $100 in taxes. You can get a non-stop flight to Madrid from Chicago, New York, Boston, and Miami and to Barcelona from New York and Miami. This is a great redemption due to not paying the high fees that you are hit with when flying to/from London. Or, you can fly Aer Lingus to Dublin using minimal points. You can fly from Boston at 25,000 points roundtrip or Chicago and JFK for 40,000 points roundtrip. Business class flights are double the amount of points.
You can check out some other great redemption opportunities in this prior post: “Top 10 Redemption Opportunities for British Airways Avios Post.”
The British Airways credit card also gives you a free companion pass after you spend $30,000 annually on the card. The major caveat to this is that you must fly a British Airways operated flight. This companion pass will not work on partner travel. And as mentioned above, British Airways flights cost a lot in taxes/fees. However, if you are looking to redeem for a business or first class seat to Europe, this companion ticket could come in handy given the cost to purchase the ticket could be over $5,000. For a business class ticket round-trip ticket from JFK to London, for example, you can redeem 80,000 points for the first passenger + $1,196 for both passengers. I personally would never pay for a business class ticket, but redeeming the points plus the fees is MUCH better than paying $10,000 total in flights. You can read more about the companion ticket in this prior post: “Earning and Redeeming a British Airways Companion Ticket.”
And lastly, British Airways allows you to combine points with other family members. So if you both apply for the credit card offer you can pool your points to maximize your point redemptions. You can read more about pooling points in this prior post: “Creating a Household Account with British Airways.”
Overall, this is the best offer in quite some time and I am not sure if another better offer will come around any time soon. If you are not in the market for more Avios points right this moment you can always hold off and hope that a better point offer will be available, but if you know of an upcoming opportunity to redeem your Avios points, paying no annual fee for the first year is nice.
- British Airways Visa Signature: 50,000 Avios points for new applicants spending $2,000 in the first 90 days; $95 annual fee waived the first year; earn 1 points per $1 spend on all purchases and 3 points per $1 on all British Airways purchases; free companion pass valid for 2 years after spending $30,000 in a calendar on your card; no foreign transaction fees. Card application link.