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British Airways is notorious for tacking on taxes, fees, carrier charges and fuel surcharges that can make a nominally "free" award flight cost hundreds of dollars. According to the British Airways website, you could pay as much as $910.35 in taxes and fees on an economy award ticket.
But now it's possible to offset some of those charges with a new benefit on the British Airways Visa Signature® Card. The card has introduced a statement credit that covers some of the cost of taxes and fees when you redeem your rewards for a ticket. The card has also added a new bonus earning category for hotel spending.
Here’s what you need to know about the new benefits.
Award flight statement credits
Cardholders can receive up to $600 in automatic statement credits each year to pay for taxes, fees and surcharges when redeeming Avios for tickets on British Airways. Credits apply only on transatlantic itineraries that originate in the U.S. You can get three credits in a year; the amount of each credit depends on the type of fare you book:
Business or first class: $200 statement credit per use.
Economy or premium economy: $100 statement credit per use.
This credit definitely makes taxes and surcharges a little easier to swallow, but don’t expect it to always cover the bill. For example, we found an economy class round-trip fare from New York to London on British Airways that would cost about 26,000 Avios plus a whopping $349.50 in surcharges. Even using the $100 statement credit would still leave you on the hook for $250, which is a hefty price to pay in addition to those Avios.
3X rewards on hotel spending
At least earning Avios will be a little easier for travelers who use this card for hotel spending. The British Airways Visa Signature® Card now offers 3 Avios per $1 spent on hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel within the first 12 months from account opening, thereafter earn 2 Avios; though you’ll have to book directly with the hotel to receive those extra earnings.
Cardholders also earn 5 Avios per $1 spent on purchases with British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia, and LEVEL within the first 12 months from account opening, thereafter earn 3 Avios; and 1 Avios per $1 on everything else.
The British Airways Visa Signature card’s generous bonus offer is still one of the biggest among airline credit cards. Here’s how the card issuer Chase phrases it: "Earn 100,000 Avios after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening."
On top of that, the card still comes with:
A Travel Together Ticket after spending $30,000 in a calendar year on the card. This allows you to take a companion with you on BA award flights to and from the U.S. for two years — you just have to pay those irritating taxes and fees.
10% discount when booking a round-trip British Airways flight from the U.S. and paying with the card.
No foreign transaction fees.
» Learn More: Find the best airline credit card for you
The bottom line
British Airways' loyalty program is a tricky one even for seasoned travel rewards nerds. At least Chase and British Airways are trying to soften the blow of those high taxes and fees with the new statement credit for cardholders. And while the hotel earning category is nice, it likely won’t do much to convert more travelers into British Airways loyalists.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card