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British Airways Credit Card Review: Earn More Avios

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British Airways Visa Signature® Card Editor's Rating: 4.2 / 5

Whether you’ve been pining for a European vacation or a local weekend getaway, the British Airways Visa Signature® Card may speed you along with dollars to spare. You’ll also benefit from your rewards, juicy sign-up bonus included, as soon as they’re credited to your account — no thumb twiddling required.

British Airways Visa Signature® Card

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

Pros

  • $0 Foreign Transaction fee

Cons

  • Has annual fee
  • Needs excellent credit
  • Most valuable for those who fly British Airways or oneWorld partners

Bonus Offer

50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Intro APR Promotions

N/A

APR

  • APR: 16.24%-23.24% Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.24%, Variable

Card Details

  • 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • 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.
  • 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

At a glance

Annual fees

$95

Foreign transaction fee

None

Airlines

OneWorld airline alliance partners, Aer Lingus, Alaska Airlines, Meridiana

Sign-up bonus

50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Verdict: If you book travel with British Airways regularly, get this card.

Good for:


  • Someone who flies with British Airways frequently

  • Someone who's a big spender (details below)

  • Someone traveling internationally

Bad for:


  • Someone who wants more options for domestic flights

  • Someone who rarely makes purchases through British Airways

In this article:

British Airways Visa Signature® Card: The basics
Where British Airways Visa Signature® Card shines
A good solution for international travel
Where British Airways Visa Signature® Card falls short
British Airways Visa Signature® Card versus its competitors
Should you consider the British Airways Visa Signature® Card?

British Airways Visa Signature® Card: The basics

Here are some things you should know about British Airways Visa Signature® Card:

  • British Airways uses a rewards currency called Avios. (Yes, that’s the same whether singular or plural.)
  • You’ll earn 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening, and there are additional bonuses in your first year of membership.
  • You’ll earn 3 Avios for every $1 spent on British Airways purchases and 1 Avios for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

All in all, you can earn decent rewards for everyday expenses on this card — but you’ll get the most bang for your buck by a long shot if you use it for British Airways purchases.

Where British Airways Visa Signature® Card shines

With a flashy sign-up bonus and other consumer-friendly features, the British Airways Visa Signature® Card has lots to offer.

Big sign-up bonus – The British Airways Visa Signature® Card comes with a generous sign-up bonus: 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Considering the $95 in following years, it’s easy to come out ahead on this deal if you can reach that spending minimum.

Additional bonus for big spenders – The main sign-up bonus is pretty nice, but there is another option for earning points after you meet the initial spending minimum. You’ll earn an additional 25,000 Avios when you spend at least $15,000 in your first year. Those extra points will certainly help take the sting out of the British Airways Visa Signature® Card’s annual fee.

Pay for flights with Avios and cash – Suppose you’ve earned $12 worth of Avios. Sure, it won’t get you an airline ticket, but you can still get a $12 discount on whatever ticket you do want to purchase. If you’re a frugal spender, having the option to redeem your rewards — even when you haven’t earned that many — is a valuable feature. Other rewards programs that are structured in a more all-or-nothing way don’t offer that same flexibility.

Travel Together tickets – If you make more than $30,000 in purchases in a calendar year, you can earn one Travel Together ticket, which allows you to bring a companion for free on a flight purchased with Avios. You’ll still have to pay taxes and other fees on the companion ticket, though, and you’ll have to redeem the ticket within two years of it being issued. If you’re already shelling out thousands for other purchases, this may not exactly be a deal-sealer, but it’s a good perk.

A good solution for international travel

No surprises here — the British Airways Visa Signature® Card, which bills itself as a card for international travelers, has a few features that make it a little more traveler-friendly.

No foreign transaction fees – If you’re hoping to use your British Airways Visa Signature® Card for international travel, you’re in luck: You won’t have to pay any foreign transaction fees for purchases made outside the United States. That could add up to lots of savings for frequent travelers.

Chip and signature – This card uses chip and signature technology, widely accepted overseas, to encrypt payment information and minimize fraud. Because many international vendors require these security features, a card with a chip is ideal.

Where British Airways Visa Signature® Card falls short

The British Airways Visa Signature® Card has a lot going for it, but the Nerds recommend it with some caveats.

Avios can only be used for three domestic carriers – For international travel, choices abound – British Airways is a member of the oneworld airline alliance, and you can transfer points to any oneworld airline, as well as a few additional partner airlines. But for domestic trips, you’re limited to American Airlines, US Airways (owned by American Airlines) and Alaska Airlines.

This card is a good deal for those who travel on those airlines or with other oneworld partners, but not such a win for those looking for more domestic traveling options.

Avios expire with account inactivity – If you don’t collect, spend, share or purchase at least one Avios every three years, the ones you do have will expire. If you’re sitting on your Avios and waiting for a good chance to redeem them, you may lose what you have without realizing it.

Annual fee – Like most travel rewards cards, the British Airways Visa Signature® Card comes with an annual fee. But some cards, like the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, charge less per year and let you use your rewards in more places.

Fuel surcharges – While Avios may cover the bulk of your flying costs, you’ll still have to cover fuel surcharges and taxes yourself, and British Airways’ fuel surcharges are higher than other airlines’. For all rewards and Travel Together tickets, these charges are approximately $682 to $1,250 per adult in economy and $1,250 in business class going from Seattle to London, according to Chase.

This isn’t a reason to forego the card altogether, though. You can still avoid these expensive charges by flying on oneworld airlines that don’t add these fees.

British Airways Visa Signature® Card versus its competitors

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card vs. British Airways Visa Signature® Card

On the British Airways Visa Signature® Card, you can only book travel on available rewards seats, and during peak travel times, those can be hard to find. With Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card’s miles, which can be redeemed either through statement credits or through Capital One’s rewards program, you can book any seat you want on any airline.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card also charges an annual fee of $0 intro for first year; $59 after that, which is less than British Airways Visa Signature® Card’s annual fee of $95.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card vs. British Airways Visa Signature® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

Pros

  • A large bonus
  • $0 foreign transaction fee
  • Cool factor - metal card
  • Rewards redemption bonus through Ultimate Rewards

Cons

  • Introductory annual fee of $0 the first year, then $95
  • Best for savvy travelers

Bonus Offer

Earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

Introductory annual fee of $0 the first year, then $95

Intro APR Promotions

N/A

APR

  • APR: 16.24%-23.24% Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.24%, Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named a 'Best Credit Card' for Travel Rewards by MONEY Magazine
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Sleek metal card design
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • $0 foreign transaction fees, plus chip-enabled for enhanced security and wider acceptance when used at a chip card reader
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading frequent travel programs at full value - that means 1,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points equal 1,000 partner miles/points
  • Travel confidently with premium Travel Protection Benefits, including Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Trip Delay Reimbursement and more

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you can trade in points at a 1:1 value for Avios through the British Airways Executive Club. You’ll also have the option of transferring your points to several other hotels and airlines. Because transfer partners include members of all three major airline alliances — SkyTeam, Star Alliance and OneWorld — as well as other airlines, like Southwest and Virgin Atlantic, this card offers an abundance of redemption opportunities.

But if you’re a devotee of British Airways, you’ll likely earn Avios at a faster pace with the British Airways Visa Signature® Card. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card fetches 2x points on travel and dining and 1 point per dollar spent on other purchases. But the British Airways Visa Signature® Card earns 3 Avios for every dollar spent on British Airways purchases and 1 Avios per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Should you consider the British Airways Visa Signature® Card?

If you love flying on airlines in the oneworld alliance — especially British Airways — the British Airways Visa Signature® Card could be the card for you. Because of the card’s redemption program, you can easily use every last Avios you earn. And with that big sign-up bonus, it’s easy to start saving up for your next adventure.

Claire Davidson is a staff writer covering personal finance for NerdWallet. Follow her on Twitter @ideclaire7 and on Google+.


Image via iStock.