When thinking of British Airways, most people probably conjure up images of London or memories of a stop at Heathrow Airport. But British Airways can get you a lot more than that.
Thanks to partnerships with American Airlines and other alliance partners, British Airways awards may be easier to use and more valuable than you realize.
How the British Airways Visa Signature Credit Card Works
British Airways offers a great travel credit card through Chase. This card earns Avios, the British Airways equivalent of miles. While those points are simple to use for travel on British Airways, they can also unlock many ultra-low-cost redemption options around the United States.
The British Airways Visa is one of four personal credit cards in money expert Clark Howard’s wallet. Read on for our full review…
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How to Earn Rewards
Earning rewards with the British Airways Visa is easy. The first year alone can offer a huge value depending on your spending habits. The card offers a huge 4x Avios per dollar on up to $30,000 in purchases the first year you have the card. That is worth up to 120,000 Avios in the first year! After spending $30,000, the card reverts to its standard 1x Avois per dollar rate.
For purchases at British Airways, Iberia, and Aer Lingus, you’ll earn 3x points per dollar after the first year. If you are a regular traveler to England, Spain, Ireland, or most places in Europe, those rewards can add up quickly. These three airlines offer service to just about every major European destination, and many beyond.
How to Redeem Rewards
The easiest way to redeem rewards is for award travel on British Airways. Various reviews online peg the value of Avios at around 0.5 cents to 1.5 cents each depending on how you redeem. The one big thing to look out for with British Airways rewards booked to fly on British Airways flights is the fees and fuel surcharges you’ll pay to cross the Atlantic on the way to or from Heathrow.
Avios are also easily moved to an Iberia Airlines account, where you can book awards on this Spain-based carrier with lower fees. The same is possible with Ireland-based Aer Lingus. Always check for award space and fees before transferring your Avios.
But the best results may come from using your Avios to fly within the United States. While British Airways recently gave its U.S. distance-based award chart a slight downgrade in value, it is still a great deal.
When booking with a partner like American Airlines, redemption levels are based on how far you fly. Flights start at 6,000 Avios one-way for flights up to 650 miles when flying coach. A flight between Los Angeles and New York would charge 13,000 Avios one-way. One of my favorite routes, Los Angeles to Denver, would cost 7,500 Avios each way.
Many award charts peg a domestic round-trip at around 25,000 miles or points. This makes Avios very competitive for use on short-haul flights. Definitely don’t feel limited to only flying to Europe with Avios!
Additional Cardholder Benefits
If you do hit the $30,000 spending mark in any year, you’ll qualify for a “travel together” certificate that allows you to bring a friend or family member with you on a BA flight. Taxes and fees apply, so the companion isn’t totally free. However, it is a lot cheaper than paying for two full-price tickets.
Other benefits of this card are fairly common for premium travel reward cards. Those include no foreign transaction fee, rental car coverage, baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, purchase protection and an extended manufacturer’s warranty.
Alternatives to the British Airways Visa Signature
While this is an excellent card for many users, it isn’t perfect for everyone. If you are annual-fee-averse or want more general redemption options, here are some top cards to consider:
Chase Sapphire Preferred: This card charges a similar $95 annual fee but comes with more flexible earning and redemption choices. That includes 2x points per dollar at restaurants and on all travel purchases. You can always transfer points to rewards partners, including British Airways.
United MileagePlus Explorer: This United Airlines credit card includes a free checked bag, credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, priority boarding, and other benefits useful for frequent flyers that regularly fly United. This card has a $95 annual fee that is waived the first year.
Capital One Venture & VentureOne: The CapitalOne Venture is a great card that offers 2x miles per dollar on all purchases and makes redemption really easy and flexible. It also has the Global Entry or PreCheck reimbursement benefit. Venture charges a $95 annual fee (waived the first year). VentureOne is a no-annual-fee version with fewer benefits.
The ability to use Avios on American Airlines and other partners for short-haul flights at a low cost makes this one a good choice for many frequent travelers. Be sure to check out our other top travel rewards cards if this doesn’t feel like a good fit for your needs.
Of course, you should only use credit cards if you can manage them responsibly and pay them off in full every month before the due date. Credit card interest quickly costs more than the rewards you earn if you don’t pay the full balance monthly. But if you can handle that, this card can open up a world of free and discounted flight opportunities you may not want to miss.