In choosing a rewards-based credit card, you have to consider whether you plan to pay your bill in full each month, how often you intend to use the card, and whether you’re going to earn more in rewards than you have to pay in fees. The British Airways Visa Signature® Card is one of many airline-based credit cards out there – but does it stand out from the pack?
- Sign-up Bonus. You earn 50,000 Avios when you spend $2,000 within the first three months of opening your account.
- Fees. The Chase British Airways Visa card has an annual membership fee of $95 (not waived the first year). Balance transfers are 3% or $5, whichever is greater, and there is no foreign transaction fee.
- APR. The APR on balance transfers and purchases is 15.24% which may vary with the market based on the prime rate.
- Executive Club Membership. You automatically become a member of the Executive Club with British Airways and are able to earn points called Avios at a rate of 2.5 per dollar spent with British Airways, and 1.25 per dollar on all other purchases. Avios can be redeemed for British Airways or partner flights as well as flights with OneWorld Alliance. You can also redeem Avios for upgrades, hotels, and car rentals.
- Companion Ticket. Each year that you spend $30,000 with your card, you receive one Travel Together Ticket, which allows you to bring a companion on your next reward flight without using any additional Avios. This voucher is good for two years.
- Earn Avios on Monthly Bills. Monthly payments on regular bills such as gym memberships, Internet service, and utilities also earn Avios.
- Smart Chip Technology. The Chase British Airways card includes smart chip technology that allows cardholders to make chip-based purchases in Europe.
- 50,000 Bonus Avios. The bonus of 50,000 Avios is enough for two tickets to London, or approximately five tickets from New York to Cancun. Depending on where you choose to travel, 50,000 Avios can earn two or more flights. For example, a one-way economy class ticket from Los Angeles to New York City is only 12,500 Avios.
- Earn Avios Easily. The British Airways Visa provides one of the best opportunities to earn points. The rate of 2.5 Avios earned per dollar spent on British Airways purchases and 1.25 on all other purchases is higher than the reward rates of many competing credit cards. In many cases, one dollar spent results in one point or mile earned on all purchases, and one to two points earned on specific purchases. As an Executive Club member, you can also earn Avios through OneWorld airline partners which include American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and Japan Airlines, as well as airlines outside the OneWorld Alliance such as Alaska Airlines. You may also purchase up to 24,000 Avios per year or share Avios if you happen to come up short of what you need for redemption.
- Bonus Companion Ticket. Besides the multiple tickets earned upon sign-up, you also receive one Travel Together Ticket each calendar year if you make $30,000 in purchases with the card. When you redeem your Avios for a British Airways flight, you can take anyone you like as a companion on the same flight, with the same class of service. This ticket is awarded in the form of a voucher and is valid for two years from the date of issue.
- Flexible Use of Avios. Avios earned with the card do not necessarily have to be redeemed for a flight on British Airways. There are a number of other airlines included in the OneWorld Partners network , and you can also redeem for hotel stays and other travel benefits. Avios may also be used for one-cabin upgrades, accommodations at more than a thousand hotels, and car rentals with Avis. If you prefer to save your points, the Avios & Money option allows you to pay with fewer Avios and more money on certain purchases.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees. In general, foreign transaction fees can range anywhere from 1% to 3%, but there is no such fee with the Chase British Airways Visa card. If you travel frequently outside of the United States, this is a big plus.
- Taxes, Fees, and Carrier Charges. Unfortunately, taxes, fees, and carrier charges on reward flights and Travel Together Tickets are approximately $640 per person in economy and $1,100 per person in business class when traveling from New York to London. Fuel surcharges are the number one complaint that cardholders have when redeeming reward flights with British Airways.
- Annual Fee. The annual fee is $95 per year, which when compared to other cards providing similar benefits is standard, but still a disadvantage. The Gold Delta SkyMiles Card from American Express also carries an annual fee of $95, but it is waived the first year. The annual fee for the Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card has an annual fee of $99, and the U.S. Airways Premier World MasterCard carries an annual fee of $89. While the Chase British Airways Visa annual fee of $95 is competitive, it is an extra expense if you are unable to earn enough Avios to cover it.
- Penalty APR. There is a penalty APR of 29.99% on most Chase credit cards, including the Chase British Airways Visa. This fee is applied in addition to any late fees or over-limit fees, and can be affected by other Chase accounts or loans. This penalty APR may affect the card for an indefinite amount of time, making it even more important to pay your balance in full each month. According to the CARD Act of 2009, the card issuer must restore the lower APR after you have made six months of payments on time and as agreed, but this does not prevent application of the default APR on future purchases. There are rewards cards that do not impose such a fee, such as Discover it and the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card.
- High APR. There is no introductory APR offered. While interest rates of 14.24% and higher are standard with miles-based and rewards credit cards, if you carry a balance regularly you cannot maximize your rewards opportunities as much as cardholders who pay their balance in full each month.
- Excellent Credit Is Needed to Qualify. Consumers with “good” credit have been surprised to find that they don’t qualify for the British Airways credit card. You need to be in the “excellent” range, which generally means a score of 750 or higher, in order to carry this card.
Regardless of how you choose to redeem your Avios, if you travel with British Airways frequently, you can accumulate more points with the Chase British Airways Visa than with other cards, which usually award one to two miles per dollar. The issue of fuel surcharges has been around a while, and the only way to avoid paying huge surcharges is to redeem your Avios on domestic flights and North American international flights only.
It is the sign-up bonus alone that makes the British Airways Visa Signature® Card worth trying out. There are very few travel rewards cards offering similar sign-up bonuses and a rewards earning ratio of 2.5 points per dollar spent with their partner airline. Outside of the free tickets that can be earned, this card is most beneficial if you travel frequently with British Airways and can take advantage of the points-earning opportunities.
4.5 stars out of 5: Most of the same disadvantages are standard with other travel rewards cards, but are offset on the Chase British Airways Visa by the sign-up bonus and the ability to earn Avios with spending.
Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.