Who Is This Credit Card Best For?
Flies regularly and likes finding ways to score even more travel—for free See more cards
Diligently searches for the best products and delights in a good bargain See more cards
Loves to explore places and experience new things See more cards
Frequently shops with a particular merchant and wants to be rewarded for their loyalty See more cards
If you tend to charge a lot and have good credit, the British Airways Visa Signature Card is a great way to amass a slew of points to pay for your next international vacation. In your first year, you don’t need to fly British Airways or buy items in any particular spending category to earn a big sum of bonus points.
But after that, you’ll earn the most Avios points on British Airways (and partner airline) purchases, so like many airline-branded credit cards, this card favors frequent flyers of the airline. Heavy spenders are the one exception: No matter how long you’ve had the card, you’ll snag a companion ticket each year you charge $30,000.
You can earn lots of points in your first year
Points are valuable
Heavy spenders can earn a companion ticket every year
Plenty of airline choices
Once the welcome bonus is gone, you need to spend a lot to get the most value
You may get stuck with big carrier fees
Missing some top travel perks
- You can earn lots of points in your first year: Even if you don’t travel, the British Airways Visa Signature Card offers an exceptional first-year promotion. If you charge at least $5,000 in the first 90 days of account opening on your card—on anything—you could get enough points for at least one international round-trip flight your first year, based on our research.
- Points can be very valuable: Our research shows that frequent flyer miles from BA can be a superior value when used for international flights, and a very good value when used on American Airlines flights for U.S. travel.
- Heavy spenders can earn a companion ticket every year: If you charge at least $30,000 in a calendar year, you’ll get a “travel together” ticket to be used with your own award ticket (you just need to pay taxes and fees).
- Plenty of airline choices: Besides British Airways, your points can be used for flights on 12 partner airlines in the Oneworld Alliance when you book those flights through BA.
- Once the welcome bonus is gone, you need to spend a lot to get the most value: This card’s regular rewards-earning potential is lackluster. You only earn bonus points on purchases from three airlines and on hotels. And to get that companion ticket, you’ll need to spend $30,000 in a year on the card, which could limit your ability to rack up points or miles on other cards.
- You may get stuck with big carrier fees: British Airways has earned a reputation for big carrier charges on international flights. Those can cost you hundreds of extra dollars, even if you use Avios points to pay for the base fare. For example, British Airways may impose a carrier charge of anywhere from $682 to $1,250 per adult economy ticket, or $1,250 for business class based on a trip between Seattle and London.
- Missing some top travel perks: Unlike some competing cards, the British Airways Visa Signature Card doesn’t offer priority boarding, free checked luggage, or an application fee credit for TSA Precheck/Global Entry or an airline fee credit.
Bonus for New Cardholders
The British Airways Visa Signature Card offers one of the biggest bonuses available, but only if you’re a heavy spender.
If you spend $5,000 within the first three months, you’ll get 100,000 points—about what you’d get from other travel cards for a similar spending requirement (and may waive the annual fee for the first year). This card stands out, though, if you have a big budget month in and month out; if you charge $20,000 in the first year, you’ll earn a companion ticket rather than having to get to the normal $30,000 in spend.
If you don’t plan to spend an average of at least $1,700 a month on your British Airways Visa Signature Card, then you may be better off with a different travel card that allows you to use your rewards for flights with this Oneworld Alliance airline.
Earning Points and Rewards
Once cardholders have maxed out the card’s new-cardholder bonus offer, the British Airways rewards program becomes less appealing—especially if you don’t plan to fly British Airways, Iberia, or Aer Lingus regularly.
Cardholders are awarded 5 points per $1 spent on those three airlines (some competitors with similar fees only award 2 points per $1 spent on the co-branded airline) and then 3 points per $1 spent on hotel reservations. Unfortunately, there are no bonus points for everyday purchases such as groceries or gas. You’ll just earn the standard 1 point per $1 spent on every other purchase.
You can use Avios points to pay for flights with British Airways and 13 partners, including American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and Qantas. If you don’t have enough Avios points to pay for an entire flight, you may be able to pay the rest in cash if you’re booking a British Airways flight, an American Airlines flight between North American and the United Kingdom, or flights on select partner airlines.
The rewards program doesn’t impose any blackout dates on travel, but it does limit the number of reward seats that are available, which can have the same effect. Route, flight distance, and seat type will also impact reward ticket cost. For example, The Balance found that a short, one-way economy flight on British Airways within Europe may cost about 14,400 Avios, while a longer distance first-class ticket may cost about 62,500 Avios.
British Airways may have higher carrier charges than its partners on transatlantic flights, so look for rewards flights with other airlines in the program first. Or, if you’re traveling in designated areas, you may be able to use the Rewards Flight Saver program, which charges just one fee plus the required Avios points.
Besides airfare and related expenses, you can redeem Avios points for select hotel stays, car rentals, tours, and in-flight drink and snack purchases. You can’t redeem them for cash, statement credits, gift cards, or merchandise, however.
How to Get the Most out of This Card
Charge at least $30,000 ($20,000 in the first year) every year in order to earn the companion ticket. In the first year, that will also easily earn you the 100,000-point bonus if you spend $5,000 of that in the first 90 days.
Take advantage of other opportunities to earn extra points, such as shopping through the British Airways eStore or using this card to book hotel reservations. When redeeming your rewards, book partner flights whenever possible to avoid steep carrier charges.
The British Airways Visa Signature Card’s Excellent Perks
The British Airways Visa Signature Card doesn’t offer all the travel perks that some airline cards do, but these are the ones we think are the best:
- Companion pass: Every year you charge $30,000, you’ll receive a complimentary ticket for a companion who will accompany you on an award flight (you just need to pay taxes and fees). The pass, which British Airways calls a “Travel Together Ticket,” is good for up to two years and can even be used for first-class. This is an ongoing benefit, and is pretty generous, considering the annual fee is just $95.
- Annual statement credits for airline flight purchases: Get up to $600 back in statement credits each year by booking an award flight to London on British Airways and using this card to pay applicable taxes, fees, and carrier charges. You’ll earn $100 back for each economy or premium economy flight, or $200 for business and first-class tickets, three times each year.
- Insurance coverage for lost or delayed baggage: You’ll be reimbursed up to $100 a day to cover essential purchases for three days if your baggage is delayed by more than six hours. You’ll be reimbursed up to $3,000 per ticket if your or an immediate family member’s luggage is lost or damaged in transit.
The British Airways Visa Signature Card’s Other Features
- Rental car collision insurance (secondary to your own policy)
- Extended warranties
- Insurance for stolen or damaged purchases
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One convenient feature that’s worth noting is the British Airways Visa Signature Card’s “tap and pay” technology. You can save time at the cash register by tapping your card at any payment terminal that accepts contactless payments.
The British Airways Visa Signature Card offers standard security features, such as zero liability for fraudulent purchases as long as your report suspected fraud immediately.
Fees That Stand Out
The balance transfer fee on the British Airways Visa Signature Card is higher than some competitors, at 5% of the transaction (many cards charge 3%), and the late fee is comparable to other similar cards. It also doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee.