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Best Airline Credit Cards
Who is This Credit Card Best For?
Flies regularly and likes finding ways to score even more travel—for free
Diligently searches for the best products and delights in a good bargain
Loves to explore places and experience new things
Frequently shops with a particular merchant and wants to be rewarded for their loyalty
If you tend to charge a lot and have excellent credit, the British Airways Visa Signature Card is a great way to amass a slew of points to finance 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 bonus.
But after that, you’ll earn far fewer Avios points on non-flight purchases, so the card favors frequent British Airways flyers. Heavy spenders are the one exception: No matter how long you’ve had the card, you’ll snag a free companion ticket every time you charge $30,000 in a calendar year.
You can earn lots of points in your first year
Points are valuable
Heavy spenders get a free companion ticket every year
Plenty of airline choice
You have to wait to get the second half of the sign-up bonus
After the first year, you need to spend a lot to get the most value
You may get stuck with big carrier fees
Lackluster 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 $1,700 a month on your card—on anything—you could get enough points for several international round-trip flights your first year.
- 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 get a free companion ticket every year: If you charge at least $30,000 in a calendar year, you’ll get a free “travel together” ticket to be used with your own award ticket (you just need to pay taxes and fees).
- Plenty of airline choice: Besides British Airways, your points can be used for flights on 14 partner airlines when you book those flights through BA.
- You have to wait to get the second half of the sign-up bonus: Beyond the initial three-month bonus, you have to wait until the end of the year and meet another spending threshold to get the rest of the sign-up bonus.
- After the first year, you need to spend a lot to get the most value: Rewards diminish in the second year unless you’re purchasing British Airways tickets or spending $30,000 a year. The $30,000 threshold to earn a companion ticket means owning the British Airways Visa Signature Card 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 in cash, even if you use Avios points to pay for the base fare. For example, British Airways may impose a carrier charge of $240 on a round-trip economy flight from New York to London.
- Lackluster travel perks: Unlike some competing cards, the British Airways Visa Signature Card doesn’t offer priority boarding, free checked luggage, or any travel credits (such as an application fee credit for TSA Precheck/Global Entry or an airline fee credit) beyond the free companion ticket.
British Airways Visa Signature Card Sign-Up Bonus
The British Airways Visa Signature Card offers one of the biggest sign-up bonuses, but only if you’re a heavy spender. If you spend $3,000 within the first three months, you’ll get 50,000 points—about what you’d get from other travel cards that may only require you to spend $2,000 (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 another 50,000 points for a total of 100,000.
If you don’t plan to spend 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 convert your miles to Avios points.
Earning Points & Rewards
Once cardholders have maxed out the card’s sign-up offer, the British Airways rewards program becomes less appealing—especially if you don’t plan to fly British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, or LEVEL regularly. Cardholders are awarded 3 points per $1 spent on those four airlines (some competitors with similar fees only award 2 points per $1 spent on the co-branded airline), but there are no bonus points on other regular purchases such as groceries or gas. You’ll just earn the standard 1 point per $1 on every other purchase.
You can use Avios points to pay for flights with British Airways and 14 partners, including American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Aer Lingus, and Cathay Pacific. If you don’t have enough Avios points to pay for an entire flight, you can pay the rest in cash, but only on British Airways flights, not on partner airlines’ flights.
The rewards program doesn’t impose any blackout dates on travel, but it does limit the number of rewards seats that are available, which can have the same effect. That said, reward flights can require as few as 16,000 Avios points round-trip, depending on when and where you fly. For example, we found flights from Los Angeles to London Heathrow that cost $3,200, but only 16,250 miles.
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 alcohol purchases. You can’t redeem them for cash, statement credits, gift cards or merchandise, though.
How to Get the Most Out of This Card
Charge at least $30,000 every year in order to earn the free companion ticket. In the first year, that will also earn you the full 100,000-point sign-up bonus.
Take advantage of other opportunities to earn lots of points, such as shopping through the British Airways eStore. 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 as many travel perks as some airline cards, but these are the ones we think are the best:
- Free companion pass: Every year you charge $30,000, you’ll receive a ticket for a companion to accompany you on an award flight (you just need to pay taxes and fees). It’s 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.
- Baggage delay insurance: You’ll be reimbursed up to $100 a day for three days if your baggage is delayed by more than six hours. The benefit covers essential purchases you need to make while you wait for your luggage.
- Lost luggage reimbursement: 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
Other noteworthy benefits include:
- Car rental collision insurance (secondary to your own policy)
- Extended warranties
- Coverage for stolen or damaged purchases
Chase tied for third place out of 11 national issuers in J.D. Power’s 2019 credit card satisfaction study, getting an "about average" score of 807 out of 1,000 points.
One convenience 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%). On the positive side, the card doesn’t charge a penalty rate if you fall behind on payments, which is somewhat unusual. It also doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee.