The British Airways Visa Signature Card: Your Ticket to Free Flights and More Avios

Ellen Sirull

Ellen Sirull | Blog

Apr 29, 2019 | Updated May 01, 2019

British Airways is no newbie to the airline industry, celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

While most American travelers may stick with a domestic airline as their preferred option, BA is a member of the oneworld alliance which makes it easy to use Avios with partners like Alaska Airlines and American Airlines, as well as international airlines such as Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Qantas, and more.

British Airways is focused on helping passengers with accessibility, which can make traveling a lot easier for many who may otherwise find it challenging. Recently, British Airways was awarded the prestigious Autism Friendly Award by the National Autistic Society, becoming the first recognized autism-friendly airline in the UK. The airline continues to put substantial investment in accessibility training for all of its customer service staff.

For travelers seeking a credit card to earn more Avios and make trips more rewarding, there’s just one option offered by BA and Chase: the British Airways Visa Signature® Card (Review).

The BA Executive Club Rewards Program and Avios

British Airways’ Executive Club Rewards Program for frequent flyers uses points called Avios. Here are some details:

  • Avios are the Executive Club’s main rewards currency.
  • You collect (earn) Avios by taking flights on British Airways and partner airlines, booking with partners like hotels and car rentals, and spending with BA credit cards.
  • The number of Avios earned depends on the distance flown, cabin/class, and your Executive Club tier — rather than how much you spend, like some other airlines.
  • Avios only expire if your Executive Club account has no activity for 36 months.
  • You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points and Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Avios.

In addition to Avios, British Airways uses Tier Points, which you earn on BA flights and flights on partner airlines. Tier Points are only used to help you move up through the membership tiers. Avios are for cashing in rewards, like for award flights, and Tier Points are just for increasing your member status. Unlike Avios, your Tier Points reset to zero each membership year.

Earning Avios

The main way to earn Avios is by booking flights with British Airways or airline partners. You’ll earn a minimum of 125 Avios on any flight, with the Avios earned increasing by fare class and tier level in the Executive Club program. Almost all BA flights are eligible for Avios and Tier Points. The only flights you don’t earn them on are reward flights, agency discounted fares, and industry discounted fares.

Here’s are some example fare classes and the Avios you’ll earn with each:

Fare Class Avios Awarded Minimum Avios Earned Tier Points Earned
Economy (K, L, M, N, S, V) 50% of miles flown 250 50%
Business Class (R, I) 150% of miles flown 750 100%
First Class (A) 250% of miles flown 1,250 100%

British Airways also has a calculator on its website to determine the Avios you’ll earn for specific routes and tiers, so you can see what you’ll get for any particular flight. Take note that flights on airlines other than BA will earn Avios at different rates.

Sample Flight With Avios and Tier Points Earned

Here’s what a sample flight from New York City (JFK) to London (LHR) would cost:

And here’s how many Avios and Tier Points you’d earn on that flight, for each flight class:

So, you’d earn 3,458 Avios and 70 Tier Points for a flexible economy seat on this flight. But you could actually earn more Avios with the BA credit card — keep reading to learn how.

British Airways Executive Club Membership Tiers

There are four tiers in the Executive Club rewards program (or “programme,” as they say over there): Blue, Bronze, Silver, and Gold. Like most airlines, as the tier increases so do the benefits and Avios earned. Here are some of the differences laid out by tier:

Blue Bronze Silver Gold
Eligibility Join Executive Club frequent flyer program Fly BA at least twice and earn 300 Tier Points, or take a total of 25 BA flights Fly BA at least 4 times and earn 600 Tier Points, or take a total of 50 BA flights Fly BA at least 4 times and earn 1,500 Tier Points
Bonus Avios on BA flights None 25% 50% 100%
Household Program for pooling Avios Yes Yes Yes Yes
Priority check-in and boarding No Yes Yes Yes
Free seat selection No 7 days before departure At booking At booking
Two free checked bags (Except on basic fares) No No Yes Yes

Most of the offerings are fairly standard as airline member programs go, but there are some special perks including:

  • Maternity/Paternity/Adoption Status Freeze: Bronze, Silver, and Gold members can apply to keep their status if they have or adopt a child, even though they’ll likely be flying less during their maternity, paternity, or adoption leave.
  • Lounge Access: Silver and Gold members get access to BA and partner airport lounges (there are 30 dedicated BA lounges and over 100 partner lounges worldwide).

Redeeming Avios

Like most other airlines, the exact number of Avios needed for a free flight depends on the departure and arrival locations, time of year, and if any promotions are happening. For example, an award flight on a similar route to the JFK to LHR flight mentioned before, which would normally cost $604.23 round trip, would use 33,000 Avios and cost approximately $576 in fees:

A British Airways flight from JFK to LHR.

So, while this particular flight wouldn’t provide a great value for your Avios because of the high fees, there are often better options throughout the U.S. and Europe. One frequent Executive Club traveler, R.J. Weiss of The Ways to Wealth, shares some insights on making the most of BA’s points: “Unlike many other airlines, British Airways’ Executive Club program uses a distance-based award chart. This can create some unique opportunities to get a great value on your Avios points, especially for short-haul domestic flights.”

Weiss explains, “As an example, I fly between Chicago and Florida a lot to visit family. A ticket from Chicago to Fort Myers can cost as low as 7,500 Avios, which is booked through American Airlines (a BA partner). If I were to book that same flight through American Airlines’ AAdvantage loyalty program, it would cost 12,500 points.”

Of course, award flight values can vary depending on any special promotions running. So, if you’re booking with an airline partner, you’ll want to check both that partner and British Airways to see which value is best.

We were unable to find a redemption example showing a good value for the Avios required, in large part due to issues with the British Airways website. The Avios requirements for specific flights were unavailable, and so were general flight schedules. Hopefully this issue is resolved soon, and we’ll come back to show a good redemption value when possible.

The British Airways Visa Signature Card

Here’s a snapshot of the rewards and benefits you can expect from the BA credit card.

Spending Rewards
  • 4X Avios per dollar spent on all purchases during the first year, up to $30,000 spent (then 1X)
  • 3X Avios per dollar spent at:
    • British Airways
    • Iberia
    • Aer Lingus
  • 1X Avios per dollar spent on all other purchases

Instead of a typical intro bonus, like a certain number of Avios for spending a certain amount, cardholders earn 4X Avios on all purchases during the first year, up to the spending limit. This could be a good way to earn Avios if you have a lot of spending to do throughout that first year, but in most cases you can get a better return on your spending with a normal signup bonus.

If you spent the full $30,000 in that first year you’d only earn 120,000 Avios. That may seem like a lot, but some other reward cards have signup bonuses that can provide 80,000 points for spending just $5,000 in the first three months, for example. You don’t get a full year in those cases, but you’ll get a way bigger return on your spending than the BA card provides.

Key Features

  • Special offer: 10% off all British Airways bookings: There’s a promotion running for all BA Visa Signature cardholders, offering 10% off any round-trip flights with outbound travel through March 31, 2020. You must pay with your BA credit card. Find details on this promotion here.
  • Get an extra ticket for a travel companion: Spend $30,000 in a calendar year to earn a Travel Together Ticket, good for one companion ticket on a reward flight. Your Travel Together Ticket will be automatically added to your Executive Club account after you hit the spending requirement. You’ll have to pay taxes, fees, and carrier charges on this ticket.
  • Annual fee: $95, which is comparable to many other airline credit cards.
  • No foreign transaction fees: This is useful for any overseas travel, but many travel and rewards credit cards also offer this benefit. Check out the best cards with no foreign transaction fees for other options.

Read more in our Review of the British Airways Visa Signature® Credit Card.

How many Avios will you earn?

Using the previous example of JFK – LHR, if you pay with your British Airways Visa Signature you’ll earn 5,874 Avios as a new cardholder (in the first year). That assumes you’re taking a flexible economy seat.

The flight costs about $604 and you’d earn 4X Avios per dollar, for a total of 2,416 additional Avios from the card.

This is approximately 70% more Avios than you’d earn as a basic Blue Executive Club member, showing just how valuable this card can be for each trip you take.

Making the Most of Your BA Visa Signature Credit Card

Here are some tips to get the most out of your card and every Avios you earn:

  • Take advantage of signup bonus Avios and special promotions when possible: Veneta Lusk, a family finance expert who blogs at Becoming Life Smart, shares how she maximizes the BA Visa Signature card for Avios: “My husband and I got the card when we were renovating our house three years ago. We charged several big expenses on the card to max out the signup bonus and ended up getting more than 100,000 British Airways Avios.”
  • Look for short-haul flights: Lusk adds, “The points work great for short-haul flights since those cost just 7,500 Avios one way on American Airlines. We used the Avios to fly to Las Vegas, New York, and even back home first class from Salt Lake City on Valentine’s Day. The points are very flexible and can be used in a variety of ways.”
  • Use your Avios with partner airlines to get a better value: In addition to American Airlines, Aer Lingus often provides deals to Ireland from many east coast cities in the states. Alaska Airlines, Iberia, and Japan Airlines are also worth checking out if you’re planning a more exotic rewards trip.
  • Last-minute award tickets can be relatively inexpensive: You won’t pay additional fees with British Airways when booking last-minute travel, like you may with others like American Airlines. That’s $75 per ticket with AA, which can add up quickly. So, using Avios to book last-minute travel could save you a tidy sum.
  • Don’t miss out on the 10% discount for BA flight bookings: Book any applicable round-trip British Airways flights through March 31, 2020 on using the promo code CHASEBA10 to get your 10% discount.
  • Consider another card for everyday purchases after the first year: You’ll earn 4X Avios per dollar in your first year on all purchases, up to $30,000, but after that you should use a different card for non-BA purchases to earn more rewards. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Review) or American Express® Gold Card (Review) could be good everyday cards for travelers. And you can even transfer both Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards points to Avios.
Chase recently launched its first ever transfer bonus, so anyone transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Avios gets 30% bonus Avios through June 16, 2019. The bonus Avios are credited to your British Airways Executive Club account after the transfer processes.

The British Airways Visa Signature: Brilliant or Rubbish?

If you’re a frequent BA traveler, you may find the British Airways Visa Signature card a good fit for maximizing Avios. But if you don’t fly BA often it won’t do you much good, and if you’ll spend a lot with other airlines and hotels as well you may want a general-use travel credit card like one of these:

British Airways isn’t the only airline that provides a credit card to upgrade your point earning capability and flight benefits. Other major airlines like Delta, United, Southwest, and JetBlue also offer valuable co-branded credit cards.
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