Back on July 29 I noted that the card offer had change so that in addition to 50,000 bonus points after $2,000 spend within 3 months, there would be a $0 fee the first year ($95 thereafter).
The card has no foreign transaction fees and earns 1.25 points per dollar spent.
The real unique selling proposition of the card, though, is the ‘Travel Together Ticket’ you earn each calendar year you spend $30,000 on the card.that lets you book two passengers on an award ticket for the mileage cost of one.
Getting the Best Value from the British Airways Program
BA charges more for longer flights, charges separately for each flight segment, and charges twice a coach ticket for business and three times a coach ticket for first class.
Conveersely, short non-stop flights are really inexpensive (as little as 4500 miles each way for coach) and flights that do not incur fuel surcharges come at a reasonable cost.
Although I liked it better in the old days where I could spend 100,000 points and get roundtrip Cathay Pacific business class to Hong Kong and Bali, these cheap short flights are pretty appealing. I can go to New York or Chicago roundtrip for 9000 points (no fuel surcharges on US domestic tickets) from my home in DC.
Dealing With Those Pesky Fuel Surcharges
The biggest drawback to the British Airways program is fuel surcharges added to awards where they are similarly added to paid tickets.
This is a common feature of frequent flyer programs based outside the US (other than in South America).
If you redeem your points for flights that have no fuel surcharges — such as US domestic flights, or flights to South America — you will save cash. And those are actually good uses of British Airways Avios, since the best value awards in the program are short non-stop flights.
You can keep your fuel surcharges quite modest even flying transatlantic on award tickets if you:
- Fly Air Berlin (no fuel surcharges)
- Fly Aer Lingus (very low fuel surcharges)
- Have an Iberia Avios account that’s been open for 90 days and has some activity in it — you can move British Airways Avios over to Iberia, and use points in the Iberia account to redeem for Iberia flights without fuel surcharges.
Leveraging the British Airways Program By Pooling Miles in Family Accounts
British Airways offers family accounts — you can set up your account with family members so you can pool your miles towards a single award.
This means you and a spouse, for instance, could each get the card. After meeting the minimum spend for to earn the bonus, you’d have earned a total of 105,000 for the two cards. Even though the miles are in two different accounts, you can spend them on one award ticket as though they were in a single account if you link the accounts together.
Creating a family account — which can be undone — means you can only redeem awards for people that are linked in the family account.
And you can have up to 7 people in a family account, if each of them got the card and earned the bonus that would be 367,500 miles to spend as though they were all in one account.
The Exceptional Value of the “Travel Together” Ticket
If you spend $30,000 in a calendar year on the card you earn a companion award ticket which allows you to book two passengers on an award ticket for the mileage price of one award. You still pay taxes and fees for both passengers. And two award seats must be available in the ticketed cabin for both passengers as well.
The basic rules for the travel together ticket are:
- Each calendar year that you spend $30,000 on your British Airways Visa Signature Card, you earn a Travel Together Ticket valid for two years. Travel must begin by the expiration date of the certificate.
- Since the vouchers are valid for two years, if you earn one in each calendar year it is possible to have two vouchers in your account at the same time. You can use both on the same itinerary so that four passengers can travel for the mileage cost of two awards (plus taxes and fees).
- You can earn only one companion award ticket per British Airways Visa primary account. Spending $60,000 on the card does not earn two.
- All travel must originate in and return to the US.
- The person who earns the voucher (the visa cardholder) must be one of the passengers on the award ticket.
- Only flights on British Airways aircraft may be used on the award.
- Regular award space must be available for all passengers.
Since the companion ticket works for British Airways flights to and from the US only, you need to fly British Airways metal, that means routing via London. And flights beyond Europe start to get pretty expensive.
So I find that these vouchers are best used for travel to and from Europe.
This travel together ticket can be one of the most strategic plays in the frequent flyer universe. For instance, a couple can sign up for two of these cards and have 105,000 points after meeting minimum spend requirements.
They link their accounts into a household to share the miles.
They spend $30,000 on one card, $2000 on the other and they now have 140,000 points and a travel together ticket.
That 140,000 points is enough for both passengers to travel roundtrip first class from the East Coast, and nearly enough from the West. In a sense, those miles can be spent twice.
Again, you pay taxes and fees on both tickets — I view it as being like buying a deeply discounted non-mileage earning coach ticket and getting a triple upgrade to first class.
And it’s the only way I know for two people to travel in premium cabins to Europe off of only two credit card signups, though it does take spending $30,000 on the card to earn a travel together certificate in order to do it.
British Airways business class availability can be really good out of some gateways like Washington Dulles and New York JFK, and first class and business both out of places like Philadelphia, British Airways award space isn’t nearly as good as it was a couple of years ago. Like with any award ticket, flexibility helps a lot.
Used strategically, the British Airways Visa Signature® Card offers tremendous value. And with a $0 annual fee the first year, it’s an improved offer for the card.
(Note that the British Airways Visa Signature® Card offers credit to me if you’re approved using my links. I try to offer only the best available cards, and most lucrative deals available for those cards. So if you’re aware of better deals than I’ve featured please do let me know! The opinions, analyses, and evaluations here are mine. The content is not provided or commissioned by American Express, by Chase, by Citibank, US Bank, Bank of America, Barclays or any other company. They have not reviewed, approved or endorsed what I have to say.)