If you’re looking for a travel rewards credit card specifically for European travel, the British Airways Visa Signature Credit Card could be right up your alley. With this card, your spending is rewarded with Avios, which can then be redeemed for travel with several airline partners.
This card is a particularly good option for big spenders who frequently travel internationally. Before you decide, get all the details below.
Currently, the rewards with this card are solid for big spenders and those who are already traveling frequently with British Airways, Iberia, and OpenSkies. You’ll earn 3 Avios for every $1 spent on purchases with these airlines, and 1 Avios for every $1 spent on everything else.
The bonuses are great for new sign-ups right now, as well. You’ll earn 50,000 bonus Avios after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of the account opening. Then, you’ll earn an additional 25,000 bonus Avios when you spend $10,000 on purchases within the first year of account opening. If you spend $20,000 on purchases within the first year of account opening, you’ll earn an additional 25,000 bonus Avios.
Did you catch all that? It’s a lot of bonuses: Up to 100,000 bonus Avios within a year of account opening if you’re a big spender.
This card also comes with a potential annual bonus. For every calendar year you spend $30,000 in purchases, you’ll earn a Travel Together Ticket, which is good for a companion ticket any time you redeem Avios on a British Airways flight. You’ll still have to pay additional taxes and fees, but this is a great way to save for a romantic getaway or family vacation.
With Avios, you can book tickets with several airlines, including all oneworld alliance partners. Member airlines include airberline, Malaysia Airlines, American Airlines, Iberia, and more. Get the full list of partners here.
When you book a flight using rewards, you can use your Avios to pay for the flight itself. However, you’ll still be required to pay for any additional taxes, fees, and carrier charges with cash or credit. Avios will usually stretch a bit further with British Airways flights, but they can also be valuable assets with other partners.
Redeeming with British Airways vs. Other Partners
Curious about how far Avios stretch flying British Airways as opposed to other partners? This calculator from British Airways can give you an idea of how your Avios can be redeemed.
As of December 2015, here are the various options for a one-way flight from Edinburgh to London using British Airways vs. other airline partners:
As you can see, you’re better off redeeming Avios through British Airways, though points are still valuable with partner airlines. This is just a snapshot of options, so you’d need to check out the journey planner to get a complete idea of what your costs would be.
You can also redeem Avios for a mix of British Airways and partner airlines. This is helpful if you’d like to fly into Europe with a domestic airline and catch a connecting flight to a far-off location through British Airways. Redeeming Avios for a blended flight like this can help you stretch your Avios further while giving you more flexibility with flight options.
British Airways uses a standard distance-based redemption chart for situations like this:
Booking through the British Airways site will let you choose which partner to redeem your Avios with. It will prioritize British Airways flights for obvious reasons, but it present you with other flight options that you can redeem Avios to buy, as well.
Peak and Off-Peak Avios Redemption
British Airways actually tells customers how to stretch Avios further. For instance, if you choose to fly at an off-peak time for your particular flight, your Avios will be worth more. That may sound restrictive, but much of the year is considered off-peak. Any Tuesday or Wednesday flight, for instance, is off-peak. You can find the full peak and off-peak calendar here.
You can mix-and-match peak and off-peak, if you need to. For instance, you can fly out on a Tuesday to get off-peak rates but come home on Sunday and pay peak rates with your Avios.
How much can you save with off-peak flights? As of this writing, here are a few of the peak and off-peak deals featured on the British Airways’s website:
Clearly, using Avios for off-peak flights can save loads of rewards, allowing you to travel more as you stretch your rewards further.
This chart also gives you an idea of how many Avios you might need to take that vacation you’ve been dreaming of. To get specific Avios values for your flight, you’ll need to check booking options on the British Airways website.
Reward Flight Saver
You may have noticed in the chart of Edinburgh to London prices above that the fees include a “Reward Flight Saver” fee. The RFS fee is a flat fee for taxes, fees, and carrier charges on European flights. The RFS fee helps you save money on most flights, and also makes your out-of-pocket costs for Avios redemption flights predictable.
You can book a flight with the RFS fee, which is currently just £35 for a one-way flight, as long as you’ve collected at least 1 Avios in the preceding 12 month period.
Currently, British Airlines participates in partner rewards programs with certain hotels. Hotels that transfer their points, and transfer rates are as follows:
Club Carlson Gold Points
- 2,000 Gold Points to 200 Avios
- 50,000 Gold Points to 5,000 Avios
- 100,000 Gold Points to 10,000 Avios
- Increments of 10,000 points to 1,000 Avios
Hyatt Gold Passport Points
- Convert at least 5,000 Gold Passport Points to start, then convert in increments of 2,000 points
- Get 1 Avios for 2.5 Gold Passport Points
- Get 5,000 bonus Avios for converting 50,000 Gold Passport points
IHG® Rewards Club Points
- Start by converting at least 10,000 IHG® Rewards Club Points
- 10,000 IHG® points into 2,000 Avios
Shangri-La Golden Circle Award Points
- Convert Shangri-La Golden Circle Award Points to Avios at a 1:1 ratio
- Start by converting at least 2,500 Shangri-La points
Marriott Rewards® Points
- 10,000 Rewards Points to 2,000 Avios
- 20,000 Reward Points to 5,000 Avios
- 30,000 Reward Points to 10,000 Avios
- 70,000 Reward Points to 25,000 Avios
- 140,000 Reward Points to 50,000 Avios
Le Club Accordhotels Points
- Convert a minimum balance of 4,000 Le Club points
- 4,000 Le Club points to 2,000 Avios
- 2,500 minimum points transfer for SPG Preferred members
- 1,500 minimum points transfer for SPG Gold members
- No minimum points transfer for SPG Platinum members
- Transfer at a 1:1 ratio
To find out more about converting specific hotel points and rewards to Avios, visit this page.
Pros and Cons of the British Airways Visa Signature® Card
This credit card is definitely not the most versatile or highest-earning card around, unless you’re a frequent European traveler who likes to fly British Airways. However, if you’re a big spender and frequent traveler – or, if you prefer to use your credit card rewards for additional travel – it may be the right card for you. With that said, finding the right credit card is entirely an individual endeavor, so here’s a summary of the pros and cons of this card:
- Travel Together Ticket: The Travel Together ticket is a great reward for big spenders. Remember, you can net this reward when you spend $30,000 on your card in a calendar year. It doesn’t matter what you spend that $30,000 on. You have to be departing from the US to use your Travel Together ticket, and you still have to pay fees and taxes associated with the ticket. The best way to use this ticket is often to use miles to upgrade both you and your companion to first class where you won’t feel the fuel surcharges and taxes so strongly.
- Distance-Based Rewards: Redeeming Avios for short-haul flights is pretty simple, especially since American Airlines and other big domestic carriers are partner airlines. The distance-based chart makes it easy to see how you can redeem your rewards for shorter flights.
- 10% Discount: When you book a British Airways ticket through OpenSkies, you can save 10% on the cost of the ticket. Check out the details of this offer here.
- No Foreign Transaction Fee: Since this card is geared towards foreign travelers, it has no foreign transaction fee.
- Additional Surcharges: As you’ve likely gathered from the discussion of Avios, there’s no way to redeem Avios for an airline ticket without paying additional fees. You’ll have to pay surcharges, which can be quite high. You could pay as much as $800 or more for a roundtrip ticket between the U.S. and Europe in a premium cabin, even if you’re redeeming Avios to cover the bulk of the flight. Some partner airlines charge low or no surcharges, making them a better redemption options even if your Avios don’t stretch as far.
- No Bonus Categories: This card is really geared towards big spenders who travel often and typically use this card for travel-related expenses. With no everyday bonus rewards, it’s not a great card for everyday spending.
- Award Availability: Space for awards flights redeemed with Avios varies from flight to flight. It can be difficult to book flights with your Avios, so it’s worth looking into potential flights before you start spending big with this credit card.
- Annual Fee: Most great travel rewards cards have an annual fee. This one is $95 per year, which is slightly high. As long as you spend enough to make it worthwhile, though, this shouldn’t be a huge problem.
Who It’s For
As we’ve noted above, this card is really geared towards big spenders who travel often. Other cards have better everyday rewards bonuses for gas, groceries, and other items. But, if you spend tens of thousands of dollars per year on international travel, this could be the best card for your particular needs.
Whether you’re flying for business or pleasure, the 3 Avios per $1 spent on air travel is a pretty great reward. Of course, if you spend enough to net the companion ticket each year, you’ll come out on top.