Chase British Airways Credit Card Review (2016)
A Quick Word
Our Chase British Airways credit card review reminds us of a few other credit cards on the Power Rankings. Sure, there are certain situations when the card can be used as an everyday spender, but for most Nomads, the best move is to get in, get the bonus, and get out.
Earn 50,000 Avios points after spending $3,000 in 90 days
$95 (NOT waived)
Minimum Credit Score
- 50k Avios Points
- 3x purchases on British Airways flights
- 1x everything else
- No foreign transaction fees
- Not much else
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1) 50,000 Points
50k points for $3,000 spent in 90 days is on par with most offers out there. There are much higher spends (Chase Ink, etc.), and there are much lower spends (Chase Freedom, etc.). But if you can hit the $3,000, the 50k points are a fair trade.
50k points in about every point system (excluding you Delta) is going to have decent value. But the value can vary, as it can range anywhere from meh to holy s**t! Avios is whatever you make of it… which brings me to the next point…
2) Avios Points
Avios points are amongst the most controversial points out there… But they shouldn’t be. Drew Macomber from TravelIsFree said it best – “British Airways Avios (miles) are only as good as the person redeeming them.” Well said.
This isn’t meant to be a stab at anyone who expresses difficulty with redeeming Avios points (I’ll be the first to admit, they’re a pain in the a** sometimes), but if redeemed properly they can truly have amazing value. 50,000 Avios points can get you a lot of free/cheap flights.
3) Distance Based Redemptions
One of the better perks of Avios points is that their rewards chart is distance-based. What does this mean?
It means the further you fly, the more it will cost. Seems obvious, but let me explain. For example, most airlines will charge based on zones. United Airlines charges 12,500 miles for a one way domestic flight in South America. (Fares are all economy – it’s my preference)
United – Santiago -> Bogota – 12,500 miles. Santiago -> Buenos Aires – 12,500 miles.
Avios award chart is not zone based, but distance based.
Avios – Santiago -> Bogota 12,500 points. Santiago -> Buenos Aires – 7,500 points
Since Santiago and Buenos Aires are less than 1,150 miles apart, the price is cheaper when redeeming through Avios and their distance-based chart.
There are a multitude of short-haul flights one can redeem with Avios points that have mucho bang for their buck. Flights start as low as 7,500 points one way (under 1,150 miles).
One of Avios’ most heralded redemption options is through Irish Airline, Aer Lingus. Because of it’s proximity, one can fly from Boston, to Dublin, on Aer Lingus, for 12,500 each way!
This offer’s been around for a while, and is one of the most well-known redemption options out there (believe me, it’s very popular in the Travel Hacking circle). But for good reason! It’s awesome!
4) Flexible Travel Plans
Avios points are best redeemed when one’s travel plans are flexible.
Being versatile with your travel plans will allow you to take advantage of A) Avios “Off Peak Fares” (which will save you anywhere from 10-30% the cost of an original flight). And B) Last minute change of plans (lack of close-in booking fees, and depending on airline the redeposit fee might not be too painful).
1) 1x Everything not British Airways Flights
So as great as Avios points can be, once you’ve got the 50k, it’s very difficult to get more at a rate that is worth it. Sure, if you fly religiously with British Airlines, you can use this as your main card. If BA is your go-to, then maybe the 3x’s for BA purchases is worth it… but there are better alternatives.
For example, the Sapphire Preferred gives you access to Ultimate Rewards which earns you 2x on every travel and dining purchase. These points can then be transferred to BA instantly at a 1:1 ratio.
I can’t see many people rationalizing keeping this card long enough for the second annual fee to kick in.
2) Recent Devaluation
I won’t linger too long here, but I’d like to quickly get it out of my system. In February of 2016, Travel Hacking with Chase British Airways became less appealing. BA devalued an amazing perk they had where you could fly for 4,500 points on routes shorter than 650 miles. It was a great offer. Now, it’s up to 7,500… which is still pretty good. But not amazing.
Whatever. It’s gone. Just had to say my bit.
3) British Airways Fuel Surcharges
Or as I like to call them, the devil. Basically a ‘fuel surcharge’ is exactly as it sounds – an additional fee charged by the airline (usually on tickets redeemed with points or miles.. apparently for fuel). If these ‘surcharges’ were a few bucks, whatever. But they typically aren’t. Especially with British Airways. Fuel surcharges with BA are typically in the hundreds of bucks.
Such high fees completely negate the point of accumulating points. Points and miles are meant to give us free-ish travel. ‘Fuel surcharges’ neutralize these perks.
Thankfully, there are ways around these pesky fees. Using BA’s website, one can search and book flights with any of their partners who don’t have fuel surcharges. (LAN, Air Berlin, Aer Lingus, and American Airlines in particular). Don’t pay fuel surcharges.
3) $95 Annual Fee (NOT Waived)
Paying an annual fee is never ideal, but sometimes it’s a part of the process. Basically you spend $3,000, and pay a $95 fee for 50,000 Avios points. But, even though the fee isn’t ideal, it’s more than worth it.
4) No Other Perks
There really isn’t much to this card. Nothing that jumps out and says “awesome!”. No foreign transaction fees are nice, but these days it’s standard. There is the “Travel Together Ticket” which allows two tickets to be booked for the price of one – but to obtain, one must spend $30,000 on the card within a calendar year… No thanks.
This card is about the signup bonus. Avios points. And 50,000 of them. They’re great to have, and are best redeemed with Aer Lingus (Europe) AA (United States or Asia) and LAN (South America).
Personally, I’ve redeemed my Avios points for Lima -> Bogota (10,000 miles and $45.74) and Bogota -> Miami (10,000 miles and $89). My personal recommendation is to redeem you Avios points with LAN traveling through South America. There aren’t really any budget airlines in South America, and a lot of routes are monopolized by only a few airlines. Avios helps get you around South America for much cheaper.
Avios points saved me a lot of money flying through South America. I purchased both these tickets a mere week before traveling, and the normal ticket prices were extraordinarily high. I highly recommend using these points to travel around South America.
Avios points are as good as you want them to be, but unfortunately there is only so much you can do Travel Hacking with Chase British Airways credit card.
Given BA’s impressive partner list and ability to fly basically around the world, it’s unfortunate this card doesn’t offer more. If they gave the ability to earn more points on everyday purchases, arguments could be made about spending more money on this card. But, like most branded airline cards, BA doesn’t give much incentive to keep it.
So until they do. Get in, get your bonus, and get out. And then fly around South America. ¡VAMANOS!