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These days my most useful types of airline miles increasingly aren’t the obvious ones you might think of first. More and more it is the foreign programs that are offering the most bang for my miles. This has happened as US based programs have inflated their award charts and at the same time, I have gone a bit deeper into seeking out alternatives to guard against that mile-flation.
As you likely know, airlines are often a part of an alliance and have multiple partners, so when you redeem miles with a foreign program, you can still fly on domestic US airlines and on domestic trips. In fact, you might get an even better deal!
Probably the most covered foreign program on US based miles and points blogs is British Airways and their Avios frequent flyer program. There are many reasons for this, but the two main reasons are that their award chart offers some great short distance sweet spots on partners like American Airlines, US Airways, and Alaska Airlines, and their Avios are pretty easy to earn via a variety of methods, including their co-branded British Airways Chase credit card.
British Airways Visa Signature® Card: 50,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first three months
The credit card has been around for a while offering 50,000 sign-up bonus points after the $2,000 minimum spending requirement is met (down from the 100,000 point bonus level a few years go), but only recently did the first year’s annual fee drop from $95 to $0. I love it when rewards cards offer the first year with a $0 introductory annual fee as it makes getting a nice influx of miles that much easier!
If you have had this card in years past, but are again interested in the British Airways program, note that the terms state: This new cardmember bonus offer is not available to either current cardmembers of this consumer credit card, or previous cardmembers of this consumer credit card who received a new cardmember bonus for this consumer credit card within the last 24 months.
Now that you know what the new sign-up offer is and who is potentially eligible to get it, here are my three favorite things about the British Airways card, that I have personally had for several years.
The Avios it Earns are Amazing for Short Haul Travel
If you have been at the miles and points game for a while, you likely know this already, but if not, become familiar with the British Airways award chart since Avios can be used not just for British Airways flights, but also for partners like American Airlines. Shown below are the coach prices based on segment. So, if you had one flight of 700 miles in length connect to another of 300 miles in length, then your total cost is not 7,500 Avios as the chart may indicate at first glance, but it is actually 7,500 Avios for the first flight + 4,500 Avios for the second flight, for a total of 12,000 Avios. This means the chart is most lucrative for nonstop flights.
1 – 650 miles flown: 4,500 Avios
651- 1,150 miles flown: 7,500 Avios
1,151 – 2,000 miles flown: 10,000 Avios
2,001 – 3,000 miles flown: 12,500 Avios
3,001 – 4,000 miles flown: 20,000 Avios
4,001 – 5,500 miles flown: 25,000 Avios
5,501 – 6,500 miles flown: 30,000 Avios
6,501 – 7,000 miles flown: 35,000 Avios
7,001+ miles flown: 50,000 Avios
To give a visual to how far you can fly on just 4,500 points, here is an approximation of 650 flown miles out from Dallas. Just 4,500 points would get you from DFW to Omaha, St. Louis, Des Moines, Denver, Albuquerque, El Paso, Monterrey (Mexico), Birmingham, and Memphis. If you wanted to spend 7,500 Avios each way, you could fly as far as Dallas to Fargo, Las Vegas, Cancun, Columbus, and Orlando! There just has to be saver award availability on American Airlines, US Airways, or Alaska Airlines to book using British Airways Avios.
I like to check for that saver level availability on American Airlines’ website and then go to British Airways’ site to book. This is because the BA site can be “buggy” and not display all the options that are really out there. If the BA site is not displaying the award seats you want, you have to call British Airways, which can be a less than prompt experience…. Still, there are very good values to be had on shorter awards on partner airlines.
Also keep in mind that “shorter” doesn’t limit you to North America. Boston – Dublin is actually a pretty short flight that clocks in at just under 3,000 flown miles, and thus costs just 12,500 Avios each direction, which is amazing to go from the US to Europe! If you want to book that flight in business class, it is just 25,000 Avios each way and with pretty low taxes/fees.
Earn 1.25X on All Purchases:
I virtually never earn just 1x on purchases any more thanks to having multiple rewards cards with different category bonuses, but if you know you want to focus on the British Airways program for a while, and don’t want to mess around with lots of rewards cards with different category bonuses, you can always earn over 1x on this card since it earns Avios at a rate of 1.25x points per dollar spent. Now 1.25 miles isn’t a ton more than 1.00, but over the course of a year that extra 25% can really add up if this is your primary card. The card will also earn double (2.5x) on British Airways purchases as well as give a 10% discount on BA purchases.
Get Two Awards for the Points Price of One via the Travel Together Certificate:
One benefit of the co-branded card that can be very valuable, is the Travel Together Certificate that you are awarded if you put $30,000 on the card in a calendar year. This allows the cardholder to bring someone along on a British Airways award redemption for no additional Avios. This sounds like a great BOGO opportunity, and it can be, but there are some details to be aware of before going for that certificate. A big nuance is that the certificate has to be used on a British Airways operated flight, and this means you will be subject to some pretty high fuel surcharges on both awards.
I successfully used the certificate to book my family in British Airways First Class from Houston to London, saving 75,000 Avios in the process (I just booked a one-way award), and you can read the details of that process here, but it did come with some big fuel surcharges.
The British Airways Avios program isn’t perfect for every scenario, but no one program is perfect for every scenario. If you haven’t looked at the co-branded British Airways Visa Signature® Card in a while, now is a good time to take a fresh look since there is now a $0 introductory annual fee the first year. I’d love to see the 100,000 point offer come back, but I have no clue if that will happen, and in the mean time 50,000 points and a $0 introductory first year fee isn’t too shabby!
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.