Review: British Airways Visa From Chase

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Last year, the big story in credit cards was the massive sign-up bonuses being offered by reward cards. In fact, the first of my 5 Credit Card Predictions for 2012 was that we would see “More sign-up bonuses – with more spending required.”

The British Airways Visa card from Chase is back with its phenomenal 100,000-mile sign-up bonus, but you need to spend more than before to receive the entire bonus.

Key features…

  • Huge sign-up bonus. New cardholders will receive 50,000 Avios points (what they’re now calling their miles) after their first purchase. You earn another 25,000 points after spending $10,000 within the first year of opening your account. Another 25,000-point bonus (for a total of 100,000) comes when you reach $20,000 of spending within your first year.
  • Earn points from purchases. You also earn 1.25 points per dollar spent on most purchases, with 2.5 points per dollar earned for charges to British Airways.
  • “Travel Together Ticket.” If you spend $30,000 in a calendar year, you earn a companion ticket (which they call Travel Together) valid for any award flight operated by British Airways.
  • Smart-chip technology. Most unattended credit-card readers in Europe require cards with a special EMV chip. This is the reason Why Your Credit Card Might Not Work in Europe. With this chip, this is one of the few cards offered to Americans that will actually work when you try to buy a train ticket at a machine.
  • No foreign transaction fees. Most cards have a 3 percent surcharge on all purchases made outside the United States, but there are no foreign transaction fees for this card.
  • Rates and fees. There’s a $95 annual fee for this card that is not being waived in this offer. The APR is 15.24 percent.

Advantages…

  • Incredible incentives. If you spend $20,000 to earn the full 100,000-point sign-up bonus, you’ll actually have at least 125,000 points – enough for an award flight from Chicago to London in international first class. If you have the Travel Together Ticket, you can book two seats for the same number of miles (although taxes and fees will double). The points required varies by length of the flight, but you can look up the amount required here.
  • Above-average miles from spending. Most airlines offer 1 mile per dollar, but this card offers 25 percent more miles/points.
  • Great travel features. With an EMV smart chip and no foreign transaction fees, this card is great for international travelers.
  • Use points on partners. I discovered long ago that these points go really far on their partner, American Airlines. When you take a flight under 650 miles, it costs only 4,500 points each way. That means that flights like Atlanta to Miami or Chicago to Washington are only 9,000 points round-trip. If there’s another card that offers round-trip flights at that low of a rate, I’m not aware of it.

Disadvantages…

  • Massive fuel surcharges. There’s no such thing as a “free” flight anymore, especially with this program. Not only do you have to pay considerable government taxes, the airline imposes huge fuel surcharges on nearly all awards. In fact, economy class international awards can cost as much or more than just purchasing a flight! The taxes and fees on a business or first class award can total nearly $1,000, but that’s still a good value for a ticket that can cost more than $10,000. Lap infants and companions on Travel Together Tickets must also pay these surcharges. Fortunately, domestic award flights on American are exempt from all but a $5 TSA fee.
  • High annual fee, few perks. Airline reward card fees are edging up against $100, but they usually offer more perks.
  • Not the lowest APR. This is a great card, but like all reward credit cards, you can expect a higher interest rate. Unless you always pay your balance in full, you should be looking at one of the 5 Credit Cards With Low Interest Rates.

Bottom line…

Get it if: You love award travel and spend enough to earn the full 100,000 points.

Forget it if: You carry a balance, book international awards in economy class, or just hate fuel surcharges.

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