Avios Credit Cards
$3,000 initial spend
($470 net value, .16/$)Signup Bonus Chart
3x British Airways Purchases
1x Everywhere Else
No Foreign Transaction Fee
Each of the Avios-based airlines—British Airways, Iberia, and Aer Lingus—offer a US-based credit card. For most people, these cards are primarily interesting for their generous signup bonuses (not their ongoing benefits). Even if you don't fly on these airlines, you can use the points for American and Alaskan Airlines tickets.
If you regularly fly on one of these airlines every year, each card comes with a valuable "companion" certificate that can save you a considerable amount of money and the British Airways version allows you to save on their expensive award surcharges.
Because it is hard to use credit card travel benefits during the pandemic, Chase has made some temporary changes to their cards.
- You'll earn 3x points on up to $1,500 of grocery spending in May and June. This bonus category rate is available on all three cards.
Avios Credit Card Options
Each of the three Avios airlines has their own credit card. However, you can easily transfer the points from any of these cards to any of the three Avios programs and hey have always had the same signup bonus.
Each card has a unique companion certificates option that can only be used on that airline's own flights. Getting the certificate requires $30,000 of spending during the calendar year. If you fly on one of these airlines somewhat regularly and plan to meet the companion certificate spending requirement, you should get the card from the airline that you will be flying—it might save you a lot of money on a flight.
British Airways. British Airways has many more flights to the United States (and around the world) than Iberia and Aer Lingus, making their card's airline-specific benefits more valuable (for most people). It also is the only one of these cards that can save you up to $300-600 per year on award fees and surcharges. Chase Webpage. Signup Bonus Chart.
Aer Lingus. For most people, this card s is the least interesting because the Aer Lingus program is a little less convenient. You can't transfer Membership and Ultimate Rewards directly into the Aer Lingus program, you'll need to transfer them to British Airways or Iberia first. And you can't use Aer Lingus points to directly book Oneworld tickets, you'll need to transfer them to British Airways or Iberia first. It also is the only card that doesn't give you a 10% flight discount. However, if you can make good use of the benefits that are tied to Aer Lingus, or you plan to use your points for Alaska flights, it can still be your best option. And, you may decide to get all three cards. Chase Webpage. Aer Lingus Webpage. Signup Bonus Chart.
Introduction to Avios
- British Airways, Iberia, and Aer Lingus operate their own frequent flyer programs, but you can freely transfer your points between them. These are the only frequent flyer programs that work this way. With other programs, such as Flying Blue, multiple airlines share a single frequent flyer program. But with Avios, each airline still has their own award charts and rules, they just share a common "points currency". Transfer Points Between British Airways, Iberia, and Aer Lingus.
- You can use Avios to book tickets on British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, American Airlines, any other Oneworld airline, and any of their other partners. Don't avoid signing up for these cards because you rarely fly British Airways, Iberia, or Aer Lingus. You can use your Avios to fly on a couple of dozen different airlines including American, Cathay Pacific, Japanese Airlines, and LATAM.
- All three programs use distance-based award charts, which often require fewer points than other programs. Rather than calculating the number of points you need based on the "zone" you are flying to, they charge based on the distance you are flying. As a result, using Avios for shorter flights can often be cheaper than using other frequent flyer miles. This is especially true for flights that cross regional boundaries. Fly Short Distances Using Fewer Miles by Taking Advantage of Distance-Based Frequent Flyer Programs.
- British Airways and Aer Lingus charge separately for each flight segment, while Iberia charges based on the total distance flown. That usually makes Iberia a better option when you need to make connection and British Airways / Aer Lingus a better option when you want a one-way ticket. In general, Aer Lingus and British Airways require the same number of points for the same flights, with Iberia either being more or less expensive. Each program offers discounted off-peak award tickets for their own airline. The Best Distance-based Frequent Flyer Programs.
- Using your points for flights to Europe can include hefty fuel surcharges. British Airways charges some of the highest award ticket fees and surcharges and even includes these charges when flying on partners like American. So, your best uses for your British Airline points are for trips within the Americas or to other parts of the world, where fuel surcharges are not charged on award tickets. Iberia and Aer Lingus often have lower surcharges.
- If you don't have enough points to book an award, you can easily combine your Avios with points from other credit cards. You can transfer Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards, and Marriott Points to at least one of the Avios-based programs in order to combine them with your existing Avios points.
For example, you can use as few as 15,000 British Airways points to fly round trip on American Airlines between the East Coast and the Caribbean and as few as 25,000 points to fly round trip from the West Coast to Hawaii. Short flights on Oneworld carriers throughout the world cost as little as 4,500 points each way.
Collecting the Signup Bonus
- It is worth signing up for this card just to collect the signup bonus. After subtracting the annual fee and the opportunity cost of using the card for $3,000 of spending, the calculated net value for the initial year is $470 (16 cents per dollar spent). Your value may be higher or lower, depending on how much you value the points. How Much are Points Worth?.
- The 4 Avios per dollar signup offer isn't as good. The signup bonus is really an extra 3 Avios per dollar. If you spend $3,000, you'd earn a signup bonus of 9,000 points compared to the normal 50,000 points. If you spend $10,000, you'd earn 30,000 bonus points, rather than 75,000. If you spend $20,000, you'd earn 60,000 extra points rather than 100,000. And if you spend $30,000, you'd earn 90,000 extra points, rather than 100,000.
- You can earn the signup bonuses from all three of these cards. And because points can be transferred between accounts, you can use the points together. If you earned the full bonuses on all three cards, you would wind up with at least 360,000 Avios!
- It is difficult to collect a signup bonus a 2nd time, because of the Chase 5/24 rule. Normally, you are eligible for a Chase signup bonus, if you haven't already earned the bonus from the same card during the last two years. However, due to the Chase 5/24 rule, if you've been signing up for other cards, you won't be able to get approved when you reapply. You'll need get under the 5/24 limit before you can earn one of the bonuses again. Dealing with the Chase 5/24 Rule.
With each of the Avios credit cards, you'll receive a companion benefit every calendar year you use the card for at least $30,000 in spending.
Even if you can generate this amount of extra spending, you'd miss out on at least $300 in rewards by spending $30,000 on one of these cards, rather than on a good general-purpose reward card. In addition, each of the cards has a $95 annual fee and not much else in the way of ongoing benefits. You need to evaluate whether it is worth "paying" $400 to receive one of these certificates.
The certificates can "cost" much less in your initial year. You've already paid the annual fee to earn the signup bonus. And if you decide to spend $20,000 to earn the full signup bonus, you only have to spend an extra $10,000 to qualify for the certificate. This lowers the effective cost to only $100. If you are going to try to earn a certificate, make sure you do all of the spending during the same "calendar year".
Because spending is based on a calendar year, you could earn two certificates during the first year you have the card. For example, if you sign up in August, you can earn your first certificate with $30,000 of spending before the end of December and your second certificate with $30,000 more spending between January and the following August.
Remember that each of these certificates can only be used on each of the airline's own international flights to and from the United States and will expire. Before deciding to earn one of these certificates, make sure you'll have an opportunity to use it.
The British Airways certificate lets you bring along a companion for "free" when you book award tickets. In other words, you can get two frequent flyer tickets for the normal points cost of just one, but both passengers still need to pay any taxes and surcharges. You can only use the companion certificate for flights which originate and end in the United States and are operated by British Airways. The certificate expires in two years. Certificate details.
Especially with economy class tickets, the extra charges on these routes can be almost as expensive as just paying for regular tickets. As a result, it can be hard to get good value from the certificate. With business and first class tickets, you'll wind up spending close to $3,000 in total fees for the two tickets (on top of the mileage requirement), but that can still save money compared to buying two cash tickets. On the other hand, it could be an even better option to take advantage of award tickets through another program that avoid these fuel surcharges in the first place, even if you need to spend a lot more miles.
The Iberia certificate provides a $1,000 discount on the price of two paid tickets. The certificate expires in a single year and only works for flights that depart and return to the United States and are operated by Iberia. If you'll be paying for tickets with Iberia, this certificate is easily worth its acquisition costs.Certificate details.
The Aer Lingus certificate provides a true 2-for-1 ticket on a paid economy ticket. It can only be used for flights that depart and return to the United States and are operated by Aer Lingus. Because the companion doesn't need to pay for taxes and fees, it really is a true 2-for-1 ticket. While it can only be used for economy-class tickets, you don't need to purchase artificially-inflated full-fare tickets. Certificate details.
Other Notable Benefits
- Award flight tax and fee credits (British Airways Card). Up to 3 times per year, when you redeem a British Airways award ticket, you'll receive a statement credit for part of the taxes and fees. Each credit maxes out at $100 for economy or premium economy awards and $200 for business and first class awards. This discount takes some of the sting out of British Airways' notoriously high award surcharges.
- Priority boarding (Aer Lingus Card). On Are Lingus flights.
- 10% discount on tickets (British Airways and Iberia Cards). Cardholders receive a 10% discount on airline tickets (on the corresponding airline), when they book through the right site and pay with their card. British Airways cardholders need to purchase their tickets at www.ba.com/chase10. Technically, this isn't a feature of the card, but a long-standing promotion that is only available to cardholders and is not discussed on the official credit card webpage. We learned about on the View from the Wing blog. Iberia cardholders need to book at www.iberia.com/chase10 (and according to Doctor of Credit, unlike the British Airways card, you won't receive the discount on the tax and fee portion of the ticket price). There is no corresponding discount with the Aer Lingus card.
- Access to the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection. As with all Visa Signature cards, you'll get access to Visa's luxury hotel program. Whenever you book one of the 900+ participating hotels, you'll receive a set of valuable benefits, including free breakfast, late check-out, and a $25 food and beverage credit. The Visa program has slightly weaker benefits than the other luxury hotel programs, but includes a larger number of more affordable hotel options and a best price guarantee. Take Advantage of Luxury Hotel Programs for Valuable Extra Perks.
- Access to Visa Signature Offers. Your card entitles you to a set of special offers available from Visa.
- Each card earns 3x points on purchases from any of the "Open Skies" airlines. That includes British Airways, Iberia, and Aer Lingus, as well as Level.
- You are slightly better off making your British Airways, Iberia, and Aer Lingus purchases with a card that offers one of the highest reward rates on airfare spending, rather than with one of these cards. For example, you are better off earning 3x-5x Ultimate Rewards or Membership Rewards points as they can be turned into British Airways or Iberia miles and also have the flexibility to be used for other types of award redemptions. Best Credit Cards for Travel Spending.
- You don't want to use these cards for your everyday spending. You'll earn higher rewards from a good general-purpose reward card. Get a Great General Purpose Reward Card and Use It for All of Your Spending.
Getting Rid of the Card
- You can cancel without worrying about losing your Avios points. Once you earn them, they are treated like any other points in your Avios account. In practice, you should also still have access to any unexpired companion certificates you've earned, but by the official terms they could be cancelled.
- You can wait to cancel your card until after the annual fee shows up on your statement. As long as you cancel within 30 days of the statement closing date, Chase will refund the fee. After 30 days, you can potentially receive a pro-rated refund on the British Airways Card by downgrading to a no-annual-fee British Airways Card (which isn't promoted on the web and may stop being available at any time).
- Chase doesn't make retention offers. Unless something has changed, you don't need to bother checking.
You may be able to product change between the different Avios cards.
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