For those who missed out on last year’s amazing, incredible, 100,000-mile signup bonus for the British Airways Visa (the first true megabonus offer, pre-dating the 100k bonus from Citibank and American), they’ve come out with a new 50,000-mile signup bonus for the card. Well worth doing in its own right. 50,000 miles for a $75 annual fee is a pretty good deal.

And what’s more, they’ve actually improved the card.

Chase introduced the elimination of foreign currency transaction fees with their Priority Club Visa. That was a really interesting innovation, but earning 1 Priority Club point per dollar is just not an attractive reward proposition. Then they rolled out the benefit with the new Hyatt Visa, and that became a really worthwhile card as a result — a valuable reward currency in Hyatt Gold Passport points and the ability to spend abroad without taking it on the chin with the foreign currency fees. That made the Hyatt card one of the 2-3 best Visas, and a good second card for the wallet.

Now Chase has rolled out no foreign currency transaction fees with the British Airways card. Last night at the Frequent Traveler Awards the Hyatt folks were telling me about the customer surveys, that this benefit really was off the charts with potential cardmembers. And it’s certainly understandable. So by adding it to the British Airways card, Chase has come up with the first airline co-branded card without any foreign currency transaction fees.

It’s also a perfectly good card for everyday spend for travelers looking for some very specific rewards – the free companion award ticket (redeem one award on British Airways metal, get a second award for no additional points) after $30,000 in spend, earning 1.25 miles per dollar instead of the standard one. And though the British Airways award chart can be exceptionally expensive for some destinations (especially in premium cabins, and flying British Airways metal to destinations beyond Europe, or flying multi-partner awards) it can also be quite reasonable such as Cathay Pacific business class to much of Asia for 100,000 miles roundtrip or LAN business class to South America for 80,000 miles roundtrip.

Ultimately, this has just become a much better card and it’s one worth considering as your second card (for times that merchants don’t take Amex) but it isn’t the best card out there… you can still get 1.25 British Airways miles per dollar with the Starwood Amex because transferring 20,000 miles will yield 25,000 miles, plus there are sometimes transfer bonuses that yield more, and of course you have all the flexibility to choose which mileage program you want to transfer points to later and not earn just British Airways miles.

And of course while BA miles can be exceptionally useful, they do charge some pretty extortionate fuel surcharges — flying US to Africa in a premium cabin on BA metal can yield taxes and fees upwards of $1000 on a ‘free’ ticket because of those fuel fees plus the U.K. luxury tax on premium cabin departures. Hubbing in London is not an advantage in this regard.

But I’m thrilled to see the improvements here, this has really become a competitive card, and I’m also excited by the big signup bonus!

  1. Craig said,

    Re: “flying US to Africa in a premium cabin on BA metal can yield taxes and fees upwards of $1000 on a ‘free’ ticket because of those fuel fees plus the U.K. luxury tax on premium cabin departures. Hubbing in London is not an advantage in this regard.”

    I thought that the UK air passenger duty didn’t apply to international-to-international connections over London — has that changed? If so, that’s a pretty significant (additional) hit to BA’s attractiveness.

  2. rktoledo said,

    “…plus there are sometimes transfer bonuses that yield more” On that note, I received an e-mail this week from BA Exec Club notifying me that BAEC is offering a 25% mileage bonus on hotel transfers till end of December. 20,000 SPG points will convert to 31,250 BA miles.

  3. Tanu said,

    Are BA cardholders who received the card at the time of the 100K offer also eligible for the “no foreign currency transaction fees” benefit?

  4. Jim said,

    I used BA points for three F tickets JFK-JNB-JFK (via LHR, but no stopover) 2 years ago. Taxes/fees on each ticket were approx. $1,100.

    It seemed expensive, but BA F was nice on such a long journey.

  5. Adam said,

    Bonus for 1st time card holder only. I already had BA card thru the 100K bonus last yaer. Do you think they’ll remove the foreign transaction fee for my existin card?

  6. iahphx said,

    I’m kind of expecting “no foreign transaction fees” to become popular on the airline cards in the USA. Kind of how they’re now competing to waive the first bag charge with the cards. Let’s face it, the currency fees are probably harming the banks too because many frequent travelers — the kind that use these airline-affiliated credit cards — are balking at paying the 3% conversion. I know I don’t use the cards overseas for this reason. So not only do they not get the 3%, they lose the substantial merchant fee. So it could be win-win to offer this benefit.

  7. abcx said,

    I think Chase might go back to 100k since Citi has upped the game to 75k minimum. I got the original 100k but am holding off on family members this time ’round. Already have more miles than time to spend them.

  8. Gary said,

    @Adam yes I assume it’ll be no foreign transaction fees for any BA Chase Visa cards not just for new cardmembres.

  9. Scott said,

    I disagree that the Starwood AMEX is better than the BA Chase Visa. Both cards give 1.25 points per dollar spent (provided you transfer Starwood points in 20K increments), and the Starwood card is certainly more flexible, since points can be transferred to other frequent flyer programs.

    One major benefit of the BA card that I haven’t seen with the Starwood AMEX is that there have been a number of amazing targeted promotions. I’ve earned at least 40K extra Executive Club points for hitting a variety of spending thresholds. Of course, there’s no guarantee that these promotions will continue into year two of the card, but I’m willing to pay the annual fee to find out.

    The 241 coupon is also decent; even though the booking surcharge is high for flights on BA metal, it’s still possible to get about 2.4 cents per mile for economy bookings from the USA to Africa (with much better redemption rates for flying Business and First).

    The fact that foreign transaction fees have been ceased is also a nice perk (I received an email yesterday indicating that this is also the case for existing card members).

  10. Scott said,

    You mentioned in the post that the Hyatt Visa was one of the 2-3 best Visa cards. What are your top three Visa cards?

  11. tpat said,

    Gary,

    According to yesterday’s NY Times, Chase is waiving Foreign Transaction fees for the United Mileage Plus Club Visa and the Continental Presidential Plus card.

    http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/16/chase-waives-foreign-exchange-fees-for-continental-united-cards/?partner=rss&emc=rss

    Thought this may be useful to some of your readers.

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