Back on July 29 I noted that the card offer had change so that in addition to 50,000 bonus points after $2,000 spend within 3 months, there would be a $0 fee the first year ($95 thereafter).

The card has no foreign transaction fees and earns 1.25 points per dollar spent.

The real unique selling proposition of the card, though, is the ‘Travel Together Ticket’ you earn each calendar year you spend $30,000 on the card.that lets you book two passengers on an award ticket for the mileage cost of one.

Getting the Best Value from the British Airways Program

BA charges more for longer flights, charges separately for each flight segment, and charges twice a coach ticket for business and three times a coach ticket for first class.

Conveersely, short non-stop flights are really inexpensive (as little as 4500 miles each way for coach) and flights that do not incur fuel surcharges come at a reasonable cost.

Although I liked it better in the old days where I could spend 100,000 points and get roundtrip Cathay Pacific business class to Hong Kong and Bali, these cheap short flights are pretty appealing. I can go to New York or Chicago roundtrip for 9000 points (no fuel surcharges on US domestic tickets) from my home in DC.

Dealing With Those Pesky Fuel Surcharges

The biggest drawback to the British Airways program is fuel surcharges added to awards where they are similarly added to paid tickets.

This is a common feature of frequent flyer programs based outside the US (other than in South America).

If you redeem your points for flights that have no fuel surcharges — such as US domestic flights, or flights to South America — you will save cash. And those are actually good uses of British Airways Avios, since the best value awards in the program are short non-stop flights.

You can keep your fuel surcharges quite modest even flying transatlantic on award tickets if you:

  • Fly Air Berlin (no fuel surcharges)
  • Fly Aer Lingus (very low fuel surcharges)
  • Have an Iberia Avios account that’s been open for 90 days and has some activity in it — you can move British Airways Avios over to Iberia, and use points in the Iberia account to redeem for Iberia flights without fuel surcharges.

Leveraging the British Airways Program By Pooling Miles in Family Accounts

British Airways offers family accounts — you can set up your account with family members so you can pool your miles towards a single award.

This means you and a spouse, for instance, could each get the card. After meeting the minimum spend for to earn the bonus, you’d have earned a total of 105,000 for the two cards. Even though the miles are in two different accounts, you can spend them on one award ticket as though they were in a single account if you link the accounts together.

Creating a family account — which can be undone — means you can only redeem awards for people that are linked in the family account.

And you can have up to 7 people in a family account, if each of them got the card and earned the bonus that would be 367,500 miles to spend as though they were all in one account.

The Exceptional Value of the “Travel Together” Ticket

If you spend $30,000 in a calendar year on the card you earn a companion award ticket which allows you to book two passengers on an award ticket for the mileage price of one award. You still pay taxes and fees for both passengers. And two award seats must be available in the ticketed cabin for both passengers as well.

The basic rules for the travel together ticket are:

  • Each calendar year that you spend $30,000 on your British Airways Visa Signature Card, you earn a Travel Together Ticket valid for two years. Travel must begin by the expiration date of the certificate.
  • Since the vouchers are valid for two years, if you earn one in each calendar year it is possible to have two vouchers in your account at the same time. You can use both on the same itinerary so that four passengers can travel for the mileage cost of two awards (plus taxes and fees).
  • You can earn only one companion award ticket per British Airways Visa primary account. Spending $60,000 on the card does not earn two.
  • All travel must originate in and return to the US.
  • The person who earns the voucher (the visa cardholder) must be one of the passengers on the award ticket.
  • Only flights on British Airways aircraft may be used on the award.
  • Regular award space must be available for all passengers.

Since the companion ticket works for British Airways flights to and from the US only, you need to fly British Airways metal, that means routing via London. And flights beyond Europe start to get pretty expensive.

So I find that these vouchers are best used for travel to and from Europe.

This travel together ticket can be one of the most strategic plays in the frequent flyer universe. For instance, a couple can sign up for two of these cards and have 105,000 points after meeting minimum spend requirements.

They link their accounts into a household to share the miles.

They spend $30,000 on one card, $2000 on the other and they now have 140,000 points and a travel together ticket.

That 140,000 points is enough for both passengers to travel roundtrip first class from the East Coast, and nearly enough from the West. In a sense, those miles can be spent twice.

Again, you pay taxes and fees on both tickets — I view it as being like buying a deeply discounted non-mileage earning coach ticket and getting a triple upgrade to first class.

And it’s the only way I know for two people to travel in premium cabins to Europe off of only two credit card signups, though it does take spending $30,000 on the card to earn a travel together certificate in order to do it.

British Airways business class availability can be really good out of some gateways like Washington Dulles and New York JFK, and first class and business both out of places like Philadelphia, British Airways award space isn’t nearly as good as it was a couple of years ago. Like with any award ticket, flexibility helps a lot.

Used strategically, the British Airways Visa Signature® Card offers tremendous value. And with a $0 annual fee the first year, it’s an improved offer for the card.

(Note that the British Airways Visa Signature® Card offers credit to me if you’re approved using my links. I try to offer only the best available cards, and most lucrative deals available for those cards. So if you’re aware of better deals than I’ve featured please do let me know! The opinions, analyses, and evaluations here are mine. The content is not provided or commissioned by American Express, by Chase, by Citibank, US Bank, Bank of America, Barclays or any other company. They have not reviewed, approved or endorsed what I have to say.)


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  1. Chris W said,

    How long do you need to wait before re-applying for a BA card when you had one before?

  2. Rob said,

    “And it’s the only way I know for two people to travel in premium cabins to Europe off of only two credit card signups”

    Aer Lingus BOS–>DUB is 100K Avios roundtrip for 2 tickets in business

    Any 2 50K signups among the usual UR or MR options that either exist or come around regularly and then transferred to Avios gets you 2 tickets

    Obviously it’s not BA F, but you also don’t need to spend 30K to attain it, and don’t need to spend thousands in fuel surcharges

  3. m said,

    Gary

    We have 140K each in two family accounts (280K) and two companion passes for a family of four. I was planning on using them to fly to South Asia with companion passes. But now am debating because of Fuel Surcharges. Would you suggest using BA to LHR in a premium cabin and then use a separate ticket to South Asia?

  4. mark said,

    chris w

    +1, how long between sign ups

  5. Jeremy said,

    I’ve opened a British Airways Visa card and received a signup bonus three separate times. The first occurred in 2006 (for a measly I believe 25K miles after first purchase), and the card was closed in ~April 2009. The second was opened in mid to late 2009 (before Avios) for 100,000 miles and closed in mid 2011. The third was opened in January or February of this year for 50K+25K+25K Avios (1st purchase, $10K spend, and $20K spend).

    I believe I received the card and bonus three times because each time I applied the card was slightly different. Huge change between version 2 and 3 (pre and post Avios, 1.25/2.5x vs 1x/2x, EMV chip). I can’t recall the changes for the first two but feel that there was one.

  6. Jeremy said,

    I’d also add that the 100K offer in some shape or form has surfaced quite frequently, so I’d hold out for that version unless you have an immediate need for BA Avios or don’t want to spend more than the minimum (and aren’t trying for $30K companion pass). If able to meet the higher spend requirement, paying the annual fee is well worth the extra 50K Avios.

  7. Kevin said,

    @Gleff….

    What’s the best way to search for US domestic travel with AVios?

    Thanks

    Kevin

  8. tivoboy said,

    I could have sworn I’ve received more than one voucher per year, for spending stupid amounts on the card.

  9. Matt B said,

    @Kevin – I look at AA.com for sAAver level inventory. Then go to BA.com to search for the specific segments you found on AA to price them in Avios.

  10. Carol said,

    Avios availability in premium classes has become very difficult to find. A 2-4-1 companion ticket requires finding 2 seats outbound and 2 seats return on BA metal. I’m finding it incredibly difficult to use mine (west coast USA). I have a ticket booked that aren’t dates/routes I really want to fly so am monitoring daily to improve it. This makes it near impossible to include European fights as all of that has to be changed every time the TATL flight is changed. As a reference point for others, the fuel surcharge for my 2-4-1 was $2400. I will likely cancel my BA Chase card, as I perceived this as its primary benefit.

  11. Alex said,

    Gary – quick question for you… do you have any experience dealing with the websites that trade with miles? What would be the best website to sell excess of AA and United miles? What is typical exchange ratio? Thanks.

  12. Al said,

    TravelTogether is not of good value if it can only be used on BA metal, thus high fuel surchage.

  13. Paul said,

    Gary, you wrote,”…that means routing via London”, which is not true. The certificates are valid on Open Skies flights which operate from EWR/JFK to ORY. The fees are slighly lower (by about $200-300 depending on class) as long as you don’t route through LHR. Also want to point out that you can fly first class in one direction, and business in the other offering a bit of flexibility. Open jaws are allowed as well but you have to call the agent.

  14. Gary said,

    @Carol, I agree and somehow starting TODAY it seems to have gotten worse. When the A380 was loaded into the schedule LAX availability was awesome. But it has tightened up quite a lot, as I mention in the post. And then subsequent to writing the post it really does seem like inventory today has gotten much worse (flights that used to have 2 seats in premium cabins now seem to have 1).

  15. welltravbrit said,

    We’ve used two of these companion tickets over the past few years and if you’re prepared to pay the fuel surcharge they provide a great way to fly. You have to be extremely flexible on dates and we had to take different classes of service each was (First and Business) in order to find availability around the dates we desired. I can’t imagine getting four seats each way would be feasible.

  16. DBest said,

    Not sure I’d agree that Europe is the best use of the Travel Together ticket since the marginal cost of traversing LHR seems to reward going farther. For example, LAX-LHR costs $1200 + 100k avios while LAX-LHR-DEL costs $1600 + 200k avios. Since the point of the TTT is to double the reach of your avios, I’d think the longer redemption is the better use?

  17. zlc said,

    Gary, if you spend $30K in the first 12 months does that count as a calendar year (even if you got last Oct for example and just now reached 30K)?
    Thx. Great Blog.

  18. Paul said,

    I agree with Carol that availability of 1st and and business 2-4-1 award space is virtually unavailable from the west coast. I have tried repeatedly to find space only to find nothing or only a one-way option. And that is using flexible dates (plus or minus a month). Plus, after spending $2400 for fuel charges and the inconvenience of traveling trough London to go anywhere else in Europe, it just isn’t worth bothering. I tried other airports within 750 miles of SFO and found nothing there either. Even if I did, I would end spending another $400-500 for 2 RT tickets to the alternate airports and then end up with 3 legs to Paris or elsewhere in Europe. How can this be a good deal? I cancelled my card when it came up renewal.

  19. Gary said,

    @Paul – Seattle and Vancouver availability is better than San Francisco, San Diego. Be willing to buy a short hop to another gateway, checking Las Vegas/Phoenix/Denver/Houston/Dallas.

  20. Nick said,

    “Only flights on British Airways aircraft may be used on the award”. So just to confirm, you cannot use any of the strategies to “keep your fuel surcharges quite modest” with the Travel Together ticket? You will be paying BA surcharges on this regardless?

  21. Gary said,

    @Nick correct you pay fuel surcharges with the travel together ticket

  22. Andy F. said,

    Do you know when the first year free BA card application will be pulled?

  23. Gary said,

    @Andy F – I do not know, sorry!

  24. Kroozer said,

    I have earned the companion ticket in 2 consecutive years with a target to use for a family of 4 at the cost of 2 awards. After calculating the taxes and fuel surcharges close to $5000 for 4 passengers (home airport is SFO, tried SEA, LAS options), decided to let the companion tickets expire unused. If they were transferable, I would give them away.

  25. Cindi said,

    Gary, are you aware of any way to extend the expiration of the companion tickets? I stupidly reached my 30k too early in the year so my ticket expires in early April. Doesn’t seem fair that I get penalized by hitting the spend earlier rather than later…

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