Airline co-branded credit cards are big business for both airlines and banks. These days, more robust features are being introduced on these cards and more and more cards are being issued by non-US airlines.
In this post I wanted to look at two of the best US credit cards issued by foreign airlines – the British Airways Visa Signature® Card (Review) and the Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard® (Review).
Which of these two cards should you apply for and which offers the best spending bonuses, rewards and perks? Let's take a look at the two maps according to various factors:
Comparison of welcome bonuses
The British Airways Card offers a welcome bonus of up to 100,000 Avios, structured as follows:
- Earn 50,000 bonus avios after spending $ 3,000 in the first three months
- Earn another 50,000 bonus avios after spending $ 20,000 within the first year of opening your account
The new Business Class from British Airways
The Virgin Atlantic Card offers a welcome bonus of up to 80,000 Flying Club miles, structured as follows:
- Earn 60,000 bonus miles for the Flying Club after spending $ 2,000 in the first three months
- Earn 2,500 Flying Club bonus miles for each of the first two authorized users you add to your card
- Earn 15,000 Flying Club bonus miles on your anniversary account each year for a total of $ 25,000
Virgin Atlantic new business class
There is no clear winner here. The initial bonus is better and easier to earn with the Virgin Atlantic Card, while the British Airways Card for a large donor has the slight advantage of earning 100,000 bonus avios.
Compare approval rates
All card issuers have different rules when it comes to allowing people for cards:
- The British Airways Visa is issued by Chase:
- Under Chase's 5/24 rule, you will not normally be approved if you have opened five or more accounts in the last 24 months
- You are not eligible for the card if you have owned it in the last 24 months or have received a bonus on the card. In other words, if you've owned the card in the past, you may be eligible for the card again
- The Virgin Atlantic Mastercard is issued by Bank of America:
- Bank of America has the 2/3/4 rule under which it normally only allows for a maximum of two Bank of America cards in a continuous period of two months and a maximum of three cards in a continuous period of twelve months and a maximum of four cards can be in an ongoing period of 24 months
Compare annual fees
Renewal fees are one of the biggest considerations that people have when considering a credit card. There is only a small difference between the fees on these two cards:
- The British Airways Visa is charged an annual fee of $ 95
- The Virgin Atlantic Mastercard charges an annual fee of $ 90
The Virgin Atlantic Mastercard has a small advantage here as the fee is $ 5 lower. But that's not a big difference in the big scheme of things.
Compare points Earn structures
Before looking at the spending bonuses offered on these cards, let's take a look at the points involved in basic purchases:
- The Virgin Atlantic Card offers 3x miles for purchases at Virgin Atlantic and 1.5x for all other purchases
- With the British Airways Card you get 3 Avios for purchases from British Airways, 2 Avios for hotel bookings and 1 Avios for all other purchases
As a result, I would definitely say that the Virgin Atlantic Card is ahead of the pack as I would expect to earn 1.5 times more miles on all purchases than a 2x Avios bonus category on hotel bookings. But that's only half the battle here …
Compare spending bonuses
The above mentioned point earning rates not only explain the benefits of using these cards, as both cards offer substantial spending bonuses.
The British Airways Card entitles you to a Travel Together Ticket if you spend $ 30,000 on the card in a calendar year. In this way, you can take a companion on a reward flight without paying the Avios, as they only have to pay the taxes, fees and surcharges levied by the carrier:
- This can be very valuable as you can use it for a premium cabin British Airways award ticket from the US to virtually any location (round trip).
- The catch is that British Airways charges heavily from airlines, which is why many people are deterred
This escrow certificate is quite polarizing – some people find it worthwhile while others would not value it.
Use the Begittitticket for a first-class ticket from British Airways
The Virgin Atlantic Card offers several spending bonuses, including:
- If you spend $ 15,000 on the card in one year, and 7,500 bonus miles on spending $ 25,000 each, you'll earn 7,500 bonus miles for the anniversary of your account
- A Fast Track to Status – Earn 25 status points for every $ 2,500 spent on net purchases on the map. You can earn a maximum of 50 status points per month and a maximum of 600 status points per year
- If you spend $ 25,000 a year on the card, you can choose between an annual benefit – either a cabin upgrade benefit or an escort incentive plan, though these are limited. You can read more about it here
You may be able to extract value from the upgrade certificates or the companion ticket
It's hard to say which card offers the better spending bonuses. Generally, if you spend $ 25,000 per year on the Virgin Atlantic Card, you will earn more than 2 miles per dollar on average. The other benefits are just the icing on the cake.
Depending on the type of traveler, the escort certificate on the British Airways Card is either extremely valuable or practically worthless.
Card advantages in comparison
Aside from the spending threshold bonuses, the cards offer some other potentially valuable benefits.
The British Airways Card offers:
- 10% off British Airways revenue flights originating in the US if you book until March 31, 2020 (this could very well be extended and was in the past)
- A reward flight certificate of up to $ 600 per year; Earn an account balance of $ 100 for an economy or premium economy or $ 200 bank transfer for business or first class bookings
Save on British Airways serves
In the meantime, the Virgin Atlantic Card offers no other "obvious" benefits. However, it offers so many spending bonuses and solid 1.5x miles per dollar spent.
In this regard, the British Airways Card wins.
Both British Airways Visa and the Virgin Atlantic Mastercard convincing co-branded airline tickets.
They compete with each other in the sense that they apply to both British airlines and US credit cards. In that sense, I really think the cards are neck to neck when comparing the overall value proposition.
I have to credit both cards with a reward structure that not only encourages them to get the cards, but also encourages them to stick to the cards.
Which map is better depends on which airline you usually travel more and which benefits you would use.
Ideally, you can collect both cards, earn huge bonuses, spend some money, and see how they work for you. After a year, you can always decide if you want to renew both, one or none, depending on how they work.
If you are interested in one of these cards:
Which card do you prefer – the British Airways Visa or Virgin Atlantic Mastercard?