|by Jason Steele|
Last year, we had the “Big Delta Promo”. Delta later claimed that it was published by mistake, yet they still honored the deal. My wife and I went from zero to several hundred thousand miles in a few months, enabling our next big family trip, a “falafel run” to visit family in Israel, scheduled for next month.
That was last November. Now this November, Chase and British Airways may top that offer. Here is the deal. To break it down, you get 50,000 miles for signing up, another 50,000 miles after your first $2,000 spent within the first three months of the account. That is 100,000 points for just $2,000 dollar spent, (50 miles per dollar) but we are just getting started.
Spend $30,000 in a calendar year, and you will get a companion award ticket. This is not a companion ticket good at some paid fare class equal to twice the regular fare, it is an actual free companion award, valid when you redeem any award in any cabin. Note that British Airways usually operates four cabin aircraft for long haul flights including economy, premium economy, business, and first classes. For comparison, Delta and Continental only offer two class service, with United, American, and US Airways offering three class.
What You Could Do With This
Gary Leff at the View From the Wing blog and Richard Ingersoll at the Frugal Travel Guy blog are both all over this one. The theory is that a couple could each get the card, spend $32,000 over the next year, and end up with the equivalent of 480,000 miles, or two first class tickets from LA to Dubai.
Wait One Second
This offer does seem a bit too good to be true, and there are some major catches that Gary and Richard don’t bring up. I however, started a thread over at FlyerTalk with some real British Airways frequent flier gurus to find out what it would really cost. I used my “falafel run” from Denver to Tel Aviv, via London as my reference point to how I could use this deal.
In the end, I found out that my family of three would pay nearly $2,000 in fuel surcharges alone on three business class tickets Denver-London-Tel Aviv round trip, about $700 each. the $32,000 spend also carried an opportunity cost of $640 in rewards had I spent that sum on a %2 cash back card such as Schwab Bank. There is also a $79 annual fee per card that is not waived the first year.
So the tickets would hardly be free, but the forum members pointed out some real benefits. First, British Airways awards are reasonably available, unlike say, United. Also, they do not have multiple tiers like Delta, with the lowest tier being almost completely unavailable. They are partners with American Airlines and other OneWorld Carriers, although the companion certificate is only good on British Awards. Another plus is that British Airways awards are flexible; they can be rebooked on different dates along the same routing for free, and a London stopover is also free. Another factor is that British allows families to pool miles with household accounts, a really nice feature. Finally, I discovered that lap child award tickets are available for %10 of the mileage of the parent’s award ticket. Other airlines have outrageous policies where lap infants traveling with their parents are charged 10% of the highest fare class they can come up with, often more than the price of a coach seat! This could be a factor considering that it may take over a year to get to the 30,000 mile annual spend, and we may then plan the trip nearly a year in advance to get the dates we want. If that is the case, it would not be the first time we booked a ticket for a member of our family not yet born at the time.
There is another rather lengthy discussion thread on the merits of this deal at FlyerTalk in which it is pointed out that this deal may flood the North American market with BA miles and companion certificates, reducing the once reasonable award availability. That is certainly a risk. Another risk is that BA may decide to change it’s redemption policies between now and when I might eventually redeem an award. As I have said, if I do this, it will be a long term project. I might apply for the cards now, get the companion certificates in a year, and book travel for some time in 2011 or even 2012 at the earliest. Who knows what can happen between now and then?
For many this deal will be a no brainer. If it all works, this could be the biggest credit card deal of the year. I just hope they don’t pull the deal before people have had a chance to jump at, as what happened with the Delta deal last year.