British Airways Visa Signature® Card vs. Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Card

For big spenders who travel internationally often, the British Airways Signature Visa card is their better bet. People who travel domestically and love Southwest, however, may prefer the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus credit card.

The Verdict

The British Airways Visa Signature card is better because it will earn you more travel rewards

If you're a frequent traveler looking to fly across the globe on the cheap, the British Airways Visa card will become your favorite credit card in your wallet.

Hefty sign-up bonus. This popular travel rewards card comes with one of the best sign-up bonuses out there among travel rewards cards—up to 75,000 Avios points (as compared to just 40,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points).

Bring a friend or spouse with you. Plus, if you charge at least $30,000 on your British Airways Visa Signature card in a calendar year, you'll earn a Travel Together Ticket good for two years—enabling you to bring your spouse or significant other along for the ride.

Globetrot and shop fee-free. You won't be charged a 3% foreign transaction fee on any purchases made abroad—leaving more money where you want it—in your wallet.

So if you're a big spender who travels frequently internationally, the British Airways card can earn you thousands of dollars in free flights.

Where Americans Traveled Overseas In 2016

Who the Services Are Meant For

JP Morgan Chase, one of the top four banks in America, is the credit card issuer for both of these cards.

They're not the best cards for airline miles by Chase. If you're looking for a great credit card to earn airline miles that can be redeemed on many airlines, the United Mileage Plus Explorer, Chase Sapphire Reserve, and Chase Sapphire Preferred cards are hard to beat.

But if you're loyal to British Airways or Southwest Airlines, you'll want to sign up for the branded credit card to maximize the miles you earn.

You're the ideal customer for the British Airways Visa Signature card if you travel often and are a big spender

To find out whether the British Airways Visa Signature card is the right card for you, answer the following questions:

  • Do you have a credit score greater than 720?
  • Do you spend more than $30,000 each year and like to travel with a friend, partner, or spouse?
  • Do you travel almost exclusively on British Airways or its domestic partners, American Airlines and Alaska Airlines?

If you answered yes to the questions above, then this is a great card to add to your wallet to help you rack up points that can be redeemed for free trips.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus credit card is for you if you want to maximize the companion pass

Curious whether the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus credit card would be a good fit for you? Answer the following questions to find out:

  • Do you mostly fly domestically, and often on Southwest Airlines?
  • Do you like to travel with a spouse or partner?
  • Do you like to redeem points for trips, without having to worry about blackout dates or seat restrictions?
  • Do you spend less than $30,000 a year on your credit card?

If you answered yes to the questions above, then the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus credit card may be a better fit for you.

For big spenders who travel internationally, the British Airways card is the better bet.

People who travel domestically and love Southwest, however, may prefer the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus credit card.

Americans Traveling Internationally… Within North America (2016)

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Why One is Better

The British Airways Visa Signature card points are more valuable when redeemed for travel

The rewards rate on British Airways' Avios points is between 1.5-4%, which is higher than many competitor rewards rates.

Southwest's Rapid Rewards points, for example, are only valued at 1.4-2.8%.

That's because, in part, you can earn three points for every $1 on British Airways purchases, but only two points per $1 on Southwest purchases.

Companions travel free with British Airways

High flyers who spend $30,000 each year on their British Airways card earn a Travel Together Ticket, which allows a companion to travel for free with them for up to two years.

This is good even on first class. (Taxes and fees still apply).

High fees on "free" flights cause complaints

It seems that "free" doesn't always mean free.

This is one of those cases.

Reward flights give the illusion that they're free until you get to the checkout.

That's because British Airlines still charges you the fuel surcharge amount, taxes, and other fees.

That tends to cost consumers a couple hundred dollars, which is definitely more expensive than free.

Counter-Argument

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus is for you if you mostly travel domestically

If you're looking to save on annual fees, the Southwest card boasts a $26 savings over the British Airways credit card.

And, there are no change fees for Southwest traveler cardholders whose travel plans may change—that's an average savings of $200 each time that happens!

A History of USD to Pound Exchange Rate Highs

People love the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus credit card because of its generous perks, like free checked bags

"Not only is Southwest Airlines one of the most popular airlines," explains Christina Majaski, a WiseBread.com writer, "the card offers perks such as free first and second checked bags, and priority boarding."

Plus, cardholders earn 3,000 bonus points each year on the anniversary of signing up for the card.

The biggest customer complaint about the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus credit card is its 3% foreign transaction fee

Unlike the British Airways credit card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Card charges a 3% foreign transaction fee—which bothers customers like Samr4 who says, "I would take your card in a minute if that was not the case."

The Southwest Rapid Rewards card offers a lower annual fee and is a good choice for those who travel domestically and don't charge much each month on their credit cards.

For those who spend big bucks traveling around the globe, the British Airways card is still a better bet.

How the British Airways Visa Signature card compares to its top competitor

British Airways Visa Signature Card Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
How high of credit score do you need?

>720

>720

Average APR?

20.24%

20.49%

Annual fee?

$95

$69

How big of sign-up bonus do you get?

50,000 points

40,000 points

How much do you need to spend to get the bonus?

$3,000 within 3 months

$1,000 within 3 months

How many points do you get for every dollar?

3 points for every dollar spent on British Airways

1 point on everything else

2 points for every dollar spent on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases

1 point on everything else

Any restrictions?

No

No

If you spent $100 on the card, then how much would the points be worth in dollars?

$1 (or $3 if spent on British Airways)

$1 (or $2 if spent on Southwest)

How much would you need to spend on the card to make up for the fees (excluding APR/rates)?

$9,500

$6,900

How the Services Compare

British Airways lets you earn more points than Southwest

Both the British Airways Visa Signature card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card offer bonus points for every dollar you spend with that airline when using the airline-affiliated credit card.

Three points per dollar. With British Airways, you'll earn three points for every dollar you spend on British Airways.

But you'll pay for bags and taxes/fees. Even when redeeming points for a free airline ticket, you'll still be on the hook for the taxes and fees associated with the flight, which can be a minimum of $600.

So that free flight isn't truly free.

Fewer points per dollar. The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card only offers two points for every dollar you spend on Southwest.

That's less bang for your buck than British Airways.

But you'll get two free checked bags. When you use your Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card, you'll be able to check two pieces of luggage for free.

You'll also have the ability to change your flight without having to pay the now-standard $200 rebooking fee.

While you earn an extra point per dollar on British Airways (three points vs. two points), you won't get the Southwest perks of free checked bags and the ability to change your flight without incurring a fee.

Rewards and Bonuses

The British Airways card offers a more valuable sign-up bonus

Both cards offer a sign-up bonus, but the British Airway's bonus is better.

The good and the bad about the British Airways Visa Signature card's rewards and bonuses

When you spend $3,000 within three months of opening your British Airways Visa Signature card, you'll earn 50,000 Avios points.

Plus, you can earn 25,000 more points when you spend $10,000 during the first year you own the card. That's 75,000 points—plus any points you earn on purchases.

What to love about Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus's rewards and bonuses

With the Southwest card, you'll earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 during the first three months your account is open.

You'll also earn an anniversary bonus of 3,000 points after you've had the card for over a year.

Though the spend requirement is lower to earn Southwest's sign-up bonus, the British Airways sign-up bonus is larger—and more valuable.

Benefits

They both offer purchase protection benefits

Though neither of these travel rewards cards are luxe credit cards (nor do they incur those several hundred dollar annual fees), both do offer purchase protection and other luxe-like benefits.

The British Airways card offers several Visa Signature benefits

Decline the rental company's collision insurance. When you charge the entire rental cost to your British Airways card, you'll be covered for theft and collision damage for most rental cars in the U.S. and abroad.

Be aware, though, that coverage is secondary to your personal insurance.

Missing luggage? You'll be compensated. Baggage Delay Insurance reimburses you for toiletries and clothing for baggage delays over six hours, up to $100 a day for three days. If the baggage is declared lost (and cannot be recovered), you can get up to $3,000 per passenger.

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Broke your new iPhone? With Purchase Protection, new purchases are covered for 120 days against damage or theft up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account.

Southwest Rapid Rewards comes with Visa benefits too

Don't pay for an extended warranty. You'll get up to an additional year of warranty when you use your Rapid Rewards card.

Was your new phone stolen? You're covered for 120 days against damage or theft on all new purchases.

Both British Airways and Southwest Rapid Rewards offer Visa Signature benefits, though some Southwest cardholders will qualify only for the less-extensive Visa Platinum benefits.

Costs and Fees

Both cards charge annual fees, which isn't something to ignore.

You'll pay for the privilege of having this card. The British Airways card comes with a $95 annual fee.

No foreign transaction fees. This is a good card to take abroad with you because you won't pay the typical 3% charge on all foreign transactions.

Other fees are typical. You'll pay a cash advance and balance transfer fee of 5% and up to $37 fee per late payment.

Lower annual fee. The Southwest Card only charges a $69 annual fee.

Don't take this card abroad. If you do, you'll pay an extra 3% foreign transaction fee on every purchase made internationally.

Other fees are typical. The rest of the fees, such as balance transfer and cash advance fees, are average.

While the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Card is $29 cheaper in terms of annual fee, it charges a 3% foreign transaction fee, so if you travel internationally, it's probably not the best fit for your wallet.

Customer Service

Chase customer service is a mixed bag

Since both the British Airways and Southwest credit cards are issued by Chase, that's the company you'll need to call if you have any issues with your credit card.

Chase scored average when it came to customer service on the J.D. Power 2106 study.

On the Consumer Affairs website, it fared even worse—earning only one star out of five.

"A simple dispute takes forever and often can't be resolved," says Steve from San Jose, California.

His account was also locked for no reason, he says. "I spent almost half an hour on their toll-free number to have it unlocked."

Both airline cards are issued by Chase, whose customer service is a mixed bag.

Top 10 Credit Card Complaints Reported By Consumers 2016

Key Digital Services

You can manage both from the Chase app

Chase's mobile app makes it simple to check your account balances, transfer money, deposit checks, and pay bills while you're on the go.

Get started. Text mobile to 24273, and you will receive a link to download the app on your Android or Apple device.

The app received good reviews overall, earning 4.5 stars on iTunes.

However, some users complained that there is no Touch ID (the ability to use your fingerprint to log-in to your account) available on the iPad app.

Interesting to note is that there is no Chase-specific online hub or app functionality to redeem either card's points for flights.

Southwest Rapid Rewards points for flights must be booked via Southwest.com; the same goes for British Airways Avios points—you have to book travel on BritishAirways.com.

The Chase mobile app makes it easy to manage both credit cards online.

FAQ

  • What does each card provider offer new customers as incentives?

    British Airways offers 50,000 Avios points when you spend $3,000 within three months of opening the card, and an additional 25,000 Avios points when you spend $10,000 within the first year of opening the card.

    Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus offers 40,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 within three months. You'll also get 3,000 bonus points on your anniversary of opening the card.

  • What does each card provider offer as ongoing incentives for loyal customers?

    You'll earn three points per dollar spent on British Airways with that credit card.

    The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card only offers you two points for every dollar spent on Southwest. All other purchases earn you only one point per dollar on both cards.

  • What are the interest rates for each card provider?

    British Airways' interest ranges from 16.74-23.74%, depending on your credit score.

    Southwest will charge you interest ranging from 16.99-23.99%, depending on your credit.

  • Does either card have an annual fee?

    Yes, they both do. Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus charges $69 a year, while British Airways charges a $95 annual fee.

  • What about a foreign transaction fee?

    The British Airways card does not charge a foreign transaction fee. Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus charges 3% on all international purchases.

  • What credit score range should you be in before applying for each card?

    You'll want to have excellent credit for both of these cards (>720).

  • How do I apply for each card?

    To apply for the British Airways Signature Select card, visit the Chase website. If you'd like to sign up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card, you can also apply on the Chase website.

  • How do I cancel each card?

    If you'd like to cancel either your British Airways Signature Select card or your Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus credit card, just call the customer service number on the back of your credit card—that way, you'll reach a customer service agent who specializes in your credit card.

    With both cards, you'll have to pay off your balance before the account can be closed.

    Be sure to redeem any cashback available before closing the account, otherwise you risk forfeiting it.

Fly high with the British Airways Signature Visa

The international jet-setter will appreciate the benefits of using the British Airways Signature Visa card, with its generous sign-up bonus, 3x points for airline spending, and no foreign transaction fees.

It's worth the extra few dollars in an annual fee for all of these benefits.

For big spenders who travel internationally, the British Airways card is their better bet.

People who travel domestically and love Southwest, however, may prefer the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit card.

Here's a recap of why the British Airways Signature card is stronger than Southwest's:

  • The Travel Together Ticket is a cool perk when you fly British Airlines, but you'll still be on the hook for taxes, fuel surcharge, and other fees.
  • The Southwest Rapid Rewards card offers a lower annual fee and is a good choice for those who travel domestically and don't charge much each month on their credit cards. For those who spend big bucks traveling around the globe, British Airways is still their better bet.
  • While you earn an extra point per dollar on British Airways (three points vs. two points), you won't get the Southwest perks of free checked bags and the ability to change your flight without incurring a fee.
  • Though the spend requirement is lower to earn Southwest's sign-up bonus, the British Airways sign-up bonus is larger—and more valuable.
  • While the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Card is $29 cheaper in terms of annual fee, it charges a 3% foreign transaction fee.
  • Both airline cards are issued by Chase, whose customer service is a mixed bag.
  • The Chase mobile app makes it easy to manage both credit cards online.

Do you use the British Airways Visa Signature Card?

How has the company worked out for you?

Any great tips (or nightmares) to share with the rest of us?

Let us know in the comments below.

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