Chip and PIN credit cards are coming to America. While that news has been filtering through the blogosphere since April, Chase Financial Services just made it official by unveiling their British Airways Visa card. The card aims to ease the woes of Americans traveling overseas by providing a readable magnetic strip for domestic use as well as an embedded RFiD chip, which Europeans have enjoyed for years on their own cards.
Though it’s already won over fans in the travel community thanks to an impressive signing bonus, most Americans don’t quite know what to think. Is this card really worth the hype? Or is it just another gimmick by the credit card industry? Well, here’s our two cents. It’s pretty good. But it’s a credit card, not a high-tech panacea for our every credit woe.
A credit card is nothing these days without a decent rewards system, and the British Airways Visa doesn’t disappoint. The card uses Chase’s standard rewards program. Cardholders get 1.25 bonus miles for every $1 they spend, and 2.5 bonus miles for every $1 spent on British Airways. Additionally, cardholders will automatically be enrolled in the Chase’s Executive Club. Club members enjoy priority boarding, a free checked bag and a voucher for a free flight when they spend $30,000 or more on the card in a calendar year.
Although its rewards system isn’t as versatile as the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card or a general rewards card like the Discover More, the British Airways Visa more than holds its own against other exclusive airline credit cards. Its travel-specific bonuses are very nice, especially that free flight voucher.
Terms and Conditions
If the British Airways Visa falls flat anywhere, it’s definitely in the “terms and conditions” category. The card carries a $95 annual fee. Although that’s par for the airline credit card course, it’s still unnecessarily steep. On top of that, the interest rate can bounce between 14% and 29.99% depending on your payment schedule. And you’ve got to watch out for the penalty fees. They can be as high as $35.
While the terms and conditions aren’t great, they aren’t unreasonable either. While the British Airways Visa can be a one-way ticket to debt if you carry a balance and don’t make payments on time, these unfavorable terms will be a non-issue if you use the card responsibly.
The real draw of the British Airways Visa is the embedded EMV chip. These chips, mandatory for European credit cards, are considered to be much safer than the magnetic strips used in the U.S., and they’ll grant Americans the ability to swipe their plastic overseas.
Unfortunately, that’s about all they’ll do. As Europe has already learned, chip and PIN cards can still be hacked by enterprising thieves. More importantly, EMV chip-processing machines have yet to make their way into the United States, so you’ll still be forced to use the magnetic strip when making purchases in your hometown. So while the British Airways Visa’s microchip makes it more convenient than the competition when you’re traveling overseas, it doesn’t make it any safer.
All things considered, the British Airways Visa is a solid credit card for frequent international flyers. Its massive miles bonus, good rewards system and European compatibility make it a must-have for anyone who “hops the pond” on a regular basis. But don’t look for the card to change the way America uses plastic. In the end, it’s still an airline credit card, with airline credit card weaknesses. And though the new technology is a much-welcomed perk, the microchips are nothing revolutionary.
Pick one up if you already own an airline credit card that you want to replace. If you don’t fall into that category of consumers, then just stay in your seats, tray tables in the upright position. The market will be evolving shortly.
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