British Airways Ends Historic Credit Card Bonus

(Editor's Note: This on-again-off-again promotion is currently on. The latest information is here.)

On December 11—a Friday afternoon, the favored time to go public with bad news, in hopes it will go unreported and unnoticed—a P.R. agency acting on behalf of British Airways and Chase (which issues the British Airways Visa Signature card) advised me by email that the 100,000-mile bonus for signing up for the card and charging $2,000 within three months would end that same day.

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Sure enough, by the end of the day, the offer on the card's web page had been changed to reflect a very different bonus: 30,000 bonus miles and a $50 discount on British Airways tickets charged to the card. That's decent, but hardly a stellar offer.

What I and others had praised as the most lucrative rewards credit card bonus ever offered was no more.

As I took pains to point out in my November 6 coverage of the card, "the landing page for the card indicates that this is a limited offer, but there's no deadline shown. So the bonuses could be withdrawn or scaled back at any time. As we say on this side of the Pond: Get it while the gettin's good."

When I asked why the bonus was being yanked, the response was simply that "it was a limited time offer."

That hardly addresses the question of timing. Why terminate the offer now? And why not give consumers some advance notice?

I can only speculate, but my best guess is that British Airways and Chase underestimated the interest the offer would elicit, and the number of frequent flyer miles that would have to be distributed to deliver on the promotion's outsized promise.

Those miles, after all, are a liability to British Airways and an expense to Chase, which purchases the miles from the airline to use as a sign-up incentive. And the more people apply for the card, the greater the expense. So from a financial standpoint, ending the promotion may well have been a prudent business decision.

The less charitable interpretation is that they knew exactly how much buzz the promotion would generate, and planned to squeeze every last drop of favorable publicity from the offer and then summarily terminate it.

Either way, the no-notice termination is likely to leave many would-be customers feeling disappointed and disrespected.

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