The British Airways ‘On Business’ programme explained (Part 1, 2017 edition)

Some of you will never have come across On Business which is British Airways ‘other’ loyalty programme. Instead of rewarding flyers, it rewards the companies that book their travel. (And if you have your own business, you can be a ‘company’ as well as a traveller, and so double dip.  The only requirement is that your company is VAT registered.)

The programme is explained at this website.  It is fundamentally the same as Avios in structure. You earn On Business points for every flight your company books. They can then be redeemed for flights or for upgrades.

Note – as this is a key question that always comes up – you CAN collect both Avios and On Business points for the same flight.

On Business was restructured, mainly for the worse, during 2015.  If you want to know what changed, you can read my older articles on OB here.

The sign-up page is here (click ‘Join On Business’ in the menu bar).  If you are signing up, you will qualify for a special sign-up bonus of triple points for your first six one-way flights within 12 months of joining.  If you say on your application form that you were referred by member OB10171896 then I receive a small referral points bonus – thank you!

On Business

Signing up

You must run a genuine business in order to sign up for On Business.  You cannot pretend to have a company, as you must provide the name of your company and its VAT registration number when you sign-up.  The requirement to provide a VAT number means that the smallest businesses will no longer qualify to join.  There is a published register of VAT numbers so it is not possible to make one up.

In theory, you can only earn On Business points when you travel on business for your company. However, you will not get any attention if the occasional block of flights to Orlando for a group with the same surname goes through!

Earning points

Points earning in On Business is 100% revenue based.  The more you spend, the more points you earn.  It is that simple.

The programme has three tiers which you move through based on your annual spending:

On1 – up to £29,999 spend – 1 point per £1

On2 – £30,000 to £299,999 spend – 1.25 points per £1

On3 – £300,000+ spent – 1.5 points per £1

Qualifying spend comprises flights taken on British Airways, Iberia and American Airlines.  Points are based on the ticket price excluding taxes, charges and fees – but including fuel surcharges.

You receive points irrespective of how you book.  You are not penalised for using Expedia or any other third party agent or booking site.

You will not, however, receive any points if you book a flight as part of a package with inclusive hotel or car hire.  

As soon as you hit the threshold for the next tier, you are moved up.  You retain that tier for the rest of the current calendar year and all of the following year.

You can occasionally agree to waive your points for a cash discount.  A saving of ‘5% or more’ on the ticket price will be available on ‘selected flights’ if you choose not to earn points on your booking.  This is a better deal for most people but your chances of flying on a route offering a discount are slim.

You should note that, when you have multiple flights on one booking, the earning system can get a little chaotic.  This is because BA has to make a notional split of the cost of your ticket between each individual leg.  This often makes little sense when you look at the points received.

Earning analysis

It doesn’t take a genius to realise that this earning structure does not support SMEs.  Setting the threshold for On2 at £30,000 of annual spend – a huge sum even for most businesses turning over £1m – sends out a message that your company is not really wanted.  By insisting that new members of On Business be VAT registered it has set a de facto minimum turnover of £85,000 simply for joining the scheme.

Added to the BAEC changes in 2015 – which halved tier point and quartered Avios earning on discounted short-haul flights – there is little incentive for SMEs to be swayed by benefits if your only work travel is inside Europe on cheap tickets.

On Business points have a ‘hard’ expiry date of 2 years from the December after you earn them.  Unlike Avios, this expiry date cannot be extended – you must spend your points within 2 years.

The expiry rules create a ‘minimum spend’ threshold on your membership.  You would need to spend £1,100 every two years in order to book the very cheapest reward – a one-way flight between London and Manchester in Economy – before your points expired.

On Business reviewed

Spending points

The 2015 changes massively increased the number of points required for premium class travel.  You used to need roughly 3x the points of an Economy ticket to fly in Business.  This is now roughly 5-6x.  (Avios, remember, charges 2x the Economy points on short-haul and 3x on long-haul.)

Most small companies can now forget about redeeming for long-haul premium classes.  You would need to spend roughly £40,000 to earn one Club World return to the Middle East.

Before we look at the numbers, you should note a few things:

You can only redeem on BA, American Airlines and Iberia.  You do not have access to full oneworld reward inventory.

Reward availability is better than when using Avios. This, for me, is the main benefit of On Business and I NEVER spend them if Avios seats are available.  This doesn’t apply if you are a BAEC Gold member as the extra availability you get in Economy seems to be better than what On Business offers.

There is no ‘Reward Flight Saver’ option with On Business.  This is not a major problem, however, as ever since British Airways removed fuel surcharges on short haul tickets the actual taxes due are rarely substantially higher than the ‘Reward Flight Saver’ cap.

You cannot redeem flights until two different travellers have collected points on your account. This is presumably to stop ‘one man bands’ joining up.  You can easily get around this by crediting a flight from a friend or family member to your account.

There is no published spending chart.  You need to plug routes manually into the widget on the On Business home page in order to get pricing examples.

Here are a few examples.  These are all return flights but one-way bookings are also allowed:

Hamburg – 2,200 points Euro Traveller return; 10,400 points Club Europe return

New York – 9,000 points World Traveller return; 48,000 points Club World return

Tokyo – 10,000 points World Traveller return; 58,000 points Club World return

Note the astonishing gap between Economy and Business pricing, especially for Hamburg.

Roughly … and this is very rough … I work on the basis that 1 On Business point has the same burning power as 4 Avios when used for Economy flights and 2 Avios when used for Club World flights.

Part 2 of this article runs tomorrow and looks at the value of using your On Business points for upgrades and how to boost your points with credit cards.

Bits: great Qatar Airways / HFP competition coming, 1200 Avios for £15 & FREE Now TV!
Review of the Aspire Lounge at Bristol Airport
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Comments

  1. As a small business owner, what I am really searching for is a business VISA or Mastercard credit card that gives me reward AVIOS. is anyone aware of any such card that is out there ?

    • Genghis says:

      As I’ve said before, can you not just spend on a personal card and then refund yourself every so often. Just keep a record of what you’re doing to show it’s not drawings / dividends. We do it for our Ltd co.

    • I spend heavily on my personal cards but keep very clear audit trails of what spending is for business and reimburse any business spend from my business account – it’s no more difficult than tracking your regular business spend.

    • There isn’t one. Use a personal card, I do.

  2. “The requirement to provide a VAT number means that the smallest businesses will no longer qualify to join”

    That’s not correct

    You can be a micro-entity or self employed with a small turnover and voluntarily opt in to be VAT registered and so still qualify.

    This from HMRC website:

    “Voluntary registration

    You can register voluntarily if your business turnover is below £85,000. You must pay HMRC any VAT you owe from the date they register you”

    The statement should simply be “non-VAT registered self-employed people or businesses will not qualify”

  3. I must be lucky…..Ltd co and not vat registered but still earn OB.
    But I don’t earn much as no BA revenue flights…. I wish there was a way I could get credit for all those people out there who have nowhere to credit. Lol

    • Same here Boi, but, then again, my company (not VAT registered) has been a BA OB member since inception, unlike new registrations which require a VAT no., I belive, at the outset.

      As you probably also do, we ignore the request for a VAT no. every time we log in to the OB website and click on “No Thanks, I will provide this information later”. This has worked fine ever since they required a VAT no. to join.

      • Ditto :)

        • Hope they’re not reading this thread! LOL! 😉

          • LOL I did actually try to add a valid VAT number at the time (when we were registered) and it didn’t accept it so I’ve just been skipping since then.

      • Lady London says:

        Since the VAT registration requirement was sneaked in I did a few flights including longhauls on BA. I noticed none of them ever credited to OB even when booked correctly to do this. I do the above skip but all I seem to be able to do is spend the accrued points, not get any added. I’ve slowly drifted away and doing upwards of 100 flights this year but very very few of them BA.

        • I’m not sure if there’s another reason (for example they changed OB numbers at the time of relaunch and stricter VAT requirements), but earning still working fine for me.

  4. Has anyone worked out how to collect OB points on AA flights? There doesn’t seem to be anywhere to input your OB number on the AA website. At present I am manually claiming all my AA flights after the event.

    • Same as you Chris, I’ve had to manually apply all my company AA flights, as well as, previously, US airways flights. Infact I’ve had several long phone calls over the past few years with OB staff who were trying to get their owmn heads around how to make the system work better for non BA flights!

      • Worth trying emailing you flight booking details and OB number to customerservice (at) businessextra.com – some colleagues have had success via that route.

  5. Sadly OB was gutted when they changed the system. The points earning is totally opaque – meant to be revenue based but the same-priced flight can earn quite different amounts of points due to which components of the fare count or not. Earning on AA also often doesn’t work with retroclaims required. Pricey to spend now and availability not a patch on what it used to be. It’s OK when thought of as just a small bonus but certainly not the programme it used to be!

    • Same here Alan. It was far better before, but now that it’s revenue based it’s just a small bonus for us too. However, every bit counts! :-)

  6. Rob,

    Do you know if the referred number works for you if we are not VAT registered in the UK but let say VAT registered in germany?

    It is fine if you know the answer.
    Do not dig too much into that if not.

    Thanks

    • Yes, I think the referral works irrespective of where you are based. Nothing bad will happen if it doesn’t!

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