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The British Airways ‘On Business’ SME loyalty programme reviewed (Part 1, 2020 edition)

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This is our review of the British Airways ‘On Business’ loyalty programme.

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.

(If you have your own business, you can be a ‘company’ as well as a traveller, and 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.

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 you receive 1,500 bonus On Business points after crediting your first flight.  (And so do I, so thank you!)

British Airways On Business review

Signing up for On Business

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.

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.

How to earn BA On Business 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 BA Holidays or similar 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.  For 18 months the only route discount offered to me was to Badajoz in Spain and even this has now disappeared!

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 and locked out charities.

On Business points have a ‘hard’ expiry date of two years from the December after you earn them.  Unlike Avios, this expiry date cannot be extended – you must spend your points within two years.  If you do not have on-going activity on your account, they expire even sooner – exactly on the 2nd anniversary of your last earning activity.

The expiry rules create a de facto ‘minimum spend’ threshold on your membership.  You would need to spend £1,100 excluding taxes 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.

British Airways On Business review

How to spend BA On Business points

Redeeming On Business points for premium cabins is very difficult.  A Business Class flight needs roughly 5-6x more points than an economy one.  Avios, remember, only charges 2x the economy points for Business Class on short-haul and 3x on long-haul.

Most small companies should 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 when using Avios 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 the actual taxes due are rarely substantially higher than the £35 ‘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 redemption chart.  You need to plug routes manually into the widget on the On Business home page in order to get pricing examples.

However, earlier this year Head for Points published the full On Business redemption chart for Economy flights – see here.  This will save you a substantial amount of time.  We didn’t cover Business class because it is very poor value.

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.

Comments (5)

  • Nick says:

    The requirement for a VAT number has, over the past few years, been very annoying for some people and companies. I work for a UK limited company, but we are not registered for VAT due to our business type. Luckily we joined when the scheme was originally set up. When you log in you’re told that your profile is incomplete (VAT number missing), but luckily we can still just click on “add later”. However, it sounds like it’s still a requirement to supply this information from the outset to register, which is surely still annoying for some companies.

    • The Savage Squirrel says:

      It’s a strange one, as some huge industries don’t pay VAT. Although if you’re CEO of Aviva and you Email BA, I’d imagine they’d make an exception :D.

      • memesweeper says:

        Some huge businesses that don’t routinely pay VAT do often register for it though. Registration is voluntary below the turnover threshold, not impossible.

      • Save East Coast Rewards says:

        The is the SME loyalty scheme, any huge business can negotiate their own deals with BA.

  • Paul says:

    I assume no news if BA will extend the expiry of Dec this year? Suspect lots of Co’s will have to lose expiring On Business pts if BA does not change its stance, given very little scope to actually book anything at the moment…