A reader writes about how HFP has helped improve his travel experiences

I recently received a very kind email from a Head for Points reader thanking for me for helping improve his travels.

He offered to convert his email into an article and I agreed, and as it is a Sunday I feel less guilty about giving up space for it.   Whilst he is mainly preaching to the converted here, it does show how you don’t need to believe the received wisdom that frequent flyer miles aren’t worth the trouble.

Over to Dan ….

A lot of people see collecting points and miles from ways other than air travel as pointless, and that those enjoying the benefits of rewards flights are usually travelling for business in premium cabins. We, the readers of this blog, know that is not the case and that it is very easy to make the system work to your advantage.

I am a ‘civil servant’ earning just above £30K a year, and my girlfriend is a student.  We certainly have no ‘all expenses paid’ trips to our names.  Thanks to this blog I like many others have been able to sample the highlife without splashing out!  I may not embark on multiple premium flights a year, but I have been able to experience something I never would be able to afford otherwise.

I started collecting Avios around the time Head for Points began. I was about to embark on a 6 months backpacking trip around Asia and Australia, and paid for my ticket using my Lloyds TSB Duo card. This, combined with a pile of Tesco Clubcard points gathering dust, managed to get me enough Avios for a few economy flights around Australia on Qantas.  

It was whilst researching these flights that I realised just how good value the Qantas redemptions were.  I was amazed at the low tax rate and wide open availability. When compared to the cash price, the value was outstanding. The tickets were fully flexible and I often did walk up to the ticket counter several hours earlier than scheduled and successfully change my flight, all for less than a tenner in taxes! Got to be better than a Greyhound bus right?

This got me hooked, and when I was back working full time I decided that my next Avios goal was transatlantic business class. Having zeroed out the balance in Australia, I took out the free British Airways American Express card, hit the sign up bonus and cancelled it soon after. I repeated the process with the SPG Amex card, took out Tesco Life Insurance , shopped at Tesco religiously, and spent hours upon hours answering surveys on e-rewards.  I always to this day ensure I pay my credit card bills in full, so I can honestly say this hobby has cost me nothing in card fees or interest.

Aer Lingus 350

When we had built up a sizeable amount and it came to booking our transatlantic business trip, we decided on the Aer Lingus Dublin to Boston route. I had learnt about this route on a post on this blog. This great redemption (50,000 Avios points per person in Business Class pre de-vaulation, which would be 75,000 Avios today) made the goal far more achievable than via Heathrow.

We added on a mix of US Airways / American Airlines economy redemptions to New York and Orlando, which again were fully flexible! To start the journey off in style and to meet our Dublin departure, I used Reward Flight Saver to book a Club Europe connection from Manchester via Heathrow. The long way round maybe … but the luggage allowance and lounge access made up for it.

As I sipped champagne in my lie flat bed, enjoying the Aer Lingus service, I thought back to all the surveys I had completed. No matter how frustrated they got me, they had played a part in me ‘turning left’ for the first time.

We loved our first experience of international business travel, and have definitely got the bug. For us the only way to access this is via Avios!

Ever thinking like a miles collector, I used an Amex Gold card to pay for all our accommodation and expenses on our States trip. The bonus and points that we earned went towards our second trip, a Club Europe hop to Milan from Manchester. We travelled back in economy, so the free lounge passes that came with the card were very useful.

Since the devaluation, I have not booked any more flights using Avios. The loss of the free domestic connection was a blow to us in the regions.  If it was still around I would have used my points on Club Europe flights more as I believe these are excellent value and very achievable for beginners.  

However, rather than stop all together, I continue to collect Avios and am more dedicated than ever. Despite all the changes, there are still many great value redemptions out there to be had like the intra Asian flights on Cathay and Malaysia, and airberlin to Abu Dhabi.

Next time you hear someone complain about avios being too dificult to collect or redeem for the average joe, point them in the direction of this post (then tell them to read the HFP beginners guide!). Every point I have earned has been through cards or promotions I learnt about on here, and I am living proof it is achievable to those on a modest income and living outside London.

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Comments

  1. On top of that, Yesterday I activated my Curve card and trialled it at the pub. It’s an excellent bit of kit. I was one to clear all the Tesco shelves of 3V cards too.

    • I’m still waiting for mine. Looking forward to some MS opps

    • Talking of 3v cards, sniff, I seem to recall the company that owned them saying that they were going to introduce something exciting and similar in the final quarter of 2015/16. Anybody heard anything ?

    • Agree: Got my curve on Friday, nice little asset to have; I wish I’d had it for my holiday as it would have saved me using my debit card for the ATM.

  2. Looking forward to the first report of £1000 cash withdrawal @ ATM lol

  3. I will investigate my trip via Dub, I can use the argument every £ I save on taxes we can spend on our trip on something nice!

    Deb

  4. Like Dan, I am an avid collector but rarely via flights! I do find some of the surveys irritating, especially the Rewards for Thoughts site which frequently asks shed loads of questions to “qualify” me, then tells me the survey is not for me!! Grrrr!

    I don’t live near a Tesco so that’s not such an available route, but have managed to accumulate enough points for our first long-haul flat bed flight next year since starting in March last year, using BA free AMEX and erewards, plus the occasional tank of Shell petrol.

    Thanks Rob for your encouragement and thanks Dan for making me realise I am not Billy no mates on the site! :-)

    • “I do find some of the surveys irritating, especially the Rewards for Thoughts site which frequently asks shed loads of questions to “qualify” me, then tells me the survey is not for me!! Grrrr!”

      I have 6 accounts and aim to fail all but the occasional high point surveys, they soon build up.

      Todays updated balances from AW for this mornings failures.

      e-Rewards @aol.com 9,055+150

      e-Rewards @aol.com 810+175

      e-Rewards@aol.com 640+125

      e-Rewards @aol.com 38,810 +25

      e-Rewards @aol.com 12,335 +225

      e-Rewards @aol.com 10,730+50

      In the last 7 days I have transferred 3x 3000 Avios to Iberia accounts. 2 x 2000AA and 1 x 2000 to BAEC Avios ( only option on this account) I will wait the 30 days then rinse and repeat.

      Not bad for a few minutes each morning.

      • Any tips on how to get so many multiple accounts. I have one and my wife has one. Thought they were invitation only from your airline accounts.

        • I have had most of these accounts many years. Check flyertalk for airline signups , use a few email addresses and dont forget that the name of the account holder on erewards can be changed at any time to a name on the FF programme where you want to deposit miles.

      • Andrew* says:

        My wife just got offered a 7000 point eRewards survey!

    • Andrew* says:

      Perhaps just me, but is anyone having trouble accessing Rewards for Thoughts today, first screen is ok but click on ‘Take a survey’ and I get a cookie notice that I can’t get rid of… (IE on PC or Safari on iPad)…

  5. Great to read everyone’s comments, thanks everyone!

  6. Great to see everyone’s comments about how they got into the airmiles game and agree that this website has been a huge help in collecting.

    O/T but I don’t see as many readers appear to collect Virgin airmiles as much as they do Avios, as an avid Virgin airmiles collector, I’m concerned I’m missing something? I realise Virgin fly only long haul and not EU, is this the main reason for Avios collectors?

    • People should give Virgin more attention, especially as they did not follow Avios in devaluing. However, BA does offer short-haul redemptions and the Amex 2-4-1 (which more than offsets the fact that Virgin redemptions are cheaper).

      Virgin is also now primarily a North American airline and if you are not heading West then it is of far less use than BA. Of course, if you are heading East then you may well be taking advantage of Qatar and Etihad fare sales instead of using Avios anyway ….

      • I’m moving away from Virgin after many years of collecting and experiencing great PE/UC redemptions to Otrando/Miami, the BA 241 PP Amex + “free” connections on BvA long haul from regional airports is too good to pass up.

      • I will have to look into the short haul redemptions a little more closely then, but for what I consider to be the very short haul, 2-3 hours max flights, sometimes I can’t see that using a lot of Avios for such a redemption would work out the most efficient use of them.

        I think in my head I thought that for the benefits and luxury of BA or Virgin it seemed economical and more appreciated if redeemed on the long-haul.

        • this morning I got 4 short haul flights out @ Easter 2017 for 26,000 avios + £70

          vs £425 published aggregate fares

          therefore 26,000 avios = £354 (let’s ignore the booking fee on BA paid!)

          so I got 1.36p/ avios of value

          I get my avios for about 0.5p or less overall

          so I really ‘paid’ £130 (the avios) + £70 (RFS fee) = £200

          which compares well with cheapies, esp if you include luggage, booze/ Cokes & snacks

          • Genghis says:

            BA SH can offer decent value. I got CE to BOD for Euro 2016 for around 15/16k avios (off peak + £50 tax) when a cash ticket on any airline economy was at cheapest £280. Ideally would have just gone ET but friends did not confirm dates in time and ET wasn’t then available.

            Remember on LH, value avios at opportunity cost – what you really would pay. Would you really pay £3k for that J ticket ex-LHR? Prob not. You’d go ex-EU.

    • I’m a convert to Virgin, having flown with them a few times. Last summer I took an UC reward flight to Boston and loved every minute of it. But the biggest issue with them, since they were bought out by Delta, is their lack of destinations. I would have gone to Cananananada this summer, as I have enough points, but they don’t go there any more.

  7. I started collecting just under a year now, on a salary of around 25k since collecting… with a good chunk of that salary coming out in ways that dont earn avios (e.g cash) – Yet I have to date just over 94,000 miles. I certainly havent spent that amount of money and I certinaly wouldn’t have those miles without HFP!

    Neither would I have flown a 787/A380 in Business half way around the world.

    Keep up the fantastic work Raffles!

  8. In early 2012 I flew to Micronesia in Y. In Feb next year I’ll be going back in CX F – the hfp effect 😉

    Have also experienced an ex DUB on BA1 and EY A380 F in the last 12 months, so done pretty well out of this hobby! Thanks Rob!

  9. What's the Point says:

    Rob – been reading your site for ages and I have benefited plenty. Many thanks.

    I found out about 3Vs on your site and I also got the back end of the 10 points for every pound spent on the original Lloyds/Avios Credit card. Them were the days!

    Just got back from a 19 day trip to Rangali/Sri Lanka/Muscat, pretty much all on the points/rewards and sitting up front on the long flights.

    The big one in 2 weeks, First Class Etihad (pre-devalution) LHR to AUH on the A380. I am expecting to see Nicole Kidman in the apartment next to me….I am sure Mrs WTP won’t mind….

    • That’s pretty much as high as your expectations should be! The product is phenomenal, enjoy!

  10. pointsarb says:

    Currently in Mexico having received a full upgrade to an ocean suite as an IHG Ambassador and having paid for the whole stay using IHG points and an Ambassador weekend free night cert. Flew internationally in BA F using 241 for our family of four. As a new Hilton Diamond have also been staying in the USA in transit on this holiday at various Hilton properties receiving full Diamond recognition along the way. All of this would not have been possible without help from Rob and all here at HFP so a huge thanks is due :-)

  11. It has been great to see so many people highlighting what a real difference HfP and raffles have made. I too have had two smashing club and first holidays only as a direct result of raffles hard work. I always made a point of raising a silent toast to rob when in the concord lounge………well any excuse for another glass….

    • Simon Schus says:

      I’d argue that I’m getting married due to HfP and Avios/Flying Club 😉 I’ve used Avios to significantly reduce the cost of travelling to/from the UK and US on a monthly basis for the last three years to see my girlfriend (now fiance) as well as having her over to see me in the UK. My flight out to get married, as well as those for my parents for the wedding, are each purchased using Avios using the routes I learnt about from this website (EXT-DUB-BOS for my parents, and LHR-MAD-BOS for me, using Hilton Diamond in the layover overs).

      My fiancé has been particularly happy at not me not smelling too bad after having a shower on arrival after my day and a half journey through the UK and Nordics on the way to the US. I am also glad that I’ve been able to replace two phones accidentally smashed during the travelling process with the insurance benefits of the AMEX Plat.

      Thanks Raffles :)

      Simon

      • Simon Schus says:

        The reason why I’d argue that HfP contributed is that we mght have found it difficult to maintain the long distance for so long otherwise. At the very least, it has made the experience travelling to each other significantly more bearable.

      • hopefully fiancée lol

  12. Lol… I thought I was the only one who salivate when I am behind someone spending on a debit card
    Having said that, I have a friend who earns over £100K pa but says he doesn’t trust credit cards and won’t convert. Now I have resorted to him spending on mine….to the region of £2000 per month at times, then does immediate bank transfer.

    He spends nights in hotels every week but calls me to book Hilton for him on my account as he’s “too lazy” to find/can’t remember his own password.

  13. I agree! As i post this from The Galápagos Islands having used Avios to get most of the way here (Madrid to Quito). Nice article. And great job Raffles.

  14. Agree completely. I’m also a non-frequent flier and not a huge earner/spender (I generally only manage £500 a month credit card spend) and yet thanks to Raffles have just done an ex-EU return to New York, got one free hotel night from Hilton CC and two more at effectively half price by working the IHG Accelerate promotion. Last year I managed a trip to New York for £405 – flying out in economy and back in club and with 4 nights in a hotel paid for by Avios. Couldn’t have afforded to do that trip otherwise. I’ve also had an upgrade to Club flying back from San Francisco (pre-devaluation).

  15. Matthew says:

    I think it was Nov 2013 I first came across this site. My first redemption was in 2014 with Virgin PE to Vancouver, 5 nights with SPG points, then to Whistler on Rocky Mountaineer before flying CX F to NYC for a few days, upgraded with a matched top tier in Kimpton, then back home in Virgin PE again.

    2015 saw me I’ve use Avios for family to go to Galapagos with Iberia in Business. I also flew LHR-AUH rtn in Etihad F A380 Apartments on points and a couple of CE redemptions too.

    2016 sees my family of 4 go on a trip of a lifetime to NZ in Singapore business and later in the year Etihad A380 Business Studio again LHR-AUH.

    Already used my Hilton Diamond match to much success and already planning the next big trip for 2017.

    None of this would have been possible without help and advice from Rob, for which I’m very thankful :-).

  16. Thank you Raffles and Dan. I wholeheartedly agree with Dan that on a local government income I could travel extensively by putting the time into collecting Avios by variousmeans and HFP have been a great help. Even when my Amex is not accepted I can at least top up by using the Lloyds Duo and transferring from my Avios account to the BA one.

  17. Perhaps we could have a HFP get together for an informal chat/share experiences etc over a few drinks/nibbles?!

    Is this something you would consider Rob or not your bag?!

    • I was thinking a HFP Flyertalk discussion forum might be a good start, Rob could link to it from here…

      • It might happen – I could probably get Melia, Hyatt or Starwood to donate a venue. There is a lot of admin involved though. Planning something casually in a pub is also an option but my schedule makes that difficult because my wife has a habit of disappearing for work purposes at short notice which plays havoc with the kids.

        There is a London Flyertalk drinks party on Friday 1st July at St Thomas’s Hospital – http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/british-airways-executive-club/1757145-london-do-2016-friday-1st-july.html This was a good event last time it was held. It is in a big function room so ideal for people who don’t like circulating in pubs. I popped along last year and, looking at my diary, should be able to make it this year.

  18. Thanks for HFP, I got to go to Marrakech on CE for £150 return. Sitting behind a Hollywood actress and her musician fiancé added a touch of glamour to the flights (outbound and return – I wasn’t stalking them). Later this year, I’m going to Boston on a redemption DUB-BOS flight (25,000 avios in Economy).

    I’ll also go to Miami for Christmas on CW for £750, and have one free night at InterContinental Miami, and another free night in a suite at La Concha in Key West (after a few mattress run during IHG Accelerate) – all thanks to Rob’s article on the BA sale from Dublin.

    It’s not just business travellers that could benefit from HFP. Alerts on BA sales (such as £60 return to Dubrovnik on ET) is very helpful to all.

  19. pointsarb says:

    @ mark1980

    It’s the IC Cancun and it’s a very nice property with excellent customer hospitality. We got upgraded (admittedly with gentle persuasion from me!) to an ocean facing suite on the club floor with a stunning view and club lounge access with complimentary breakfast and evening snacks including well known liquor brands. Raise a glass to Rob!

    • Mark1980 says:

      Hi pointsarb, thanks for the response. I’ve been looking at that hotel for a redemption next year so it’s good to get some feedback! I like the look of it as it’s relatively cheap at 30k per night and it’s supposed to have the best beach in Cancun with very shallow calm water so good for the little one. It seems to fly under the radar as it’s not all inclusive but good to hear you’re getting treated well with club lounge access – what are food and drink prices like otherwise?

  20. pointsarb says:

    Quite reasonable actually for an IC and I can recommend it for the little ones who are also welcomed in the lounge as it has a large tv screen with kids DVDs on display in what seems to be the kids corner.