Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

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

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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 site, 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 site 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.

Comments (88)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Graham says:

    Good little read, that (as I post from Vegas – a trip made super cheap from reading this site)

  • Yuff says:

    I agree( posting from Rangali Island) also a trip made very affordable thanks to HFP.
    Admittedly I only used avios to Oslo but the Qatar sale articles enabled us to fly J, for economy prices or maybe even cheaper. Never checked BA’s price from LGW, but doubt it would be much cheaper, to MLE, than £730 each.

    • Ceri says:

      I couldn’t agree more. It’s definitely a hobby for those in modest wages as well. Have already used avios for an upgrade to Hong Kong and some cheap club Europe flights.

      Thanks Raffles!

    • Tom H says:

      Interesting, any tips on how to collect the large amount of HHonors points? Also when did you manage to find £750 pp j to MLE, that is amazing!

      • Tom H says:

        Sorry that was directed at yuff

      • Rob says:

        Sound like a Qatar deal. Etihad is not far off that in their sale if you start in the right place, I think.

      • Yuff says:

        Tesco club card points, transfer to virgin with bonus, then to HH 🙂

    • Anon says:

      Hi Yuff,

      Rangali,cool! Below its hot out there at the moment, got a Few Qs…

      1) How is it compared to my HFP review
      2) has my snorkeling map been of use
      3) tried breakfast at Vilu?


      • Anon says:

        Nice, where did you fly from with Qatar, LHR?

        • Yuff says:

          Oslo, it was too cheap to pass up the opportunity.
          Originally had pre devaluation J seats to share from Lhr on the 380. Qatar had chafed the plane to a 777 when I cancelled. I now have the myflight app so would have known about the change.
          I nearly didn’t cancel and would have been very miffed to have realised I didn’t book Rangali because I thought I was on a 380.
          Having said that I think our kids are a bit young for paradise and it’s a little too hot as well.
          I know Harry will fall off his chair reading this, in his European bolt hole, but we prefer Dubai, mainly because it suits our needs better with the children.

  • Alan says:

    I thought I’d been “collecting” avios for a few years and only found this site 18 months or so ago. I now have a silver BA card thanks in part to a business trip flown on Emirates with a Qantas code share (I’d never have known that if it wasn’t for rob).

    I matched my status to Alitalia. I also met my target for spire elite and matched it to Hilton diamond.

    With a few redemption flights already under my belt I’ve just hit my spend target on my BA Amex card so planning the first F redemption soon. All thanks to HFP!

  • Adam says:

    Couldn’t agree more with the article. I just flew back from a conference in Dallas in Business class all paid for with Avios using tips learnt from HfP. Probably a quarter of the passengers on the flight were fellow industry colleagues and the look from them passing my seat on their way to the back was priceless. Little did they know the cost of my ticket was less than theirs

  • mark says:

    O/T – Can anyone tell me if American Express ever run bonus points on transfers?
    Looking to transfer some points into virgin air miles and do not know, if to wait for a bonus before transferring them.

    • harry says:

      short answer: yes

      • harry says:

        What are these conversion bonuses?

        American Express will occasionally offer bonus points for transferring to certain partners. There have not been any during 2015 to date. British Airways has not taken part in an Amex conversion bonus for two years although Virgin Atlantic is usually taking part. Club Carlson is also a regular participant.

        Etihad Guest ran a 25% conversion bonus recently. This was not, however, promoted by American Express and you would only have known about it from Etihad’s own website (or from reading Head for Points!).

        Bonuses promoted by Amex tend to be targetted to specific members, and you need to ensure you have opted in to receive email and junk mail from Amex or you won’t hear about them. You must opt-in for EACH Amex card you own.

  • luke says:

    good points, well made…
    as has been said many times before, this is not a hobby for the wealthy, who can afford to pay anyway to do the things that point-collectors strive to achieve…in my view basically it allows the middle class to travel like the 1%….

    • Yuff says:

      Lots of very wealthy people won’t pay £2k for a business class ticket, if they have to pay it themselves.

      • Anon says:

        Agreed, most people that have the ability to spend on floights have worked very hard to earn their money and find it hard to justify needlessly spending £££ on full fare business class.

        A fool and their money are easily parted, but in my view a fool and their money are lucky to be together in the first place. 🙂

  • Nori says:

    I’m in a similar position. Work for the NHS on a similar salary but easily accumulated enough Avios to fly transatlantic in business. All thanks to this site. Thank you Rob.

  • Mike says:

    Raffles, some times I feel we don’t say thank you to you enough ! – so thank you. I have just passed the Avios 1,000,000 mark as direct result of HFP and like the OP do not collect my Avios from flying just following your tips (which admittedly I do take to the extreme)

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