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)

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  • Simon85 says:

    I can totally relate to this post. 10 years ago I gave up a well paid IT job for health reasons and became a postman. Unfortunately I also had to give up the lifestyle that came with it. However since finding this site in its early days the lifestyle has returned, and I’m back in the premium cabins and staying in the more upmarket hotels. So thank you Rob and keep up the good work.

  • Robert says:

    Great article. Wondering how flexible Qantas redemption tickets are. Can they be changed (for a fee?) to another date of travel, or is it same day changes only?

    • Dan says:

      I only ever changed flight time but on the same date at the airport ticket desk, the staff once they check the fare class will do it no problems. They always stamp catering not assured on your boarding pass but I never had any problems being fed! Qantas tickets are easily to book on the BA website and there’s loads of availability with high frequency flights. To err on the side of caution you could just cancel the flight to refund the avios, you’d end up loosing the money paid in taxes but it’s normally less than a tenner, and rebook . It’s only the transcontinental flights between PER-MEL/SYD/BNE that seem to get booked up.

  • Peaceful Waters says:


    Mr “average” wins!

  • Daz says:

    Just over 2 years ago after leaving the Army I was sitting in a LHR departure gate with my family waiting to board a Singapore Airlines flight to SIN in economy. I looked to the separated section which had Business class passengers and snarled with my eyes in contempt. How can they afford it? And with kids!! Snarl!

    Now I’m on slightly better wages that’s put me in to the higher tax bracket!! This week my family and I have just finished our 3rd journey to the Far East on QR metal, set up by CE flights, 6 days at the Raffles hotel Singapore. All of us collecting just under 10000 avios and 480 tier points each; my kid has the potential to be a BA Gold card recipient before July ;).
    I also managed a BA business class redemption to Calgary this year with the help of a Lloyd’s upgrade voucher, I now can see the sheer envy of people coming on to the plane turning right instead of left thinking what I thought 2 years ago.

    So without this site, the advice from Rob and others here I couldn’t have done any of this cavorting around the world in style, staying at swanky hotels, sipping the Babycham and churning the cards.

    So Cheers everyone 🙂

  • Diane REID says:

    I’ve been collecting for a couple of years now, all through credit card churn and other offers – mainly Tesco, albeit these are thin on the ground these days, so it’s mainly Gift cards I get extra on now ( buying M & S cards for some food shop etc. Pity they don’t do Aldi cards !! ). I must have collected and spent nearly one million miles. Have had 2 x 1st Class returns to USA last year, and this year have the 4 X 1st Class returns to USA booked, plus 2 in Europe. Also had 7 x CE flights and 4 Domestic. Living in Scotland we’ve felt the effect of the removal of the domestic connections in Europe as these are not nearly such good value now. Planning a trip in CW to South Africa already for next year, and working on my strategy for bagging the seats to Cape Town, although prepared to go via J’Berg if needs be. All this is only possible to my finding this site. Thank you Raffles.

  • Laurence says:

    A great read and in a similar position. I read Head for Points every day and currently on holiday in Vietnam thanks to it, with all flights paid for using Avios before the devaluation. Never thought I’d fly first class but looking forward to my second time in 1A on Cathay Pacific back to Heathrow on Tuesday. Only issue is I’m hooked and can’t collect Avios quick enough!

  • Mark says:

    After just landing from a 17 day trip around China and Hong Kong because of Rob and his blog, I could not agree more with this articles.

    I starting to collecting avoids miles, but then I found Rob’s blog about 2 years ago, which helped me maximise my collection of both avios / virgin air miles and so much more…..

    By Rob pointing out the way in which BA has lower / sales fare routing out of Europe, we travelled in business class starting and finishing in Germany, all round China and Hong Kong for the same price we travelled on a direct flight in premium economy to Hong Kong over 2 years ago from London with BA.

    We have also enjoyed a couple of free European business class and have got enough points for free 4 upper class flights.

    So many thanks to Rob from helping us travel in style from now on.

  • George says:

    I know everyone has this hobby for his/her own reasons but it is still quite amusing to see the whole range in some of the comments. Honestly, people should just sit back (or lie down flat 🙂 ) and sip on their champagne and enjoy all the perks. Do it for you and just for you and not to make people in economy envy you. We all want to be the people in business if in economy, and in first if in business, (and in the residence if in first for some) it is human nature. But let’s not do it to cause envy, some people (and sometimes ‘us’) will get backaches and disgusting food in economy. C’est la vie.
    Have a great Sunday people

    • Daz says:

      Sorry George, I’ll do it for world peace in future, not envy and give a vanilla edited, untruthful reason why I started collecting points.

      Envy is a curious thing, it make us do things we might not have done otherwise.

      • George says:

        If you are doing it for world peace then you also qualify for a beauty contest, maybe try that too and get flown around for free 🙂

    • VP says:


      • VP says:

        Meant +1 to George

        • Daz says:

          Let me clear this up: I’m not trying to make people envious of me, I was envious of others flying in the higher classes and I could see the same look I had on other people before I was educated in points and credit cards etc,etc.

          I envy the person flying in the residence, it makes me want to achieve it, it is a challenge.

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