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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  • Gavin says:

    When I was younger I always assumed long haul business class was something unachievable for me and never even considered that it might be a possibility. Thanks in part to this site I’ve now done three ex-EU business class holidays, become BA gold, redeemed a lot of great value short haul avios flights (pretty much paid for by the long haul earnings) and have another two ex-EU trips upcoming this year… Thanks Rob!

  • VP says:

    I can so relate to you !!!! Every time I tell people about it..they are just like..’Oh really? great I should look into it’ and then just continue using their debit cards!!! Some people just don’t trust Credit cards or can’t believe any flight deal can be better than Easyjet / Ryanair !!!

  • Nick says:

    I couldn’t agree more . I’ve been reading headforpoints since Rob started it and I can honestly say he’s been excellent. If I get stuck or can’t understand something I ‘ll ask him about it and he’ll always get back to me promptly. I’ve also done the Aer Lingus Business Class route DUB-BOS and JFK-DUS in Business with AB for £3 in taxes. When I got the bug I also started my girlfriend off collecting and my parents. I didn’t stop there either, I started hotel points collection too. I can quite honestly say the day I meet Rob the first thing I’ll say is “What are you drinking”. He deserves a medal.

  • Joe says:

    Great article, and a good reminder that even ‘regular’ people can enjoy the experience of turning left with the help of websites like headforpoints. As many others have posted, I work in a very averagely paid job in the public sector, and last year, with the help, advice and tips from this site, and dedicated points collection, I finally managed to fly First from LAX to LHR and got to sit next to and make small talk with a Hollywood celebrity for 11 hours. All thanks to HFP and everyone who posts on this site.

  • Nick says:

    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.

    • Genghis says:

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

    • Kipto says:

      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 ?

    • Daz says:

      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.

  • harry says:

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

    • Kipto says:

      +1 I’d settle for £500 a day. Straight into the bank and transfer and repeat the next day……………

  • Deb says:

    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!


  • Simon says:

    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! 🙂

    • xcalx says:

      “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 9,055+150

      e-Rewards 810+175 640+125

      e-Rewards 38,810 +25

      e-Rewards 12,335 +225

      e-Rewards 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.

      • Dom says:

        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.

        • xcalx says:

          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)…

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