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.

  • Dan says:

    Great to read everyone’s comments, thanks everyone!

  • Laura says:

    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?

    • Rob says:

      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 ….

      • Anon says:

        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.

      • Laura says:

        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.

        • harry says:

          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.

    • Fenny says:

      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.

  • James says:

    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!

  • James says:

    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!

  • 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….

    • James says:

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

  • 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 🙂

    • Mark1980 says:

      Hi pointsarb, which IHG property were you staying at in Mexico?

  • Mike says:

    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 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.

      • harry says:

        hopefully fiancée lol

        • Simon Schus says:

          Aye, autocorrect. She is my fiancée 🙂 the extra e doesn’t add much though, I love her all the same haha

  • Boi says:

    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.

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

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