Nutmeg Avios

‘Miles and points’ for the solo traveller – should you have a different collection strategy?

How should your miles and points collecting change if you are a solo traveller?  I thought it was worth updating this article which I originally ran in 2013.

Whilst Head for Points generally treats the 2-4-1 voucher from the British Airways American Express card as the greatest thing since sliced bread (and it is – here is the maths to prove it) it would have been pretty useless to me in my youth.

I did a lot of solo travelling before I settled down, and a 2-4-1 voucher isn’t much use there.  Despite having a family I still do the odd solo leisure trip, often when my wife takes the kids to spend time with my parents-in-law.

In general, whilst you won’t necessarily get any value from the BA Amex 2-4-1 voucher, the solo traveller has an easier time with the ‘miles and points’ game than a couple, and a far easier time than a family.

Solo traveller

Things that benefit the solo traveller:

The fewer award seats you want, the easier it is to get them. 1 is easier than 2 is easier than 4.  And, unless you work in education, you are unlikely to be tied down to school holidays when seats are harder to find.

Some airlines restrict the award seats they release. Etihad and airberlin, for example, generally restrict business class rewards to two per flight, at least initially.  British Airways only opens up two Club World seats 355 days from departure, although they will generally open up more as the months pass.  A family can never guarantee that BA will open up 3 or more premium seats, however.

It is easier for a solo traveller to get an award seat using ‘easy’ miles, generally from credit cards. Take, for example, the current Virgin credit card deal.  Take out the free card and the £140 Black card (you can have both) and you’d get 35,000 miles for free.  That gets you a fair bit of the way towards a one way Upper Class ticket to the US East Coast and enough for an off-peak Upper Class one-way to Dubai or India.  You would have enough for a Premium Economy return ticket to the US East Coast, India, Middle East or Caribbean off-peak.  A couple would still have been substantially short.

A solo traveller will find it easier to arrange their schedule to maximise their points earning and burning (and in particular minimise their airport taxes). Ever tried telling a girlfriend that you need to change your hotel three times during a week because you want to maximise your bonus points? Or that she is flying to New York via Berlin to save tax? And if you’ve got family, don’t even think about it, at least whilst your kids are small.

A solo traveller may also be willing to compromise slightly on airline or hotel quality to maximise points. Last time I was in Munich – alone – I stayed at the dowdy but functional Holiday Inn on the edge of the city, on points. Had my wife come as well – and especially if the children were there – I would have felt that we should stay somewhere nicer and more central which would probably have involved paying.

Things that count against the solo traveller:

You don’t have a partner who can also obtain credit card sign-up bonuses

You don’t have a partner who can help boost your ‘household income’ to improve your chances of being accepted for credit cards (American Express likes to look at household income)

You don’t get any favours from the hotel reward schemes – a room for one person costs the same number of points as a room for two. That said, you get an easier time than a family, as suite redemptions using points are rarely available.  You can request two connecting rooms but in my experience it is 50/50 whether you actually get them when you check in.

You get no benefit from the British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher and feel very grumpy that other people get two Avios flights for the same number of points that you are using for one.

Different credit card options

If you are a solo traveller, there are two credit card benefits which could have been designed with you in mind.

The first is the Lloyds Avios Rewards card. I examined the upgrade voucher in detail here. For £7,000 of spending, you receive a voucher which allows you to book an Avios seat on British Airways for the miles required for a cheaper cabin. Club World costs World Traveller Plus mileage, World Traveller Plus costs World Traveller mileage, Club Europe costs Eurotraveller mileage.

For the single traveller, this is more useful than the British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher.

Virgin also offers a similar voucher via its MBNA credit cards. The White card (review) and Black card (review) both offers vouchers, when you spend enough, which allow you to book Premium Economy redemptions for the same miles as Economy.

There is no easy answer as to whether solo travellers come out best overall or not – but by carrying the right credit cards and exploiting the right opportunities, you can tilt the odds in your favour.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

Bits: how to pre-order your BA duty free, 180 Avios for giving Tesco your insurance details
Bits: last call for Etihad credit card sign-up bonus, other deals ending Wednesday
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  1. Kevin says:

    “And if you’ve got family, don’t even think about it, at least whilst your kids are small.”

    First LH family holiday with then 5 year old we did an ex-ORK. Just the 4 flights as ditched the return. The following year an ex-DUB involved 6 flights. This year the ex-DUB is taking 10 flights with the addition of an 11 month old. If they want holidays then this is how they have to go!

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Wow. I would deffo ex-EU with a partner/kids 4 flights is nothing on LH but 10 segments. Wow!

    • Mr Dee says:

      Motivating others to make a change whether its a lifestyle change or changing the way they buy things for the points is not an easy task, the uninitiated want a step by step guide and often aren’t prepared to read anything unless its in the mainstream media.

    • filipino_chino says:

      i have a soon to be 2 year old and i am flying from AMS to HNL…. it saved me 1.2K in Y – if they want to visit family… they have to fly from outside the UK

  2. “Take out the free card and the £140 Black card (you can have both) and you’d get 35,000 miles for free.”

    Rob, don’t you mean 35,000 miles for £140 rather than ‘free’?

    • Brian says:

      Also, since the Virgin changes, I’m not sure that 35,000 is virtually a one-way Upper Class redemption to the West Coast.

  3. Genghis says:

    The solo traveller also doesn’t get the guaranteed referral points from His n Hers Amex cards

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Depends if you have friend(s) who like to play the same game.

      • Genghis says:

        Would anyone who does this share their experience? Is it one Plat referral for another? Does SPG 5k + BAPP 9k avios = 1 Plat 18k MRs?

        • Lev441 says:

          I’m a solo traveller/collector – sometimes I get friends involved either by referring them or getting them to refer me.

          Occasionally I’ll ask the parents to help out with churning but my dad just doesn’t get it even though I got both him and my mum flights to South Africa for Christmas ’17 in business (their first ever J trip) using a BAPP companion voucher and by being and additional cardholder for a card in their names.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          We normally just refer between a group of us. Whoever is holding a card and hasn’t referred gets the next lot of points. If no one is holding Rob get them 🙂

          AMEX BAPP, SPG and Gold/Platinum. Its not as nailed on as wife/husband but a few k points a year.

          Let’s not forget siblings could be a nailed on churning partner

    • Kathy says:

      This is my big problem. Even when I know people are also collecting miles, even when I have given them all the information myself, I still can’t seem to find people who will let me refer them. They’ll cheerfully start talking about the credit card they took out in a branch of Lloyd’s that has no FX fees and I’ll be going ‘but that’s the card I told you all about – I could have referred you for that!!’ That, and the surprising amount of people who still refuse to use credit cards at all.

      • I have the same problem, unlike most people here I don’t have referral partners (except his n hers). And then people at work wonder how I can afford to travel business as a family of 5 while they can’t without kids…..try explaining and they think I am talking rocket science and hard work. I find Drs are worse when it comes to life skills!

        • Reddot says:

          +1 on Drs – ours friend insists on spending on a debit card but cringes about his wife’s holidays…

        • Vivian says:

          Accountants aren’t that great either. A colleague a to work goes home to Auckland at least once a year (with fiancée who’s also a Kiwi) and they’re always paying on debit cards!

        • Genghis says:

          The accountants I work with are slowly learning…

        • Don’t get me started on Drs… like oversized children. Most don’t even know their salary and are too lazy to sort anything out when payroll has been shafting them. Drives me mad.

  4. Tim Millea says:

    As a solo traveller living near Manchester, there are now very few circumstances that justify spending my hard earned, and often paid-for, Avios even at a low valuation.

    I just did one – return flights on the new direct flight from Manchester to Malaga in business with BA Cityflyer BUT only because I was able to obtain front-row seats with extra legroom and had the cheek to ask for champagne despite the unearthly times of the flights.

    Even then the BA lounge at Manchester not opening until 50 minutes before the scheduled departure time and having to use the call button for any service whatsoever on the return flight galled somewhat.

    Thankfully we returned to Manchester just hours before the inexplicable BA IT collapse.

  5. thereal harry1 says:

    With the Lloyds upgrade voucher, do I get 1 every time I spend £7000 – or is it 1 voucher a year?

    Still not very interested – with European-only travel for us – because the math doesn’t work out particularly well.

    £7000 of spend + £24 fee = total approx £94 (I’d have got 7000 MR points with Amex spend instead)

    £94 to get me 2 upgrades to CE

    wowsers, the only bit I value much (CE vs ET) is lounge access & a free snack/ drink on board – for £94 I’d get those x2 anyway

    • Genghis says:

      Only one voucher a year.
      But the math is a bit off IMO. If spending £7k on say Amex Gold you’d get 7k MRs. If on Lloyds Amex you’d get 17,500 avios in first 6 months and £8,750 avios thereafter. That £24 could therefore be well spent and your upgrade costs you £15 (£50 v £35 RFS taxes).
      So if you’d convert those MR points to avios anyway, you’d still be up even after upgrade cost (17,500-7,000-2,400 (1ppa cost of card)-1,500 (cost of upgrade) = 6,600.

      • thereal harry1 says:

        still leaves me (as a flyer who doesn’t really care much about flying CE on our shortish flight – same seat (which is not as good as rubbing shoulders in the exit row; not bothered about double luggage; yes I like lounge & a drink on the way out but on the way back: no, I’ll be driving later)…

        …thinking that MR points is a more useful currency as I’Il get a cash saving on our family RFS seats – apples & pears maybe but I’d genuinely resent paying extra (with my own money) for a CE seat on a short European flight, just not worth the extra – so logically I should also conclude it’s not worth it on points, either, if those Lloyds points represent a points sacrifice @ Amex

        • Genghis says:

          Get the Lloyds card but not use the upgrade voucher? You’d still come out on top (assuming you want avios for your MRs)

        • thereal harry1 says:

          welI I had a Lloyds card way back when they did a rather better Avios offer ( istr it was a free return flight in Europe for £7500 spend)

          does that preclude me from getting any opening bonus offer?

        • Genghis says:

          You’re unlikely to get another bonus but should get the 2.5 avios/£ for first 6 months.

        • Aliks says:

          Are you sure about the double avios for returning Lloyds card holders? The vouchers are working well for myself and wife and 2.5avios would be a nice additional bonus.

          Can anyone confirm?

        • Alex W says:

          Yes I am a returning Lloyds customer and have been given double Avios the second time, albeit they had to manually add them after I complained, since I hadn’t got any Avios at all for the first 4 months. They are still saying it could take another 6 months to fix the problem!

        • The Original Nick says:

          I need to redeem my Lloyds avios upgrade voucher by October. I’ve been thinking that the best way to maximise it would be to get 2 CW seats HKG-LHR. Does anyone else have any other ideas?

        • Genghis says:

          Yes. V good value but I wouldn’t necessarily let your points / vouchers dictate where you travel. It should be the other way around (ie. work out where you want to go then work out the best way to get (and stay) there

      • Kathy says:

        If you spend enough in foreign currency the £24 fee pays for itself, because of the lack of fee.

        • Lev441 says:

          Yep – this happens relatively often to me also. I’ll speak to someone about how getting a certain card would help them and that I’m happy to refer.. and then next time I see them they’ll have the card but would have just applied directly for it! ‍♂️

        • Lev441 says:

          Oops – was supposed to reply to you earlier post about referrals!

        • thereal harry1 says:

          doesn’t apply if you have Halifax Clarity (which we do)

    • One per 12 months but I wouldn’t bother if only flying CE – way better value for off peak WTP to CW upgrade, excellent value then…

  6. Swanhunter says:

    When resting between girlfriends the 241 voucher is great for travelling with friends…so not totally irrelevant for single people.

    • Genghis says:

      Would you give that to your friend or expect some kind of consideration?

      • Brian says:

        Wasn’t the term ‘friends with benefits’ coined for this very situation? 🙂

      • Daftboy says:

        I used to do that when single – the friend paid their share of taxes and surcharges, so for them it was a CW trip for the cost of an economy flight (roughly). I could usually rustle someone up!

      • Swanhunter says:

        They’d normally pick some other costs – hotels or car hire.

  7. RichT says:

    Where do the Virgin Atlantic upgrade vouchers appear?

    This has just reminded me I’m coming up to my card anniversary next week so I’ve been through my statements and added up all the Amex spend I’m £48 off my 2nd voucher! (which will be remedied tonight…) Even as a couple after the last devaluation I believe PE is now the sweet spot on Virgin; I’d rather go twice in PE than once in Upper especially given their limited route network meaning most flights are only circa 10hrs.

    However on that basis I should already have the paid for companion voucher… Is that not issued on passing the spend requirement? I can’t see it anywhere, although admittedly the virgin site is dire so it might just be I can’t see for looking.

    • Lev441 says:

      Both the upgrade and companion vouchers should appear on your online flying club account. The upgrade at the end of your credit card year and the companion soon after you’ve passed the threshold

    • Our anniversary is up next week too and we are waiting for the voucher to appear – before the change in website it appeared in your virgin miles account on the points statement – as soon as it appears you can cancel the card.

      • RichT says:

        Ahh I found it. I was expecting a section labelled Vouchers like but no!

        The Virgin website really is atrocious.
        Looks like they’ve already posted one voucher even though by my records my account anniversary is tomorrow… And I’m about £50 short of £10k Amex spend so I’ve put through some spend today in the hope they’ll award me the second voucher! Fingers crossed…

        Lesson learnt though – set up spreadsheet to track all these credit card offers and spending targets!

    • RichT says:

      Thank you both 🙂

  8. Darren says:

    OT, with the obvious pressure on BA CS at the moment when would you ring them to amend a booking. I’m travelling in 4 weeks but need to change the itinerary, I’m thinking Wednesday.


    • David says:

      They seemed quite happy this morning! I was calling to add the return to my 2-4-1, having not been able to get through the last couple of days. No queue whatsoever on the silver customer service line.

      • Darren says:

        I took a chance and rang yesterday evening, great service from the CS ladies in Newcastle. I hope everyone who needs assistance gets the help they require.

        • Rebecca says:

          I rang them on Weds to find out if I can get my return flight on Saturday from Paris credited to my Executive Account (They moved me to Air France as mine was cancelled). Didn’t have to wait to speak to anyone on the Bronze line and they said they’d put in a request and I should find out in 7-10 working days. Can’t fault that at all.

  9. NickyM says:

    With the Virgin voucher this just drops into your miles statement and shows there on the anniversary. Mine did and I used it for a return to Washington DC for 20000 miles return plus taxes in Premium.
    PE is definitely a sweet spot with me and Virgin. I need to see the Upper refitted on all their A330s before going back to booking and using it again. Wouldn’t want to book knowing the aircraft was the 330 rather than Dreamliner and end up getting the old configuration as the seat and space isn’t up to scratch in my opinion.

  10. I’m single and a solo traveller. I’ve triggered the LBG upgrade voucher this statement year and now I’m most of the way to the 241 voucher. I live in London and I’m an Usher for a wedding in NYC next year. I can’t wait to book First Class flights there and back for me and my plus one (best friend). 241s aren’t only for lovers. 🙂

    • Fenny says:

      2-4-1s may not just be for lovers, but some of us miserable gits actually prefer travelling alone. No arguments about where we go and what we do 🙂

    • Vivian says:

      I’m using my 241 for my 59yo mother and I to go to South America (LHR-SCL / LIM-LGW open jaw; both on J).

      Dad is not invited because he’s a workaholic and not fit enough to hike in Patagonia.

      • Went to peru and chile last year and had one of the best trips of my life…. very jealous. Have an amazing time!

  11. Slightly OT. This column has been so helpful that I’m due to trigger both my BAPP 241 and my Lloyds upgrade voucher within the next 2-3 months. Plan is to get 3 x CW to IAD or similar for August 2018 as a trip to the US will work out similar in price to Europe, given the astronomical price of accommodation in France and Spain at the moment.

    I’m experienced with the 241, but it will be my first Lloyds upgrade. Can anyone tell me exactly where to look for it in my account? Also, can you use it for, say, CW on the outbound and PE on the inbound?

    Additionally is it showing automatically at the moment? I have just been through the complaints procedure with Lloyds for my avios not being posted and got £200 compo and the avios added manually. However, they said they won’t add any more manually (unless needed urgently) and they will all show at the end of the 26 week resolution period. However, I don’t know if this will apply to the voucher as well. I will call them if it doesn’t appear, but would rather not have the extra hassle. Thanks!

    • Lev441 says:

      It should appear on your account in the vouchers sections

    • The Lloyds upgrade voucher will appear in the Vouchers tab of your Avios account. Mine appeared automatically, although all my Avios also posted automatically so that may not be a reliable indicator.
      You can definitely book WTP one way and CW the other, as that’s exactly what I have done.

      • Thank you – just have to get the seats and pray for no IT glitches and/or downgrades!

      • idrive says:

        Can you specify the Avios account number when applying? I remember in the past someone could not get their Avios delivered and realized LLoyds opened a new one for them without advising.

        • No – Avios use a stupid system with many partners where they try and match you to an existing account. This often fails (esp if you live in a flat at they list the address differently!) and thus a new a/c will be created. webchat team can easily merge them thankfully.

        • idrive says:

          right, thank you

    • The Original Nick says:

      Use Awardwallet and the voucher will show on there.

    • Genghis says:

      Your challenge will be getting 3 x J tickets. Two are released at t-355 so grab those. Then you might have to book in W using the Lloyds voucher (but remember that the voucher is non-refundable so if more J availability becomes available you cannot change). If both vouchers are in your name, that might also prove a bit more challenging…

      • Hi Ghengis. I’m aiming for East coast US – I’ve had no problems getting 3 x CW to JFK before, and I’ve seen up to 7 CW seats available on routes like that with a lot of BA flights and competition from other airlines.

        241 is technically in OH’s name but his “secretary” makes all his travel bookings lol! Lloyds in my name so should be ok.

      • Alex W says:

        I’ve booked my Lloyds upgrade voucher for someone else to travel. Had to do it over the phone.

  12. mark E says:

    I’m IHG Spite. When travelling with friends I always have this slight worry that we will be upgraded from a twin room to an exec with a double bed!

    • Genghis says:

      You can set your bed preference in your account, can’t you?

      • Hotels don’t always look at this when upgrading though. I’ve tended to contact in advance in this situation to make it clear I would still want a twin bed for any upgrade.

  13. Another Phil says:

    OT – Can a companion voucher definitely only be used for one way? BA terms don’t seem that specific on it.

    • Do you mean only use it on one leg? If so, yes, definitely. I am using mine outbound to GCM in August in J, had a protracted row with BA as they refused to let me use the return portion, long story!

      • I may be about to have the same discussion, booked to auh in October want to use the return in April from another Middle East airport

        • I was advised on this forum recently that it’s ok as long as the 2 sectors are each longer than the distance between the two airports.

  14. idrive says:

    Not very much OT: for the solo traveller mainly but not only, note that Clubcard can be converted 1:3 to Intrepid Travel.
    I am considering one of their trips and being miles rich and less cash rich I would definitely think of trading 24,000 for 300£ off (1.25p guaranteed) or any chunk in multiple of 10£ up to 800£ (£2400 off the trip value). Careful not all trips are included, read T&Cs.

    • Genghis says:

      I did this for our Kruger trip in Feb. Not used Intrepid before but independent online reviews of the final operator seem decent. Note deposit has to be made in cash. Should it go well I’ll happily use again as a good use of cc points IMO.

      • idrive says:

        I have friends that enjoyed their trips with them. I am also considering another one of these group operators as an alternative. they both seem fine.

    • Scallder says:

      Have done 5 Intrepid trips (across 3 continents) to date – all been great trips and very much enjoy the style. Have used Tesco vouchers on 3 of those – £800 max ŕedemption per person (so £267 of Clubcard vouchers), and occasionally they run a promo where it’s 4x value rather than 3x. As Genghis said deposit has to be a monetary payment.

      You should also keep an eye out on events Intrepid run at their office in Brixton – went to a Jordan one a little while back and everyone there got a voucher for 20% off all their Jordan trips, so would imagine they do the same with their other events. Managed to get a kind agent on the phone to apply Clubcard vouchers with the 20% off 🙂

      Also, if you are a member of the YHA (think a year’s membership is £5/10 you get 10% off Intrepid trips. Stackable with Clubcard vouchers as well.

  15. OT: Does anyone else have problems with Avis Car Hire charges abroad – in particular with the USA. The past 2 years we have booked Avis via Avios and prepaid in full, however, when we get to Avis in the USA they say the voucher has not been converted to US dollars and so generates a charge based on a difference in exchange rate. Last year it took us 3 months of wrangling to get the charge back. This year we had 2 back to back bookings to reduce one way surcharges – the helpful Manager at the 2nd car hire fixed the first booking to show no charge and corrected the 2nd booking to do the same but Avis have since charged us an extra £13 even though the final receipt shows a zero balance. It’s getting really annoying to have to keep fighting to get money back on charges we haven’t incurred. Has anyone else had these issues with Avis? Thanks.

    • My folks had issues with extra charges from Avis for pre-booked rental in Spain (something I’ve never run into with Hertz). Avis UK CS were quite helpful when they phoned though – perhaps worth trying them first then if not getting anywhere consider initiating a chargeback request via credit card?

      • I’ve submitted copies of the invoices to Avios with an explanation so will see what response I get as I made the booking with them. What’s a chargeback request?

        • It’s where you are disputing the charge as being unauthorised – I’ve had some retailers where I’ve had no reply after multiple calls so the only way to progress things was through the CC company. Hopefully Avis will reply positively though!

        • Darren says:

          Never experienced an Avis prebooking issue, usually book via BA and have separate excess insurance with another provider to cover any ‘issues’.

          Can’t see how they can add on a charge when its prebooked, surely that’s the point.

        • Well that’s what you would think but it seems to be a recurring theme for us in the USA – they convert the prepaid voucher from sterling to,dollars and it throws up a difference in price but if it is prepaid in full then we should not be charged.

        • Plus you can be sure they wouldn’t be returning you the balance if the exchange rate had moved in the opposite direction!!

  16. Harry K says:

    Sorry if this is really obvious but does this mean I would have to open and credit to an Avios account rather than my usual British Airways account?

    How would this work if I used this card just to trigger the voucher but then only had say 10,000 Avios in this account but then 100,000 in my British Airways account? Or can Avios be transferred between them?

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Yep you will have both an and BAPP account. I would also open up an ubereats account and earn a mile if you haven’t already.

      You can freely transfer Avios between the 3 to pool them in one account for a redemption.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        That meant to say BAEC not BAPP. Damn auto correct

        • Harry K says:

          So if I have BA Gold, I would always use my BA account number in any flights I book but use my number purely for the purposes of collecting the Lloyds points? And once the voucher is ready to be used, I can transfer the relevant amount to my account and redeem it from there, utilising the voucher?

          Does this have any affect on my account or any 2-4-1s I have from my AmEx PP card? Or are the two offers totally separate?

        • TGLoyalty says:

          Yep that’s exactly right.

          Nope no affect on the 2-4-1’s they are totally seperate

        • Genghis says:

          To add as well, Harry K, if you’ve not done so already open an Iberia Plus account (and credit something to there to you can transfer points away from there; easiest is 1k MR points from Amex). Similarly to, points can be transferred between them. If an Iberia Plus offer comes along, you can then pounce (in terms of spending or redeeming)

        • TGLoyalty says:

          I did actually mean iberia not ubereats

  17. Could someone please check the Ambassador Certificate’ rate for Koh Samui for 2 Nights starting 12th Jan 2018 or is there a way i can do it ? .

    Would like to see if its worth me joining and using the free night certificate.

    Thanks in advance

  18. its seems you cant use the Certificate at Samui as its doesn’t show the AMB Rate for this hotel .

    Are some hotels excluded ?

    • They are not meant to be – whether the hotel has deliberately or accidentally not loaded AMB rates is the question.

      • They emailed me to say there allotment is full not sure how this can be true for the whole of 2017 and 2018 up to 1 year in advance .

  19. I still have the old Lloyds duo cards. If I cancel these do I have to wait to apply for the avios reward card?

  20. BA have for the last few years ran a promotion in December for late travel over the Xmas and New Year period and the price for 2 in Club matched that year, ie; 2 club tickets for £2,014 in 2014. Luckily for us single travellers, and very fairly, we were allowed to buy 1 ticket for exactly half the offer price for 2 people.

    However, last year, 2 tickets for £2,016 was altered for single travellers and i think the price was something like £1,200 for 1 club ticket, so we were discriminated against for being a single traveller.