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

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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 in the light of the loss of the Lloyds Avios Rewards credit card upgrade voucher and the 2018 changes to the Virgin Atlantic credit cards.

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.

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.

Unless you work in education, you are unlikely to be tied down to school holidays when seats are harder to find and both BA and Virgin are operating ‘peak’ reward pricing.

Some airlines restrict the award seats they release.  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 three or more premium seats on a particular day.

It is easier for a solo traveller to get an award seat using ‘easy’ miles, generally from credit cards. Take, for example, the recent Virgin Atlantic credit card deal.  Taking out the premium card would have got you 25,000 miles.  This gets a solo traveller a one-way off-peak Premium Economy ticket or a return Economy ticket to most places the airline flies.  A couple would still have been substantially short.  Adding on a free (for the first year) Amex Gold with another 20,000 points and you’d have enough for a one-way in Upper Class to New York.

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 your partner that you need to change your hotel three times during a week because you want to maximise your bonus points? Or that they are flying to New York via Madrid 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.  When I was in Sheffield for a funeral recently I stayed at the dowdy Hilton because I would get 2,500 Miles & More miles.  I am back in Sheffield in two weeks with my family and we are staying somewhere better but less lucrative.

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

The closure of the Lloyds Avios Rewards card is a real blow to solo travellers.  I examined the upgrade voucher that came with this card in detail here. For £7,000 of spending, you received a voucher which allowed you to book an Avios seat on British Airways for the miles required for a cheaper cabin. Club World cost World Traveller Plus mileage, World Traveller Plus cost World Traveller mileage, Club Europe cost Euro Traveller mileage.

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

Virgin Atlantic DOES still offer an upgrade voucher via its two new Virgin Money credit cards.  The free card (review, apply) and paid card (review, apply) both offers a voucher.

The Virgin voucher – triggered at £20,000 annual spend on the free card or £10,000 annual spend on the paid card – allows a solo traveller to upgrade a return Economy redemption flight to Premium Economy.  If you have a partner, you can upgrade two one-way Economy redemption flights to Premium.  The upgrade voucher is valid for two years.

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.)

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  1. The Lord says:

    Intrigued as to what the better hotel in Sheffield is!

    • St Paul’s – where I’ve never actually stayed before, but we’ve book 2 Junior Suites for peanuts in the Black Friday sale and it has a pool, so can’t be all bad.

      • St. Paul’s (mercure?) is a nice hotel. I work next door, and colleagues visiting from London feedback that it’s the nicest place in Sheffield.

  2. What a strange term ‘parents in law’ is! I supoose you really mean your wife’s parents and your kids grandparents!

    Anyway it’s not all sweetness and light for us solo travellers.

    We get excluded from many sales because seats are sold on a 2-4-1 basis rather than half price (and don’t give me the guff about business travellers snapping cheap tickets up because there are ways to prevent that) so are penalised financially

    • How is it a strange term?

      • Michael C says:

        Families of 3 are not great combos either!

        Didn’t there used to be 3 x 2 offers decades ago?!

        • It can be worth looking beyond the headlines – some of those “2-4-1” tickets (but not the BA voucher) are actually “half-price if you book 2 or more”.

      • It’s just not one used in the normal course if conversation.

        Vast majority of people would just say ‘the in laws’ and people would understand who was involved – it’s jist a clunky phrase.

        • But “the in laws” literally means “the mother in law and the father in law”. Which is longer to say than “the parents in law”.

          What an odd comment

    • Jamesay says:

      Agreed! Also what’s with the term “settled down”. How archaic! It’s 2019!! I’m solo and I’m settled.

      • Yes, 27 years since I bought my first house and 19 since I moved to this one. How much more settled do I need to be?

  3. I’ve still got my Lloyds Avios Rewards card and hope to get one last upgrade voucher – does anyone know when the card finally, finally ends?

    • Ah. Just posted the same question. I’m in the same boat!

    • I spoke to them a couple of months ago and they said there’s no fixed date but all cardholders will get 60 days’ notice of their own card being withdrawn. So a minimum of 2 months to put the spend through.

      • Yup, I made contact yesterday and so far everything is as normal. For those still looking to achieve the voucher or may have cards rolling over soon, get spending.

        • I just put enough on this card to get a voucher. Have never used one before. Can I apply it to an existing booking made with Avios? To upgrade 2 of us one way ? Thanks

        • When I tried this last year, they said it wasn’t possible. It’s definitely worth giving them a call and see what they say. In the end, I cancelled my booking and made a new booking using the voucher.

        • Thanks Neil. Will call BA

      • Ooh sounds promising…

    • I still haven’t heard anything official from them. If it can just hold on a couple more months I’ll be into my new card year and hopefully get another voucher!

    • I’ve put through enough last months to get an upgrade voucher. Where would it show up these days? Still in the avios account?

      • Now there’s a familiar name 🙂

      • AndyGWP says:

        Just received mine – they sent me an email “congratulating” me (which says to call to use it)

        From memory, in the past they have also sent me some snail mail too

        • Out of interest how long was thar after passing the £7k threshold?

          Agree was email and snail mail letter previously, although often many weeks after voucher added to account.

        • AndyGWP says:

          This is where I’m having difficulty Alan – by my calculations, it would’ve been in October ’18…. (I hit the voucher and stopped using the card) BUT… I think I stupidly didn’t take some refunds into account for my calculations and I forgot all about it.

          We went away over Christmas (first time abroad since October, so took the trusty Lloyds card) and I started using it again and put a few hundred through it, and got the email the this morning.

          So I reckon it took a few weeks for the email (spent on it between Christmas and New Year…)

          (failing that – if my calculations were right, it took 3 months!! :/ )

          • OK will keep an eye out – I triggered my threshold at the weekend (had spent £6k last April then pretty much nothing until now) so will see how long it takes! Keeping fingers-crossed for another one in late March if card still going…

        • AndyGWP says:

          FYI – the email wording is:

          You’ve just received an Upgrade Voucher. It’s to say thanks for your spending this year on your Lloyds Bank Avios credit card.

          So now you can either upgrade two one-way flights, or one return trip, by one cabin class. You’ll also have access to British Airways airport lounges on arrival (except on World Traveller upgrades).

          You can upgrade from Euro Traveller to Club Europe, World Traveller to World Traveller Plus, or World Traveller Plus to Club World on a British Airways flight.

          What to do next
          Your Upgrade Voucher is ready now and it’s valid for one year from the date of issue. To use it call us on 0344 49 333 49.

          Sit back, relax and enjoy your upgrade.

  4. “It is easier for a solo traveller to get an award seat using ‘easy’ miles, generally from credit cards. Take, for example, the recent Virgin Atlantic credit card deal. Taking out the premium card would have got you 25,000 miles. This gets a solo traveller a one-way off-peak Premium Economy ticket or a return Economy ticket to most places the airline flies”

    Anyone got more real world examples where using VS miles just for an economy ticket is actually good value compared to a cash fare (esp in a sale), maybe a last minute redemption?

    ps. Rob I’m liking these kind of thought provoking articles in the last week.

    • The only time they are a good idea is when cash fares are high and perhaps you need to either do a one way.. or last minute redemption. Failing that they are pretty much a waste of miles

      • Agree – even with PE voucher I’ve found cash would have worked out better value – esp when using from EDI where you can get a connecting flight on cash but need to pay for it separately (with no protected connection) on redemptions.

    • guesswho2000 says:

      I used VS miles LGW-LAS a few years back. The fees came in to around £150 each, cash prices were over £1k, this was in Y. It’s the one and only long haul Y I’ve ever made!

    • I’ve done this a few times, mainly on last minute bookings where cash fares are £1000+ and I’ve needed to be in the states, normally during the summer school holidays. At one point the fees were as low as £230ish for a return ticket.

    • Richard says:

      1p per point in economy, compared to Virgins economy classic cash price is pretty common on the non -US routes. If you would connect that may not be as true however.

      Also on the US routes if there isn’t a fare war on to your destination.

  5. I am thinking of getting a girlfriend in order to make use of 2 x BA2-4-1s that I currently have !

    • Try flaunting with a cheesy a chat up line, might work for a short term thing lol.

      ps Where’s the new Shoestring when you need him for a one liner… 😉

      • Roger C says:

        Brings a whole new meaning to ‘Friends with Benefits’…..

      • He’s counting his avios 😂

      • i think he might have fallen off the wagon again so he’ll be back in 2020

        • Indeed – he had a comment on an article on 31 December saying he’s taking 2019 off and will return in 2020. A bit like the end of a James Bond film!

          • LOL – I thought that was him just planning to go incognito and reappear when we least expected it! Might be off for an extended break in his place in the sun or just holed up in Squills Towers drinking the wine cellar to dryness 😛

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

    True, but reciprocal arrangements between friends and family should be gamed if possible.

    • It’s a bit harder to convince friends to join the hobby. With a partner it’s just a case of switching who is the main cardholder and who is the supp

      • guesswho2000 says:

        Indeed, even convincing my sister was an uphill struggle, but she’s just about there, mostly for European Y RFSs, I’ve yet to convince her of the joys of long haul J/F. I’ve managed to get a few Amex referrals out of it too, so not all bad.

        My OH similarly isn’t bothered, but she doesn’t get a choice in the matter, as long as I do the hard yards!

  7. Somewhat OT I still haven’t received a letter from Lloyds about the changes going forward. Still using the Amex card and hoping to get a last upgrade voucher out of them. (No accidental freebie for me last autumn…) Anyone else in the same boat?

    Not that I’m complaining. Just got another three weeks of foreign travel with FX fees out of them!

    • Yes

    • See my reply to you and Rich above!

    • Same here (also with the lack of accidental voucher) no letter received yet so am now using as my main card until I reach the £7k

      • My last letter from avios came 3 months after I hit the target spend. Make sure to check your spending yourself or call LLoyds to double check.

    • My card is still running too…. But my Avios account has been transferred…

      Where / how would i know if i had a upgrade voucher?

      • guesswho2000 says:

        You’d have to call them, it doesn’t appear online in BAEC.

        My Avios.com account is still alive as I have an Aerclub account, and my Lloyds Avios go there, so I assume any vouchers will do the same. I’ve burned another two last year, and am hoping I can get one more this year, but haven’t rolled over yet, so I’m half expecting that to be a no.

        • But who is them? Lloyds or Avios? – Assuming Lloyds as my log in no longer works at Avios.com?

        • guesswho2000 says:

          Sorry, you have to call British Airways. They will (should) be able to see it attached to your BAEC account. You should have had an email about the transfer, with details, if you didn’t already have a BAEC account prior to the move.

        • Is it still possible to use the upgrade voucher on a booking for another person now that you gave to call BA?

          It would be for Mrs H who is part of my HHA.

      • S**mo – my Avios a/c auto sweep transfers to BA.

        My Lloyds vouchers stayed there, but I had to phone Avios to book..
        Number is 01925848693, 8am-8pm

    • Exactly the same – no comms yet and no freebie voucher lol. Less bothered about free forex now thanks to all the app-based bank options.

    • I got the Lloyds Avios card in early March last year and got the free Upgrade last month. If the 60 day letter from Lloyds is still correct then I should be getting it any day soon

      • They don’t seem to be linking the change to card anniversaries. My anniversary is next weekend and I’ve had no information about my account changing. So I should be able to get another voucher in (to add to the two I already have!)

  8. AspirationalFlyer says:

    Hello everyone,

    At what exact time (London time/GMT) does BA release reward seats? Does anyone know? I’d really like to try and use one of my companion vouchers.

    Separately, can I book the outward journey and add return seats later on when they are released?

    Thanks very much.

    • 00:00UTC 355 days before flight.

    • Midnight GMT (so midnight now, but 1am during the Summer). They are available by telephone on the dot of midnight, they take a few minutes to reach the website and for popular routes may have gone by then – phone is the best option if you must have a certain day (Google the US call centre numbers).

      Yes, outbound can be booked and the return added later. BA even waives the fee for doing this which is generous.

  9. I was a solo traveller for a long time and accrued a 2-4-1 voucher as a side effect. Ended up making an effort to seek a travel partner to use it with, and ended up marrying the girl last year! I probably shouldn’t mention to my wife I only married her to use my vouchers (she reads this site, it’s not true at all my love).

    The big plus about doing this as a couple, apart from the companionship of a loving spouse of course, is she travels with work too so we can use our combined household Avois to hit our targets a lot faster than as a solo.

    • “I was a solo traveller for a long time and accrued a 2-4-1 voucher as a side effect. Ended up making an effort to seek a travel partner to use it with, and ended up marrying the girl last year!”

      Haha, that’s awesome. Rob, you should do an article on this!

    • Haha love it – congrats 🙂

    • V amusing, Sure Amex/BA would love to use you both in their next ad campaign…

  10. is it just because i’m “tired and emotional” – or is the only actual piece of “strategy” advice in this article: get a Virgin credit card ?!

    • The original version of this article had a different slant because of the Lloyds Avios upgrade voucher. Now that the Lloyds card is no longer available I’ve had to make do with what is out there.

      • so the moral of the story is … solo travellers are screwed – there’s nothing they can do apart from getting a Virgin credit card 🙁

        • I would disagree. I find it quite liberating when my OH decides he doesn’t want a big long haul holiday one year, and would much rather go camping in the Alsace. Once I’ve accepted that I won’t be using a 241 voucher for a while, it means I’m at liberty to use my Avios on whichever OW airline I fancy.
          Don’t get me wrong, I love flying in BA first with my OH, but CX first is amaaaaazing! Next time I might try to redeem for Qsuites (if they’re still OW that is…).

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