Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

‘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?

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 show the BA Amex card is the most generous UK credit card) 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 when my wife takes the kids to spend time with her parents.

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.

Using frequent flyer miles as a solo traveller

Miles and points benefits for 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 British Airways and Virgin Atlantic 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 Virgin Atlantic credit cards.  Taking out the premium Reward+ card will earn you 15,000 miles.  This gets a solo traveller quite a way towards 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 be close to having enough for a one-way flight 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.  As I noted last time I discussed this topic, on a trip to Sheffield for a funeral I stayed at the dowdy Hilton (now a Best Western!) because I would get 2,500 Miles & More miles.  Whenever I go with my family we stay at better hotels but which are 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 was a real blow to solo travellers because it offered a voucher which allowed you to upgrade an Avios seat for free.  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 Virgin Money credit cards.  The free card (review of the free Virgin credit card, apply) and paid card (review of the paid Virgin credit card, apply) both offer a voucher.

The Virgin Atlantic card 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.

How to earn Avios points from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (August 2022)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways BA Amex American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

American Express Amex Gold

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points, £200 travel credit and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Run your own business?

We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,000 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

10,500 points bonus – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company Read our full review

You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

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

Comments (40)

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

  • Michael Jennings says:

    I have a friend whose partner was recently perfectly happy to go on a weekend from London that involved a return journey featuring a journey from Dusseldorf that involved flying home via Madrid to Manchester and then getting a train to London. She’s a tolerant partner.

  • Lu says:

    Hi, I am new to this so this question might sound a bit silly but can someone just use the 2 for 1 with a friend? Is there anything in the T&C that says that you need to use the voucher with your partner?

    • Rhys says:

      You can use it with whomever you choose! I’ve used it with my mum 🙂

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

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