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.
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.
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