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 from credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (June 2021)

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

There are two official British Airways American Express cards:

British Airways American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and a companion voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

BA Premium Plus American Express card BAPP

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

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

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

Nectar American Express

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

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

We also recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card:

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company 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)

  • Simon Cross says:

    i have never understood why BA Amex don’t offer the choice of either a 2-4-1 voucher or an upgrade voucher given that an upgrade voucher would cost them less as a benefit and attract solo travellers to the card which otherwise is frankly not with having if you are, like me, single.

    Maybe someone at BA will wake up to this massive potential market – it is not just the young who are solo travellers but those who are older with money and who have lost their partner through death or divorce and have been users of 2-4-1 in the past.

    Either that or make the 2-4-1 voucher into a “50 percent off” avios voucher for up to 2 return flights – same net cost to provide but also then available to the solo traveller.

    • Spk says:

      An upgrade or a 50% off would mean BA would lose out on additonal ‘taxes’ that are normally payable by the companion. A return ticket to US would get them additional £500 in taxes from the companion, while it would get them zero if its an upgrade from WTP to CW. In fact the whole BAPP ‘scheme’ works only because BA can charge exorbitant ‘taxes’.

      • Alex W says:

        It must be a while since you redeemed to the US! The fees to redeem in business class are now an even more ludicrous £680+.

        Also, I’ve not done it myself yet but, I’m told the fees to upgrade from WTP to CW are £100 EACH WAY.

    • Paul74 says:

      Yes, a version of the 241 benefitting the solo traveller could be worth a look.

  • Andrew says:

    Just because you’re a solo traveller doesn’t mean you don’t have a partner! This is 2020 – people aren’t tied inseparably to their partner, unable to travel alone if they wish to do so.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      But if your are travelling with someone else you aren’t a solo traveller …

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Robs point was about his own experience but more often than not someone is a relationship would travel with their partner/family. Taking an 80/20 approach with these things doesn’t mean you are dismissing what may happen some of the time.

        Ie Rob clearly states that he went to Sheffield alone and stayed in a dowdy hotel.

        • Andrew says:

          I’m talking about the first two points that are listed under the “things that count against the solo traveller” list.

          • Fenny says:

            If you’re travelling with someone, you are not a solo traveller. There’s a difference between solo and single.

            Rob is not single, but was a solo traveller.

            You can be one and not the other, or both.

      • Andrew says:

        I’m not travelling with someone else. But I do have a partner.

    • TimM says:

      I know a happily married couple who live in semi detached houses and always holiday alone!

  • Andrew says:

    A solo traveller approach that I deploy is upgrade with Avios – book a cheap WT+ ticket to somewhere like JFK with lots of award availability, then upgrade to CW for 20k each way. Works out the same cash price as a standard Avios booking but saves you 100k Avios – and you earn back Avios for the underlying WT+ ticket and 180 TP. Far better deal than chasing a 2for1.

    • Gavin says:

      I do this travelling solo and with a partner too. Last few times we had the option of using a 241 but going the WT+ with Avios upgrade route worked out far better value – and helped towards renewing our status.

    • Anna says:

      This only works on routes with plenty of CW and F availability – if you need to bag your seats at T-355 they’ll be gone by the time you’ve bought your WTP tickets and called BA to upgrade.

      • meta says:

        Not really as there is an option Book&Upgrade with Avios on search page, so you can do it straight away at midnight!

        • Anna says:

          Except you couldn’t because you’d have to book an outrageously expensive one way flight to do this at T-355!

          • meta says:

            Still nothing precludes you from doing that and rebooking as a return when it opens up by calling again at midnight. Granted, there is a risk that the outbound flight does not go back into an award inventory and you need to check the underlying fare conditions although on the few occasions that I checked such fares are fully refundable.

      • Paul74 says:

        Fair point, although sometimes availability can open up late as well, which the (possibly) more flexible solo traveller might be better placed to capitalise on. I suspect (based upon my own experience!) that someone who normally travels solo is less likely to be booking things 355 days in advance. The posts I read on here and on flyertalk that seek help/describe t-355 bookings seem to be more about parties than individuals.

    • Spk says:

      It works if the route has lots of competition and other options and relatively cheap WTP prices. If WTP is relatively cheap, usually CW will also be relatively cheap, so you are losing out on both avios and TP you’d usually get on CW cash fares.
      On routes where BA has a monopoly (the only airline with direct flights), WTP cash will cost an arm and a leg.

  • meta says:

    Some Hilton hotels have different points pricing if you book for one person. It’s usually 1-2k points less, but it can go up to 5k. I am primarily thinking here of hotels in Japan, but I have seen it elsewhere too.

    This also works for two people. If you have Hilton status, you have 2nd guest free, so just book for one person. However, as the hotel won’t know there are two guests, some amenities (extra bathrobe, slippers, etc.) might have to be requested.

    • Alex W says:

      That’s good to know. Although if it’s only 1-2k difference it might not be worth the hassle for me. My wife would throw a wobbly if I booked for 1 and then had to wait in the lobby while I negotiated the extra occupancy!

      • meta says:

        Nothing to negotiate. The two of you just turn up at the desk and they won’t make a fuss. It’s a known benefit for status holders.

    • John says:

      Put the name of the second guest in the booking and they will know.

  • D says:

    Rob it was a useful article about solo travelling.

    Now that I have been widowed a 2-4-1 voucher is no longer suitable. However, Simon’s suggestion of providing 50% Avios discount voucher for up to 2 return flights would be very attractive.

    • Paul74 says:

      Ha ha yes that was my plan in the years I had the Premium Plus (before I started reading this website and trying other cards in 2014)!!!
      I used the 241 twice in Club Europe in five or six years before biting the bullet.

  • DB2020 says:

    Or, like some people including the writer of this comment, you keep earning the vouchers in the hope that there will be a +1 to share it with in the future.

    Living in hope! 😉

  • Nigel W says:

    I’m still in mourning at the loss of the Lloyds Amex card. Frankly a brilliant card for a solo traveller like me a good 90% of the time.

    • Anna says:

      It is a significant loss. I managed to get 5 vouchers in 2 years of having the cards due to Lloyds’ rubbish IT and tendency to over-compensate when things went wrong! I need to use my last one in the next couple of months.

    • Liam says:

      Yeah, that was the first points-earning credit card I had and was really useful when I was single, as I was at the time I acquired it. The voucher still came in handy once I then had a girlfriend, as you could use it to upgrade two people on a one-way ticket, but it was a nice bonus of spending rather than something I proactively targeted as a priority each year.

    • Paul74 says:

      Yes, it was good. It did have an annoying habit of querying foreign currency transactions (ironic for a card supposedly focussed on travel) but good overall. 4/5 (would have been 5/5 had it not been for the repeated declining of transactions).

  • Simon Cross says:

    I have two Lloyds upgarde vouchers stillhaving had trips to South America and the Far East cancelled on me this year (we all know why). I have to book with them by the end of September so unlessAvios extend them I fear I will loose them as there wil be no certainty of what will be open or not next year and once booked while one can change one can only change within the same “zone” of Avios.

    I might take a punt and book for somewhere in southern africa hoping trhigs will be better and only risking £35 cancellation fee at worst.

    Hopefully someone with decent contacts at BA can lobby for something for us solo travellers as without it I suspect many are not as loyal as they might otherwise be to BA.

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