Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

How to use small orphan amounts of frequent flyer miles and hotel points – Part 2

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This is the second part of the updated article I began two weeks ago, discussing the best ways to ‘zero out’ loyalty card accounts which you want to abandon.  You need to remember that you may first need to ‘top off’ an account by earning a few more points before you can reach the smallest redemption level.

Part 1 looked at how to use unwanted points in hotel schemes.  Today I look at some of the major European airline schemes and Tesco Clubcard.  I have not covered Avios as Head for Points readers are generally keener to build those up – and if you did want to bail out, the obvious route is to convert them to Nectar and go on a spending spree at Argos, Sainsburys or eBay to get 0.8p per Avios.

Using small numbers of Tesco Clubcard points

Tesco Clubcard (points convert to Virgin Points)

If you have multiple cards in your name, try to get them up to 150 points using extra points coupons or offers.  150 points is the trigger to receive vouchers or allow in-app points conversion.  You can then chuck the card.

Tesco can also merge accounts together if you contact them.

American Express Membership Rewards

If you are closing your American Express card and emptying out your Membership Rewards account, you will discover that transfers to Avios are in multiples of 1,000.  If this leaves you with 1-999 spare points, get a Nectar account and transfer the exact balance there.  There is no minimum conversion into Nectar.

Radisson Rewards is another option, requiring a minimum transfer of just three Amex points.  Hilton Honors requires a minimum transfer of 200 points.

Another option, if you are closing a Gold or Platinum American Express card to avoid the annual fee, is to get the FREE American Express Rewards Credit Card.  Holding this card will keep your Membership Rewards balance alive after you have closed your Gold or Platinum. You can learn more about the Amex Rewards Credit Card in this article.

Using small numbers of Virgin Points

Virgin Flying Club / Virgin Points

Lufthansa Miles & More

Using Emirates Skywards miles for Arsenal tickets

Emirates Skywards

Etihad Guest

Etihad is a partner with Amex Membership Rewards which lets you top up your account to a suitable level.

You can also cash out via the Etihad Guest Rewards Card / PointsPay.  This is an impressive scheme for small balances which I have used – you used to get 0.55p per point, delivered as a ‘virtual Visa’ card number.  There is no excuse for having an unused Etihad balance.  I wrote more about Points Pay here although I haven’t run the numbers for some time on the current value.

Use small amounts of SAS Eurobonus miles

SAS EuroBonus

You can redeem SAS points for Radisson and Park Inn hotels, Scandic Hotels, First Hotels, Best Western (selected countries only) amongst other hotel offers – see here.  You can also redeem points for lounge access.

Expiring points, from just 1000, can be donated to charity.

SAS EuroBonus is also an American Express Membership Rewards transfer partner if you need to top-up your account..

Apologies for the lack of Flying Blue coverage but this scheme is really not my strong point.  The obvious way to cash out of Flying Blue miles is by transferring them into Accor Live Limitless hotel points in chunks of 4,500.  Please leave any further suggestions or ideas I have missed in the comments below.

Remember that Part 1 of this article, which shows how to use up or top up hotel loyalty points, is here.


Want to earn more points from credit cards? – August 2022 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit card, here are our top recommendations based on the current 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

You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the best of the other deals currently available.

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.

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

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

Virgin Rewards Plus credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review

Earning miles and points from small business cards

If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these offers:

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

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

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

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

For a non-American Express option, we also recommend the Barclaycard Select Cashback card for sole traders and small businesses. It is FREE and you receive 1% cashback on your spending.

Barclaycard Select Cashback credit card

1% cashback (3% on business travel for four months) and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (31)

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

  • ChrisC says:

    Anyone used VS points on Eurostar?

  • Ryan Carver says:

    Anyone got any ideas for 19k of United Airlines miles?

    • Rob says:

      United intra-Europe redemptions on Star Alliance partners can be decent value, at least compared to Lufthansa Miles & More rates.

      • Blair Waldorf Salad says:

        The problem there is United haven’t been showing partner availability for over a year. Price up LHR-FRA and you get nothing; similarly LHR-FRA-DXB.

        • Mike Ward says:

          They show Brussels Airlines availability from Manchester…

          • Blair Waldorf Salad says:

            I’ve tried app and website this evening and still not showing any Star partner flights. How are you navigating to it?

  • Eli gold says:

    O/T.
    Has anyone struggled logging in to their Iberia account?
    I solved the mystery after discovering that I need to add 000000 to the beginning of my Iberia plus number

  • Ian says:

    Any suggestions on spending AA miles.

    Have around 30,000 or so and my wife a bit less. (not sure on the exact figures since removed from Award Wallet)

    • David says:

      30000 (25000 in off peak) is typically enough for a one way flight to/from the US. If you can combine it with an Avios one way redemption for the other leg, that’s probably the best way to go.

      • Rob says:

        I’d be thinking about Etihad, since this is an option which AA offers but which your Avios pot can’t book.

        Perhaps 1-way business class to Abu Dhabi and then use Avios to return from Dubai?

    • Blair Waldorf Salad says:

      Drag yourself up to 42,500 via Aadvantage hotels booking and book Qatar business class o/w to Middle East. Your short haul connection out of DOH should fall into the First fare bucket so you get to use the Al Safwa lounge.

  • Froggitt says:

    A bigger problem is remembering where you have small pots e.g. pretty sure I have Lufthansa, Hilton, Delta, Radisson, Worst Western….where else?

  • Jonathan says:

    Rob, you’ve mentioned about there’s an ongoing legal dispute in Germany over Miles and More, and as a result there’s very little avenues to earning (definitely for UK based registered account holders at least) – apart from what you live mentioned above and buying cash flights with them…

    Are there updates on that legal battle at all ? We know that someone is trying to get a large cheque for their balance of Miles and More points

    • Rob says:

      Not heard anything on this since pre-covid – I will have a dig over at Flyertalk.

      • Jonathan says:

        It’ll be good if Lufthansa bring back some more earning avenues, especially the likes of a credit card for UK customers, since they offer a great program – I think you once marked it top of the list of Star Alliance airline members (this is almost certainly on the basis that you’re based in Europe) despite their hard rule on points expiration – if they bring a credit card back, they might see a huge return of loyal customers who know that they won’t lose their points balances easily

        The legal dispute is taking its time, and maybe easier to find results if you’ve got good German language skills !

        • Blair Waldorf Salad says:

          You can get a Swiss-issued M&M card, although there are some hoops to jump through to sort a non-resident bank account first.

          • Jonathan says:

            Interesting, I haven’t heard of this before, if Lufthansa group is top choice for flights, then this would be great !

            Unless there’s some hefty fees involved with the account…

          • Blair Waldorf Salad says:

            Have a look into it; it’s not for most. And credit card access is usually a secondary reason for maintaining a CHF account in Switzerland

        • Charles Martel says:

          How is it better than MIleagePlus? Genuine questions, not snarky 🙂

          • Blair Waldorf Salad says:

            M&M has more partner award availability than MileagePlus. However I am focusing on MP for Star flights at present.

          • Charles Martel says:

            Ta, the low charges for redemptions on MP are a bonus, it seems to have the fewest ticket classes that zero earn, plus the non-expiry of points steers me towards it. Without a credit card for either Ive struggled to see what the M&M sweet spot is.

  • Bob says:

    You can donate from 1 mile to a charity for Flying Blue.

    Of course it does not benefit you but then the miles are not lost.

  • SH says:

    You can buy products at the Flying Blue Store which offers a slider to filter down to how many miles you have available to spend. This is unlikely to be the best use of miles compared to booking redemptions, but if you have a few thousand miles you are otherwise unable to use, you may be able to get yourself a bottle of wine etc.

    From memory products can sometimes be delivered on board a flight (unlikely to be of much use for someone trying to use up the last few thousand miles). Alternatively home delivery is available.

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

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