Turn points into air miles and get five-star hotels cheap with these top tips – The Sun
FANCY a luxury trip? Savvy travellers blag flights and posh hotels via points schemes, offers and discount sites.
Today I show you how, and talk to an expert who travels the world free.
PICK THE RIGHT CARD
The best way of collecting air miles, aside from paying for flights, is doing everyday spending on a specialist credit card.
Amex Preferred Rewards Gold card lets you collect points for different flying schemes including British Airways’ and Virgin’s.
Get 10,000 bonus points by spending £3,000 in the first three months – enough for a return to Paris with BA. It’s fee-free for a year, then £140 annually.
The BA Amex card is free and gives 5,000 Avios points when you spend £1,000 in the first three months – on top of one point per £1 spent.
The Virgin Atlantic Reward card has no annual fee and a 5,000-miles bonus on signing up.
With BA’s and Virgin’s cards you get two-for-one flight vouchers after spending over a threshold. These “companion vouchers” can be used when you redeem miles.
Both airlines cards have options with annual fees that let you earn miles faster and earn companion vouchers with a lower spend. MoneySavingExpert and The Points Guy UK have useful advice on which one to choose.
LEARN THE TRICKS
Spend on your card whenever you can, though remember you need to clear your balance every month, and never buy things just to rack up air miles.
There are extra ways to boost your points. Refer-a-friend credit card schemes are lucrative.With BA’s Amex card you can earn up to 90,000 points a year for referring friends, enough for a return flight to Sydney.
When shopping online get bonus points via BA’s eStore, Virgin’s Shops Away site or Topcashback, which offers Avios points with certain retailers like John Lewis.
Also look for promotions. You can get up to 8,400 Avios points by subscribing to The Economist.
CHOOSE YOUR FLIGHTS
Aim to get at least 100,000 Avios or Virgin Atlantic points for a decent long-haul journey in a fancy seat. A business-class return trip from London to New York in peak time is around 120,000 Avios points plus taxes.
You can also get a companion flight for a family member and friend if you’ve spent over a certain amount of money on your card. With the BA Amex it is £20,000 for the fee-free card and £10,000 for the £195 annual fee version. Arrange flights before sorting accommodation as there is usually less availability.
You’ll get more value for your points long haul as short flights to Europe are cheap anyway. Your miles can be used to pay for whole flights or an upgrade.
Even if you use them to pay the whole journey, you still need to pay tax on the flight, which can amount to about £350-plus on a flight to New York.
Given a return there is usually at least £3,000 it’s a great saving. Consider flying from a mainland European airport like Brussels, Dublin or Amsterdam, where taxes are lower.
Search multiple departure points at the same time by using Google Flights. Also try deal sites like Jack’s Flight Club, Secret Flying or Airfarewatchdog for bargain flights when using money rather than points.
Most airports have lounges, and many include pay-as-you-go options.
Book in advance to take advantage of online discounts. If you travel regularly, it may be worth investing in a Priority Pass for unlimited lounge access. They cost £69 a year from prioritypass.com.
Some credit cards also have lounge benefits, like the Amex Platinum card which comes with a Priority Pass for both the main card holder and supplementary card holder. The Amex Preferredm Rewards Gold card comes with two lounge passes each year.
Some long-haul destinations have very cheap top-notch hotels — so there’s no need to use loyalty points.
The Points Guy UK recommends the Park Hyatt Dubai which is selling rooms for as little as £80 per night. You can combine these already low prices with a ten per cent discount code for sites like hotels.com.
Sign up to a hotel loyalty scheme, like Marriott Rewards or Hilton Honors, and stay loyal to your chosen brand to get perks such as free nights after a number of bookings.
Another option is to use the Hotwire site, which sells heavily discounted rooms for brands like Hilton and Radisson.
You only find out the actual hotel once you’ve booked.
We've been round world on air miles
KEEN Avios collector Leor Franks, his wife and two kids are off to Bali this summer – courtesy of £10,000 worth of free flights.
Leor, 40, from Stanmore, North West London, collects the points all year round. He has saved up 350,000 points and two companion vouchers with BA.
This was enough for return business-class flights for his family to Kuala Lumpur so he just had to pay for the onward return flights to Bali.
Marketing directing Leor and his family – wife Tamara and children Mia, eight, and Max, five – do all their spending on the American Express Premium British Airways card which earn 1.5 Avios point per £1 spent, an American Express Platinum charge card, and a Tesco Clubcard, which lets holders convert Tesco points into Avios.
The family bags bonus points through Topcashback or BA’s e-store and refer-a-friend schemes on credit cards.
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