A beginner’s guide to air miles and frequent flyer points

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So you find yourself searching for flights on Cheapflights.co.uk, and you come across a great deal. You book that flight with a popular airline like British Airways or Emirates. You finish the booking process and you’re asked to enter your frequent flyer account number. You ignore it because you don’t see the point of having a frequent flyer membership – you just don’t fly often enough. Or do you? Yes, it’s true that with only the odd flight here and there you won’t earn enough points to be jetting off to Hong Kong in First Class anytime soon, but frequent flyer schemes have changed in recent years and are now offering great deals to those more infrequent flyers. Whats more, you can earn points on day-to-day spending – not just flights.

For this blog post, we’ve asked the experts from headforpoints.com, the UK’s biggest website for collectors of frequent flyer miles, to pass on their knowledge about the best ways to earn and collect air miles* and why even occasional flyers should sign up for frequent flyer programmes.

*This post largely focusses on the British Airways and OneWorld alliance Avios air miles scheme (‘Avios’ is the name BA gives to the points/miles currency awarded when you fly). Other airline programmes work in similar ways. 

Even the cheapest tickets will earn you miles

You can check how many miles you’ll earn from your flight beforehand by using online calculators – for example, the BA Avios calculator or the Virgin Flying Club calculator. So whether you’re flying to Munich or Miami, you’ll still collect those precious miles.

Earn more with your family

If the whole family travels, you can earn even more. British Airways operates ‘household accounts’. This lets you pool your Avios points together in one account and even children over the age of two can collect Avios. A family of four travelling in World Traveller Plus to LA would get almost 44,000 Avios between them. So there is a real value in having a joint family account.

Make use of airline alliances

More often than not, you don’t need to be flying with the same airline to collect your air miles. British Airways is part of an airline alliance OneWorld. This includes Iberia, Qantas, Qatar Airways, American Airlines, Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific, among others. If you book a flight with any of these airlines, you can add your British Airways Executive Club account number and you will earn some Avios in return.  You can also earn Avios on Aer Lingus flights as it is now a sister company to BA. Other airline alliances work in the same way. It effectively means that wherever you’re flying to, there’s an opportunity to scoop up those points.

So how do you earn points with Cheapflights?

When you perform a flight search on Cheapflights.co.uk, make sure to use our filters to filter out any unwanted airlines or airlines that don’t offer frequent flyer programmes. And be sure to sign up for the frequent flyer programme with the airline you’re intending to fly with. Every time you find a flight through Cheapflights, you’ll be able to collect your miles from your frequent flyer’s portal by entering your booking reference number once you have clicked through to your chosen flight.

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What is the best way to spend my points?

Let’s use Avios points as an example here. The easiest way to spend Avios points is called ‘part pay with Avios’. It allows you to redeem your points for a cash discount on your next flight booking – even if you won’t be the passenger. You need as little as 1,250 Avios points for a £10 discount.

Economy flights from London to Europe cost between 4,000 and 7,500 Avios each way, depending on the distance and date. You will need to pay £17.50 each way to cover the taxes and charges that BA incurs.

British Airways guarantees to make at least four economy seats and two business class seats available on every flight, even in peak season. Usually, there are more. If a flight to, say, Berlin was selling for £115 return and you could book it for 8,000 Avios points plus £35 in taxes, you are getting 1p per Avios point of value. Avios tickets come with a free luggage allowance so there isn’t anything more to pay unless you want to select a seat in advance.

A family of four flying to LA in Premium Economy would earn enough Avios for the whole family to have a weekend in Amsterdam or Paris – and still have plenty of Avios left to get a cash discount on another booking. You can see now why it’s crazy not to collect the miles you’re owed.

Business Class flights to Europe start at 7,750 Avios points plus £25 in taxes each way. If you’ve never flown in Business Class, this is worth a splurge. You get dedicated check-in desks, fast track security, access to the impressive BA lounges at Heathrow and Gatwick that are full of free food and drink, priority boarding, a seat at the front, a guaranteed empty middle seat next to you and free food and drink in-flight, including Champagne.

You can also redeem your Avios for flights with other airlines in the OneWorld alliance. If you are travelling in Asia, for example, redeeming Avios on Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines is a good way of hopping from country to country.

You don’t have to spend your points on flights

We know that not everyone is able to jet off here, there and everywhere all the time. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t get some value from your Avios points or from any other frequent flyer programmes. For example, British Airways allows you to redeem for wine – as little as 9,000 Avios points gets you six bottles of New World wine. A bottle of Hendricks Gin starts at 6,500 Avios. If you have a large Avios balance, then you can even pick from Bollinger and other premium brands.

Flying isn’t the only way to collect points

Avios has partnerships with many other companies, which allow you to collect points to top up your balance. The Avios eStore lets you earn miles from your online shopping. A partnership with Tesco Clubcard lets you convert 100 Clubcard points into 240 Avios points. Shell Drivers Club points can be converted into Avios. The list of partners is certianly a long one.

Credit cards are the easiest way to pick up a substantial number of Avios for free

American Express offers a charge card which is free for the first year (you can cancel at any point) and gives you 20,000 American Express Membership Rewards points after you’ve spent £2,000 on it. Those can be converted into 20,000 Avios points, 2,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points or 1,000 Hilton Hotel rewards points – and that’s just the start of the list.

There are some amazing deals available via travel credit cards which the general public never pick up on. The Hilton credit card is free and gives you a free weekend night in any of their hotels globally once you’ve spent £750. This even includes hotels in the super-luxurious Waldorf-Astoria brand. If you and your partner each got one of these cards, you would get a free two-night weekend break between you.

In conclusion…

We’ve shown you that you can get some genuine value, even from a very small number of air miles. So next time you book with Cheapflights.co.uk, sign up to the relevant scheme – you can even add your number at check-in if you don’t have one when you book. You’ve got nothing to lose and when you return you might find that you’ve earned enough points for something useful.

If you want to know more tricks on how to earn and spend frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points, take a look at headforpoints.com.

A beginner’s guide to air miles and frequent flyer points was last modified: May 25th, 2017 by Tomas Dano
Author: Tomas Dano (150 posts)

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