Since we are always preaching about how to earn Avios and other airline miles, I thought it would be interesting to see how the TLFL team earn their Avios and miles. Hopefully, it may give you some inspiration to gain some extra miles towards that dream trip!
I collect mainly Avios and Virgin Flying Club Miles. I also have a small amount of Emirates miles having depleted the previous balance for an upgrade to First from business class (well worth it in my option – read my review here). Finally, have a few Etihad miles.
Naturally, with the amount of flying we do, I earn a lot through flying, especially since I am Gold and get a 100% bonus on any Avios earned. However, I reckon I earn an equal amount through non-flying means and you can too even if you only travel occasionally.
One of my top ways of earning Avios is through credit cards – I hold quite a number of cards which I cycle through depending on whether I am trying to earn a voucher or want more flexible options. I hold:
- BA Premium Plus Amex which I use to get the 2-4-1 voucher and for any spending on BA.com where you get 3 Avios per £1 spent.
- American Express Platinum which I like due to its flexibility to transfer into other schemes like Virgin, Hilton, Etihad and Marriott. The offers often mean it almost pays for itself if you make good use of them such as the spend £600 on Amex travel to get back £200.
- Lloyds Avios card – I nearly dumped this when they got rid of the Amex and changed the benefits. However, it’s free so it makes a useful back up for my Curve card spending which is linked to several cards.
Also, a top earner for Avios for me are Topcashback and the BA eStore. I tend to use BA eStore more when they have bonus amounts of Avios and for those stores not featured or that don’t have a great earning rate I use Topcashback instead. These all work in the same way. You clikc through to your chosen website and shop as normal – this includes things like hotels such Hilton as well as more regular shops like Apple or John Lewis. If you are booking hotels you stil get all the usual status benefits and offers.
I try to wait to convert my Avios from Topcashback for when there is a 25% bonus which is well worth waiting for. Normally you get a 5% bonus on converting your cash to Avios. My top purchases on the eStore are hotels – Marriott, Hilton and Hotels.com usually. Hotels.com recently had a whopping 12 Avios per £1 spent. If you use Topcashback for hotels.com you normally only get 8% cashback.
Talking of hotels there are a couple of other ways to earn Avios that I use. For hotels that have a loyalty scheme where I want the points, I will not collect miles or Avios unless it means I still get the same amount of points. For other hotels, some of the luxury chains have a small number of Avios per stay such as Langham or Shangri La.
The other way to get miles which I use a lot is through hotel booking sites that give miles. I use Agoda for non-chain hotels quite often as they can be much cheaper than the competition, particularly if you get a pop up 10% off voucher. You can then collect Avios or miles on top – add-in paying with a miles card and you are double-dipping! One of the easiest ways to get a good 20,000 Avios is to book your hotel through someone like Kaligo or RocketMiles when they have a promotion on. These sites can be slightly more expensive, so it is always worth doing the maths.
My best Avios earner
Claudio and I were headed to Costa Rica’s rainforest where there were virtually no chain hotels. Rocketmiles had a great promotion for both new users and existing users which we took advantage of. The deal was that in addition to the normal Avios you got:
- Collect 2,000 Bonus Avios on your first hotel booking
- Collect 8,000 Bonus Avios when you spend at least GBP700
My 4 nights at around the same price as other hotel sites netted me 25,000 Avios for around £990 for 5 nights which I would have done anyway!
I also did the 90,000 Avios Iberia promotion where you got 9,000 Avios per flight booked – not flown. Unlike some people, I did actually fly a couple of the flights and it cost slightly more as I actually needed a couple of positioning flights to Madrid. I did buy seven £20 single tickets that I didn’t fly to make up the difference though! I used my 90k to go to Buenos Aires with Roving Reporter and then went to Costa Rica with my other Avios when Claudio used his 90k for San Juan.
Virgin Atlantic Miles
I earn the vast majority of miles through the Virgin credit card as it pays a very respectable 1.5 miles per £1. In previous years I earned a lot through flying as I flew to New Zealand with Singapore Airlines, one of Virgins’s partners and also did a couple of Virgin flights to the US when there was a good deal.
I also use the Miles Booster every time time I fly with Virgin using the double boost and I try to coincide buying the boost with when there is an offer on. Don’t forget you can still boost for 6 months after you have taken the flight, so it may be worth waiting if an offer does not come along before your flight.
My Emirates miles I earned through flying with them and as compensation for poor service. Last year I flew 3 first class and 3 business class segments with Emirates. I am considering transferring them to Heathrow Rewards with the current bonus of 50% for Emirates transfers as I use Heathrow parking a lot and you get £10 back instead of £5 when you redeem for parking.
Paul – Deputy Editor
Paul’s story will be very short. In his own words he “Flys. A lot” As Paul is BA Gold Guest List with Concorde Room status it means he needs to get 5000 tier points a year to qualify. If you think that the average return in business class on long haul gets you 280 tier points, that’s a lot of flying! Paul also takes advantage of the perks of booking a BA flight+hotel occasionally too. This gives you an extra 1 Avios per £1 spent on top of the usual Avios, as well as a low deposit and therefore cheaper cancellation!
Finally, he also collects a small amount through the Gold American Express card. Although this comes with fewer perks than the Platnium, it is much cheaper at £140 and free for the first year. There are two free lounge passes for the odd time when he has to take a non-OW economy flight (like on Air Asia). You get 1 Membership Rewards point per £1 spent on the card. However, for Paul, the perk of foreign currency transactions and airline transactions earning 2 points per £1 makes this a sensible choice for him. The BA Amex only gives 3 Avios per £1 on BA, not other airlines. Like the Platinum Amex, the Membership Reward points can be transferred into a variety of airline and hotel partners – although I don’t see the day that Paul ever transfers into a miles scheme other than BA!
I originally collected Avios via the BA Premium Plus Amex Card as I gained the 2-4-1 vouchers quicker. However, as taxes have increased and deals have become more frequent and cheaper, I now have switched to the free BA Amex. I don’t feel the 2-4-1s offer me value for money when compared to discounted cash tickets that also accumulate Tier Points (for me more valuable than the Avios themselves) and Avios. My stash of Avios is mainly used for positioning flights to EU destinations. Most of my monthly spending is via the BA Amex so I continue to accrue based on spend. Being a Gold member I also get bonus Avios for cash bookings that I make with BA. My other bookings with Oneworld (Qatar and Cathay usually) also accrue Avios.
My best deals were an AVIS offer (via the Iberia site) where I hired a car for £20 and got a bonus 17,000 Avios and the 10 x one-way flights on Iberia offer from 2018 (none of which were flown) which cost me £190 after cashback for a bonus 90,000 Avios. I also have a household account with my partner so Avios from their flights are effectively pooled with mine.
In July 2018 I took out the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard with an opening offer of 60,000 miles based on a 3 month spend. I then booked a Virgin Atlantic deal to Phoenix on Virgin/Delta for £908, and as a silver member accrued more miles on this. I also boosted my miles on flights whenever the bonus miles were on offer (was 30%). This gave me enough miles to book First Class Suites in ANA to Tokyo for 120,000 miles and £403 (planned for November, review coming soon). I also boosted the miles earnable on redemption flights (3 times boost and a current 40% bonus of 70,000 miles for less than £500).
I have also taken out an Investment ISA with Virgin money (which I funded only for the 6-month minimum) for a bonus of 6,000 miles and I have taken a life insurance product which also offered bonus miles. Using the Virgin Mastercard for regular spending has allowed me to have a considerable mileage balance. My plan is to use these for a further two return Tokyo trips with ANA. I cancelled the Virgin card after 1 year as my mileage balance is now so good. I plan on taking advantage of any bonus sign up offers after 6 months when I could re-apply.
I collect Avios in two main ways. The first one is flying British Airways or other OneWorld airlines. I try to be loyal to BA as much as I can, so I not only collect more tier points, but also have a chance the enjoy all the benefits offered by my Gold Card.
My second main way of collecting Avios is with my BA Amex card. I normally use it everywhere, no matter how small my purchase is. I have the Premium Plus BA Amex which means I can get a 2-4-1 voucher every year.
Miles & More
This is my secondary account and back up for the rare cases where I am not able to fly a OneWorld airline.
This account is also a destination of all points collected on daily shopping where an Amex card is not accepted. I have the MasterCard and Diners offered by Lufthansa in the UK.
Besides collecting points, the card prevents my Miles & More Miles from expiring. I also have a Curve card and it is connected to my Miles & More Mastercard, allowing me to collect points while travelling overseas and not paying any exchange rate fees.
I have a BA Premium Plus Amex card for which I pay an annual fee, which is currently approximately £200. I previously had the standard BA card until I was made aware by an ex-work colleague about the existence of the 2-4-1 voucher! I had initially taken out the Amex card as a means to earn Avios with my everyday spend. I had always exceeded the £10k spend for the 2-4-1 (black card) but as the requirement was £20k on the (blue) card I had never earned a voucher –what a waste!! Although the initial cost of the (black) card may put people off, I have always recouped more than the cost when using the voucher for long haul Business or First flights. To take full benefit of the 2-4-1 reward my husband has his own (black) card and also earns an annual 2-4-1 voucher. At the start of the ‘collection year’ we both put absolutely everything we can on these cards. Of course, the downside of the BA card is that it is an American Express card which is not as widely accepted as Mastercard or Visa.
To make sure I’m still getting benefit from my spending, for when Amex isn’t accepted, I also have a Virgin Atlantic Rewards+ credit card. This was previously also an Amex card with an associated Mastercard. A few years back Virgin changed their credit card provider to their own Virgin Money bank and did away with the Amex card. Like the BA card, I have the card with an annual fee which is currently £160. I believe once again that the annual cost is outweighed by the benefits earned which include an upgrade to Premium Economy or a Companion voucher after a £10K spend. I haven’t yet got myself into the habit of online shopping via either BA or Virgin e-shopping portals. This is a shame considering the potential earnings available with my shopping ‘addiction’!
In a nutshell, my strategy is to use my BA Amex almost exclusively until I earn a 2-4-1 voucher. Once I’ve achieved this I switch my spending to my Virgin card. Should (when) my spending in a year has earned me both vouchers I turn to my Hilton Honors card to earn points towards hotel stays and upgrades. In my opinion, if I’m already going to spend the money I’d be silly not get any additional benefits for the spend. Note to self: remember to do my online shopping through the BA or Virgin shopping sites!