The mindset of a miles and points junkie

imageI have been collecting miles and points ‘full time’ since 2012 and even people I know really well still don’t understand me! 

“Why don’t you just fly direct?”,  “Why are you staying there?” and  “That must have cost you a bomb – how can you afford it?”are perhaps three of the most common questions I get, usually delivered in a tone that is a little condescending and a little judgemental.

You try and explain it to them and some are pretty receptive to it all – I’ve had a few conversations that started that way and its ended up with me referring about 6 people for credit card bonuses (thanks guys!). They have gone on to have business class flights round Europe, upgrades from Economy to Singapore and, in the case of my parents, First class flights to the US, South America and South Africa.

Others just dismiss it as ‘not for them’ or too complicated or a waste of time. They think I’m mad -but am I?!

Collecting miles through credit cards necessitates having an accurate picture of your credit card balance; I can tell you to within £10 what my balance is on each of my three main points cards as well as how far I am from the next spend threshold. I’ve never paid a penny in interest or late fees and I have a Experian credit rating of over 970/999. Through this hobby, my financial acumen has undoubtedly been enhanced.

Everything I spend goes on a credit card; be it £2000 flights or 45p chewing gum. It all adds up to a new total which gets me more rewards. I have a very good friend who always has a wad of cash in his pocket; £150 is not unusual. He’ll pull it out at the bar – not to show off but to get in the Jaegermeister! But I can’t help thinking that he could be earning 60 Avios or 80 IHG points by putting a £40 round on a card. Or, if that didn’t turn him on, he could be getting 0.5% cashback with the John Lewis card – 20p here and there soon adds up to a decent saving at Waitrose! By not engaging, people like my mate are literally throwing money away. If you’re not spending on a card that gives you something, you’re poorer as a result.

It’s the same with people who fly but do nothing to collect the miles on offer. You might not be a frequent flyer- you might not be planning to fly with that airline again – but you might as well sign up the miles scheme. I made my brother in law do exactly that when he had been to China in Finnair. A few months later he was booking a flight from Toulouse to London and was able to save €30 using the free miles that would otherwise have gone to waste.

I also choose where I spend money. Filling my car up at Sainsbury’s gives me Nectar points, whose best use, as far as I can tell, is to knock £25 off the Christmas shop – a poor return for a year’s shopping. Filling up at Tesco allows me to earn clubcard points which convert to Avios.  Tesco.com is my preferred online shop and I buy most of my wine through them – they are competitive on price but I probably earn an additional 7,000 Avios a year with them compared to Laithwaites. And the wine is just as good.

Work travel, through infrequent, is also ruled by the hobby. I have the choice of 5 hotels in Cambridge when I go – but I always choose the Holiday Inn Express. It’s not the closest and the price doesn’t matter as the negotiated rates are all the same, but that points go into my pot and it racks up my loyalty that can use layer for my own travel.

Speaking of my own travel, this hobby does, of course, impact on that as well. And rightly so – I do it and I enjoy it because I like to travel. I am a Geography Teacher and I feel that it is good that I want to get out and see it. We teach about Las Vegas in three sections of the course; water conflict, extreme environments and constructs of space and place. Having been there, experienced it and with my own photos to include in my lessons, I know that I teach those units better now than I did before.

I am sure that I am paraphrasing someone when I say that there are three ways you can travel – fast, cheap and comfortably – but you can only do two of them at a time. If you want to be in New York tomorrow for as little money as you can spend, it will probably be crammed in the back of a jumbo jet in very little comfort. Or if you want it cheap with loads of room and amusements, a cruise ship might be better, but it wont be fast. You have to choose what it most important to you at the time.

One of the benefits of being a teacher is undoubtedly the long summer holidays – but it comes with the cost of being inflexible and having to travel in school holidays where costs can be higher. What I do have, though, is time. It doesn’t matter if I take two days to get somewhere if it is part of the journey, if I enjoy it, and if it saves me some money that is great. Sometimes the trip might be more expensive, like #7flightstoABZ, but the additional benefits for status are worth it.

To put that into a real life example, if I was to go to Vegas in Summer 2017 for a week departing 24 July (beginning of the school holidays), I could fly in Business with BA direct for £3024, earning 280TP and 26,110 miles. The cheapest fare in economy is £1257 which gets me 70TP and 15,666 miles. What I would do would be to fly Dublin – Heathrow – New York – LA – Las Vegas in business which would cost £1480, and earn 760TP and 31,672 miles. It is half the price of the direct flight, and only £200 more than the economy example, but the additional miles and points are well worth it.

What I would point out is that this is clearly not for everyone – I am time-rich in the school holidays so it doesn’t matter if I take half a day or two days to get somewhere. I also like flying and being in airports, so it is not a chore for me. However, if you were travelling for work, or only had a limited window and not a lot of annual leave, or hated travelling then this is not for you!

But if you are in that category where travel miles and points don’t work for you, don’t ignore the advice above out of hand – just make it work for you! Choose a credit card that gives you rewards you will use or shop online via Topcashback.

Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section or get in touch via email. I don’t get paid for writing this blog, there are no adverts and there are no referral links – I do this because I enjoy it and want to help others make the most of it too!

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28 thoughts on “The mindset of a miles and points junkie

  1. Dear Mr. Airmiles I read Chae Strathie’s article about you in the Sunday Post. Airmiles is something I have always been interested in since a friend collected them in their hundreds on business trips and used them to great advantage. I am 73 years old and not so hot on the internet, takes me ages to find anything. As you can see from my age I am retired and so have the time. I hope to meet up with a friend in Panama City Florida in February 2017 (she will be flying down from Boston) I would like to earn as many avios miles as possible, (I already have 9000) but have no idea how to work out what routes to take etc. Can you advise me on how to do this. My nearest petrol station gives Tesco points but as there is not a Tesco in my area I have never bothered to get a card, I will rectify that tomorrow. I do not often use a credit card but would be willing to use them more frequently if it gets me airmile points, again other then my bank i am ignorant about credit cards. Please HELP
    regards
    Margaret Irvine

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  2. Very interesting, I fly a lot, mainly for business but am having n many occasions time rich. Where do you find these fayres? imI meanbthe multi stop ones? They don’t seem to be in BA’s website? Am I missing something?

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      1. Yes, I want to fly to Las Vegas for New year, I used lots of my AVIOS last year so am short on tier points. I have realised by doing multi hops to a location especially in BC you can earn a shed load of tier points.

        So what I am looking at is UK to Las Vegas and back. departing anytime after the 26th Dec, returning anytime after 8th Jan. My date are flexible but I have to be in Vegas for the 7th Jan for 1 days work. Thanks for your advice

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hi Chris – just with a quick look, I can see that you can do CPH-LHR-JFK-LAX-LAS return in Business (or domestic First in the US) which will earn 760TP for £1645 flying out on 31/12 and back on 09/01. Email me on misterairmiles [at] gmail [dot] com for more details or if you need help looking for other alternatives.

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      3. Hello Mister Miles. I have tried ITA Matrix but cannot add more than 6 flights . I have tried your combination CPH-LHR-JFK-LAX-LAS as an example you gave, but can only get the one way.Could you share your tips, or screen shots ? Much appreciated .
        Best F

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  3. In Ireland we seem to be especially limited when it comes to having credit cards that allow us to collect Avios. Have you any advice on how I could achieve this with an Irish home address?
    Thanks in advance

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  4. Thanks! It depends – NYC tends to be the gateway into the US. You could do something like Dublin – London – New York which is often cheaper. Alternatively something more creative might be DUB-LHR-IAD-JFK which routes you via Washington, D.C.

    I book direct with the airline, but sometimes use ITA Matrix to find the fares first.

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  5. Hi @ misterairmiles,
    I am trying to establish how you get around booking the flights. As my departure country would be LHR and would like to go say to China.
    Thanks

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    1. Hi Vanessa, Depends on where you are flying to! In the first instance, http://www.ba.com would be my first port of call. Routing via Dubai or Doha might also give you some cheaper options. The higher the class, the bigger the saving. Flying from Dublin or Copenhagen instead of London might also make it cheaper.

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  6. Which route will you recommend from London to Tel Aviv to maximise TP and miles?
    We use both BA AMEX and BA Lloyd’s, each offering companion vouchers. The difficulty is in using them both in one order as BA Exec Club and Avios don’t seem to recognise each other 😦

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    1. Not sure about Tel Aviv to be honest. It’s probably not the best route – not one I’ve done so don’t really have any experience.

      That AmEx and Lloyd’s vouchers are not stackable. You’re able to transfer Avios between the programmes freely to make the most of the best deal.

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  7. Hi, this is a hobby I am also interested in. I collect Avios points in my BA credit card quite often. Didn’t know about Tesco rewards so thank you for that.
    I have a few flights booked over the coming months.
    My question is… How do I collect air miles on these flights?

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    1. Who are you flights booked with? If BA then go into ‘Manage My Booking’ and add your frequent flyer number. Sign up to the British Airways Executive Club if you haven’t already. The points should post automatically.

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  8. Hi Mister Airmiles

    I am quite new to this having just enrolled for an Amex premium BA card. How do you work out the best way to plan your multi-stop trips as given in the Las Vegas example above? Is there a resource or is it just a case of trial and error?

    Many Thanks,
    Tom

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    1. Hi Tom,

      There is not necessarily a hard and fast rule, but I tend to think of it in stages:
      1) Somewhere in Europe (AMS, BRU, CPH, DUB, MAD) to London
      2)Transatlantic from London to the East Coast (JFK, BOS, PHL)
      3)Somewhere on the West Coast over 2,000 miles for max TP (like PHX or LAX)
      4) Hop to LAS

      It is trial and error but depends on where you want to go – where do you have in mind?

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  9. Hi Mr. AM, I love your site and relate perfectly to what you are saying. I have a tricky one.. I am just about to fall back from BA Silver, having been Gold, thus losing all lounge access – not a big problem in the global scheme of things, but a pain if you travel a lot in Europe,,. I could do with a quick way to get me 240 miles by July 8th – I guess a US trip there and back will do it, but you seem to rack up big points and cheap fares all at once.. any thoughts thanks J

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    1. Hi Jominder! Thanks for the lovely comments. So you have 360TP and need another 240 to make Silver? Where are you based and what is your budget? You could do something like MAN-LHR-HEL(-TLL) return for 240 (280). Going to TLL is cheaper and gets more points but will be harder to find cheap fares. There are plenty of options which are intra-European. James

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