I 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!