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The universe of miles and points is a confusing one for the beginner, but The Points Guy UK is here to help. By taking a few key steps, you’ll find yourself heading down a path of maximising your travel and fulfilling your travel dreams.
If you’re new to this world, this beginner’s guide is designed to help you with the basics. From getting started to earning points strategically and making your way toward your first redemption, TPG UK has you covered.
1. Stay Informed
The first step in getting involved in the points and miles game is making sure you’re in the loop at all times. Be sure to sign up to receive the The Points Guy UK newsletter to your inbox for a daily dose of deals, news, reviews and the latest tips and tricks that will keep you travel savvy.
2. Know Which Credit Cards Are Right for You
Credit cards are the backbone of any strategy to earn miles. There are a number of cards available in the UK — many with significant sign up bonuses. Sign-up bonuses are the way you’ll pump up your account balances the quickest, as the issuer will give you a batch of points for spending a certain amount within the first few months. Plus, once you’ve earned your sign-up bonus, you’ll continue to earn points on each pound you spend.
One of the cardinal sins of the points and miles world is using a debit card or cash to make purchases. When you think about rewards credit cards as earning a valuable currency, you’ll want to leave your debit card in the sock drawer. Each purchase made with a rewards credit card means you’re inching closer to a reward.
Before applying for any credit card, be sure to make sure you fully understand how your credit works. You must be in the right place financially before applying for any card. And in order to fully maximise your cards, be sure you’re able to pay your statement off in full every month so you’re not losing the value of the points earned by the interest that must be paid. Credit cards aren’t for everyone, but for the right people, they’re a game-changing tool that can accelerate your path to free travel.
Action: Use TPG UK to help you work out the best rewards credit card for you. Bank the sign-up bonus and condition yourself to spend on the credit card. Ditch your debit card! Every pound spent will then be a pound closer to your next reward. For the newbie points collector, we recommend the Amex Preferred Rewards Gold as a great place to begin due to the 10,000-point welcome bonus and fee free first year. For context, a one-way flight in Europe on British Airways can be as little as 4,000 points.
Here are some more of our favourite cards.
3. Sign up for Loyalty Programmes
Every time you fly or stay in a chain hotel, you could be earning chunks of miles and points, which can be used toward future free flights or hotel stays. But in order to get to that point, you need to make sure you’re signed up to loyalty programmes and adding your membership number to your booking. Loyalty may not always influence your booking decisions, but once you have that bum on a seat or in a hotel bed, it’s worth earning the points that are yours for the taking. A fuller list of programmes can be found here.
Once you’re a bit more experienced, it’ll become a question of where to credit your miles in order to get the most return. This sounds counter intuitive, but it might not always make sense to credit miles to the programme of the airline you are flying. WhereToCredit can help you work out which programme to use.
Action: Sign up to the major airline and hotel loyalty programmes now so you’re poised and ready to make moves. British Airways Executive Club and Virgin Flying Club are the most important airline programmes in the UK, and are great places to start. I also strongly recommend signing up to Iberia Plus now, as many great deals that pop up in the UK require you to have had one of these accounts open for 90 days. Don’t get caught out! Once you are ready to diversify your collection, you may also want to get into KLM-Air France’s FlyingBlue programme and Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer programme.
4. Get a Tesco Clubcard
Tesco offers Clubcard points on all purchases including in-store, online and on fuel. Plus, Tesco Clubcard often runs bonus deals, which we will keep you in the loop with! The big win with Tesco, versus other shopping loyalty points like Nectar and Boots Advantage (although always collect these points, too), is that Tesco points can be converted to both Avios and Virgin Flying Club Miles. £2.50 in vouchers gets you 600 Avios or 625 Flying Club miles.
Just £17.50 in Tesco Vouchers converted to Avios is enough to bag you a one-way flight to Europe with British Airways.
Action: Sign up for Tesco Clubcard and always remember to use it when shopping with Tesco.
5. Shop Online Through Shopping Portals
Almost every major retailer (and many smaller ones!) has a presence on loyalty programme shopping portals where you can earn huge chunks of miles and points on every single purchase by simply clicking through to that retailer from the portal. You are most likely to be using the British Airways Executive Club eStore and Virgin Atlantic Shops Away.
Some current earning rates include:
- Selfridges — 10 Avios per £
- Apple — 5 Avios per £
- Made.com — 8 Avios per £
- Urban Outfitters — 8 Avios per £
- Marks and Spencer — 4 Avios per £
These points are in addition to what you might earn from making the purchase on your rewards credit card.
Action: Delve into our guide on how to maximise the use of shopping portals and never make an online purchase again without checking the portals and clicking through to the retailer to rack up maximum points!
6. Stay on the Lookout for Deals
Deals across the travel world pop up each and every day — and disappear just as fast. TPG UK scours the internet for the very best deals for the benefit of you, our readers. These will vary from cheap cash tickets and sales to ways to earn extra miles and even special deals when using your miles.
The more flexible you can be on dates and destination, the better chance you have of jumping on a killer deal.
Action: Read our daily newsletter, and always check the latest on the deals section on our site before booking a trip. If you see anything on the web that you think might be a great new deal, please get in touch with us — email@example.com.
7. Learn to Use Miles and Points Strategically
Learning how to use your miles and points is usually the most daunting aspect of this world, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Flexibility and planning are the most important things if you want to achieve travel greatness. TPG UK will help you in nailing down the most difficult parts of the planning process like knowing how many miles it takes to fly in British Airways’ first class to Asia or Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class to New York City.
Diversification is also key. Knowing that your Avios can be used with a huge range of airlines in the Oneworld Alliance (like Cathay Pacific, Qatar, Iberia and American Airlines) can help to expand your options. Similarly, with American Express Membership Rewards points, you can transfer them to 17 different airline and hotel partners, which, in turn, gives you access to a whole new web of options. For example, transferring Amex Membership Rewards to Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer programme gives you access to Star Alliance airlines including Lufthansa, Swiss and United.
Finally, you’ll want to make sure you understand when to use your points and miles versus when to use cash to book a ticket. If the value of the points you’re redeeming is more than you’d be paying for a cash ticket, you’re better off just paying for the travel.
8. Consider Earning Status
Airline and hotel programmes reward their most loyal customers with boosted earning rates, special offers, upgrades and priority treatment. For example, a British Airways Gold member can use first class check-in desks and lounges whenever they fly with a Oneworld Alliance airline, even when they fly in economy.
However, gunning for elite status isn’t for everyone. If you’re a leisure flyer who only travels with British Airways a couple of times a year, it’s not worthwhile to fly with the goal of earning Gold status. But, if you’re on the road (rather, in the air) several times a month, it could be worth sticking to a single airline or alliance in order to maximise the benefits that come with elite status.
Regardless of how much you travel, tier point running (or travelling simply for the sake of gaining status) could be your avenue to perks that you thought you might never be able to earn. Earning status, like British Airways Silver, might not be as hard as you think.
Actions: Learn about the various programmes, and tier point running, to understand the benefits fully and which would be best for you.
9. Set Goals for Yourself
I always tell people who are new to points and miles to set a goal when they start out. For many people, it may be something like flying in British Airways First Class to New York.
Utilising all the methods above, this is within reach for most people, as long as you are willing to plan and execute a strategy to get there. It may take some people longer than others, but an exciting experience, that you may never otherwise have been able achieve or afford, is ahead of you!
Actions: Set your travel goals, and use The Points Guy UK resources to achieve them!
Illustrations by Abbie Winters / The Points Guy.
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