How simply doing my food shopping earned enough miles for a flight to New York

Mar 21, 2021

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It’s no secret that there are many ways to earn miles in addition to flying.

Up there with the best of them? Simply doing your weekly food shop.

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Here in the U.K., we don’t have the same amazing 10x bonus point earning levels that there are in the U.S. However, I still managed to wrack up enough miles in the last year for a flight from London to New York, just by doing my food shopping.

Tesco and Sainsbury’s are the only two supermarkets where spending your cash can regularly be rewarded with miles. (Sometimes, you can find offers with Morrisons and earn money back with Waitrose via Amex Offers.) Both Tesco and Sainsbury’s have their own loyalty programmes and points currencies — Tesco and its Clubcard, and Sainsbury’s and Nectar.

Related: What are the differences between Tesco Clubcard points and Sainsbury’s Nectar points?

Customers can, of course, opt to spend that currency in-store or convert them to spend with various partners. In our case, we’re most interested in travel spend, which means converting Clubcard points to Virgin Points and Nectar points to Avios.

Here’s how I did it.

American Express Membership Rewards

Amount: 3,120 Membership Rewards (worth £44)

Membership Rewards is the point currency of American Express. The points are a personal favourite of mine, as there are many ways to use them, and redeeming them is easier than you might think.

I earned the points by paying for my shopping bought at Sainsbury’s and Tesco with the Platinum Card from American Express. We earn 1 point per pound spent.

On average, I spent around £60 per week on groceries with my Amex Platinum, which works out at 3,120 points annually. Based on TPG’s most recent valuations, those points are worth £44.

Tesco Clubcard and Virgin Points

Amount: 5,585 Virgin Points (worth £67)

Tesco’s loyalty scheme is the Tesco Clubcard, which earns you 1 point for every pound spent.

Over the course of the year, I converted the Clubcard points that I racked up into a total of 5,585 Virgin Points — worth £67 based on our most recent valuations.

Sainsbury’s Nectar and British Airways Avios

Amount: 5,000 Avios (worth £55)

In the same time period of about a year, I earned a total of 5,000 Avios by doing my grocery shopping at Sainsbury’s.

For every 400 Sainbury’s Nectar Points I earn, I get 250 Avios, so the Avios soon start adding up. IIn total, the 5,000 Avios I earned dare worth £55.

Speaking of great ways to earn bonus miles, be sure to download the Nectar app — I’ve been earning bonus Avios at a rate of hundreds per week!

How does that get you to New York?

In total, I earned 13,705 miles just by doing my grocery shopping. I earned the amount in three different ways and split across two airline loyalty programmes. If I’d stuck to one airline loyalty programme, I’d have been able to redeem a flight to New York, but I’m trying to earn points across both programmes so I can keep my options open.

For example, if I’d only shopped at Tesco, and converted my Membership Rewards to Virgin Points, I would have been able to redeem a one-way flight with Virgin Atlantic to New York. Only a few thousand more and I’d have had enough for a return trip, which is 20,000 Virgin Points in standard season (this goes up to 40,000 for a round-trip in peak season).

On the other hand, if I’d only shopped at Sainsbury’s and converted my Membership Reward Points to Avios, I would have had enough for a one-way flight from London to New York. Thanks to BA recently introducing Reward Flight Saver pricing on some long-haul routes, passengers can now choose from a selection of Avios + cash offers that suit their budget and Avios stash.

You might wonder why I didn’t suggest the 6,500 + £200 option to be able to redeem a return ticket rather than just a one-way. That’s because the £200 in taxes and fees paid on top of the 13,000 Avios (valued at approximately £143) would, more often than not, cost more than paying cash return from London to New York. As you can see, return trip prices with major carriers offering nonstop flights across the Atlantic start as low as £326 — a total of £360 cheaper than what it would have been to redeem 6,500 Avios + £200 each way.

Bottom line

I was able to earn enough points for a flight to New York just by going about my normal grocery shopping spending. I didn’t include all the other ways I earned points over the last year, as the focus of this piece was about the value of being clever about the way you do your grocery shopping.

Put it this way: If a single guy can earn 13,705 miles by simply going about his usual food shopping habits, just think how many miles a couple, or a family with kids, could earn?

Featured image by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images

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