Regular travel breeds regular loyalty points. I’ve always been a collector of points on the basis that something is better than nothing. As an occasional traveller though something is sometimes worth nothing. It expires. It can’t be revened in the way you’d expect or you simply can’t use a small number of points to get anything.
This year has seen me earning rewards and spending rewards in a spectacular fashion. My old friend TopCashback has generated well over £500 in cold hard cash for me. Predominantly from travel purchases. I’ve also utilised some of that cash by converting it to Avios with a 25% bonus. More on Avios further down.
Hotels.com reward nights provide value. Buy ten get on free. A free night at a B&B in Northampton when the chain hotels were charging a fortune locally. A free weekend in a B&B near Whitby. I’ve also got two free nights left to redeem – £80 and £45 in value. The bookings for New England, Chile and Australia will also accrue nearly three free nights.
Hilton gave me The Free Hotel Suite and the Hooker courtesy of the right credit card, the right membership status (thank you Amex) and a bit of good luck. Before Christmas I’d cashed in a handful of points for a dirt cheap night and a free breakfast at Manchester Airport. They even paid a 2,000 point bonus for the hooker night so I’m very close to being able to trigger a new free night at a lower grade hotel in the Hilton range.
Last year I combined work travel with a special promotion from IHG (Holiday Inn owners). This was a major breakthrough with something like seven work nights and three leisure stays being gamed to generate half a dozen free nights. A balcony overlooking the Colorado River. A night near Belfast more recently. Two future bookings at Santiago Airport. The art of the game is to either get your employer to pay for the hotel room when on business, or pay low for your own rooms (such as £39) and then when redeeming get expensive cash rooms for points. Santiago Airport prices of £160 a night made me shiver. 20,000 reward points earned at work’s expense made me smile. Alas, I’m out of IHG points now but do have those prepaid points freebies to look forward to in South America.
Which brings me to the dark art of Avios. I’d accrued a stash over the years and thought now was a good time to cash them in. Running my balance down to zero I managed to snag the first class return flights to Boston for me and Chris. It’s a treat. It’s a bucket list thing. It’s also obtaining a sweet 2.5p per Avios value which is a massive win and plays to my sense of value accrual in a way that excites. Sad? Maybe. But it works for me and stretches my mind a little. Most of my internal flying in Australia has been purchased with Avios.
My thinking at the time was that’s it with Avios. I’m done. Spent up and won’t accrue any more.
How wrong I am. 36,333 Avios now sit in my British Airways account. That’s worth nine single flights from London to nearby Europe. The points have come from Topcashback, Avis car hires, a couple of incentivised hotel bookings, Flybe, surveys (I’ve got hours to kill in the mornings) and Tesco, predominantly petrol.
Better still, I’ve got points to come. The Iberia flights to Chile and the LATAM flights to Easter Island are likely to accrue 30,000 and the Qatar flights to Australia and the Finnair hop over to Helsinki will add on over 20,000 more.
Suddenly I’m over 85,000 at Christmas. Plus 30,000 from American Express if I switch their points to Avios. Spend another £6,000 this year on my BA Amex card and I trigger a BOGOF Avios redemption voucher. Create a family account with Chris and suddenly 200,000 points and a BOGOF voucher exist. That could be a near free business class return flight for two to New Zealand. Subject to the difficulties of finding availability on those routes and still being alive of course!
The travel ambition used to be stay in a posher all inclusive hotel somewhere Spanish. These days it’s a little bit different. And a lot of it is around gaming the points and rewards. It drives me a little bit. It’ll be a shame when I can’t do it anymore!