Get free travel treats – like flights, hotels and deals on Eurostar tickets – from money that you’re already spending with reward and loyalty cards. Whether it’s just your weekly shop, or a regular spend on flights back and forth across the Atlantic, you can collect reward points, loyalty points and air miles that you can redeem. And you can get free days out with the kids and annual passes to attractions such as Legoland.
So, if you aren’t signed up for as many reward schemes as possible, you’re missing out on freebies that your spending already entitles you to. We’ve put together an easy guide to getting the most out of reward schemes, air mile offers, in-store points schemes and loyalty points. Read on to find out how to do it and start reaping the free travel benefits.
- Great rewards with Nectar
- All you need to know about collecting Avios
- Frequent flyer miles from Virgin Atlantic
- Reward credit cards
A really easy way to turn what you are already spending into free travel is to collect points on a Nectar card.
How to earn your points
Nectar points are a good place to start because there are so many places you can collect them. You can earn them shopping online at sites like Amazon or Play.com – or if you are booking a holiday on Expedia.
And you can also grab points by shopping at BP. Simply sign up online or grab a leaflet in store. They’ll then send you a card and you can start shopping straight away.
Where your points can take you
You can also trade in your Nectar points for Eurostar tickets. You’ll need 14,000 points or more to get to European destinations like Lille, Paris and Brussels.
If you like the sound of travelling by train, you can also currently exchange up to 10,000 points for a discount on your chance to travel in style on Orient Express trains.
Trains travel through Europe from Venice to London, taking in the sights of the Alps and Paris along the way. Whichever way you want to travel, simply login to your Nectar account and exchange your points for air miles.
Avios is an individual company that has lots of different partners, so you can collect Avios from heaps of places. Just go to the Avios website, fill in your details and start collecting.
How do I collect the miles in the first place?
The main way to do this is to take out a Lloyds TSB Avios Duo card. It has two cards: an American Express one which gives the most points when you use it and a Mastercard version which gives fewer points but you can use it in more outlets.
Also, you can use loyalty cards. If you have a Tesco or Shell card you can convert your points into Avios. You can do this by phoning them up and asking. Or even easier and cheaper, go on either of their websites and register for an account. You can then log in and exchange the points you’ve earned for Avios.
If you’re collecting while shopping online, you log in to your Avios account on the Avios website. Once in your account, you click through to the site you want to use, like eBay or Figleaves and start shopping.
You’ll receive a statement every quarter to let you know how many miles you’ve got, so you can keep track of all those points.
Who you can collect with
Many different companies are associated with Avios, and they’ll all let you exchange reward points for Avios and free flights.
For a full list of all Avios partnership companies, visit the Avios website.
How far will your Avios get you?
Avios has split the world up into seven zones and the more Avios you collect, the further you can fly. They’ve split the world up into nine zones with flight prices ranging from 9,000 Avios (UK, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam) to 100,000 Avios (Australia).
For a full guide to all the destinations you can go to, check out the zone map.
Do you have to use your Avios for flights?
You certainly don’t. If flying isn’t your thing you can get alternate transport from 9,000 Avios upwards. 9,000 Avios can be exchanged forEurostar tickets for journeys to Paris, Lille or Brussels.
Or, if you’ve booked a cruise with companies like P&O Ferries or Costa Cruises, you can exchange your Avios for on-board credit or cabin upgrades.
How do I convert my Avios online into miles in the sky?
To convert your Avios into flights, simply go onto the Avios website, log in to your account and select the ‘Spend Avios’ tab.
All the Avios you’ve collected will be in your account, so just pick where you want to go, book your trip and start packing!
If you travel a lot with one airline, they often offer you frequent flyer miles to say thanks for always sticking with them. You will get a certain amount of frequent flyer miles per flight you pay for. When you’ve got enough, you can exchange them for free flights.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Virgin Atlantic’s rewards scheme is called the Flying Club and anyone can earn when they fly.
How you earn
Simply go onto the Virgin Atlantic Website, sign up to their Flying Club and start earning miles on any Virgin Atlantic flights you take.
As a Flying Club member you’ll earn miles and tier points on all flights in economy, premium economy or upper class. Plus, when you fly premium economy or upper class the amount of miles you earn increases with our generous cabin bonuses.
If you’re a Flying Club Silver or Gold member, you’ll earn even more. Silver members earn a 50% bonus of base flown miles, while Gold members earn a 100% bonus.
You can also earn miles with hotel chains like Marriott, Hilton or Hyatt or with car rental companies like Avis and Hertz.
And you get miles when you pay for services from other Virgin Group Partners, like Virgin Holidays or Virgin Experience Days.
The Flying Club has different coloured cards depending on how frequently you fly. Their tier points system is similar to BA – the more you fly, the more tier points you get and the better your card becomes.
The first card is red and from there you progress to silver and then gold. The gold card has top level benefits like airport lounges and an increase in the miles you earn when you fly.
For economy flights, you receive two tier points, for premium economy you earn three points and for upper class you earn five points. 15 tier points will upgrade you to a silver card and 25 more points will upgrade you to a gold card.
Where you can go
Virgin miles can get you flights to all their destinations – see the list here. As usual, the number of miles you need depends on your destination. Here’s a few examples:
- New York – 35,000 miles
- Cape Town – 50,000 miles
- Hong Kong – 60,000 miles
- Sydney – 100,000 miles
You can also use your miles to upgrade your current flight. If you’ve collected 25,000 miles, that will get you a lovely upgrade from economy to premium economy and for 50,000 miles you can upgrade from premium economy to the swish upper class.
If you don’t have enough points for your big flight, the Flying Club does let you use your points for other goodies, like an airport chaffeur service.
And you can also exchange your miles for Eurostar tickets. You’re looking at between 13,000 and 26,000 miles to get to Paris, Brussels or Disneyland Paris depending on when you want to go and which class you wish to travel in.
Are there any downsides to frequent flyer programmes?
Frequent flyer miles are great, but there are a few things to remember about them.
First, each flight only has a certain quota of seats that can be bought using frequent flyer miles, so more popular flights will go really quickly. This means if you want a specific flight or you’re travelling in a group, you need to book early.
Also bear in mind that the flights aren’t entirely free. You’ve still got to pay airport tax and fuel surcharges. At the moment, fuel surcharges are soaring and they can amount to more than simply buying a flight with a cheaper airline.
However, if you’re savvy and know the tricks of the trade, you can still get great deals, especially on long-distance destinations. If you are a frequent flyer, there’s no reason not to sign up and get free flights for money you’re already spending.
Another good way to cut travel cost is to use a reward credit card that gives you miles when you spend on it. There are plenty of these to choose from.
The most important thing to remember with these cards is that they are useless unless you pay off your bill every month. You will not earn miles on outstanding balances and you could get a card with a cheaper interest rate elsewhere.
Not sure you’ve got the right card? Check out our credit card comparison tables for the best deal for you.
However, if you’re good and pay off your balance each month, a reward credit card could be the right choice for you. We’ve rounded up the best ones for travel – see the whole lot in our article here.
Tesco Clubcard credit card
With a Tesco Clubcard credit card you receive a clubcard point for every £1 you spend on your card on everyday shopping. You also get five points for every £1 spent in Tesco, which can really build up if you do your weekly shop in there.
Just £2.50 worth of vouchers from Tesco will get you a whopping 600 Avios.
The Tesco Clubcard credit card has a typical 18.9% APR, 0% on balance transfers for SIX months, with a 2.9% transfer fee and 0% on all purchases for 16 months.
British Airways have two credit cards for you to choose from. With the ordinary BA American Express credit card you get one Avios for every £1 you spend. You also get 9,000 Avios when you spend £1,000 on the card in your first three months. This card has a typical 15.9% APR.
Virgin Atlantic also have a credit card which you can use to collect Flying Club miles.
The Virgin Atlantic Black Card gives you two miles for every pound you spend and then four miles for every pound spent with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays. You also get 6,000 bonus miles on your first spend.
This card also has 0% balance transfers for the first six months, but the typical APR is high at 47.2% and there is a big £140 annual fee.
The bmi credit card
The bmi credit card offers you 20,000 destination miles for their frequent flyer programme, Diamond Club, when you spend £250 in the first 90 days of opening your account if you apply.
For every £1 you spend, you’ll be rewarded with 1.5 miles. You’ll earn double miles when you buy bmi plane tickets with your bmi credit card.
Your bmi miles can also be used on any other Star Alliance member airlines, so you’re not limited to one airline and can travel all over the world.
The bmi card has a typical APR of 16.9%, 0% on balance transfers for the first 12 months with a 3% handling fee and 0% on purchases for the first three months.
Take a look at our other article on more bonuses you can get with your reward and loyalty cards – not just free travel and days out.