Become a Travel Hacking Expert: A Beginner’s Guide to Collecting AVIOS
Travel hacking is the art of collecting points through your everyday spending. These points can then be converted and spent on flights. It sounds too good to be true but it really is that simple!
Many of us are missing out on really easy ways to collect extra points. Other travel hacking guides make it seem complicated and hard-work but it doesn’t need to be.
Thankfully, our Travel Hacking expert, Anne, is on hand to share her tips on collecting those all-important AVIOS points. AVIOS is one of the leading travel reward programmes because there are so many places to collect and spend points. Anne recommends collecting AVIOS points to spend on business class flights so you can add a dash of luxury to your next trip.
Anne has put together a beginner’s guide to collecting AVIOS and has simplified the whole process for us newbies who need a little help.
There are so many great tips in here and lots of ways to collect AVIOS points so I’m sure there’ll be some great advice for you expert travel hackers too.
I’ll hand you over to Anne for her beginner’s guide to collecting AVIOS…
Why travel hack?
Wherever you’re travelling to, wouldn’t it be nice to start your holiday in style?
For most, flying business class is the stuff of dreams. If you are from Yorkshire, like me, and live up to the stereotype of being cautious with money, it’s an over extravagant waste of £4,000 just for flights! Crikey….imagine all the trips I could do with that money!
Maybe you believe that you either have to be super rich or a frequent flier to fly business! I used to think that too.
Then I discovered travel hacking, although I had no idea what that was at the time. In the last few years I’ve flown business to Japan and the USA, and have more trips planned to India, Canada, Sweden and France at vastly reduced cost, courtesy of travel hacking tips I’m going to introduce you to today.
Now to answer a couple of beginner’s questions…
Why AVIOS over other reward schemes?
It’s worth stressing that this post focuses on collecting AVIOS for a reason. Extensive research, poring over credit card and hotel loyalty club sites, has lead me to conclude that British Airways offers the best value options for securing business class flights.
There may be other schemes which work better for economy class, but if we are going to dream together, let’s dream BIG!
Nothing is off limits for future posts though, so if you want me to cover specific schemes, please give me a shout out in the comments box and I will do my best to oblige!
Can I collect AVIOS points for economy flights?
Now just to be absolutely clear, you can redeem AVIOS against economy class flights, and you will save money, but not very much! With all AVIOS bookings you are still responsible for taxes and fees for flights originating in the UK. These often account for the majority of the price, so redeeming AVIOS for economy flights means you get a much lower conversion rate for your AVIOS. You will save hundreds of pounds, but you won’t save thousands like you will on business class flights.
How do I start collecting AVIOS?
If you want to travel hack seriously, you need to implement as many of the following tips as you can.
Before long, you too could be turning left instead of right and joining me for cocktails in the lounge!
But if you’re a complete beginner to travel hacking and collecting AVIOS you should know that you absolutely have to implement #Tip 1 and #Tip 2. You can then pick and choose the ones you wish to use to build your points balance.
Each tip includes relevant links so you can click through for more information. I won’t bore you with all the details here, as 3 hours later you may have lost the will to live, never mind go on a long haul business flight!
So let’s get started…
Tip #1 – Sign up for the British Airways Executive Club
It’s free to sign up and, don’t worry, you do not need to be an high flying executive, or break the bank purchasing tons of flights!
This is one of the foundation stones of your AVIOS earning strategy, and will act as one of two ‘safe boxes’ to store your valuable airline points.
It may amaze you to discover that you can, in fact, build sufficient points to fly business class without taking one single flight.
Tip #2 – Sign up for an AVIOS account and start banking those AVIOS
You can’t build an house without proper foundations, and so it is with AVIOS! This is your second ‘safe box’ and the other key to your upgrade experience.
It’s free to sign up, and this account will really help rocket fuel your progress towards business class flights.
AVIOS you earn will be credited to this account, or your British Airways Executive Club account.
Don’t worry which, as AVIOS will only ever be applied to one or the other and you can combine AVIOS from the two accounts easily. It just takes a few clicks on either the AVIOS, or British Airways site.
Tip #3 – Sign up for Credit Cards with bumper sign up bonuses
The biggest single contributor to my 2015 AVIOS balance came from a whopping 20,000 sign up bonus for the American Express Gold card. I had to spend £2,000 within three months to qualify, but with spending re-engineering (more on this shortly…) this should be achievable.
British Airways also offer the Premium American Express card, with a sign up bonus of 18,000 AVIOS (this was 25,000 until recently) credited when you have spent £3,000 within three months.
You can find a handy comparison of the best credit card options in the UK here, but please check the relevant credit card website before signing up. Offers change rapidly and I would hate for you to be disappointed.
You can also check out this credit card calculator, which helps you calculate the amount of points you could earn, based on the earnings rate for the card you select, and your likely spend.
Another useful tip, if you have a significant other, is for both of you to sign up for the same cards, and then you double your bonuses immediately!
My husband has just bagged us another 20,000 by signing up to the AMEX Gold in his own name! Yippee!!!
MUMSY ALERT: at the risk of sounding like your mum (sorry, years of training as a step-mum!) this is NOT an excuse to spend more. Re-engineering your spending is all about making your spending work for you. If you start running up balances you can’t pay off, not only could you end up in financial trouble, but the interest you pay is making those flights more expensive by the day.
Don’t worry though, this post would not be complete without including some tips on how you can keep track of your AVIOS growth. There are some great tools out there which can help you.
Sadly, they don’t offer AVIOS as an incentive to use them, but they will help you keep on target with your AVIOS master plan.
Tip #4 – Sign up for Credit Cards which reward you with AVIOS for every £1 spend
Sign up for cards which offer, either American Express membership rewards or hotel loyalty club points, which can be converted into AVIOS, or a dedicated AVIOS credit card. This handy credit card comparison provides full information, but to get you started, Lloyds and TSB Banks both offer dedicated AVIOS cards.
WARNING: They do not offer a sign up bonus, but they offer upgrade vouchers and other benefits instead.
Redirect as much spending as possible onto the credit card. You may even be able to pay some of your household bills, using your cards, so be sure to check this out.
This will also help achieve the sign up bonus in #Tip 2
Re-engineering my spending required a shift in habits, from paying everything on debit card to paying everything on credit card. As I hate being in debt, I am religious in managing this spending, and transfer sufficient funds weekly to cover the costs I have incurred that week.
I find the OnTrees app useful for keeping track of my spending, as you can view everything in one convenient place.
Tip #5 – Shop via the AVIOS shop
This is an incredible way to build AVIOS points quickly without any additional spending. By redirecting your spending through the shop, you can earn up to 12 AVIOS per £1.
As if that isn’t exciting enough, you can double dip. Pay using your chosen credit card, and you will earn at least 1 extra AVIOS per £1 of spend.
The AVIOS website provides you with a handy AVIOS calculator to calculate the AVIOS you can earn by shopping at any of the 200 plus shops.
You can choose from favourites such as Debenhams, Argos, Curry’s, Apple, Hobbs and Karen Millen. I’m devastated to think of all the AVIOS I missed out on whilst building my dress collection, all because I had no idea that I could be adding to my AVIOS balance.
Please don’t make the same mistake. If you have a dress fetish, or love designer clothes, Apple accessories, the latest travel guide or must have item, make it super rewarding.
Enjoy the buzz of the shop knowing you are also contributing to your business class fund.
To collect AVIOS, simply go to the AVIOS e-store, (this video provides an overview) and click through to the shop you wish to buy from. From there, you will be redirected to the relevant website, and AVIOS will be credited to your AVIOS account within 35 days of purchase.
You can view the AVIOS which will be credited by clicking the shopping history tab (highlighted in orange below) from your AVIOS account.
Tip #6 – Sign up for E-Rewards
E-rewards is a market research company that rewards you for completing surveys, that earn you opinion points. They can then be converted into AVIOS.
Once you sign up, and complete your first survey, you will collect 750 bonus AVIOS.
You will then receive emails inviting you to take part in further surveys. Once you have earned 1,200 opinion points, you can convert them into AVIOS. Conversion rates range from between 250 and 2,000 AVIOS for 1,200 to 6,500 opinion points.
That’s the good news!
The bad news is that it takes a lot of surveys to accumulate 1,200 opinion points, never mind 6,500! That means lots of time spent completing surveys.
In addition, E-Rewards often pre-qualify the participants by asking several questions, only then to announce that you don’t qualify for that survey. I found this incredibly annoying, and have all but abandoned this collection mode. Maybe, if hell freezes over, I run out of books to read, TV to watch and things to do, I might give in to a request to complete a survey but it’s unlikely.
That said, the welcome bonus alone makes it worth signing up.
Tip #7 – Sign up for Rewards For Thoughts
This works on the same basis as e-Rewards.
You earn 600 AVIOS for registering and completing your first survey. Each further survey completed will bank you another 25 or 50 Avios depending on the length of the survey.
Tip #8 – Switch your Energy to Utility Warehouse
Earn up to 2,250 AVIOS for switching your energy to Utility Warehouse.
Now that’s quite an incentive, but please do your research before taking advantage of the offer. If you switch, and your energy is more expensive, than you are indirectly paying for your AVIOS.
You will earn between 1,000 and 2,000 AVIOS for signing up, plus an annual bonus of between 1,000 and 2,000 AVIOS. Loyalty pays!
Tip #9 – Or switch to EON instead.
Eon allow you to convert your reward points to Tesco Clubcard points (minimum conversion of 500 points) up to a maximum of 1,500 per year.
You can then convert your Tesco ClubCard points into AVIOS. See #Tip 10 for more details.
Tip #10 – Convert your Tesco Clubcard vouchers to AVIOS
You earn 1 Clubcard Point for every £1 spent in store, online, at Tesco Direct, and Tesco Mobile. For fuel purchases you earn 1 point for every £2 spent.
£250 of spend earns you a £2.50 voucher that converts into 600 AVIOS, and if you pay using your credit card, you will earn at least another 250 AVIOS.
You can automate the conversion by logging into your ClubCard Account and changing the preferences.
Tip #11 – Sign up for hotel reward schemes and sleep your way around the globe!
Many hotels offer loyalty programmes which reward guests with points. Those points can then be converted into AVIOS.
The British Airways site provides details of the conversion rates.
Tip #12 – Use your membership number
If you book flights with British Airways, or a OneWorld airline partner, don’t forget to pop in your Executive Club membership number. Points for the flights will then be credited to your British Airways Executive account after your flight.
Just in case, keep hold of your boarding pass with your E-ticket number printed on it. You will need this number if you need to make a claim for a missing flight.
You can now also earn AVIOS for Flybe bookings via the AVIOS website.
Tip #13 – Join the Shell Drivers Club
Don’t worry – this doesn’t involve you going to motor school!
Pick up a Shell Driver’s Club card from a Shell garage, register it online and select AVIOS as your redemption option. AVIOS will be automatically credited each quarter, at a rate of 10 AVIOS for every 20 litres of fuel.
You will also earn 50 bonus Avios when you register your Shell Drivers’ Club.
Tip #14 – American Express Currency Exchange
Earn AVIOS for every £1 of currency exchanged on orders between £150 and £2,500.
To order, go to American Express Travel Money and be sure to enter your Executive Club membership number!
Tip #15 – Holiday Bookings
As if you don’t need any more temptation, how about booking an holiday through the AVIOS store?
You can purchase holidays with a number of companies, including Thomson, Thomas Cook, and Hoseasons, simply by clicking through to the relevant website from the AVIOS E-store. Some bookings earn you AVIOS per £1, whilst others simply pay a set amount per booking.
For an even wider range of holiday companies to choose from, such as Kuoni and Neilson, you can ring the AVIOS line to make a booking, and earn a higher AVIOS earnings rate.
BEWARE however that this might be a blessing in disguise. I priced up a holiday on the Thomson site recently, and then rang the AVIOS call centre, hoping to book the same trip and bag over 2,000 AVIOS in the process.
I was pretty disappointed to discover that the price was almost £100 more if I booked through the AVIOS call centre. I was cheerfully informed, that I could use my existing AVIOS balance to reduce the cost to the same price as that quoted on the Thomson website. She didn’t seem to quite understand that my goal was to increase my AVIOS balance, not reduce it!
Instead, I booked by clicking through from the AVIOS store, and settled for 500 AVIOS. Not massively exciting but better than nothing.
You can also purchase holidays through the British Airways store, and earn extra AVIOS. For every £1 you spend on holidays, you will earn 2 bonus AVIOS, on top of the AVIOS you’ll collect for any flights, hotels and car rental.
Tip #16 – Ditch the car and take the train
Traingenius bookings, via the AVIOS store, earn 2 AVIOS per £1 spend. I regularly travel into London for work, and this tip alone has earned me thousands of AVIOS in 2015.
Admittedly, train travel in the UK is not cheap, but if you are flexible on times it can work out reasonable. An average ticket between Sheffield and London is around £180 travelling at peak times. If I travel on the 10.16AM and return before 3.30PM, I can get the same tickets for around £70.
For those travelling between London and Heathrow, the Heathrow Express offers another way to earn. It takes just 15 minutes from Heathrow to central London, and you collect 100 Avios per standard one-way journey, and 200 Avios for first class.
Admittedly, it is more expensive than taking the tube, but you will rarely struggle for a seat, don’t have to carry your bags up and down countless flights of stairs, and it isn’t as mind-numbingly boring as watching endless black tunnels fly by!
Don’t forget to enter your membership number when you buy your tickets on the dedicated Heathrow Express website.
Also BEWARE, you cannot collect AVIOS on tickets purchased on the train, at the airport or via any other website.
Tip #17 – Car Hire
Booking via the AVIOS, or British Airways sites, you can collect three AVIOS for every £1 spent with AVIS car hire
You earn at least 500 AVIOS for rentals of one to two days, or 700 Avios for three days or more. If you rent with Avis more than four times annually, you earn a bonus 750 AVIOS.
Pay with your British Airways credit card and you get another 250 Avios, plus the AVIOS you earn for using the card.
A booking for five days costing £150, made using a British Airways Credit card, would thus earn you 700 plus 250 plus 150 for the credit card. 900 total AVIOS for the booking, a rate of 6 AVIOS per £1.
If you book car rental with flights, as part of a British Airways holiday package, you will earn 2 bonus AVIOS for every £1 spent on holidays. See #Tip 15.
British Airways also offer AVIOS on bookings of Zipcar. You will earn 1,000 Avios when you first sign up for membership and 50 Avios for every reservation thereafter.
Tip #18 – Airport Parking
So you’ve booked a trip and are heading off to the airport all excited. Your fuel, flights, car hire, and hotels are all earning you AVIOS but what about your airport parking?
Why not earn 5 Avios per £1 spent, when you book parking through Holiday Extras.
You can also combine an airport hotel stay with parking, and earn on the lot. This is a great way to overcome the inconvenience of those early morning flights. Simply stay over the night before, and arrive at the airport refreshed.
It often works out incredible value too. We (myself and Mr S) have done this a number of times and found that the parking costs are minimal when combined with the hotel booking.
Maybe you don’t need a hotel the night before, but what if you are landing late at night and are in a rush to get home. How about purchasing valet parking at London Heathrow?
You collect up to 250 Avios when you pre-book valet parking, and your car will be waiting outside arrivals for you. VIPS in training can’t be waiting for a transfer bus back to the car park!!
At all other UK airports, you collect 5 Avios per £1 when you pre-book meet and greet parking.
Tip #19 – Drink wine! (Don’t those grapes count as one of your 5 a day?!)
Visit Laithwaites wine, via the AVIOS store, to sign up. You will collect 250 AVIOS for every 12 bottle case ordered.
You also get a bonus 1,000 AVIOS on your first order, as if you didn’t need a better reason to crack open a bottle!
Tip #20 – Pretend you are a VIP in a No. 1 Traveller Lounge
Get your trip off to a great start with pre-booked lounge access for just £20, a discount of between £5 and £15 off the normal price.
Book online quoting your Avios membership number to collect 750 Avios, and you will also get to take advantage of fast-track security lane access at Gatwick, Birmingham and Edinburgh.
You can pay on the door, but the discount is only £5 and you will only collect 500 AVIOS.
Read more: 10 reasons to love airport lounges
Tip #21 – Hotels.com
By clicking from the AVIOS E-store, you can book hotels at Hotels.com and earn 4 AVIOS per £1 spent.
As an added bonus, Hotels.com offers a rewards programme giving you one free night for every ten stayed.
I have nothing but praise for this company, having had reason to complain on one of my recent trips. They took up my complaint, and when negotiating with the hotel proved futile, gave me a $20 voucher redeemable against future bookings. No quibbles!
Tip #22 – Download the AVIOS cash passport for Facebook
Children love getting a sticker on their reward charts and now it’s your chance!
Collect the AVIOS stickers and see your rewards add up.
This alone is not going to get you a business class seat to Hong Kong, but hey, it’s a bit of fun and its free.
Install the Facebook AVIOS app, and every time you share a new sticker, you will receive free AVIOS. Different stickers earn different rates, such as 120 AVIOS for sharing the App watch share, or 20 for the Flightfinder App.
Just don’t overdo it unless you want to lose your friends! Who will you take on your hard earned trips if that happens?!
Tip #23 – Airport shopping – sign up for Heathrow Rewards
If you still aren’t tired of all that shopping, you can collect AVIOS on shopping, eating, drinking, and parking at Heathrow using Heathrow Reward Points. You will earn one AVIOS for every £1 spent.
Join now to earn up to 600 Heathrow Reward points. You can then convert them into AVIOS in increments of 250.
Tip #24 – Sign up for updates from these sites
You won’t collect AVIOS for signing up, but Head For Points, Travel is Free, and Travel The Globe 4 Less (Anne’s blog!) are great sources of information for the latest AVIOS offers. By signing up for their updates you will never miss out!
Tip #25 – Get Usingmiles.com or another Miles Tracking App
Using Miles is an app which allows you to track all your airline and hotel miles in one place.
You can track points to prevent them expiring, and can easily identify when you have sufficient points to convert, if you are collecting hotel points.
Tip #26 – British Airways High Life Shop
More shopping, I hear you groan!!
The shopaholics amongst us are probably rejoicing at the extra justification we can give to our significant others for buying yet another ….(insert as appropriate).
‘That fabulous new necklace earned me five zillion AVIOS you know!’
Buy High Life Shop products on British Airways flights, or shop online and pre-order directly to your seat, and you will collect two Avios for every £1 you spend, rounded up the nearest pound.
Tip #27 – Another hotels earning opportunity with Kaligo
I recently bagged 2,346 AVIOS for a £197 hotel room booked through Kaligo. That’s an earnings rate of almost 12 per £1!
Kaligo do not always offer the best prices, so be sure to follow these tips before booking.
Tip #28 – Gorge on haute cuisine at Gordon Ramsay’s Restaurant at Heathrow Airport
Indulge yourself before takeoff at Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food in Heathrow’s Terminal 5. £30 a head gets you a two-course meal including complimentary alcoholic drink, free Wi-Fi, and unlimited soft drinks.
You will also earn 500 Avios, but don’t get carried away as you have a flight to catch!
Tip #29 – set up an AVIOS Household Account for other family members
Spread the AVIOS word, and encourage other members of your family (living at the same address only!) to sign up for an AVIOS account. You can then create an household account and encourage family members to follow these tips.
You may find you have to give them lots of gentle reminders to use the tips at first. However as Mr S will testify, once they have flown business once, they will be converted.
After all, who wants to sip Prosecco when champagne is on tap?
Tip #30 – British Airways Executive Club Household Account
This works on exactly the same principle as the AVIOS Household account, and can be set up from the British Airways site once you are logged in.
Travel hacking is a true team effort!
Tip #31 – Travel with an Executive Club Multi-Currency Cash Passport
Now you have all the other elements of your trip finalised, what about your spending money?
Personally I just withdraw money locally using my Santander debit card, but most banks charge you every time you withdraw money. These costs soon add up, and you won’t know your exchange rate until you check your statements.
This card allows you to lock in exchange rates, by loading the Card with foreign currency before you travel, so you know exactly what you are spending.
The Cash Passport holds up to seven global currencies, and can be topped up online, or anywhere in the world by phone or at a bank. For every £1 loaded onto the card (minimum £50 spend) you will collect one AVIOS.
Your card then acts like a debit card, allowing you to pay in local currency, or withdraw cash at ATMs.
If you are heading off on a multi-country trip, or RTW (you lucky people!), this could be an ideal solution.
Tip #32 – Business Traveller Magazine
For readers interested in business, you can subscribe to the Business Traveller Magazine and collect between 400 and 2,000 AVIOS.
Tip #33 – Accelerate your AVIOS Collection with RAC
Collect between 1,500 and 4,500 AVIOS depending on the personal RAC plan selected. The offer only applies to new members, but even if you don’t want the AVIOS, I would urge you to have some sort of cover in place.
I was once narrowly saved from missing a long haul flight, after running out of petrol and being rescued by the RAC. The incumbent driver was sent on his way shortly after too!! Totally embarrassing!
Tip #34 – Make your designer brands more rewarding
Executive Club Members can collect five Avios for every £4 or €4 spent in any one of the nine Chic Outlet Shopping Villages in Europe.
Just present your Executive Club card, and shopping receipts at the Village Welcome Centre, or Tourist Information Centre on the day of your visit, to collect your Avios.
Alternatively, you can email your full name, contact details, Executive Club account number and scanned copies of shopping receipts to: [email protected] to have Avios Points added after your visit.
BEWARE no shopping receipts = no AVIOS.
Tip #35 – Let Gate 365 be your Gateway to more AVIOS
Gate 365 is the equivalent of the AVIOS store for British Airways. It works on the same basis, meaning that you simply find the shop you want to purchase from, and click through from the British Airways website.
You will collect up to 12 AVIOS for every £1 spent at more than 150 online retailers.
Some companies feature on both the Avios Store and on Gate 365, but not all, so be sure to check both if one doesn’t have the store you seek.
Tip #36 – Rubis Fuel
If you live in Jersey or Guernsey, or are simply enjoying a break there, then apply for a RUBIS fuel card.
Swipe when you buy and earn 40 Avios for every 25 litres of fuel.
Tip #37 – Property Management
If you sell, or let your property through Chestertons, and give them your Avios membership number, you can now collect 1 Avios for every £1 spent on fees (exc VAT).
Another excuse to go travelling maybe?
Tip #38 – AVIOS Special Offers
Watch out for special offers on the AVIOS site which can be very generous.
Here are some recent examples!
1. 2,000 bonus AVIOS with Marriott on European weekend stays until 13 September 2015.
2. Triple AVIOS on bookings of Small Luxury Hotels, between 9 April and 30th September. That’s 1,500 AVIOS earned.
Using all these tips I have accumulated 83,899 AVIOS since the beginning of the year! That does not include the AVIOS my husband is accruing, nor points yet to be added, so in total we have gained well over 100,000 AVIOS in 2015.
Surely you don’t need any more inspiration to get collecting. You can eat, drink, fly and sleep your way around the world in your quest to accumulate enough points to fly business class.
More importantly, you do not have to spend a penny more than you would have done. You simply need to change some of your spending habits to make your spending work for you!
So what are you waiting for? You’re online so start now….
HEALTH WARNING: Implementing these tips can be bad for your mental health. Once you have flown business once, going back to economy is like a Shakespearean tragedy.
Once you know what you are missing, that seat pitch seems just a little less generous, the screaming children a little louder, the food a little more cardboard like. You will just have to keep earning those AVIOS, so you never have to fly economy again…
In any case, you made it to the end of the post, so you are clearly committed and I’m confident you are going to be an awesome Travel Hacker!
Pin this image and save these epic travel hacking tips for later!
Now what dream destination were you thinking of? Cage diving with great whites in South Africa, snorkelling with turtles in Barbados or a weekend of shopping indulgence in the Big Apple?