I have mentioned in previous articles about how we utilise our daily spending to earn frequent flyer miles such as Avios.
This has enabled us to travel the world and being able to fly with the kids in upgraded cabins such as premium economy and business class long haul.
I have been earning miles for nearly 15 years, well before I started writing this travel blog.
We started out with Tesco Clubcard points which my husband and I used to have a discounted holiday to San Francisco and Las Vegas using our clubcard points against Virgin Holidays.
Whilst these great perks of using Tesco Clubcard for cheaper holidays have since disappeared, you can still use them toward topping up your frequent flyer miles or towards hotel stays with hotels.com
These days selected credit cards are a major part of our points earning strategy to help us travel the world smarter.
Many of you will be using a credit card that offers little or no rewards for your spend, typically many people use the one offered with your bank.
Many of my friends and colleagues have been asking for a guide like this as they feel overwhelmed on where to start.
With busy lives it can be difficult to scour the market and learn how to become a full time miles and points enthusiast collector.
The good news is you don’t have to be, it’s what I call learning to spend smarter and get rewarded for things that you are buying anyway.
However one important editorial note: Credit cards can get people into financial trouble. The benefits of using these cards are if you are the type of consumer who pay off the balances in full each month, otherwise the interest and charges will far exceed any benefits offered from using these cards. But if you are a responsible user of credit cards and want to get rewarded for everyday spending then these cards are what we would look into.
The AMEX Gold card is a great card to begin with in the travel rewards world. This is the card I started with so I can recommend it from experience.
This card earns you 20,000 Amex membership points when you spend £2,000 within three months or 22,000 points if we refer you (email me at lauren at youneedtovisit.co.uk if you need a referral), plus you earn 1 point for every £1 spent on the card.
These points are what we use for travel – we convert these points into everything from hotel points for luxury hotels to airmiles for a wide range of airlines including BA, Etihad, Virgin and Emirates – the flexibility of the card is one of its major benefits.
The card comes with other benefits such as airport executive lounge access for 2 visits per year and AMEX rewards.
The AMEX rewards are really good and change regularly but we have used these to get savings on everything from our supermarket shopping to buying a coffee.
It doesn’t have an annual fee for the first year which is all you would need the card for and you can cancel the card at any time. The second year fee is £140
Best Features: Highly flexible card with very generous sign up bonus
Who it’s Best For: Families who are looking to get their first reward travel credit card that offers a wide range of flexible benefits.
What to Watch Our For: Annual fee £140; waived first year
Our favourite card at the moment is the American Express Platinum card, especially if you are frequent travellers and want to unlock the benefits of luxury travel perks – it’s the bigger brother of the Amex Gold card.
When you spend £2,000 in three months you earn 30,000 Amex membership points, or you can earn an extra 5,000 points if we refer you.
So what can you get from your 35,000 points? We have used these in the past toward flight upgrades with British Airways allowing us to travel premium economy and business class with the children and toward the cost of flights to Portugal with Flybe. This is because the 35,000 points are worth 35,000 Avios or 35,000 Virgin Flying Club miles.
The Amex membership points can also be converted into hotel points, so for example your 35,000 Amex points could be converted into 70,000 Hilton points which can be more than enough for a 2 night stay at a Hilton hotel.
But the major benefits the card offers us as frequent travellers are the elite hotel statuses that come with holding the card, which have more than paid for its quite hefty £450 annual fee. You get Marriott Gold, Radisson Gold, Hilton Gold, Melia Gold and Shangri-La Jade and the range of benefits it offers such as upgraded rooms, free breakfast at Hilton, late checkout etc.
Eurostar lounge access and two Priority Pass cards for airport lounge access which will cover 2 adults and 2 children are also included along with Amex fine and country booking offering luxury hotels with bonuses.
Worldwide travel insurance for the family is also included with the card. We found that an equivalent policy to buy would cost £100+ so it’s a nice benefit of having the card.
You can cancel the card when you have hit your spend to claim your 35,000 and claim a pro-rata refund of your £450 annual fee.
Best Features: Highly flexible card with lucrative sign up bonus, worldwide travel insurance, elite hotel status, airport lounge access
Who it’s Best For: Families who are frequent travellers especially international travellers and enjoy airport lounge access and who will benefit from the instant elite hotel status offered.
What to Watch Our For: Annual fee £450
For airline credit cards this is one of our favourites as we typically fly with BA. You get a sign up bonus of 25,000 Avios points when you spend £3,000 within 3 months – plus if we refer you the bonus rises to 26,000 Avios because you are being referred by an existing card holder.
The reason why we like this card is along with the bonus Avios you get a free companion voucher valid for 2 years when you spend £10,000 each year.
We used this benefit when we flew to San Diego last Easter. Cash rates for flights for 2 adults and 2 children to San Diego were £4000+, however there was Avios seat availability on the flight. This would have cost us 200,000 Avios – more than the points we had available. However because we had 2 companion vouchers we were able to get the flights for 100,000 Avios + taxes and saved us over £3,000 toward our flights.
Best Features: 2 for 1 companion voucher entitling you to book two Avios redemption flights for the miles of one.
Who it’s Best For: Families who fly with British Airways.
What to Watch Our For: Annual fee £195
The alternative to the British Airways American Express Premium Plus is the offering from Virgin Atlantic. You get a sign up bonus of 15,000 Virgin Atlantic flying club points after your first purchase within 90 days of card opening.
The card offers similar benefits to the BA card such as a free 2-4-1 voucher for a miles redemption when you spend 10,000 each year – the main difference between this and the BA card is that you can only use this 2-4-1 voucher in economy class unless you are a Premium or Silver member, which the majority of families won’t be. You can however use the voucher for an ‘Economy to Premium’ upgrade voucher for a miles ticket.
Best Features: 2 for 1 voucher entitling you to book redemption flights for the miles of one .
Who it’s Best For: Families who fly with Virgin Atlantic.
What to Watch Our For: Annual fee £160
Last but not least is the Tesco Clubcard Mastercard. This card offers a range of benefits for families in the Clubcard rewards that are earned from spending on the card. This card is not as good as it once was but you still earn 1 clubcard point for every £8 spent (or 1 clubcard point for every £4 spent on the premium card) and spend in Tesco stores will earn double points. We use these benefits a lot to convert the Clubcard reward points earned. You get up to 3x your Clubcard voucher value to use for your next trip, a family day out, a meal, towards the cost of a hotel stay at hotels.com or converting them into Avios to top up airmiles when required.
Best Features: Earning Clubcard points quicker to use toward Clubcard rewards
Who it’s Best For: Families who shop at Tesco and use the Tesco Clubcard rewards
What to Watch Our For: No sign up bonus on the free card but you get 5,000 bonus points when you have spent £5,000 on the premium credit card but this comes with an annual fee of £36
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