We’ve spent a great deal of time researching and testing ways to get the best airfares to enable us to travel as much as we do, and we’d like to pass on some of our tips for seeking out these cheaper fares, as well as other ways to save on flights.
Have you ever taken a ‘free’ flight? When we say free, we mean excluding the taxes as you still have to pay the taxes when paying with miles, but it is still a significant saving and it feels great! In recent years the value of airline loyalty schemes has diminished but there is still reason to collect points.
You can sign up for an airline rewards credit card that earns points with a particular airline. For years we have been members of the BA Amex scheme. We collect the companion voucher and this has allowed us to travel to South Africa as a family of 4 for £900 which would have cost over £4000. We put all of our household spend on it (and pay it off each month as the interest rates are very high) – and make sure we meet the annual spend (£10,000 for a premium card or £20,000 for a blue card). You collect miles faster with the premium card and the spending threshold to get the companion voucher is lower, but there is a £195 a year annual fee. This is more than covered by the savings you make so we think it is worth it. I
There are also more general travel reward cards that let you redeem points across a variety of airlines. We recommend using your card for everyday purchases, and to treat it like cash and paying your balance off each month. That way, you won’t be charged interest, and you’ll effectively get your points for free! The best card around at the moment seems to be the SPG Amex card which is linked to Starwood Hotels (Marriot, Westin etc) – but can also be exchanged for airmiles. The rate is 3 points to 1 mile so it is not the best deal around, but you can quite easily collect a lot of points with bonus sign up points of 30,000 (when you reach a certain spend within the first 3 months – currently £1,000) and 9,000 for referrals. We have decided to use our points this year for a 3-night stay in a Westin in Vancouver. Vancouver is an expensive city for accommodation, and this hotel would have cost over £300 a night, but with 35,000 a night, you pay just £40 in taxes.
We collect Tesco Clubcard points as we have a mortgage with Tesco, a credit card, fill up the car at Esso stations, and do our grocery shopping at Tesco. This all adds up and you can convert the vouchers to BA miles. For every £2.50 of clubcard vouchers you exchange, you get 600 BA miles. We also exchange our vouchers for cross channel ferries as £10 in vouchers gets £30 towards the ferry, which is a great saving.
We use Topcashback and Quidco which give you a % off travel booked. They usually only ever offer around 1% for flight bookings, but every little helps as Tesco claims! You can, however, get great deals on hotel bookings, particularly with companies like Expedia and Booking.com, offering up to 12% cashback. Ebookers also have the Bonus+ reward scheme that allows you to earn 1% cashback to redeem on a hotel booking. Some airlines themselves offer great cashback deals, such as Emirates, who were offering 6% when we booked with them via Topcashback. You must make sure you click through Topcashback or Quidco to the site you are going to purchase your flight from though, otherwise the cashback won’t track.