For years now I’ve been waxing lyrical to my friends Michala and John about the benefits of using credit cards to earn air miles. I use these air miles to fly business class for less than economy. I’ve been trying to convince them to get onboard so we can fly in style together. We take an annual trip overseas together with our partners and are planning a big trip to Vegas to celebrate a ‘special birthday’ in a few years. Until now, Michala has refused point blank to get involved, finding travel hacking uK style simply too much hassle.
No more economy
The straw that broke the camel’s back however, was our trip to South Africa earlier this year. It was a long flight via Qatar from Manchester and we flew economy. By the time I arrived, I was seriously grumpy and vowed never to fly long haul economy again. Warning: once you make the transition to business you will never want to go back, so don’t start this unless you are prepared for a long term commitment. This is no one night stand!
Travel hacking UK SOS
I gave Michala an ultimatum, saying she either needed to start collecting points, or suffer in economy whilst Jason and I enjoy the high life upfront. Until now, she’s always insisted she would simply pay for business class flights, but being a tight Yorkshire lass, I wasn’t quite prepared to give up on her. Ultimately, I had to entice her with the promise of guiding her step by step through the process, so it didn’t seem too arduous. Thank god, she finally agreed to give it a go.
I agreed to give her bite sized chunks and here’s the results.
In three months, Michala and her partner John have earned 121,000 avios. That’s soon to increase by another 24,000 Avios, giving them enough for business class flights to Europe and beyond. You may not realise how spectacular a win that is if you are new to this game but trust me, it will take you a long time to earn those miles by flying, unless you regularly travel long haul.
Phew, at least I don’t need to abandon my buddies now when I waltz into Business or First class for our trip to Vegas!
But what has that got to do with Monica from The Travelhack?
As a member of Monica’s Blogger Course (seriously, if you are thinking of starting a blog, you need to sign up. It is one of the best £125 investments you will ever make!) I was recently fortunate enough to be whisked off to Brussels with WowTrip for a mystery weekend. (Find out how that trip turned out here as I rediscovered my inner party animal.)
What Will You Get Up To On A Fascinating Brussels Beer Tour?
During the weekend, Monica and I got talking about what prevents her from travel hacking despite being an incredibly savvy traveller. It was a familiar story….it is too complicated, doesn’t seem that worthwhile, redemptions are a challenge etc.
I mentioned what I had been doing with Michala, and before you know it we were excitedly, planning a twelve month travel hacking challenge for beginners. You can read more about Monica’s reasons for not travel hacking here, but let me tell you, I am on a mission to demonstrate to her and every one of the cynics out there, that travel hacking in the UK is possible.
UK Travel hacking objections
Here’s a summary of why Monica has never got into travel hacking, and my response to each of her objections.
It is too complex
Yes it can be complex, but follow these step by step guides and it doesn’t need to be.
It isn’t as easy or as worthwhile as in the States
UK travel hacking is definitely not as easy as in the States, but that doesn’t mean it cannot pay dividends. I have saved thousands on flights to Canada, Korea, China, Monaco and more.
It is too much hassle
I am not going to deny that it takes effort. Following our step by step guides will help you, but you will have to make some changes. If you want to fly business class for less than the cost of economy class tickets, surely that is worthwhile?
I can’t redeem on budget arlines
True, you can’t, but the real benefit in UK travel hacking is in being able to fly long haul in business. That is how you get the most bang for your buck.
If you want to fly budget airlines 100% of the time, travel hacking is not for you. However, if you plan to take long haul trips and would prefer to travel in style, it absolutely is.
Flying economy isn’t that bad
True, some economy class cabins are pretty damned impressive. But how would you feel if you discover that for the same price (or even les, gasp?) as your economy ticket, someone else was flying business. Why wouldn’t you fly business class if it cost you the same or less?
I would not feel comfortable taking kids in business
Maybe travel hacking is something you do for special occasions. Perhaps a romantic weekend away with your partner, or a 30th birthday or honeymoon. Perhaps leave the kids with the grand-parents, or do as Kirsty from ‘Location Location’ does and put your kids in economy while you enjoy the high life. (Obviously this does not work with babies!! Cripes, don’t get arrested for abandoning your children!)
I don’t spend enough
This one is a big one and I am going to come back to this. If you cannot spend £1,000 on credit cards, you are absolutely right…travel hacking is not for you. Before you discount it outright though, we will look at how you might be able to make some changes to your spending to be able to achieve that spending requirement.
I don’t fly enough
This is my personal favourite. Whenever I say I fly business class using airmiles, people wave their hands at me dismissively saying ‘I don’t fly enough to do that‘. Luckily for them, they don’t need to! Less than 5% of my airmiles each year come from flying. This is the biggest myth of the lot!!
How much can you spend?
So, let’s get stuck in. As Monica says in her post, my general rule of thumb is that if you can spend £1,000 a month between you and your partner, then you are able to travel hack.
Why is this a magic number?
Well, to really kickstart your airmiles balance, you will need to satisfy minimum spend requirements on a credit card. Typically, this averages at £1,000 a month.
This ready reckoner allows you to determine how much you might reasonably be able to spend. Check your bank statements and any existing credit card statements and pop your numbers into the relevant boxes. The sheet will give you a total estimated spend, allowing you to quickly determine whether this is realistic for you. I have already put in some example numbers, but you can type over these.
Targeting minimum spend
Here’s some of the spend you might not currently put on cards, but could do in order to achieve the minimum spend:
- A few drinks at your local pub costing £15. Maybe you currently pay cash, but these days most places accept credit cards. If they accept cards, pay by card.
- Your morning Starbucks or Costa Coffee. It may only be £3 a cup, but if you indulge on a daily basis, that is over £1,000 a year.
- Your household food shop
- Parking. Many town centre parking machines now accept credit cards. In fact only today I paid £1.50 on my card to pay to park in Harrogate. These small numbers all add up!
- Your lunch – maybe you take a packed lunch to work, but if you simply aren’t a domestic goddess (or God), buy lunch daily on your card.
- Household bills – now, my advice here is to always check which bills will allow you to pay by card. Sadly many insist on payment by direct debit or debit card, however things like iTunes Music, Kindle Unlimited, software services and other more modern monthly subscriptions will almost certainly allow you to pay with a credit card.
- If you buy goods online and find your chosen shop will not accept American Express, elect Paypal payment if this is an option and add your AMEX to your Paypal account.
So, what you waiting for? Fill out the ready reckoner and see how much you really spend. You may be surprised!
So, is the travel hacking UK challenge for you?
If you can answer yes to any of these questions, then it absolutely is.
- Can you spend more than £1,000 a month on credit cards?
- Would you like to be able to fly business class, but are unwilling to pay for it?
- Do you have a good credit rating?
- Are you willing to make some changes to the way you spend if it means you can travel in style?
- Are you willing to spend more on credit cards, especially if we give you tips to ensure
you don’t get into financial difficulty?
Note, this is not an excuse to go mad – it’s all about diverting existing spending onto cards and ensuring you pay the bill in full each month.
If you can answer yes to any of these questions, sign up for regular updates from Monica and I to ensure you don’t miss any of the upcoming posts in the series.
So here’s your first baby steps into the travel hacking UK challenge, and more luxurious travel.
Your first travel hacking UK challenges
- Work out if you can satisfy the minimum spend of £1,000 per month.
- Sign up for my newsletter and Monica’s. That way, you will receive all my tips and see how Monica is getting on with the challenge. You can jump in and join her on the challenge at any time.
- Don’t miss next month’s post which considers which card you should start with. If you really cannot wait to find out, sign up for the AMEX Gold Card (use this referral link to bag an extra 2,000 referral points). I will explain why this is a great place to start next time, but if you decide to jump in now, please read the details of minimum spend when you click through.
Have your say
Feel free to ask any other burning questions you may have below and keep us posted on how you are getting on with the challenge. Happy travel hacking!
You’re indeed a great teacher, Anne. I’ve never considered acquiring miles but it’s obviously a great thing to do. Plus, no matter how difficult it gets, it always rewarding at the end!
Completely agree I really didn’t want to do it because of the hassle and not truly understanding what I was doing, but with your guidance we are already seeing the results 😄
And we’ve already got your first business class flights booked! Croatia here we come
I am interested in how your year goes. I did this last year and have over 120,000 air miles from then. But now I do not spend the £1000 a month, most of my travel is from Stansted and budget airlines. Will be reading and following how you get on !
That’s a pretty damn good amount you’ve built up. Well done. Maybe next time you go to China you could focus on going first. I’m so excited for our trip in a few weeks when that’s wha5 we are doing.
Maybe but so many other places I would to travel health permitting first !
That’s the problem isn’t it. There’s so many amazing places that I’d like to go back and explore but there’s always other places tugging at my heart strings. Just please don’t let those points expire..
Acquiring miles is not so much an issue indeed if you are systematic about it. But being able to spend them is near impossible as there are so very few business tickets available during school holidays if you have a family. I’ll be really interested in that part of the challenge. Hope you have great tips on that.
My best tip on redemptions for now is forward thinking and flexibility. Each flight may only have two reward flights so travelling with a family is always going to be a challenge. I recently discovered this when I was trying to find flights with Michala and John for next summer. I managed it but 1) we ended up going to Croatia rather than Greece which was our original plan and 2) I booked those flights problem the full 355 days in advance. For school holidays you will almost certainly need to be booking flights as soon as they are available, especially if you are heading to traditional summer holiday destinations. Will cover this in more detail later in the challenge though.