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I know that I’ve been banging on a bit lately about loyalty programmes outside of the UK mainstream – for example when I looked at a bunch of different reward charts. But with British Airways seemingly in a race to the bottom, all the while smugly assuming that people love their Avios enough to keep flying BA, I find myself frequently looking for better alternatives. But whilst I see fantastic travel hacking opportunities in programmes such as Alaska’s or ANA’s, I know that readers might be thinking “nice to know, but how can I earn those miles?” This post is intended for those InsideFlyer UK readers willing to advance beyond Avios and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club…
Tip 1: Starwood Preferred Guest
I know that Starwood Preferred Guest is possibly doomed, thanks to the corporate takeover by Marriott, but for now it is still going strong. As many readers should be aware, you can convert 20,000 Starpoints into 25,000 miles with a large number of airlines.
How to accumulate Starpoints? Simple…
1. The American Express SPG Credit Card. At the time of writing, a 10,000 Starpoints welcome bonus and 1 point per £ (2 at SPG/Marriott hotels) were on offer, along with cashback through Topcashback…
2. Best Rate Guarantees. Read this post for details. For a one-night stay, 2,000 Starpoints beats ANY bonus-point promotion offered by competing hotel chains.
3. Buy them. Every once in awhile SPG discounts them. Read about the current offer here.
It is practically impossible to overstate the amazing value from accumulating Starpoints, and only converting them to airline miles when you are topping up for a reward, particularly with an airline that charges far fewer miles and surcharges than BA/Virgin.
Tip 2: American Express Gold Charge Card
I promise you that I’m not selling credit cards… But American Express Membership Rewards points convert into a wide number of airline miles. You can find the list for the UK here. But please ignore the European airlines (except possibly during transfer bonuses) and put some thought into AsiaMiles, Singapore Krisflyer or even Emirates Skywards.
It’s potentially even a good idea to convert MR points into Starpoints. Although the 2:1 ratio doesn’t look good on the surface, you would earn back that 25% mileage-conversion bonus from tip 1 and I do reckon that Starpoints are worth 2p each.
Tip 3: Marriott Rewards – Hotel + Air Packages
If you ever manage to accumulate 270,000 Marriott points (or 90,000 Starpoints), then you should be aware of the Travel Packages offered by Marriott Rewards. I have written about this previously (click here for details). In summary, though, you can earn 120,000 or 85,000 miles from a number of “exotic” frequent flyer programmes and get a seven-night hotel stay.
Hopefully you are thinking Alaska Airlines for 120,000 miles or ANA / Asiana / JAL for 85,000 miles, although in the latter case you’re probably better off with the plain vanilla Starpoint conversion of tip 1.
Tip 4: Hilton Honors Double Dip
Although the nuances can be confusing, Hilton Honors allows members to choose to earn “Points & Miles” or “Points & Points”. You can read a longer explanation here. You can also read Nick’s take on it here.
Hilton Honors frequently runs airline-specific promotions, where you can earn bonus airline miles; these will always stack with whatever promotions are running for Honors points, such as the current 2,000 point per night offer.
Since Hilton Honors also has a long list of airline partners, which you can find here, you can easily add to your balance of “exotic” miles by changing your Honors airline partner appropriate to a decent airline-specific promotion.
Tip 5: Car Rentals
Instead of mindlessly entering your Iberia Plus or Virgin Atlantic number into the appropriate field on your car rental reservation, you could easily enter one of those “exotic” programmes that you find much harder to earn miles with.
The miles probably won’t add up quickly, unless you rent lots of cars, but they will add up. You already know that it’s easy to earn Avios, so why not earn something else…
Limiting yourself to Avios and/or Virgin Atlantic miles is a natural reaction to the complexity of the miles and points hobby. But, by doing so, you are missing out on substantial value. So, the next time you see Joe or myself refer to an “exotic” frequent flyer programme with amazing sweet spots, I hope that you will refer back to this post and realise that it IS possible to accumulate enough miles…