Welcome to #Travel Hack Thursday, a regular feature, aiming to demonstrate that you don’t need to be rich, or constantly circumnavigating the globe, to earn airmiles like an expert.
If you want to know more about the feature, hop over to Introducing Travel Hack Thursday for the lowdown. Today’s featured expert is Craig, an IT consultant from Durham. Craig is married with a four year old daughter and has been travel hacking for a few years now but he sure knows his stuff!
Introducing Expert Travel Hacker Craig
One of the great things about travel blogging is the regular conversations you engage in with people from around the globe who share your passion for travel. So it is that Craig and I got chatting about the nuances of travel hacking, the best deals for hotels and airlines and where we were heading next.
It was quickly apparent that Craig is no newbie to this game and before you knew it, I was signed up for a Curve card (if you use this link to sign up, you get a £10 credit and so do I for referring you! Win, win!) and we were trading promises for referrals on credit cards. Craig is not a newcomer to the churn and burn game.
Here is Craig enjoying the high life with his wife in First class! I like their style…straight on the champers!
So let’s get on and pick Craig’s brains because he has a ton of tips to share with us.
Are you rich?
Does it count if I am loyalty point rich? I Currently have circa 600,ooo points which is derived from a mixture of IHG*, SPG, Hilton* and British Airways* Avios points. If you meant cash rich then definitely not sorry. I’m just a middle class family man!
How did you discover travel hacking?
When we were in Las Vegas a few years back I saw a lot of people paying for things using their American Express cards* and I’d never heard of them before. As soon as I got home the research started and I never looked back. I just wish I had known about it beforehand.
Anne: I hear your pain, if I think about how many business class flights I must have missed out on from my credit card spend, it really upsets me. My British Airways credit card has made a world of difference and I only found out about it because of my colleague Jeff!
Where did you go on your first long haul trip using rewards, and how many points did you use?
My wife and I flew first class with British Airways* to Chicago and it cost me 240,000 BA miles. Yes I burnt a lot of points but it was worth it (except paying APD). Anne: What a great city too. I just hope you used all those hotel rewards for some free hotel nights.
How long did it take you to accumulate the points, and using what methods?
Believe it or not very little of my points actually come from flights and hotel spend. Hotel loyalty credit cards, American Express Gold* and Platinum cards and converting club card points to frequent flyer points are where I earn the majority of my points.
It took me two years to get the 240,000 points. Anne: I am really hoping we can help you speed up that process during our #TTG4L 90 Day Challenge although I know you are already something of an expert so the pressure is definitely on for me and Jackie.
Your top tips for others wishing to do the same?
The first thing to say is please don’t redeem avios points for Club Europe British Airways* flights…really not worth it….I’ve made that mistake before. Anne: I could not agree more although I did have a little difference of opinion on this subject with Adventurous Kate. See for yourself whether long or short-haul is better.
The best place to start is with Amex Gold.* If you spend £2,000 within two months you gain 22,000 Amex points providing you are referred. (Anne: This link is a referral link earning you an extra 2,000 points than if you go directly to the AMEX site) which can be converted to airline miles, hotel points and much more. The card is free for the first year and you also get two complimentary airport lounge access passes each year.
Be patient – it’s not going to take 6 months to earn 240,000 BA miles but isn’t it worth saving up points for two years to experience possibly one of the best experiences of your life? My four year old will be experiencing her first BA First Class flight in a few months.
Anne: Wow that flat bed is going to seem enormous for her! Lastly, as I know you have a lot of experience with hotel rewards, let’s get some of your insight into these programs.
Which is your preferred hotel rewards program and why?
My preferred hotel reward program has to be SPG and here’s why:
- You can share points between people at the same address for free
- You can redeem points for private dining sessions with celebrity chefs, big concerts in London, New York and baseball or football games among other things.
- They have some very generous new member deals. My first deal was to stay one night and earn one night free. I booked their cheapest property in the UK, which is Aloft Liverpool at £69 and redeemed my free night at Sheraton Edinburgh which goes for £250 per night at the weekends. Anne: Craig, you and your wife are after my heart. I LOVE this hotel. That rooftop spa is incredible and the facilities are amazing. I so need to head back to Edinburgh to stay there!
- Every 20,000 SPG points you earn can be converted to 25,000 airline miles which is a lovely little bonus. (Anne: this one is definitely going to be my next card once I have satisfied my latest round of AMEX Gold spending).
So there you have it. Craig clearly knows his stuff and has even given me a few ideas for developing my site. Now that is a result!
He had suggested a dedicated credit card section and only last week I was asked for a dedicated hotels section so I will be working on those over the remainder of the year.
What about you?
Is there anything you would like to see in addition? I’d love to know or maybe you have some questions for Craig. Just pop them in the box below and and we will do our best.
This post may contain affiliate links which pay me a small commission should you click on them and make a purchase. These help towards the cost of running the site, and the occasional glass of wine, but you are under no obligation to use them.