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TIPS & Tricks to help you turn left

Written by Harry Shirt - 27/03/2024

Those who follow either myself, Jade, or even the Travelstylers accounts on social media would have seen that we have recently been sunning it up in Dubai with the family. Simply put, we had an amazing time. Those who did may also have seen that we flew to Dubai in Business Class with British Airways. Please do not assume that we have splashed our hard-earned cash on particular niceties like premium cabins or room upgrades…This is actually the reason I am writing this blog today, to let all of our friends, family, current clients, and future clients know how easy it actually is to ‘turn left’…

I always used to think that those who travelled in the more premium cabin classes like Business or First Class did so simply because they had big pockets – however, after years of research, trawling through forums, reading newsletters and watching plenty of YouTube videos, I would be confident in saying that most people who are enjoying themselves with champagne in the lie-flat beds haven’t paid the thousands we normally see priced for these seats (unless their companies have paid for them).

Many years ago, I joined the British Airways Executive Club. It’s completely free to do so, and you immediately become a Blue Member. You would then use this card membership to accrue Avios points - the One World reward currency which includes BA, American Airlines, Iberia, Aer Lingus, and Qatar (amongst others). Once you have enough, you can spend the Avios on rewards such as flights, upgrades, hotel stays, car hire, and more. To be honest, after many flights with BA over the years, I regrettably let slip a lot of Avios points. So three years ago, I was on a mission to build up my points tally as quickly as possible and hopefully earn the rewards from it.

There are various ways to do so, such as flying regularly with these airlines mentioned above, but the quickest way is by utilizing credit card sign-up bonuses. Companies such as American Express and Barclaycard are regularly offering hefty sign-up bonuses, simply by signing up for one of their credit cards. There’s a lot of them (click here for all Amex options), however, different cards have different T's and C's; some include one-off payments but the rewards usually outweigh the initial fees.

Firstly, I signed up for the American Express Membership Rewards Gold Card which gave me an initial sign-up bonus of 40k membership points, which I could convert to Avios (amongst other reward saving currencies like Marriot Bonvoy, Virgin, Krisflyer etc)– it was free to sign up and I would earn the points once I spent over £3,000 in the first 3 months. For this card, the first year is free, but every year after that costs £195. I then signed up for the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card, which does require a £250 annual fee. However, the Avios that I earned after spending £3,000 within the first 3 months was a whopping 50k Avios. So I had made 80k Avios already!

Spending £6,000 might seem a lot but it really doesn’t take long at all. You earn Avios on every pound you spend on these cards, so everything I would normally pay with a debit card, groceries, travel, etc., I put on the credit cards and paid off straight away. *The BA Premium Plus Card earns 1.5 Avios for every £ spent.

CLICK HERE - Sign up to the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card using this link to earn 26,000 Avios points

*Terms and conditions apply*

I then got my wife, Jade, to do the exact same. You can earn bonus Avios for inviting friends to sign up which I did for Jade. They too get a little extra on top of their sign-up Avios points, so everyone’s a winner…

With British Airways, you can set up a Household account (up to 4 members), and so you can add both sets of Avios points accrued into one account. This works really well for couples and families.

As I mentioned above, you can also earn Avios once you have flown with these airlines, so I added a few recent flights I took with BA. One other big tip I would suggest is, when purchasing anything online, double-check to see if you can earn any bonus Avios by buying through the British Airways Shopping Portal. In some instances, you can earn up to 10x the amount of Avios for every £ you spend. So if you need to buy something from John Lewis, Argos, or from hundreds of other retailers and stores, make sure to check out first if you can earn extra points by buying through the shopping portal.

Nectar points can also be converted into Avios – there are literally so many ways to build your Avios tally.

One of the best things about the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card is that after you spend £10,000 within a year, you automatically receive a “2-4-1” companion voucher. So when the time comes to bank your Avios points and earn a reward flight in Business Class (or First Class), you can actually get a second seat completely free; you only pay the taxes for both travellers. The further the destination, the more the Avios and taxes that are required; however, if you use it for a European flight, you would only be charged £1 for taxes (we have also done this for a flight to Cyprus later in the year).

So, to sum up our costs for our recent trip to Dubai, it cost myself 160k Avios for a return flight in Business class, plus an extra business class seat for Jade using the companion voucher. We still had to pay taxes, which were £350 per person, but for business class, that’s not bad at all. As our little Ziggy is still an infant, we could add him to Jade’s seat only for an extra 10% of Avios points and taxes.

A couple of things to mention when booking Reward Saver Flights; airlines like BA only offer 2 or 4 seats per flight for reward savers, so on routes where BA fly less, it might be hard to get these seats, as lots of other people will be looking to get them as well. They get released a full year in advance, so routes like the Maldives, Mauritius, and Japan get snapped up straight away. Routes like New York and Dubai have multiple flights per day so getting a reward saver flight is a lot easier, as we did in this instance.

Our outbound flight was on the giant A380 plane with our business class seats being upstairs in the older business-style product; however, with a newborn, this seat was actually perfect for us as we could pass Ziggy back and forth with ease, plus I flew facing backward, which is very unique. Our return flight was on the much newer Dreamliner 787-10, in the new Club Suites, BA’s current, modern, and extremely comfortable Business Class offering. All seats in Club Suites have direct aisle access, as well as sliding doors for extra privacy. I can write a whole other blog on the differences between the two but let’s just say I thoroughly enjoyed both.

It’s the little things with flying that you might not appreciate until you actually experience them firsthand. Using the shorter Business Class queues to check your bags in, fast pass through security, access to the Business Class lounges, and champagne on arrival are just a number of exceptional additions to enhance your journey, especially with a little one.

Over the past few years since we started seriously building up our Avios points, we’ve only had to pay a couple of annual fees, but everything else has cost us nothing, just smartly accruing Avios points using a variety of methods...

Once you have earned the sign-up fees and paid off the cards, you can literally cancel the cards free of charge (just make sure you do pay off the cards, as otherwise the interest rates are hefty). You can then sign up for a new card and keep earning on the big sign-up bonuses.

To some, airline currency is a bit of a minefield, and I have tried my best to keep this explanation about Avios and Reward Saver flights as simple and clear as possible. There are a few things I have deliberately missed out (such as Tier Points), but if you have any more questions or advice, I would be more than happy to discuss it with you, and even incorporate your rewards flights into an actual holiday package.

Hopefully by reading this, you can see that it is not too difficult to “turn left” and fly in style yourself!

CLICK HERE - Sign up to the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card using this link to earn 26,000 Avios points

*Terms and conditions apply*

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