What is travel hacking?
Travel hacking is where someone utilises air mile reward schemes to their maximum potential to get: free flights, hotel stays, tours and more.
Doing so can save vast amounts of money, enable you to take more trips than you could otherwise afford or, travel in premium and first class for a fraction of the cost!
This article aims to detail the basics of travel hacking in the UK. To help you understand what air miles are and why you really should be collecting them!
What is an air mile?
Air miles (or airline miles, frequent flyer miles or travel points) are the points of airline reward schemes. Collecting points in these schemes allows you to make substantial savings on flights. With enough points it is possible to travel in premium or first class for a fraction of the cost.
In short, air miles are just like any other reward program; you get points for buying stuff, and eventually you have enough points to redeem something for free!
For more information regarding specific airline reward programs click here.
Are they easy to collect?
The simple answer to this question is yes, air miles are incredibly easy to collect!
Whilst flying is the best known way of accumulating air miles; unless you are flying frequently the other methods detailed here will probably be more suited to your lifestyle.
Perhaps the quickest way to collect vast numbers of points is through credit card signup bonuses. The Preferred Rewards Gold Card from American Express has no card fee in the first year and offers the chance to gain 20,000 bonus points during the first three months (more information about this card and others here). By paying close attention to the terms and conditions, it is possible to qualify for signup bonuses multiple times each year.
Second to this, spending on such credit cards offers an easy way to accumulate miles with every purchase. The best cards offer as many as 1.5 miles per £1 spend. This means that spending just £10,000 in a year will earn an additional 15,000 air miles. For more information on UK air mile cards check out our article (updated monthly) here.
Another way to maximise your point collecting, is by transferring points from other reward schemes. Various hotel, supermarket and airport reward schemes allow you to transfer your points to different air mile schemes. Whilst some of these (such as IHG Rewards Club) offer a poor rate, other schemes allow you to transfer your points 1 : 1 or greater to your desired air miles scheme (Tesco Clubcard 2.4 : 1, Heathrow Rewards 1 : 1 and Starwood Preferred Guest 1 : 1).
The final way to boost your air miles, is through online spending. Working like cashback sites, various air mile schemes reward you with additional points by accessing various shops through special links on their website. These links generate the reward scheme a commission payment, a portion of which they transfer to you in the form of air miles.
What are they worth?
Whilst the value of your air miles will vary depending on how you choose to redeem them, the best redemptions are the ones that get you something you want.
Most readers will find that the value of their miles lie in the range of 0.5 - 1.7 pence per mile.
For more information on the value of Avios points, check out: “what is an Avios point worth?”
What can you redeem them for?
The redemptions vary depending on the scheme. Whilst all allow you to receive discounted flights, it is also possible to redeem your miles for hotel stays, wine, catalogue items from the schemes online store and monetary vouchers at a number of high street retailers.
In short, air miles are incredibly easy for almost everyone to collect. Combining the multiple collection methods listed above, it is possible to collect more than two points with every pound spent. With the addition of card signup bonuses, most will find they are readily able to collect as many as 40,000 miles in a single year!