Avid traveller Jason Miller wouldn’t call himself a bean counter, but he has been known to use other varieties of green vegetable in his quest to save money on flights.
Remarkably, the savvy father-of-two once managed to take his wife and children on holiday to Nice, France, simply by purchasing 600 chilli peppers.
It sounds bonkers, but canny Jason is one of many holidaymakers who have made the airmiles system work in their favour – and he doesn’t even earn any points on flights.
“I started collecting British Airways Avios to get the cheapest seats, and I found it difficult to accumulate the number of points needed,” explains Jason. “So I was looking at ways to achieve the maximum number of Avios without having to spend lots on credit cards.”
A Tesco Clubcard holder, Jason realised he could convert points made on purchases in the store, and quickly took advantage of deals on offer. During one shopping trip, he noticed there was a deal on points for purchases of chilli peppers.
“I ended up buying about 600 chillis costing £5.40/€6, but it gave me 36,000 Avios,” he says. “That got me four economy fares to Nice, plus the £140/€155 tax.”
Similarly, he saw a deal online for 720 Avios points with the purchase of a Scooby Doo DVD. “It only cost a few quid,” he says. “So I ended up buying about 55 DVDs across a few family Clubcard accounts and got 40,000 Avios for just a few pounds.
“I also used a Tesco direct minimum spend code to get it even cheaper.” That stash helped pay for his next family holiday to Cyprus.
Avios is the shared reward currency used by Aer Lingus, British Airways, Flybe, Iberia, kulula.com and Meridiana.
In Ireland, Aer Lingus’s Aerclub allows customers to collect Avios points through partnerships with SuperValu’s Read Rewards, Kildare Village, Appleby Jewellers and RestaurantCircle.com.
Special offers run all the time – SuperValue customers converting Real Rewards points into Avios points before August 31, for example, can claim triple Avios points.
Jason Miller has also bought multiple newspaper and magazine subscriptions in foreign countries (“I gave them away to strangers”) taken out pet insurance (“I don’t have a pet”) and snapped up boxes of HP printer ink (“Never owned an HP printer”).
Of course, there is always the risk of accumulating unnecessary items.
“My wife does not like me doing this, because she doesn’t want me buying a load of crap,” admits Jason, who says he still has 15 Smurfs’ Christmas DVDs sitting in his cupboard at home.
So what happened to the chilli? That was frozen, eaten or given to friends, he says. And the Scooby Doo DVDs? “I bought those in October, so they were a handy gift for trick or treaters,” Jason smiles.
Jason’s top airmiles tips
1. Use a Tesco Clubcard
In the UK, You can convert the points to BA Avios, so every £2.50/€2.78 Clubcard voucher turns into 600 Avios. I buy all my household items and petrol in Tesco. Currently you can collect 1,000 extra Clubcard points when you spend £60/€67 or more on LEGO Toys. 1,000 points get you £10/€11 of Tesco vouchers. You can convert that into 2,400 Avios with British Airways. So if you are in the market for Lego it’s a complete no-brainer.
NB: Aer Lingus Avios points can be collected with SuperValu, among other partners.
2. Pay for everything on a credit card – then clear the debt.
My wife and I both have BA Premium American Express cards. I signed up and got 26,000 then I recommend my wife to take one out and she got 26,000 and I received 9,000. You need to spend a couple of grand in the first three months to get the points, then for every pound I spend, I get 1.5 points.
The advantage of a premium card is that for every £10,000/€11,110 spent, you get a companion voucher for another flight in the same cabin if there’s availability on Avios.
So it’s buy one get one free. You just pay for the tax.
3. Save up for Business Class and fly long haul
You get much better value for your points. Business Class from Dublin to New York costs from 50,000 Avios points one-way with Aer Lingus, for example (excluding taxes etc.).
4. Book early.
On every flight, British Airways guarantees two club seats and four economy seats for Avios. Those flights are released one year in advance and you have to book ahead – especially if you want to travel in the school holidays.
5. Treat Avios like a currency.
I wouldn’t want to pay more than a penny a mile. Ideally buy stuff you need!
For more tips, email Jason at email@example.com.
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