Author Topic: Travel hacking advice (UK) - collecting Avios points for Eurostar  (Read 3488 times)

shelivesthedream

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My husband and I are not great travellers and we both hate flying so I've never looked into travel hacking much before, and we live in the UK which does not have a reputation for having such great deals as the US. However, we went on a wonderful holiday to France on the Eurostar recently and would like to go again (as much as possible!) so I am looking into how to reduce the cost of future trips. It's not cripplingly expensive  and we would only ever go once or twice a year, so I'm not going to reorganise my entire life around this, but if we can save money without too much effort - well, why not? However, I am finding the best options somewhat confusing, and wondering if it's worth doing.

Basically, it seems that one collects Avios points until one has enough and then spends them on a Eurostar ticket (you can't part-pay, I think, so you have to have enough to buy an entire ticket). And there seem to be two ways to collect them: Tesco Clubcard points and an Avios rewards credit card.

We already have a Tesco Clubcard as it's our nearest supermarket and I'm happy to convert the Clubcard points into Avios points. However, as Mustachian grocery buyers we don't exactly earn loads of points.

The main thing I've been looking at for rewards cards is this: http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/credit-cards/airline-credit-cards Now, being Mustachians we don't actually spend a huge amount of money. We could manage 500 in three months (if only we could pay our rent on it...!) for the fee-free credit card, but the other bonus spending amounts are either wildly out of reach or pointless because we don't actually want to fly. We have excellent credit scores but I have a variable and not-very-long income history which might impede us getting a card which has a minimum household income of 20,000, depending on how they wanted to look at it. I don't really want one with a fee because I'm not convinced we would spend enough to get enough points to make the fee worthwhile. So I'm basically wondering if the BA Amex card is worthwhile.

So what do you think, Mustachians? Is it worth applying for the BA Amex card to save on Eurostar tickets? A return trip for two of us is 238, so we're looking at up to 476/year in savings if we went twice and we did it all with points rather than paying for tickets. An interesting alternative would be to get a Tesco credit card. One consideration is at Amex is not universally accepted in the UK, so I'm not certain how much spending we would be able to convert to it (although I would be able to put some work expenses on it). It seems to me that we would have to spend an awful lot of money to earn enough points to make a dent in the price of a ticket.

Also, I've never applied for a commercial credit card before. When they ask about proof of household income, what do they ask for? My income is all over the place, but if we wait a year my husband's income will go over 20,000, so I'm wondering if we should wait until then just to have less hassle and make sure we are accepted.

Some numbers:
Two return off-peak advance booked train tickets: 40,000 Avios or 238
Tesco credit card: 25 points per 100 spent
Tesco clubcard: 1 point per 1, 500 points = 5 = 1200 Avois
BA Amex: 1 Avios point per 1

arebelspy

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Re: Travel hacking advice (UK) - collecting Avios points for Eurostar
« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2016, 05:32:24 AM »
Some numbers:
Two return off-peak advance booked train tickets: 40,000 Avios or 238

That's a slightly poor return on points (even keeping in mind GPB to USD ratios right now)--I'd think you could get more value out of them.

But if that's the only way you travel, and there's no other travel hacking you want to do, might as well save the money I guess?  :)
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Playing with Fire UK

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Re: Travel hacking advice (UK) - collecting Avios points for Eurostar
« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2016, 09:15:56 AM »
If you're getting around 0.5p per Avios when you get the Eurostar tickets you may be better off looking for a cashback credit card (the Amex Costco (1%) one is pretty good if you use Costco, or an Aqua card (0.5%) is easier to be accepted for). The credit card checker at MSE will show you which rewards cards you're likely to get based on your variable income - I think they ask if you've been in work for less than 3 months but it's not hugely detailed. The BA Amex card has a recurring offer which increases the sign up bonus to 9,000 Avios which will give your collection a boost. I wouldn't get the paid card unless you are putting a lot of spending through it.

The Tesco credit card works as a decent alternative where Amex isn't accepted if you want Avios.

You can part pay with points for the Eurostar, and return tickets to Paris start from 9,000 avios (and you can then travel elsewhere on tickets paid with cash).

If you struggle with the spending targets, there are ways to front load your spending (such as buying a gift voucher for the supermarket or Amazon) and if you have a big purchase coming up you can try to time it with the card application. Any clubcard bonuses will spend up the process.

Headforpoints.com has a round up of other credit cards to collect Avios, but the rest of the site is flying-centric. Due to a cap on fees some cards have already made the rewards less generous, so the best card now won't necessarily be the best next year.

In summary:
Do get a reward credit card of some sort (but cashback may be better for you)
Don't get the paid card

cerat0n1a

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Re: Travel hacking advice (UK) - collecting Avios points for Eurostar
« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2016, 09:24:48 AM »
Just had a quick look and I have more than 10k Avios from business travel; never really bothered to pay any attention to them as it didn't seem like it would ever amount to enough for a family of 4 to fly anywhere. A Eurostar ticket for 9000 seems like an OK deal though - seems different from the 20 000 points quoted by the OP? I'm assuming you can go to Brussels or Lille for similar points too?

I'd say Amex is mostly not worth having in the UK. A lot of places won't take it. It vaguely recall that John Lewis and some other online shops give out Avios, might be worth checking?
« Last Edit: April 07, 2016, 09:30:49 AM by cerat0n1a »

Playing with Fire UK

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Re: Travel hacking advice (UK) - collecting Avios points for Eurostar
« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2016, 02:37:24 AM »
The price varies depending on how far you go and how popular the train is, 9,000 pp is the minimum to Paris, Brussels or Lille, 20,000 is the minimum to Avignon.

If you are looking get something for the 10k Avios, look at the shopping pages - you might get a gift voucher or wine that you'd find more useful.

Personally I love Amex  in the UK, most of the larger retailers take it, but you do always need a second card because smaller places  often won't. Amex also has the best range of on card offers (eg spend 80 in the supermarket and get 20 credit to your card) IMO. During small business month they have an offer where you get 5 off a 10 spend at independent shops.

For online shopping, you can go via topcashback to get clubcard points and then transfer them to avios, or get avios direct (worse value than cash for me). The Avios shopping portal tends to be worse value, but is one of the only places you get a reward for shopping in John Lewis.

If you spend a lot on fuel and supermarkets the Santander 123 card may be a better fit (cashback not avios).

MarcherLady

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Re: Travel hacking advice (UK) - collecting Avios points for Eurostar
« Reply #5 on: April 08, 2016, 07:42:34 AM »
I can't remember if you are totally car free or not?  If you buy petrol or diesel, the Shell rewards program will pay out in Avios points too.  Husband has done the maths and swears our car gets sufficiently better mileage when fed Shell regular diesel over supermarket cheap stuff. YMM(literally)V.


dreams_and_discoveries

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Re: Travel hacking advice (UK) - collecting Avios points for Eurostar
« Reply #6 on: April 09, 2016, 02:33:22 AM »
Have to say, as a fellow Brit, I'm always really jealous of the US travel rewards - ours look pale in comparison.

I just use an Amex cashback, haven't found any travel rewards that are worth it - the taxes and charges on airmiles etc always shock me, they don't make it much cheaper.

shelivesthedream

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Re: Travel hacking advice (UK) - collecting Avios points for Eurostar
« Reply #7 on: April 09, 2016, 10:33:21 AM »
Thanks for the thoughts, all. Sometimes I feel like everyone in the world is cashing in on travel hacking except for us, so it's reassuring to hear some reason about it!

We don't have a car at all and our general spending patterns are such that I think the Amex probably isn't worth the bother. We don't really plan to ever fly again (except maybe one trip to Japan one day but maybe not) so collecting flying rewards is pointless. When we move in a year I will reevaluate getting a cashback card but right now we can't pay out rent or electricity with a card, groceries are only a small amount, and using it for individual personal spending would be complicated. If we plan a large purchase I will almost certainly get one.