Although I have been fortunate to experience luxury air travel through winning competitions, I am yet to collect any form of air miles (or Avios) from flying (at least at the time of writing).
So it is hard to believe that somehow I have managed to collect over 35,000 Avios in just over a year with my feet being fixed firmly on the ground at university.
For those who may not be familiar already, Avios is the currency used for the British Airways Executive Club. It is an airline loyalty programme where Avios points can be redeemed on reward flights across the One World Alliance, cabin upgrades and much more.
This is my ultimate guide on how to earn as many Avios points as possible from the perspective of a university student. Although this article may be useful to many more people since flying has become difficult due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic.
DISCLAIMER: The tips mentioned in this guide are based on my personal opinions and should not be taken as professional financial advice. All facts in this article were correct at the time of writing in September 2020. We recommend that you do your own research before doing some of the actions listed in this article. Myself, nor The Final Approach are responsible for any personal loss as a result. The information here is impartial and any products mentioned are reviewed subjectively without any financial sponsorship.
The British Airways eStore – an extra click is all it takes:
Did you know you can earn Avios when you shop online?
The British Airways eStore website and smartphone app are definitely worth having on your home screen (it even comes as a handy Google Chrome extension). It allows you to collect up to 15 Avios per £1 spent through hundreds of retailers.
Instead of simply walking into a store or going directly to a retailer’s website to buy something, simply divert your search through the British Airways e-Store. Click on the link for the website to your chosen retailer and the magic of internet cookies tracks your visit and subsequent purchase. Many retailers allow you to do this with a fast click and collect service too – quite handy for that last-minute Christmas Eve shopping list!
Some retailers that I have personally used through the e-Store include:
Argos, Dell Laptops, Microsoft Store, Disney+, Papa Johns, Currys PC World, Burton, Trainline, Shoe Zone, Uber Eats and many more. Unfortunately, Amazon is not currently on the e-Store… I guess some things are too good to be true.
However, students should be cautious when conjoining a purchase with a discount code – including student discounts! Sometimes this reverts any Avios awarded to you from a purchase involving a discount code, but not always… trying it out won’t hurt though.
Consider getting the American Express British Airways Credit Card:
Getting one of the two British Airways American Express credit cards will enable you to earn Avios on everyday purchases that you probably would have done on your normal Visa or Mastercard debit card from your bank.
There are two main BA cards offered by American Express – informally these are often referred to as the ‘Blue Card’ and the ‘Black (premium plus) Card’, each offering their own welcome bonuses, Avios earning rate and perks.
In my opinion, the black ‘Premium Plus’ BA Amex card is harder to recommend for students than the standard blue BA Amex Card, for the simple reason that the black card incurs a £195 annual fee. This can only be justified if you are capable of spending in excess of £10k/year on the card; this triggers a 2-for-1 “companion” travel voucher which can only be redeemed using Avios – this may not be worth the £195 annual fee if you fail to trigger it.
Alternatively, the Blue card offers 1 Avios per £1 spent with no annual fee. However, the “Companion Voucher” is still attainable if you are somebody who is minted enough to spend £20k/year on the card. Personally, I would just ignore this perk unless you opted for the black Premium Plus Card.
While the black ‘Premium Plus’ card offers 1.5 Avios per £1 spent and a larger welcome bonus (25,000 Avios vs 5,000 on the blue card), it does require a hefty amount of spending within the first few months of card membership to trigger the welcome bonus – again not worth the annual fee if you’re not planning to spend that much on the card, something for students to bear in mind!
Applying for a credit card is not a decision to be taken likely as it can have an impact on your credit file if it is not used properly. Remember to pay off any outstanding credit each month. Setting up a direct debit to automatically pay off the balance in full avoids you incurring any interest or fees. Using a credit card properly over time can build your credit score too!
It is also a good idea to do a ‘soft check’ before you apply to give you an estimation of how likely you are at being approved before applying. – Being rejected is not the end of the world but it would leave a hard mark on your credit file for a few years – something to consider.
Furthermore, it is important to remember that American Express cards are not accepted as widely as Visa or Mastercard, however, most major shops accept Amex, including the student-budget friendly Aldi and Lidl.
Before applying, it is worth knowing if anyone you know has one of these cards already as you could get a bigger welcome bonus! – Keep reading and all will be revealed…
Offer to pay for your parent’s shopping on your BA Amex card:
Until recently, a trick I did to help build Avios faster was to pay for my parent’s shopping/eating out etc on my BA Amex card then get them to pay me back the total on the receipt. Mobile banking makes this an easy process to do so long as they remember what they owe you!
An easier way to do this (especially when you’re not at the ASDA checkouts with your parents all the time) is to get them a supplementary card. This would enable them to spend through your card membership while you are not physically with them. This does not affect their credit file, but it will affect yours since you are still legally responsible for paying off what they have spent on it; so be careful as to which family members you trust!
A supplementary card also makes it easier if they need to return something they have bought for refunds when you are not present since the supplementary card will have their own name on it – but again, YOU are legally responsible for paying off what is owed on the card! Nevertheless, your supplementary cardholder is able to view exactly how much they have spent on it via their own login to the Android/IOS app.
Refer friends and family members to get up 90,000 Avios per year:
For the sake of the blue BA Amex credit card, referring someone can earn you 4,000 Avios per referral. In addition, the person you refer gets a 6,000 Avios welcome bonus (so long as they meet the spending criteria to trigger it). This should not be abused as you should only be referring to people who are close friends and family.
Sign up for a Tesco Clubcard – even if Aldi or Lidl is your main shop:
While Tesco may not always be the best supermarket for budget-conscious students, it can be useful for racking up Avios. – Every £2.50 in Clubcard points that you earn from shopping can be converted into 600 Avios. For extremely Avios-savvy students like myself, consider buying essentials such as milk and pasta here instead of in your usual Aldi or Lidl shopping trips – it is usually about the same price in all three shops. You can even collect points on infamous yellow-sticker ‘reduced’ food too. Just bear in mind that the Clubcard points you collect are rounded DOWN to the nearest pound spent in each transaction. Note that this only applies to Clubcard. Anything you collect directly from an American Express Credit card is rounded UP to the nearest pound.
Collect Avios on short surveys:
If you are somebody with plenty of time on your hands, signing up to Rewards For Thoughts or E-Rewards can bag you 600 Avios for your first survey. Subsequent surveys can get you as little as 50 or even 25 Avios. Personally, it is a useful way to pass the time but it can feel unrewarding very quickly given how tedious this method of collecting Avios is. There are other survey providers out there which offer a far greater reward per survey such as The Opinion Panel, but they do not offer Avios.
Using Heathrow Rewards:
Signing up to Heathrow Rewards enabled me to collect points on those much needed reduced-price sandwiches from Boots, or from buying a cup of tea from Costa after a long shift working at the airport. These points can be transferred over into Avios but I would only recommend this method if you either travel through Heathrow regularly or if you work there.
This list does not review every possible way to earn Avios, but these methods definitely helped me to get on my way to earning a decent amount of points. There are many factors to consider: For example, redeeming your points efficiently is a completely different topic in itself to try to master. It is also worth bearing in mind that the value of your points could degrade over time as airlines devalue the value of your points in exchange for reward flights.
Remember that earning points should come naturally to your everyday spending and should not be sought after at the expense of buying a product at a higher price or by spending more money for the sake of collecting points – unless of course, you are close to reaching the number of points for the reward flight that you have your eye on. With all of this in mind, get collecting and you could be flying off in no time at all… that is when travelling post-COVID returns to normal.
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