Latest Round of ‘Accelerate’ for September – December 2017

Screen Shot 2017-04-30 at 17.32.52Over the last week, IHG have launched their latest ‘Acclerate’ promotion, covering stays from 1st September to 31st December. It doesn’t feel like very long ago that I was writing about the last promotion, but given this one covers 4 months instead of the usual quarter, you should have a reprieve for a few months until the 2018 version is launched! Accelerate is one of the best promotions in the industry and it’s worth giving air time too each time a new promotion is launched.

As a recap for those not familiar with how it works, IHG sets you a series of ‘targets’ which, if achieved, pay out bonus points when you stay with them. As an example, for staying 5 nights over a 3-month period, you may get 10,000 bonus points.

My offer – what is it and how am I going to approach it?

I have a total of 45,000 points up for grabs, in return for the following:

  • Stay Once for 2,000;
  • Stay 5 Nights for 10,000;
  • Stay 3 nights at InterContinentals for 3,600;
  • Stay outside of UK for 8,000;
  • Complete 3 out of 4 and get 16,400;
  • Stay in September and get 5,000;

These are c. 30% lower than my targets for the last quarter in terms of points on offer, but I have a few InterContinental nights coming up so will probably hit this with two separate stays, totalling 3 nights in ICs outside of the UK, which will yield 30,000 points (good for one free night in most IHG hotels).

My wife’s offer – what is it and how might she (read: I) approach it?

She has a total of 60,300 points, in return for the following:

  • Stay Once for 1,500;
  • Stay 5 Nights for 7,500;
  • Book 2 Stays with the IHG app for 3,400;
  • Stay 1 weekend for 6,000;
  • Use ‘Points & Cash’ for 2,400;
  • Stay Anywhere Outside of the UK for 18,000;
  • Get the IHG Credit Card for 2,000;
  • Complete 6 out of 7 and get 17,000;
  • Stay in September and get 2,500;

In contrast , these are much better than Laura had last time. Unfortunately, with the IHG credit card off the table being Australia-based, that limits the options somewhat. Either we’ll need to go for the lot which means at least 3 different stays, or try to ‘optimise’ the highest number of points from the least amount of spend. In this case, we’re going for a single $100 night in Singapore in September, which will yield 22,000 points (a very decent return).

You can check out your own offer by going to the IHG website here.

Cheap Qantas Points with Qantas Epiqure

Screen Shot 2017-05-21 at 15.09.45Frequent Flyer Programs (FFPs) have long associated with wine retailers as a way of earning additional points. In the UK and the US however, this normally takes the form of a reward for joining a form of subscription service, and as a result I’ve always avoided the offers as I’m not diligent enough about cancelling the subscriptions once I’ve taken advantage of the offer.

Fortunately, it works a little differently in Australia, and through Qantas Epiqure you can earn bonus points for one-off wine purchases through their online store. In this post I explain how to get the most out of Qantas Epiqure.

Some obvious ground rules that I always stick to…

  • Don’t buy wine you don’t like just for the bonus points;
  • Don’t pay over the odds just to get the bonus points;

How do you find the offers?

There’s a couple of different approaches you can take, either:

  • Search the ‘bonus points‘ page, looking for wines which seem good value. You can find the search here, and it looks like this:

Screen Shot 2017-05-21 at 15.25.24

  • Search the ‘sale‘ page, looking for wines which have a high points bonus. You can find the search here, and it looks like this:

Screen Shot 2017-05-21 at 15.27.44

My preference is to search via the sales page, as what I typically find is that unless the wine is on sale and it has a healthy points bonus, it’s not worth buying.

How do you work out whether you’re getting a good deal or not?

You have to start with the assumption that you’re interested in buying the wine anyway. It then becomes an exercise in ensuring that your decision to purchase via Qantas Epiqure is the right one. I value Qantas Points at 1c each.

  • Example 1: Jericho Fiano 2016, 8,000 Bonus Points

Cost per bottle is $23.25 in a case of 12, giving a total case price of $279. Available at Dan Murphy’s for $286 for a case of 12. I couldn’t find it cheaper anywhere else, so you’re saving $7 by going for Qantas Epiqure and you’re gaining 8,000 points up, worth $80. Verdict: definitely buy through Qantas.

  • Example 2: Voyager Estate Chardonnay 2013, 7,500 Bonus Points

Cost per bottle is $39.50 in a case of 6, giving a total case price of $237. Available at Dan Murphy’s for $226 for a case of 6. In this case, you’re losing $11 by going for Qantas Epicure but you’re gaining 7,500 points which are worth $75. Verdict: You’re still well up by buying through Qantas.

I couldn’t actually find any examples this week of where it wouldn’t make sense to buy through Qantas! That’s not normally the case, and often the cost / benefit analysis is much more finely balanced.

In summary, I think Qantas Epiqure is currently a great way to accrue substantial volumes of points when used judiciously. Sticking to the ‘ground rules’ of checking the value and not buying wine you don’t like are important, but there are plenty of bargains to be had.

IHG Accelerate is back for Summer 2017.

Screen Shot 2017-04-30 at 17.32.52Over the last week, IHG have launched their latest ‘Acclerate’ promotion, covering stays from May 15th to August 31st. Regular readers of the site may be a little bored of me writing about the regular Accelerate promotions, but as one of the best promotions in the industry it’s worth giving air time too each time a new promotion is launched.

As a recap for those not familiar with how it works, IHG sets you a series of ‘targets’ which, if achieved, pay out bonus points when you stay with them. As an example, for staying 5 nights over a 3-month period, you may get 10,000 bonus points.

My offer – what is it and how am I going to approach it?

I have a total of 60,800 points up for grabs, in return for the following:

  • Stay Once for 2,500;
  • Stay 5 Nights for 10,000;
  • Book 3 Stays with the IHG app for 2,900;
  • Stay 2 Weekends get 5,600;
  • Stay twice outside country of residence for 11,200;
  • Book 2 Bonus Point Packages get 3,600;
  • Renew Ambassador get 5,000;
  • Complete 6 out of 7 and get 15,000;
  • Stay before June 30th and get 5,000;

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with these targets. Staying a single night before June 30th will net 7,500, and 5,000 for renewing Ambassador is great because I was going to do this anyway. I will probably tackle this by:

  • One (or more) nights in Vienna before June 30th;
  • One weekend in Brisbane before August 31st;
  • One weekend in A N Other Australian destination before August 31st;

If I book all three via the IHG app and renew ambassador, that should get me the full 60,800.

My wife’s offer – what is it and how might she (read: I) approach it?

She has a total of 42,500 points, in return for the following:

  • Stay Once for 1,000;
  • Stay 5 Nights for 5,000;
  • Book 3 Stays with the IHG app for 2,900;
  • Stay Anywhere Outside of the UK for 8,000;
  • Get the IHG Credit Card for 2,000;
  • Complete 4 out of 5 and get 21,100;
  • Stay before June 30th and get 2,500;

This one is markedly less exciting, and we are unlikely to go for the full amount. The best thing to do here is probably to stay a single night somewhere outside of the UK before June 30th, as that would net 11,500 points which isn’t a bad return.

You can check out your own offer by going to the IHG website here.

Cheap Qantas Points with Qantas Assurance

Screen Shot 2017-03-12 at 21.32.40As a general rule, I’m not a huge advocate of insurance products, but if they’re a source of very cheap airline miles then I’m willing to give them a go. In this case, Qantas are currently offering very generous sign up bonuses for people taking out their insurance products. The points on offer are:

  • Up to 100,000 points for taking out private health insurance;
  • Up to 30,000 points for taking out life insurance;
  • Up to 1,000 points for taking out travel insurance;

Whilst the bonus for health insurance is the biggest, it also has  a price floor which doesn’t make it worth taking out just for the sake of the points. The sweet point is the life insurance, which offers up to 30,000 points when you take out a combination of two policies, and because of the potential for low premiums the outlay can be as low as $50 for what is $300+ worth of points.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Head over to the Qantas Assure website: https://www.qantasassure.com/life-insurance and select ‘get quote’.
  2. Enter your existing Qantas Frequent Flier information on the left hand side and select ‘continue’.
  3. Enter your personal information and progress through to the product selection screen by selecting ‘Calculate a Basic Quote’, which looks like this:Screen Shot 2017-03-12 at 21.51.48
  4. You’ll see from this screen that the options presented are initially very expensive (surprise surprise). To reduce the price, you’ll need to modify the details under the different insurance times. The cheapest combination I’ve found is the minimum Life Insurance options and the minimum Total Permanent Disability Insurance.
  5. The screenshot below shows how low I managed to get the monthly price by reduced the covered amount to the minimum of $100k and stripping out any extras in the cover:Screen Shot 2017-03-12 at 21.58.36

The points will be credited after 60 days, meaning at most you need to hold the policy for 3 periods before you call and cancel. In this case, that would result in a total outlay of $33 for a return of 30,000 points.

Let me know how you get on!

How much is airline status worth?

Screen Shot 2017-01-29 at 20.34.49For the last few years, the amount of flying that I’ve been doing for either work or pleasure has seen me renew my British Airways Gold card without too much thought. This year, with my collection year running February – February, I’ve due to come up a little short. To renew Gold with British Airways, you need 1,500 Tier Points, and I’m currently on 1,465 with no further travel planned in the next 2-3 months.

Given i’m not far off the mark, I’ve been considering a ‘tier point run’ to earn the extra 35 points I need. A tier point run is where you take flights purely for the purpose of earning air miles and elite status. How much would earning 35 tier points cost? If I were based in Europe, I would be able to book a cheap return in Club Europe with BA for around £150 / AU$250. Unfortunately things are a little more expensive in Sydney, with the cheapest option being to fly to Perth and back in Economy for around £330 / AU$550. Is it worth spending $550 to maintain BA Gold, or should I just drop down to Silver?

To work this out, I’ve outlined the key benefits and how I value them below. I’ve split them into ‘Reservations & Service’, ‘On the Ground’ and ‘In the Air’.

  • Reservations & Service
    • Dedicated Phone Line; I end up calling BA quite a lot, and having a dedicated number for Golds often shortcuts this process, especially in times of disruption. This can often be the difference between spending several stressed hours at the airport or getting issues sorted out quickly, so I do value it. £20 – £30.
    • Improved Economy Avios Availability; Golds get access to an extra fare bucket against which they can use their Avios points, and this significantly increases availability. This can often mean ability to redeem points instead of using cash, and can save substantial amounts of money as a result. £125 – £150.
  • On the Ground
    • First Class Check In; this can sometimes save a little time versus using the Business class check in desks that BA Silver gives you access to, but it’s a pretty small margin. £5.
    • First Class Lounges; these can make a big difference to a journey, and whilst any lounge is a privilege the F lounges typically mean (i) restaurant-style sit down dining instead of a buffet, (ii) vintage champagnes instead of sparkling wine or prosecco and (iii) generally more luxurious  environment (especially shower facilities). I would probably pay a £10 premium over a Business lounge each time I go through one, which is anything between 10 and 15 times per year. £100 – £150.
  • In the Air
    • Onboard Service & Upgrades; I’m not convinced that being Gold has any impact on my changes of an upgrade, but I do think the service tends to be better, especially when travelling Economy. It’s fairly intangible but I do think there’s something there. £20 – £25.
    • Increased Avios Earning; when you fly BA (and only BA), you earn a 100% bonus over the base earning rate vs. a 50% bonus for Silvers. This has much more limited benefit for me these days as a decreasing proportion of my flights are on BA, but at a guess this earns me an extra 5,000 – 10,000 Avios per year. £50 – £100.

I think that’s about it! Most of the other benefits of Gold, you also get as Silver, and therefore not worth considering when trying to value the premium that  a Gold card is worth. If you add all of the above up, you get a valuation of between £320 / AU$530 and £460 / AU$765.

That makes it just about worthwhile to spend the money on flying around aimlessly to renew for another year, and is why  in the next couple of weeks I’ll be spending a day flying to Perth and back!

How does the Virgin Australia award chart compare with Qantas?

virgin_australia_aA couple of weeks ago I wrote about redeeming miles on Qantas, and which distances and cabins provided the best value. This week I had planned to follow up with a similar analysis on the Virgin Australia award chart, highlighting differences between the two and when you’d be better redeeming your points on one vs. the other. However, when I sat down and compared the reward charts, it appears they are identical! The only difference is:

  • for Economy flights, Virgin Australia is cheaper by 200 points per leg;
  • for Premium Economy flights, Virgin Australia is cheaper by 300 points per leg;
  • for Business Class flights, Virgin Australia is cheaper by 500 points per leg;

Just to confirm this is the award chart for flights on Virgin Australia, Virgin Alantic, Virgin Samoa, Air New Zealand, Alitalia, Delta and Virgin America:

screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-21-02-04

So is there any difference between Qantas and Virgin Australia when it comes to reward seats? Differences in availability aside, there’s two other key considerations beyond any comparisons on the service between the two:

  1. The taxes & charges on redemptions;
  2. The ease of earning in either Qantas or Virgin Australia;

Taxes & Charges

I’ll be the first to admit this wasn’t scientific, but I sampled a few routes to compare the taxes & charges between Qantas and VA.

  • Sydney – Melbourne: with Qantas, this was 8,000 + $34.18 in Economy, and 16,000 + $34.18 in Business. Virgin Australia was 7,800 + $21.11 in Economy or 15,500 + $21.11 in Business.
  • Sydney – Los Angeles: with Qantas, this was 45,000 + $251.15 in Economy, and 96,000 + $466.15 in Business. Virgin Australia was 44,800 + $107.17 in Economy or 95,500 + $120.55.
  • Melbourne – Perth: with Qantas, this was 18,000 + $34.30 in Economy, and 36,000 + $34.30 in Business. Virgin Australia was 17,800 + $18.15 in Economy, and 35,500 + $18.15 in Business.

In all cases,  Virgin Australia beat Qantas for taxes & charges, with the difference more pronounced on International routes and in Business Class.

Ease of Earning

There’s two primary ways of earning airline miles – by actually flying with the airline, and through credit cards. On the latter, American Express Membership Rewards convert out to Qantas & VA at the same rate, and the earning rates tend to be the same on other cards. The only general observation is that initial ‘welcome’ bonus offers on Qantas are typically easier to come by and more generous than Virgin Australia.

When it comes to flying, Qantas and VA run two quite different schemes for both Domestic and International flights.

  • Domestic: Qantas credit points based on distance flown, whereas Virgin Australia is based on the fare paid. To make the comparison easier, I have included below the Qantas earn rates and then the equivalent amount you would need to spend on the equivalent fare with Virgin Australia to earn the same number of points.
  • International: Both Qantas and Virgin Australia credit based on the number of miles flown.

let’s say you paid the cheapest possible Economy and Business fares for the routes above, this is what you’d earn:

  • Sydney – Melbourne: Qantas would earn 800 points in Economy, requiring $160 spend with Virgin Australia. You’d earn 2,000 points in Business with Qantas, or need to spend $400 with VA.
  • Sydney – Los Angeles: Qantas would earn 9,000 points in Economy, 22,500 points in Business. VA would earn 3,750 in Economy, 15,000 points in Business.
  • Melbourne – Perth: Qantas would earn 2,900 points in Economy, requiring $580 spend with Virgin Australia. You’d earn 5,500 points in Business with Qantas, or need to spend $1,100 with VA.

This is hopefully fairly self explanatory – when it comes to flying, you will earn points more quickly with Qantas.

Summary

When it comes to burning points, there is very little difference between Qantas and Virgin in terms of the number of points needed. Virgin Australia takes the honours, however, thanks to the lower taxes & charges on both Domestic and International flights.

When it comes to earning points, if you primarily earn from credit card spend then there’s not much in it. If you earn most of your points from flying, you’ll do much better out of the Qantas scheme.

I try to keep an interest in both schemes, primarily to give different redemption options with partner airlines, but in general I’m trying to ramp up my VA points earning to keep the cash cost of redemptions low.

Overview of Changes to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

va_fclub_r_640-x-320When an e-mail arrived in my inbox from Virgin Atlantic with the subject “Your Flying Club is about to change”, I had a bad feeling. This was the first paragraph:

“We’ve got some great news. We’re introducing exciting new changes to Flying Club over the coming weeks. From giving you a brand new membership number to making it even quicker for you to reach reward flights, there’ll be lots to make your adventures with us even more rewarding.”

If the best thing they can say about the changes is that they’re issuing a new membership number, which is of absolutely no interest to anybody, then you know the changes are not going to be good.

I’ve split this article into earning, spending and status to explain the changes in each area.

Earning

  • Winners: people buying Upper Class and flexible Economy & Premium Economy tickets.
  • Losers: leisure travellers buying discount Economy and discount Premium Economy.

Broadly speaking, Virgin have moved to a revenue-based scheme, where the number of miles earned is more closely aligned to the price of the ticket purchased. They haven’t gone as far as looking at $ spent, and instead use the underlying fare class which is a proxy for spend. This table shows the old rate and the new rate:

screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-10-43-37

Broadly speaking, leisure travellers buy the categories that are going down (discount Economy and discount Premium Economy), and business travellers buy the categories that are going up.

There is no change to the number of miles you earn from partners, so if you credit from other airlines to Virgin Atlantic, you’re not impacted in this area.

Spending

  • Winners: people redeeming miles off-peak in Economy & Premium Economy.
  • Losers: people redeeming miles either during peak times, or in Upper Class.

Virgin Atlantic appear to have followed British Airways in introducing seasonal pricing. They don’t have quite as many ‘off-peak’ dates as BA, but they still cover:

  1. Easter: 31st March to 18th April 2017;
  2. Summer: 22nd June to 6th September 2017;
  3. Christmas: 13th December 2017 to 3rd January 2018;

The consolation prize is that UK half-terms have not been deemed as ‘peak’ for redemptions.

Along with the introduction of seasonal pricing, there are also substantial changes to the number of miles needed to redeem during these periods. Given the number of zones & destinations, I haven’t included every combination on this post. You can see the detail across a number of destinations in the Virgin guide here. To give you a flavour, this is what is happening for Hong Kong, New York and San Francisco:

screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-11-30-16

A fairly punishing set off changes during peak periods, with the exception of Hong Kong which seems to have come off OK except in Upper Class. Off-peak, Upper Class has still come off badly but the reductions in Premium Economy and Economy are significant.

If you have existing redemptions booked during an off-peak period, it would be worth looking at rebooking at the lower rates. With Premium Economy being a new sweet spot, I’m very tempted to cancel my upcoming Upper Class redemption to Hong Kong and rebook in Premium Economy, as doing so will free up 75,000 miles!

Status

  • Winners: people flying on flexible Upper Class tickets.
  • Losers: everyone else.

In general, it is going to get more difficult to earn Virgin Atlantic Flying Club status. There’s two dimensions to this, (i) the number of tier points you earn from flying will in general reduce and (ii) there has been a slight tweak to the number of tier points needed to earn Silver and Gold.

On the former, the table below shows how the earning is going to change. Note that Virgin have decided to gross up tier points by 25, so I’ve multiplied all the existing earning rates by that amount:

screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-12-13-41

With respect to qualification criteria, achieving Silver has moved from 375 to 400 points, the equivalent of an extra tier point in old currency. Qualifying for Gold has remained at the same level, of 1,000 points.

In the new world, you will need twice as many flights in discount Economy to achieve Gold as previous.

Overall

These changes are awful for people who earn miles and tier points flying discount Economy, and then want to redeem their points for school holiday flights or aspirational Upper Class flights. Unfortunately, a substantial chunk of my readership falls into that category!

The only positives to take are that earning / redeeming with partners hasn’t changed, and that off-peak Economy and Premium Economy flights have become much more valuable.

For any questions on these changes and what they mean for you, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Why you shouldn’t ignore car rental reward programs.

image2Yesterday I spent 2 hours in a rental car driving down from Auckland to Matamata, the place where The Shire scenes from both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were filmed (see picture!). It was a great day out for lots of reasons, with one of the most satisfying being that the car hire cost a grand total of A$6.82 (around £4).
There is of course a bit more to it than that, as I also had to throw 550 of my hard-earned Hertz points at the problem. I’ve mentioned this redemption to a few people and universally there reaction has been “I didn’t know you could use points for car hire”. I thought I’d give a quick run down of earning and burning points with the major car hire providers, and why it’s worth thinking about your reward strategy in this area.
How can I redeem points for free car hire?
The first thing to mention is that enrolling in the car hire loyalty schemes is not the only way you can rent a car for free. BA Executive Club (and many others) have a partnership with Avis / Hertz / Europcar etc. which allows you to swap Avios points for car hire, and Amex also lets you convert Membership Rewards points into car hire vouchers. The problem with these options is that all it does is let you ‘cash out’ your points for around 0.5p / each, and as a result is not good value. There’s no fixed price rewards, they simply apply a defined value to your points and then offset against the cash price of a rental.
On the flip side, the major car hire providers have their own ‘proper’ loyalty schemes with their own reward currency, fixed price rewards with defined tiers, and consequently are much better places to find value. The main schemes are:
  • Avis ‘Preferred’: get one free rental day after 15 rental days, for any car class up to a full size;
  • Enterprise ‘Plus’: earn one point for each $ spent, with rental days starting at 400 points;
  • Europcar ‘Privilege’: earn one free rental day after 3 rentals made on ‘qualifying rates’;
  • Hertz ‘Gold Plus’: earn one point for each $ spent, with rental days starting at 500 points;

Avis and Hertz have most well reviewed programs, partly because of the benefits at each tier as well as the earn & burn rates offered. As expected the ‘qualifying rates’ that enable Europcar redemptions are often much more expensive than you would ordinarily see during sales, third party sites etc.

How do I earn points / rental days?

With the exception of a few very niche exceptions, the only way to earn points in the above schemes is by renting with them.

What other benefits do you get?

There’s a few notable benefits beyond the ability to earn points and redeem for free rentals:

  • Saving your rental preferences means no ‘hard sell’ at the airport, and consequently a smoother and quicker rental experience.
  • Preferred lines exist at most airports for members of the car hires loyalty program (though are often restricted to a certain ‘tier’).
  • Once you reach the higher tiers, you often earn more points for each $ spent, have the option for upgrades to better cars and have ‘grace’ periods if you’re late back to the rental office.

What’s the best approach?

For years I did what most people did for car hire, and simply put in the dates to a series of third party car hire sites and went for the cheapest car that suited my needs. This would mean that even if Hertz was £1 cheaper than Avis, I would go with Hertz! More recently I have been more tactical about (a) ensuring I book direct if I can get the same price, as it guarantees you get the points and (b) prioritising rentals into a couple of operators (namely Hertz and Avis). It means that every other rental I may end up paying an extra £1 or £2, but overall it gives me enough points to redeem for free rental days which more than offset that cost difference. Clearly if there’s a significant cost difference between your preferred providers and others, it’s not worth pointing spend towards your preferred car hire companies.

As ever, any questions just get in touch.

Travel ‘101’: What is airline & hotel ‘status’?

image1-1What is ‘status’?

It’s the most talked about and quested after thing in the frequent flier world, but what actually is it? At its most basic level, ‘status’ is simply shorthand for the level you’ve reached in various frequent traveller reward schemes. For example, if you’ve reached Silver level within the British Airways Executive Club, you would have ‘BA status’.

All travel providers are out to make money, and they all want to incentivise you to spend your hard earned cash with them (and not the competition). To encourage your loyalty, airline and hotel companies use their frequent traveller schemes to provide benefits in return for repeat business. When you fly or stay with a company, they credit your account with ‘tier points’, ‘status credits’ or ‘qualifying nights’ – each scheme has its own terminology but it all works in broadly the same way.

How does it work?

Let’s look at the British Airways Executive Club. BA have four main ‘tiers’ in their scheme, each requiring a certain number of ‘tier points’ to be collected:

  • ‘Blue’ – entry level that anybody who goes onto the BA site can sign up for, no notable benefit other than the ability to collect Avios points and redeem on future flights.
  • ‘Bronze’ – 300 Tier Points; earn more Avios when you fly (125%), select seats up to 7 days in advance, use Business Class check-in, priority boarding;
  • ‘Silver’ – 600 Tier Points; earn more Avios when you fly (150%), select seats when you book, use Business Class check-in, priority boarding, access Business lounges;
  • ‘Gold’ – 1500 Tier Points; earn more Avios when you fly (200%), select seats when you book including long-haul exit row, use First Class check-in, priority boarding, access First lounges, access extra Economy ‘availability’ for redeeming Avios;

When you get to the top end of Gold, there are various sub-tiers which further differentiate including Gold Guest List (GGL) and Concorde Room Card (CCR), as well as the board-nominated Premier tier for commercially important individuals.

Each flight that you take with British Airways earns a certain number of Tier Points, which contribute towards the thresholds above. When you’ve collected a given number of points within your collection year, you achieve that level of status.

How hard is it to earn status?

Carrying on with the BA example, the number of Tier Points given out for each flight is a function of:

  • Flight Class (Economy, Premium Economy, Business, First);
  • Distance (Short Haul, Mid Haul, Long Haul)
  • Fare (Full Fare, Discount etc.)

You can use this calculator on BA to work out exactly how many Tier Points your flight will earn, but to give a couple of examples:

  • A one-way domestic or short-haul flight in Economy will earn c. 5-10 Tier Points;
  • A one-way European flight in ‘Club Europe’ will earn 40 Tier Points on shorter routes, 80 Tier Points on longer routes;
  • A one-way long-haul flight in ‘Club World’ will earn 140 Tier Points;

Unless you are deliberately setting out to earn maximum Tier Points for minimum spend, a good rule of thumb is you need to spend around £5 for each Tier Point earned. This means:

  • Bronze would mean spending around £1,500 with BA;
  • Silver would mean spending around £3,000 with BA;
  • Gold would mean spending around £7,500 with BA;

 

Is it worth it?

There are endless debates on FlyerTalk about how much status is worth, whether it is worth ‘going for’ the next tier, and what the benefits of one airlines scheme are vs. another. My philosophy is:

  1. Everyone should look at their travel patterns and work out the value they would get from achieving a certain tier. Most of the things you get from having status, you can buy either online or at the airport (e.g. paying for seat selection or lounge access). If you only fly twice a year, spending £100 on seat selection is a better idea than spending an extra £300 to fly with BA purely to get the Tier Points.
  2. It’s only useful if you use it. It sounds obvious, but I know many people who’ve taken an indirect flight or changed the timing of their holiday to help them achieve a certain tier, only to not fly again for the next year. Their status level had therefore expired before they could use it!
  3. It is worth ‘status planning’ to maximise your chances of achieving a certain tier. Flying within the same alliance and crediting all flights in that alliance to a single airline is good practise, so long as it doesn’t involve paying over the odds for flights.

For the last few years, I’ve averaged around 2 flights per week, and so I get a lot of value from having BA Gold status. I go out of my way to book certain flights or routings that will maximise the Tier Points I earn, so don’t pay too much of a premium for being at Gold.

Getting the most out of various airline and hotel schemes is part of our raison d’être, so if you have any questions don’t hesitate to get in touch.

IHG Accelerate – the best hotel promotion in the market?

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 18.04.19I wrote back in April about IHG Accelerate, the now-quarterly promotion from InterContinental Hotels Group. Back then they had just launched their promotion for June, July and August and as that winds to a close, they have now opened registration for the September – December equivalent.

How does it work?

Each member of the IHG Rewards Club (free to join) is given a set of personalised targets on the Accelerate website. To find out yours for September – December, login to your IHG account here. The algorithm that decides what your targets are used to be fairly predictable, in that the more you ordinarily stayed in IHG properties the harder they made it for you. This correlation seems to have waned in recent incarnations, with my account having a much higher number of stays through the year, but much easier targets.

For this round, I got:

  • Stay once get 5,000 bonus points;
  • Stay 8 nights and get 16,000 bonus points;
  • Book 2 stays with the IHG app for 2,600 bonus points;
  • Stay with us for the weekend and get 4,000 bonus points;
  • Stay in 1 hotel outside of your country of residence and get 8,000 bonus points;
  • Stay 2 times using your corporate rate and get 2,500 bonus points;
  • Stay 4 or more nights and get 5,000 bonus points;
  • Complete 6 out of  7 promotions and get 15,000 bonus points;
  • Bonus: Stay once in September and get 5,000 bonus points;

And my wife got…

  • Stay once get 1,000 points;
  • Stay 7 nights and get 7,000 bonus points;
  • Book 2 stays with the IHG app for 3,200 bonus points;
  • Stay in 2 hotels outside of your country of residence and get 12,800 bonus points;
  • Book 2 ‘bonus points’ packages and earn 3,600 points;
  • Complete 4 out of 5 promotions and get 12,800 points;
  • Bonus: Stay once in September and get 5,000 bonus points;

What’s the trick to it?

The most important thing to do is to identify where a single stay will tick more than one promotion, and therefore what is the minimum number of stays needed to pay out the completion bonus.

For me this means…

  • …the best ‘value’ would be to complete a one night stay in September outside my country of residence, which would pay out 5,000 (stay once) + 5,000 (September stay) + 8,000 (country of residence) = 18,000 bonus points. Making  that night at the weekend and tacking on an extra night would also trigger 4,000 for the weekend stay, but probably not worth it. As it happens, my country of residence is the UK and I live in Australia so this one shouldn’t be too hard…

For my wife this means…

  • …the best ‘value’ would be to book 2 one night stays outside her country of residence on ‘bonus points’ packages, using the app, and staying at least one of them in September. This would pay out 1,000 (stay once) + 5,000 (September stay) + 3,200 (app booking) + 12,800 (country of residence) + 3,600 (‘bonus points’) + 12,800 (completion bonus) = 38,400 points.

Is it worth it?

Whether proactively trying to hit your promotions is worthwhile or not depends on how you value your points and how much ‘marginal’ spend you need to make to hit them.

I value IHG points at 0.3-0.4p each, so the return from my approach would be £54 to £72 and for my wife would be £115 to £153. On this basis, it would be worth repointing existing stays and paying a small premium to do so, but probably not worth making bookings I don’t need just to hit the promotion.

Let me know what your personalised promotions are, I’m just off to book a couple of hotels…