How to collect airmiles – the beginners guide

This may seem like a simple question but there is a surprising amount of complexity here. For the semi-regular leisure flyer (it you, it me), it can seem daunting to know where to start. What’s more, when you are collecting, it can seem like you’ll never collect enough to actually be useful.

Here are the simple secrets and tricks to collecting airmiles the right way – because there is a wrong way! When done right, airmiles are free money that can seriously reduce the cost of your next trip to fun-time-happy-holidays.

There are a two things you need to know:

  • There are three major airline alliances, the chances are the airline you’re flying will be a member of one of these
  • You can collect airmiles from almost any flight, even if you’ve booked indirectly and even if someone else paid for the ticket

How to collect airmiles properly in four extremely simple steps:

  1. Chose the airline club that works the best for you from the group (using the below table). This is basically a question of deciding which airline you’d like to spend your miles with the most. For example – If your next flight is with American Airlines but you’re never going to go to the US again, then BA is probably the best bet. These should be your go to airline loyalty scheme within the alliance. Whenever you fly any airline within this alliance, make sure to use this club.
  2. Register for the scheme and get your account number
  3. Use this account number when checking into (or during booking) your flight to collect your miles
  4. Use the same account every time you fly a member airlines

Done and done! Seriously, that’s it.

Now do it again when you fly again. When your account balance is over 10/20 thousand then it’s time to start getting a little excited about what your miles can buy. A free-ish flight to the continent, an upgrade on your next flight? Yes bloody please and thank you so much – it’s all available when you’re collecting miles.

Top tip 1 – If you want to grow your airmiles balance significantly faster you can look at certain credit cards to do this. More on this later.

Top tip 2 – If you’ve flown recently and haven’t collected airmiles on your flight you can still collect them retrospectively, usually up to six months afterwards. Just log into your chosen account

Use the below table to check who is in which club, I’ve bolded airlines that are worth looking at collecting with / I use based on being a UK citizen. Also, you may notice Virgin Atlantic, Etihad and Emirates are missing from the below. These guys are so cool that they rock their own clubs, so you’ll just have to collect directly.

Alliance name: One world Star Alliance Sky Team
Airlines: American Airlines

British Airways

Cathay Pacific

Finnair

Iberia

Japan Airlines

LATAM

Malaysia Airlines

Qantas

Qatar Airways

Royal Jordanian

S7 Airlines

SriLanken Airlines

Adria

Aegean

Air Canada

Air China

Air india

Air New Zealand

ANA

Asiana Airlines

Austrian

Avianca

Brussels Airlines

CopaAirlines

Croatia Airlines

EgyptAir

Ethiopian

Evaair

LOT Polish Airlines

Lufthansa

SAS

Shenzhen Airlines

Singapore Airlines

South African Airways

SWISS

TAP Air Portugal

THAI

Turkish Airlines

United

Aeroflot

AerolineasArgentina

AeroMexico

AirEuropa

AirFrance

Alitalia

China Airlines

China Eastern

China Southern

Czech Airlines

Delta

Garuda Indonesia

Kenyan Airways

KLM

Korean Air

MEA

Saudia

Tarom

Vietnam Airlines

XiamenAir

How to get free hotel upgrades

Admit it, you check into a hotel, you know there are better rooms than the one you paid for (and even some suites) and you want that upgrade – you just don’t want to pay for it. Well good news, here are our tried-and-tested top-tips on how to get free hotel upgrades.

  1. Special occasion – Are you staying somewhere special for a honeymoon / anniversary / birthday? Well let the hotel know. The best way to do this is by dropping them an email in advance, although just letting reception know at check in can yield some great results. Don’t expect a presidential suite, but a corner room or bigger room with robes can be a nice treat. As an aside, it’s up to you if you want make this special occasion up, I personally don’t but I know people that do (no names – you know who you are!)
  2. Spend points – Travel points are a whole article in and of themselves but, it’s fair to say, almost all of them can you used to buy premium hotel rooms in some way shape or form. Whether you’re using Amex points (which can be transferred to pretty much anything), hotel points themselves or even Avios (yup, you can use airmiles to buy hotel rooms), this is a great way to get this upgrade for free.
  3. Loyalty schemes – all major hotel brands have loyalty schemes. These are designed with two goals in mind: firstly to reward loyalty and secondly to skew people’s purchase decisions to stay at these brands. That being said, they are always free to join and hotels will usually offer some perks even to free members. What’s more, they’re more likely to look at you favourably when using any of the other tips. Finally, if you’ve booked directly, you’ll probably get points for your stay. This is free money. Why wouldn’t you do this!?
  4. Status – Not only do loyalty schemes allow you to join for free and collect points but, the more you stay, the more you work your way up the tiers – silver, gold etc (it’s a bit like the Olympics although with less sports, and it’s not every four years, and it’s not thousands of years old – ok it’s not much like the olympics). Anyway, the higher tiers in these schemes often give you room upgrades for free, sometimes guaranteed! If you don’t stay enough to earn status then there is a fantastic secret to getting status at hotel chains – this is included as a perk with several credit cards.
  5. Negotiate – ok, I’ll admit that this one isn’t technically a ‘free’ upgrade but it sure as hell can be a deal. Hotels often have premium rooms un-sold, which means they’re going to sit there unused and empty. A hotel would much rather make some money from these rooms than none, so it’s always worth asking for the upgrade price and then making an offer. In my experience, this works in over 90% of instances and we’ve secured crazy deals like a £400 per night five-star suite for only £20!
  6. Complain – specifically when or if something goes wrong. Everyone hates the dude shouting at some poor receptionist for nothing – don’t be that guy! That being said, if you’ve been looking forward to an awesome holiday or your annual trip abroad and the air conditioning doesn’t work / bathroom tap is broken / minibar is missing / there are holes in the wall (all of these things have happened to me) then tell someone. Follow our how to complain rules and be specific that you’d like to move rooms and would appreciate an upgrade
  7. Flirt – Like most things in life, rightly or wrongly, this really can work. I personally have had varying degrees of success here but I know people where this works a lot. If you’re out of option and wondering how to get that free upgrade when walking to check in, don your best fake smile and cheeky wink (or whatever your thing is)

Got your own thoughts on how to get free hotel upgrades? Do you have a secret trick up your sleeve? Let us know by getting in touch and we’ll get your top tips added to the list