Hills Balfour sat down for an exclusive chat with Nicky Kelvin, director of content and the face of The Points Guy UK (TPG UK), for a masterclass in how the brand uses points and miles to inspire people to travel.
What started as a U.S.-based points-and-miles blog by founder and CEO Brian Kelly over a decade ago, has since evolved into a transatlantic lifestyle media brand. TPG UK publishes points and miles advice, as well as the latest aviation news and reviews. Nicky is part of a team of eight in London, all of whom have the goal of turning Brits into savvy travellers by executing TPG UK mantra of ‘maximising travel in ways people never knew existed’.
Since its UK launch in April 2019 TPG UK has amassed a substantial 650,000 monthly online users, 70,000 engaged newsletter subscribers and made its mark with a highly successful YouTube channel. TPG UK YouTube channel provides its audience with insider intel and has logged over three centuries worth of cumulative watch time, nearly a quarter of a million subscribers and 28 million channel views in the past year alone.
Here, Hills Balfour rounds up TPG UK’s top tips and tricks and gives an overview of the brand’s industry insight in the current climate. As TPG UK has stormed the market over the last twelve months, next steps for the brand include expansion into destination-led content, a highly anticipated ‘game-changing’ app launching in the coming months and upcoming brand redesign led by Nicky himself.
The Points Guy UK Tips and Tricks: ‘How to fly first class for almost free’
- Make the most of reward credit cards - Nicky cuts through the noise of the many options available and advises beginners to try out the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card. Why? It’s free for the first year, the signup bonus can be as big as 20,000 membership reward points and it comes with vouchers for lounge access. A seasoned pro? Look to the Amex Platinum or try the Virgin Atlantic Rewards Mastercard for use when Amex isn’t accepted.
- Learn the loyalty programmes - Sign up to the BA Executive Club, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club and don’t forget to collect points during hotel stays as well. Never rack up enough points to use them later? Nicky advises a diverse portfolio and to make the most of airline alliance schemes.
- Cash in Clubcard points at Tesco – Clubcard points can be transferred to both BA and Virgin schemes at beneficial rates. Currently £2.50 spent in Tesco is the equivalent of 600 Avios points or 625 Virgin miles. TPG UK has calculated that a family of four, doing the weekly food and petrol shop at Tesco can earn back as much as £300 in a year to use towards flights.
- Snap up a shopping portal deal – BA and Virgin have shopping portals that allow users to earn miles on online purchases just by clicking through to the many retailers on offer, including brands such as Selfridges and Apple. Also try Topcashback to compare cashback earning rates. Topcashback earnings can also be transferred to Avios.
- Do the deal research – …Or let TPG UK do it first. TPG UK sends out a daily newsletter and social alerts for hot tickets. Instead follow in Nicky’s footsteps and always look up flights on Google Flights. The search engine pulls through multiple airlines and routes at once, allowing for quick comparisons. Additionally, travellers can use Google Flights to search multiple departure airports for the best deals, including cross country options. Like most things, Londoners also pay top dollar for departure. Nicky advises researching the difference of starting journeys in other European cities, such as Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels, Copenhagen or Stockholm, to unlock deals.
- Set up status – For frequent fliers, the benefits of tiered status on loyalty programmes can pay dividends. Most programmes are amending and extending benefits for the next year to acknowledge travel restrictions in place; Amex are offering double earning and BA have enacted blanket scheme extensions.
- Get some goals – Destination inspiration is key. Nicky encourages travellers to set a goal and plan how to use shopping points, credit cards and all of the above tips and tricks to make wanderlust a reality, wherever in the world it may be.
Nicky Kelvin quick fire Q&A: Industry insight in the climate of Coronavirus
Q: Is The Points Guy UK audience still excited to travel?
Nicky: In the UK there is a lot of good engagement with our education pieces on reopening dates – so yes, people are excited, but they want clarity and come to us for advice. Our country-by-country guide has performed really well and was picked up in the Daily Mail. TPG UK is starting to publish destination inspiration as well, encouraging users to book ahead and make the most of flexible travel policies for when it is safe to travel once again.
Q: What is the difference in UK / U.S. mindset towards travel at the moment?
Nicky: Obviously there has been a consistent difference to the pandemic as a whole and that is still the case now with regards to travel. The mindset in the U.S. is definitely ahead of the UK right now with regards to catching flights. Brian Kelly (U.S. founder and CEO) is planning trips to Antigua and Iceland. We are a little behind in the UK and we will continue to follow FCO advice and educate our audience to do so as well.
Q: What is the upcoming focus for The Points Guy UK?
Nicky: The Points Guy and TPG UK have a global audience. We are looking to leverage that with international brands and tourist boards to create content – both editorial and advertorial – with strong destination focus. We have established ourselves as a trusted voice in the industry and want to increase our inspirational message. We have cracked how to help travellers fly somewhere for less, often in more style and in doing so have created a window for travellers to spend more when they get to a destination. We are excited to develop creatively over the next year and are using this downtime to plan ahead for big moves to come.
For further points and miles advice from Nicky and the team, as well as aviation and travel news please visit: www.thepointsguy.co.uk