When I started my first degree back in the mists of time, Sainsbury’s had just launched their first reward card. I became a little obsessed with it.
I realise I may be alone in thinking this, but that first card was better than its successor, the Nectar Card, and here’s how: you could use it for air miles. And air miles were straight forward, tax-free, and generously allocated.
After a term’s worth of (basically) cheddar, bread, tea bags and milk, I was able to treat myself to a flight back to Guernsey to see much-loved, much-missed friends from my gap year. I’d eaten at least one meal in college per day during that time, but I’d been savvy and always chosen the make of bread or cheddar or tea bags that carried extra reward points (and there were many of those back then), and so basically one term’s worth of lunchtime cheese toasties had been sufficient to carry me home. I know Guernsey isn’t far, but still, that’s some achievement. And my brilliance at collecting reward points was, now that I think about it, something of a legend among my group of friends. (Maybe not a legend; I exaggerate for the sake of poetry. But it was nonetheless mentioned from time to time.)
Now that I’m about to start the whole university thing again (though it will be called “school”) I have picked up this obsession where it left off. America loves reward points. It loves them! And most beloved of all, as far as I can tell, are the frequent flyer miles. Unlike the Air Miles of old (wistful sigh), each airline has its own scheme, which makes it more complex, and a lot harder work to figure out. I’m flying to DC with British Airways, who are an American Airlines partner, so I’ve opened an account with them, though I’ve opened several others too. I plan at some point to spend a substantial amount of time looking through the web site of each scheme and collating information on exactly which restaurant, which credit card, which hotel, earns me how many points with which airline. Maybe even doing a nifty thing involving a giant map and colour coding. Because it’s not just flights – you can earn them on everything. I mean, everything. You can spend them on everything too, but I won’t be doing that – mine are for seeing the world. Well, Colorado and California, anyway.
My air miles collecting will be legendary once more.