Joining a frequent flyer program may be something that you’ve never considered doing.
Aren’t they just for suit-wearing executives who fly back and forth from Sydney to Melbourne?
Not so. Australia is a nation of travel lovers, some out of necessity and some because they want to.
Migrants are visiting relatives in ‘the old country’ from time to time, wanderlust travelers are jetting off to explore new places and so on the list goes.
First up, people who typically are spending a a few thousand dollars or more per month, pay of their balance each month and intend to book a flight somewhere are suitable for a frequent flyer program. But in the pursuit of points, don’t go out of your way to spend money in order to earn points.
Whatever you spend your money on has to on purchases that you’d be making regardless of points or incentives otherwise its spending for the sake of spending. With that in mind, here are 10 simple tips to help you get the most from frequent flyer programs.
#1 Entitlements, Privileges and Benefits
This is the exciting bit and probably the reason you’re reading this blog post. The entitlements are numerous and attractive. As a member of frequent flyer program you’ll enjoy quicker check-in times and boarding times at the airport, preferential seating on the flight, get extra checked baggage allowance and access to those plush airport lounges.
Now the really attractive bit – you can redeem your points for upgrades to business or first class seats or get huge discounts on tickets. Depending on how far you fly you could even redeem the points for a free ticket.
#2 Earning Points
It is super important to know that to get the most out of a frequent flyer program and therefore you need to understand a little bit about how your points are earned. Points can be earned for every dollar spent with the airline program when you book a flight or buy from a participating retailer in a promotion.
#3 Boost Your Points
Programs like Qantas and Velocity really do make it very easy to earn points. One of the thee most effective ways to earn a bucket-load of points is to sign up for a credit card that is linked to your frequent flyer program. That way you shop using your credit card as you ordinarily would do and in the process you earn points. Most cards have a 1-to-1 ratio: spend one dollar and earn one point. Take a look at the comparison tables on a site like FrequentFlyerCreditCards.com.au to see which cards offer the best dollar to points ratio and overall best value.
Hot tip: Make sure you pay off your monthly credit card bill (something you should do anyway) otherwise the value of the frequent flyer points will be eaten into by the interest you’re paying on that monthly statement!
#4 Big Spender?
If you intend on spending a lot of money, 2000 or more per month, then you should consider the option of getting an uncapped frequent flyer credit card. That way you won’t hit caps or limits and every single dollar you spend will earn points.
Airlines have set up their frequent flyer programs to have tiers. For example, Qantas have three levels: Silver, Gold and Platinum. Velocity also have 3 tiers: Red, Silver and Gold. You will be eligible for better benefits, bonus points and more points earning potential by reaching milestones associated with your rewards program.
#6 Airline Partners
The available partners within your frequent flyer program will make a big difference in how you use your rewards. Qantas are teamed up with oneworld and a bunch of other airlines meaning their network is massive. Velocity Rewards are primarily used on Virgin Blue, V Australia, Virgin Atlantic or Virgin America but can points can be transferred to seven other airlines notably Delta.
If partner options are limited or you don’t do want to fly with the partners involved in a reward program, then it won’t be the best fit for you. It’s also important that you understand how your points will transfer for use with those partners. For example, do those points transfer on a point-for-point ratio to another program? If not then you need to question if its worth it.
#7 Flight Destinations
Where an airline flies will greatly affect the benefits you receive from your card. So, start with your destination and work back from there. For example, if you know that you want to fly from Sydney to Tokyo or Brisbane to Singapore but the airline’s frequent flyer program doesn’t fly there, there then there’s no point. Choose a frequent flyer program that casts a wide net of destinations.
There are going to be restrictions on when, where or how you use your points which can be frustrating. Getting to redeem your points is subject to capacity and availability so if the flight is booked up already then you’ll not get to muscle your way on just because you hold a frequent flyer card.
#9 There’s Fees to Pay
There’s a once-off joining fee for the Qantas program of $82.50. And if you sign up for a frequent flyer credit card there’s an annual fee which is usually not much more than the average credit card’s annual fee. There’s actually a couple of cards out there which have no annual fee but they aren’t directly linked to the Qantas or Velocity program.
#10 Use it or Lose it
Fees associated with a program and your frequent flyer credit card will still need to be paid whether you use it or not. Therefore, your card might be costing you money if you don’t fly on a regular or semi-regular basis. Be aware that points eventually expire. It takes 18 months for Qantas points to expire if you don’t earn or use the points and 3 years for Velocity Points.