Frequent flyer points. Do you have them or use them? For some people, they are pretty important. There is a whole sub-culture out there, devoted to getting and using points.
Is it Worth It?
The first thing you should examine is, is it worth trying to get lots of frequent flyer points. After all, we are also now in a fabulous new era of low cost flying – an incredible democratisation of travel is now occurring. Recently Richard Quest, CNN’s business travel guru, circumnavigated the globe (including Sydney), for less than half the price it would have cost using full service airlines.
If you are spending little or nothing on credit cards, and/or have limited opportunity for business or personal travel, chasing points can be pointless or worse.
But if you are are big spender on credit cards (and hopefully you are paying them before the due date) and/or flights, it may be worth looking a little deeper into the world of Frequent Flyer points.
There are several websites out there that cover all aspects of frequent flying. The level of information can be overwhelming! Point Hacks, Australian Business Traveller and Australian Frequent Flyer (the latter being an online forum) come to mind. There is even a business that will charge the a fee for getting the best deal with your points – called iFlyFlat. Such is the potential complexity of this area.
The Key Points
Here is my summary of the things you should look at when seeking to get the best out of your points (which, lets face it, can have a lot or little value):
- If you live in Australia, decide which of the two major airlines you are best aligned with. We went with Virgin Australia’s Velocity program several years ago. That was at a time when Qantas were cutting or downgrading services to Adelaide, and before they tied in with Emirates.
- Try and get a credit card that has the following features: 1) Unlimited point earning ability (many cards limit the number of points you can earn per month), and 2) A flexible points scheme. So some cards allow you to access a wide range of schemes, whereas some will only allow you to access, say, the Qantas scheme.
- If you can, get a card without an annual fee and that has an interest free period. If you can’t pay your credit card when it falls due, you probably shouldn’t be chasing points but trying to get the cheapest interest rate on your debt possible. Sometimes banks will offer these cards free with their ‘Professional Packages’.
- American Express offer a card that gives a Virgin flight annually (to limited ports), with a reasonable annual fee. If you live in Adelaide or indeed Perth that flight can be worth it. Note though that the flight itself won’t generate any points or status credits.
- You will generally get better value spending your points on flights rather than say gadgets.
- If you are very well off, you will often find you get more ‘bang’ with your points using them to upgrade a flight to a higher class of flight than by buying an economy seat. Personally I would reserve this option for a long haul international flight – for example an Emirates leg from Adelaide to Dubai.
- If you want free access to lounges from your (and other) airline(s) and a whole lot of other benefits, such as increased points from flights, you may wish to aim for Gold or Platinum status with your preferred scheme. This is not about points but about Status Credits. Generally Status Credits can only be gained by actually paying for flights with your main carrier or with its aligned carriers. You may need to commit to quite a bit of flying to do this if you don’t already fly for business. For example an annual trip to Europe plus some domestic flights should get you there – just make sure you have attached your preferred frequent flyer scheme to that flight.
- If you are in the Qantas oneworld ecosystem, you may decide to join other oneworld schemes such as American Airlines AA Advantage. You are able to purchase points from this scheme (though not from Qantas), and use it for upgrading say your Qantas flight. Wait for the promotions though.
So there are my main points. There is an incredible amount of complexity in this area. Google and the specialist sites I referred to above might be able to assist you with your particular needs. Though I suspect most folk will be happy to skim over the surface of these murky waters! General advice only 🙂