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7 Mistakes You’re Making When Collecting Frequent Flyer Points

Frequent flyer points, or air miles, are becoming big business with airlines working hard to tempt us to be loyal. That being said, there’s a lot of mystery behind those magical points we can earn when travelling, shopping, dining, or even filling up at the petrol pump, but if you can work them out the rewards can be rich.

We all make mistakes – at least I know I have! – and I want to debunk a few of the most common ones for you with the hope that you’ll join a rewards program and get travelling on that dream trip sooner!

Mistake: Not signing up to rewards programs
Solution: Sign up!

You know they can earn frequent flyer points but don’t know how, or which alliance is best for you. Even if you don’t know exactly your frequent flyer point goal is, don’t let those points go to waste and start collecting!

Most frequent flyer experts recommend trying to stick with one alliance (OneWorld, Star Alliance or Sky Team) and flying with the partner airlines of the alliance. This will boost your account’s bottom line while still being able to fly with multiple partners.

oneworld members

For example, as a Qantas Frequent Flyer member I can earn points with Cathay Pacific, American Airways, British Airways, Qatar, Finnair, and many others as part of the OneWorld alliance. Independent of the alliance, I can earn points with other airlines Qantas partners with including Jetstar, Emirates, Alaska Airlines, Alitalia, and China Eastern.

Virgin Australia are not part of an alliance but do have a number of partner airlines. Most notably, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Singapore Airlines, Etihad, and South Africa Airlines.

star alliance members

If you are a frequent traveller, consider choosing one or two airlines from different alliances – one OneWorld and one Star Alliance, for example.
As a member of Qantas Frequent Flyer, I favour OneWorld, but this past year has seen me flying a number of Star Alliance member airlines (Thai Airways and Air New Zealand). As a Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer member, I can collect points from all Star Alliance partners AND Virgin Australia – one of their partner airlines.

sky team members

If you are in Europe or America, check out SkyTeam. Their partners include AirFrance, Alitalia, Delta, KLM and more.

In central Europe, check out Miles & More, which is run by Lufthansa and has links to Star Alliance. This program is based around member airlines based in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, and Poland.

So, what are you waiting for? Do some research and sign up!

Qantas is waiving their joining fee until December 31, 2015, if you sign-up here.

ways to earn frequent flyer points

Mistake: Thinking you can only earn points while flying or by using a credit card
Solution: Take some time to research new ways to incorporate earning points – there’s a lot!

This is one of the most common misconceptions when it comes to earning frequent flyer points, but there are so many ways to earn frequent flyer points!
While it is true you will earn frequent flyer points faster, and often with big bonuses upon sign up, this isn’t always the right fit for every person.

One way to balance this is by signing up for a ‘cash card’. Much like a load-and-go travellers card or a debit card, Qantas Cash and Virgin Australia’s Global Wallet. Both cards offer earning rates of two points per dollar spent on International currency and one point earned per every $2 spent in Australian dollars.  Throughout the year there may be bonuses when you load currency, which can add up quickly depending on the bonus offers!
One way I found to really amp up your earning was by loading money onto the card before paying for bills, big-ticket items, or even accommodation costs through the cards. It helps me manage my money AND earn me points to get my flying faster!

Other ways you can earn include online malls where you can click-through to partner programs and earn points by shopping. If you are a foodie or enjoy a glass of wine, check out the list of partners each airline you are affiliated with has, or sign up and sweat out at a partner gym!

awardwallet

Mistake: Having frequent flyer points with every airline you’ve ever flown
Solution: Consolidate with one airline per alliance and use AwardWallet to track

When I first started collecting frequent flyer points I went a bit mad and signed up for every airline that had an awards bonus or any possible way to points. It was sheer madness trying to keep up with them, especially since many airlines points expire if your account is inactive for 18-months.

One of the hardest parts of collecting frequent flyer points from multiple streams or alliances is keeping track of them, especially if they can expire. Even I made this mistake. Now, I use Award Wallet to keep track of my frequent flyer points.

It’s like a folder designed especially for rewards cards. Track and manage air miles, hotel reward points, credit card points, and nearly any other type of reward point scheme! Simply plug-in your account information and it will appear on your dashboard for easy tracking.

AwardWallet also has a number of forums to answer any questions or tell you about any good promotions to earn extra points.

First-time user of AwardWallet? Click here to upgrade your account for free!

noweveryonecanfly

Mistake: Flying low-cost airlines
Solution: Keep flying, but consider your options

We all love a good bargain but rarely do bargain flights come with the benefit of being able to contribute to your frequent flyer tally. Some low-cost airlines do have their own programs, such as;

Note: You don’t have to be a citizen of the country where the
airline is based to sign up with their Frequent Flyer Program,
though some may require a mailing address in that country.

Or some airlines are affiliated with other airlines who may be part of an alliance, such as;

In Australia, Jetstar is affiliated with Qantas Frequent Flyer, Emirates Skyward, and Japan Airlines JAL Mileage Bank. On some of these flights points can be earned only if you purchase Plus, Max or Business Max bundles, which does mean paying more for your seat; but there are added benefits for each tier of seating, like free checked baggage, food vouchers, and lounge access.

smeg appliances

Mistake: Redeeming your miles for short flights or appliances
Solution: Learn the value of points

What a lot of people who collect frequent flyer points don’t realise is that air miles and points have a value. This can be quite a subjective topic as it depends on your travel goal and which airline you collect frequent flyer points with or which hotel chain you are partners with.

Basically, depending on the distance travelled, class of travel (Economy, Business, First) and even the airline you collect miles with, their value can be different.
Further to this, long distance travel is often considered a better use of points because the value is higher than when redeeming for a short flight or even an appliance.

I’m not an expert on this topic, so here are some of the people I read and recommend for not only this topic but everything to do with earning and spending frequent flyer points;

ways to earn frequent flyer points

Mistake: Not using multiple streams to collect points
Solution: Diversify!

I touched on this a little earlier when I talked about how some people think there are only two ways to earn frequent flyer points – through flying a lot or using a credit card.

I cancelled my credit card nearly three years ago after I realised just how much I paid in interest compared to non-frequent flyer point earning cards. Yes, in some instances you can sign up and cancel after the interim period needed to collect the points bonuses or have one card where you’ve negotiated a great rate, but let’s be honest, money can be difficult to manage, and I’ve had cautionary tales from people saying that signing up to a lot of cards just to collect the air mile bonus can reflect negatively on your credit history, though I would like to verify this with a financial expert!

So, how do I earn frequent flyer points? I diversify.

Qantas eStore

I was hoping to use my 2015 balance to show you exactly where I earned frequent flyer points through Qantas’ Frequent Flyer Point program, however, big changes are happening to the program (including earning frequent flyer points by wearing a fitness tracker!) which had led most of my data to be defunct.

While I earn a lot of miles from flying and hotel stays, I also earn a large amount from shopping for groceries at Woolworths, buying petrol at Caltex/Woolworth Petrol Stations (both of these programs end on December 31st, 2015), shopping through Qantas’ Online Mall where you can earn up to 5 points per dollar spent (or up to 10 points per dollar spent when promotions are running, like Christmas!), and making use of Qantas Cash – the pre-loaded ‘debit’ card – especially when there are bonus points if you load a specific amount of money.
I’ve also earned little chunks of points by buying movie vouchers, eating at restaurants, parking at Qantas’ Valet Parking when taking short trips and paying for travel insurance.

WAIT, there’s more ways! You can earn Qantas Frequent Flyer Points by going to the gymprinting, buying or attending wine events, purchasing activities or experiences, listing, buying or selling a house, comparing health insurance policies, and more! You can even earn 150 points per month just by using the Qantas Frequent Flyer Toolbar and the Bing Search Engine!

Virgin Australia Velocity eStore

While I have some Virgin Australia Velocity program, it’s not an airline I am well acquainted with so only earn frequent flyer points on a limited basis with them. Like Qantas, Virgin Velocity has an online mall where you earn two points per dollar spent, with some partners offering double points during holiday or promotional periods.
Some other ways you can earn points with Virgin is through filling up your car at BP, having a phone or broadband connection with Virgin Mobile, through food and wine partners, by going to Jetts gym,  travel insurance, chauffeur services, and paying for bills and services, including MyPost Digital Mailbox with Australia Post.
One feature I really like about the Virgin Velocity program is that points can be collected as a family pool, meaning the family collects points and status credits in one account making rewards more attainable.

With more airlines coming to Australia, there are more ways to earn frequent flyer points with international airlines.
One way is with a partnership with Virgin Australia and Singapore Airlines. Under their partnership, Virgin Australia Velocity members can convert their points into Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer miles, and vice versa.
While it may seem like you lose points when converting between the programs since there is a 1.35:1 ration, remember that the number of points needed to book a flight is different in both programs.
There are some benefits for maximising this relationship. Singapore Airlines is a member of Star Alliance which has partners all over the world, including United, Air Canada, Lufthansa and Air New Zealand. Singapore Airlines also has a partnership with SilkAir, Scoot, Tigerair, and JetBlue (US).

Read more

It seems that Etihad Airways is almost making moves into the Australian frequent flyer market with a new partnership between Etihad Airways and Coles Flybuys scheme. This will see shoppers earning both frequent flyer points and status credits which will help shoppers fast-track towards premium memberships and perks.

While Etihad Guest Miles points won’t be directly earned by using Cole’s FlyBuys, they can be converted in your FlyBuys account. You’ll need 10,000 Flybuys points to convert them into 4,000 Etihad Guest Miles. Flybuys points can only be redeemed in blocks of 10,000.
You can even earn Etihad Guest Miles by booking flights through the FlyBuys website which will then allow you to earn points when flying with Etihad.

To earn Tier Miles – that’s the equivalent to status credits – you will need to link your Etihad Guest Miles membership to your Flybuys account through the Flybuys website.

Read more

qantas-mall-christmas-bonus

Mistake: Not knowing about bonuses and how to work them to your advantage
Solution: Read and interact with other air mile collectors!

One of the best ways to quickly earn bonus points is taking advantage of periods where airlines offer bonuses. Sounds simple, yes? It is but you need to know about them!
Be sure to sign up for email newsletters and notifications for your airline of choice and check them to see if they offer any good deal.

In America, the Travel Hacking Cartel is a great resource which teaches you how to earn and spend your miles. They will email you with the latest deals, weekly/monthly round-ups and have a great community in their forum While they do share international deals, the majority of them are American based.

Another great American based resource is The Points Guy, a website run by the amicable Brian Kelly and a team of staff who focus on news and updates of great airfare deals, frequent flyer points, and everything to do with commercial aviation.

One of the most popular forums – and where I first learned about collecting miles – was on FlyerTalk. While an American run website, the forum includes information for most airlines and mileage programs, and space for talk about airline alliances, hotel loyalty programs, credit card programs, car rental programs, and other loyalty programs like Amtrak or iDine. They also keep you up to date with the latest in the airline world on the FlyerTalk website.

For Aussies, I’ve found Facebook to be the best way to connect with people who love to collect frequent flyer points. On there, you’ll find a number of travel hacking or frequent flyer forums. The ones I know about and use/d;

There’s also a forum at the Australian Frequent Flyer that can be incredibly helpful, especially if you are getting started.

I love seeing the number of frequent flyer points in my account grow, and hope you do to, but if you don’t have a goal you can turn into a point hoarder so remember to set a goal when collecting points and then get to work collecting points towards that next big adventure!

Let me know in the comments

Do you collect frequent flyer points?

Do you have any great ways to collect points?

Are you guilty of any of these mistakes?

Where do you want to travel with your points?

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9 Comments

  • Reply
    Holly
    November 24, 2015 at 8:11 am

    Wow, you’ve inspired me to take it more seriously. And what, points for searching online – I’m in. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Lauren Meshkin
    November 24, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    Ahhhh, definitely saving this! I need to start researching a loyalty program and a good travel credit card to help earn miles. It’s all a bit daunting but I know it’s worth it. Thanks for sharing!

    Happy travels 🙂

    • Reply
      Nicole
      November 30, 2015 at 12:54 pm

      Hey Lauren, am I correct in thinking you are American? If so, I really do recommend you read The Points Guy as he’ll have a ton of relevant information for you regarding loyalty programs and great American travel credit cards. Don’t forget, there are tons of ways to earn without using credit!

  • Reply
    Amanda Kendle
    November 28, 2015 at 10:32 pm

    Oh, I totally *want* to know and do all this but there seems like so much to learn!! Though thank you for the Virgin Mobile tip, how annoying that I have been with them for years and never knew I could link those accounts, am just about to!

    • Reply
      Nicole
      November 30, 2015 at 12:52 pm

      Glad this post was helpful, Amanda!
      Collecting frequent flyer points can seem overwhelming to begin with but take a little bit of time to implement a few strategies, and brush up on their latest partners, and you’ll be booking your next ticket sooner than you think. 🙂

      Enjoy those extra Virgin Mobile points! 😉

  • Reply
    Hayley Lately: Best of November 2015 | Hayley on Holiday
    December 6, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    […] home, Melbourne. This post from Hannah Gale made me smile and this article from Nicole at Bitten by the Travel Bug was totally informative. I didn’t realise I could get cheap movie tickets with my Qantas […]

  • Reply
    David Lynne
    April 6, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    good way of earning points .
    nice blog

  • Reply
    Amanda
    June 4, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    Such a good post! I totally agree with knowing the most you possibly can about this stuff, I’m off to Europe free on points next month and then will be off to the US – I didn’t have the award wallet app but I’ve just downloaded it.

    • Reply
      Nicole
      June 4, 2016 at 6:16 pm

      Thanks, Amanda! Let me know how you find AwardsWallet 🙂
      And have a fantastic trip to Europe! Where are you going?

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