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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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;
- AirAsia’s BIG Loyalty programme (Malaysia)
- CEBU Pacific’s Get Go (Philippines)
- Frontier EarlyReturns Mileage Program (USA)
- GermanWings or EuroWing’s Boomerang Club AND Miles & More (Germany)
- JetBlue’s True Blue (USA)
- Pegasus’ Pegasus Plus (Turkey)
- Porter’s VIPorter (Canada)
- Southwest’s Rapid Rewards (USA)
- Spirit’s Free Spirit (USA)
- WestJet Rewards (Canada)
- Vueling’s Punto Program (Spain) – see below as there are multiple ways to earn with Vueling!
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;
- Air One (Italy) – you can earn points on Alitalia’s MilleMiglia Program
- Flybe (UK) – you can earn British Airways Avios program
- Jetstar (Australasia) – you can earn points with three airlines – Qantas, Emirates, and Japan Airlines (JAL)
- FlyNiki (Austria) – you can earn air miles with AirBerlin’s Topbonus program
- Scoot (Singapore) – you can earn air miles with Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer program
- Vueling (Spain) – you can earn points with Vueling’s Punto Program OR Iberia’s Plus Programme
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.
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;
- One Mile At A Time – Value of Points and Miles
- The Points Guy – What is a Point or Mile Worth?
- Australian Business Traveller – What is a Qantas Frequent Flyer Point Worth?
- Australian Business Traveller – What is a Virgin Australia Velocity Frequent Flyer Point Worth?
Mistake: Not using multiple streams to collect points
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.
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 gym, printing, 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!
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).
- Australian Business Traveller – How to convert Velocity frequent flyer points into KrisFlyer miles
- Australian Business Traveller – Scoot flights to earn Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles, not status
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.
- Australian Business Traveller – Etihad, Coles Flybuys unveils points partnership
- Australian Business Traveller – Etihad Guest: the unofficial guide for Aussie frequent flyers
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;
- Frequent Flyers Australia
- Frequent Flyers New Zealand
- FFA American Airlines
- FFA Hotels (for ways to earn points relating to hotels)
- FFA Restaurants (for ways to earn points relating to restaurants)
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