So most of us are back at work now, probably with a bit of the holiday blues and one eye on the calendar. Everyone knows an upgrade story but how easy is it to get that elusive upgrade? I asked two experts on what are the best ways to earn Frequent Flyer points and get that elusive Businsess Class upgrade. First my friend FreakyFlier is an airline obsessed travel blogger who knows everything there is about planes-I often joke that his favourite part is the flight over the destination. He offers five tips on how to earn and spend points from an everyday traveller perspective.
Secondly is Steve Hui from iFLYflat who describes himself as a "financial planner for airline points". He specialises in helping small businesses make the most of their points.
FreakyFlier's Five Tips to Make the Most of Your Frequent Flyer Points
Five. Start first by earning or buying points/miles.
You don’t only have to earn points/miles when you fly, besides the obvious credit card offers. Simply using program partners can you bolster your memberships bottom line. I book all my hotel stays, transfers and tours through my airline programs website and earn points through my bank account. No not my credit card, but my everyday banking.
A lot of airlines will allow you to buy points/miles if you are just shy of that goal you have. With Qantas Frequent Flyer for example, you can buy 500 points for $20 up to 10,000 points for around $335. It’s really only value to top yourself up if you are short, I wouldn’t suggest paying for 10,000 which is enough to get you a one way ticket between Sydney and Melbourne in Economy Class because you could buy that same fare at a lower price.
Four. Know the difference between points/miles versus status credits
A lot of airlines allow people to earn points through such things as credit cards and hotel stays. While this may boost your points and help you obtain free flights or an upgrade, it is status credits that show your loyalty to an airline and these are earned through flying on the airlines services. Status credits do expire, generally every year, so you reach a level, you have to keep flying in order to maintain it.
It may be nice to have hundreds of thousands of points or miles but if you are a low tiered member there are no loyalty benefits which can include priority boarding and guest lounge passes or frequent access. Not to mention, usually the higher status you have the more points you will earn when you fly. Plus there are priority waitlists for upgrades and generally if the Economy Cabin is full and they need to bump someone up to Business Class, those on a higher tier will most definitely get it over someone not seen as loyal to the airline.
Three. Consolidate and stick with one airline or airline alliance
For a long time I always took the cheapest flight and if it happened to be on an airline I’d not flown before or not part of an alliance, I would join their program. After many years of accruing memberships with several airlines, I had all these accounts but not enough points/miles with one particular airline to do anything with them. I now balance the cost against what I will earn with points or status. I currently stick with Qantas Frequent Flyer and fly carriers in their alliance, OneWorld. Generally I use my points for a simple upgrade domestically and I usually fly on a wide bodied aircraft where more seats in Business Class are available.
Two. Research and use the airlines points calculator to make sure you earn the most points and use the least when you fly
While sticking with the same alliance will help boost your points, if two or more airlines in the alliance fly the same route, sometimes checking which flight to fly on will boost them even further. Recently I flew from Auckland to Sydney in Business Class on Emirates. Emirates and Qantas codeshare their flights and by booking the flight as a Qantas flight number on an Emirates plane I earned 2,500 points and 80 status credits, whereas if I had booked the same flight (at the same cost) as an Emirates flight number I would have only earned 1,875 points and 0 status credits.
One. Use points for upgrades, don't redeem them for products or gift vouchers
Want to sit up the front? Whilst the cost can be prohibitive for most, the best value in using your points is using them for upgrades. Forget the blender or fitbit watch, forget the ‘free’ flight you’re ‘rewarded’ with, you’re wasting those points. Using the points for upgrades is, in my opinion, maximizing their value.
Think of it this way; the normal return economy fare on Qantas between Melbourne and Los Angeles is around $1,500 or, if you want to spend those points, 120,000 points plus around $700 in taxes. But for 144,000 points or just 24,000 points more you can upgrade that same $1,500 fare to Business Class which could be worth around $8,500 to buy.
Pointhacks is a website I refer to and where you can submit questions, plus they have some great idea’s on maximising your points or any latest tricks or news from the airlines programs such as match offers – where one airline will match your status with another to have you start flying with them, then you’d have two memberships with the same status.
iFLYflat's Tips for Small Business Owners
iFLYflat helps busy business owners who might either have over 200,000 points or spend over $200,000 per year paying business and personal bills on their credit cards. Our clients are small & medium sized business owners in a diverse range from restauranteurs to digital marketing agencies, real estate to dog kennel operators, dentists to online stores. The fee is a flat fee of $2,500 upfront or 20% of the airfare.
What You Need
The common criteria all our clients have are:
Have some frequent flyer points (preferably over 200,000)
Have business & personal bills to pay (preferably spend over $200,000/year)
My first tip is that you need to earn and accumulate credit card reward points & frequent flyer points. Using credit cards to earn points is much faster than only earning points from flying. Aim to use your credit card to pay for everything (groceries, cafes, restaurants, bills, petrol, parking meters etc). Select a better credit reward card, the aim is to select one that should earn an average $1 = 1 airline frequent flyer point (not just 1 bank reward point).
The big banks in Australia only offer an equivalent of $1 = 1 bank reward point = 0.5 airline points, but there are other banks that do have better offerings so you can earn double the points with the same effort and spend. AMEX stands out above all, as their points are the most valuable. They also have the ability to transfer to 9 different airline partners. I think everyone should carry two card, AMEX and a VISA or Mastercard, and pay with AMEX as their first choice whenever possible
Typically, our clients can spend $130,000 paying bills to earn enough points to achieve a business class flight to Europe.
As an example, $125,000/year in bills can earn a Business class return ticket to Europe valued at $8,000 approximately. For a business spending $500,000/year on supplies etc – each year, they could earn 3 x Business class return tickets to Europe saving $25,000 in flights for business or leisure.
How long does it take?
The time taken is dependent on three main factors:
a) How much they spend (spend = points earnings)
b) Whether their suppliers accept AMEX (AMEX earns more points than VISA/MASTERCARD)
c) The type of expenses (expenses on specific things such as travel, accommodation, restaurants, supermarkets and petrol can earn bonus points).
Always Convert Your Points!
There are two ways to use a bank's credit card reward program points. One is via their own travel program - which is literally converting points into cash, and then buying a flight with that value. This is poor value.
Second, is to convert them into airline frequent flyer points and using the airlines redemption rates.
An an example: 250,000 Virgin points is needed for Virgin/Etihad Business class to Europe. Working backwards this translates to 500,000 Westpac Altitude points (2:1 ratio).
Earning them: $1 on the Westpac Amex earns 3 Westpac points becomes 1.5 Virgin points ($1 on the Westpac Mastercard earns 1 Westpac points becomes 0.5 Virgin points). $166,666 spend on Westpac Amex (x3 points) earns 500,000 Westpac points that becomes 250,000 Virgin points (2:1)
Some other real world examples
a. If your destination is Europe, flying business class return from Sydney with Singapore’s Krisflyer program is the cheapest, with Singapore only costing 161,500 points compared to Qantas at 256,000 points and Virgin at 250,000 points.
b. If your destination is Hong Kong business class return from Sydney, it is cheaper to fly using Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles program 80,000 vs. Singapore 92,500 vs. Qantas 120,000.
c. If your destination is USA, for example Los Angeles, then choices are easier with Qantas charging 192,000 vs. Virgin 188,000 to fly business class return from Sydney.
So tell me Dear Reader, are you good with your points? Do you do much with them? Do you find it confusing or do you enjoy the whole process of working the points out? Have you ever been upgraded?