These days, frequent travellers expect to be rewarded. But with many different programs on offer, each with their own rules and policies, understanding even the basics can be a challenge. With some help from Steve Hui, a frequent flyer points expert, here’s an overview of how to get the most out of your frequent flyer points.
Earning frequent flyer points
Frequent flyer programs are loyalty programs offered in conjunction with airlines to reward their customers and most of us know frequent flyer points are earned on flights.
However, points programs have become much broader in recent years, and this provides an opportunity for the customer, says Steve Hui, CEO of www.iflyflat.com.au, a website dedicated to helping people and businesses get more out of their frequent flyer points.
“The bigger benefits come when you can accrue frequent flyer points from multiple sources, from flying, from credit cards, from shopping with partners,” Steve says.
This allows you to “earn points very quickly at a low cost-base, and use those points towards something normally very expensive such as business or first class flights, and save thousands of dollars compared to buying the same premium ticket”.
Frequent flyer programs often include global partner airlines so passengers can earn and redeem points when they travel on associated airlines. Points can also be earned from travel-related purchases made through program partners, such as booking accommodation, car rentals, and travel insurance.
Redeeming frequent flyer points
Steve Hui explains that the fixed nature of point value is the key to getting the most out of your points when you redeem them for flights.
“Frequent flying points work best when the going price of the airfare is high or fluctuates widely. This is because the number of points required for the same journey is fixed and this allows you to get more value per point” says Steve. “If you can find a seat, it is the same price in points whether you plan ahead and book 350 days in advance in peak periods or if you need to fly tomorrow morning.”
Upgrading from economy to business class is one of the most popular uses of points, however Steve warns there are always more people who want an upgrade than there are seats, so it’s worth considering the value of the points spend.
“The points required for an upgrade from discount economy to business class is approximately 75% to 90% of the points required for a business class full redemption booking, so in terms of value and confirmation of travel - using points to book a business class ticket is always better if you had the choice.” explains Steve.
The flyers who get the most value from their points are those who can be flexible around travel arrangements, are prepared to search regularly for availability and take advantage of program partner discounts on travel costs like car hire and accommodation.
Frequent flyer programs tips and tricks
- Points can expire after a period of non-activity. For instance, Qantas points expire after 18 months, however earning or spending even just one point within the expiry period can mean you keep those points.
- Tickets purchased with points can be cancelled with a minimal penalty, unlike a discounted ticket that you paid for with money.
- Rules around family use of points differ across programs, so get familiar with the rules of your program.
- Points can’t be used to pay for all aspects of your airline purchase. In most cases you won’t be able to use your points to pay for airport or flight-related taxes.
- Joining a program even if you don’t fly often will give you the benefit of a login that remembers your flying preferences and details, making it easier to book next time you fly.