These days it is pretty easy to earn frequent flyer points without flying a single mile. You can earn them when you do the groceries, buy petrol, pay a bill, stay at a hotel or use your credit card.
But while earning points has become easier than ever, figuring out when to redeem your points for shopping rewards or flights has become somewhat of an artform as there is no set value for points. Whether you are a Qantas Frequent Flyer, Velocity Flyer, KrisFlyer, Skywards or Mileage Plus member, there are some common do’s and don’ts when it comes time to cashing those points in.
Shop around for the cheapest flights. Before you decide to wipe off 96,000 points for a trip to the US using frequent flyer points, do a web search to see what the cheapest flights are for the dates you want to travel. A mozo staffer was recently quoted $840 just in taxes for a Frequent Flyer seat with Qantas to the US, where for the same dates^ you could buy a return flight on Qantas for $1298 including taxes. If points were used in this instance, the points value would be just 0.48 cents a point*. A month later, the cheapest flights were $2147 so the value of points increases to 1.36 cents per point.
Mozo Top Tip: Save your points for when you will get the most value from them not when you can pick up cheap flights.
Use points to upgrade. Often points to upgrade is one of the best ways to get value from your frequent flyer points. You will need to make sure that you first purchase a ticket that is eligible for an upgrade which may cost you a bit more than the cheapest flight but that extra service (and sleep) could be worth it. For example, flying Singapore Airlines from Sydney to Singapore, a business class ticket cost $4,208.58, and an upgradable economy ticket cost $1,358.58^^. A saver awards upgrade from economy to business will cost 90,000 KrisFlyer points, so the value per point to upgrade is 3.17 cents***. By contrast, the same economy awards saver ticket requires 50,000 points, which comes in at 2.71 cents a point but if you use points to buy the business class ticket (110,000 points) you get the best value overall at 3.83 cents a point.
Watch point expiry dates. Every airline is different but generally there are two type of expiry dates to watch out for: last date of activity and timed from when the points were credited to your account. 18 months and 3 years seem to be the most common expiry terms – check out this article on news.com.au for details on all airline program expiry dates.
Get help when needed. David Flynn of Australian Business Traveller recommends calling in the experts when it gets tough trying to match up rewards seat availability with your planned itinerary. He suggests sites like flightfox and pointpros which can help you find the best routes to suit your balance.
Trade points for goods at rewards stores. All frequent flyer programs now have rewards stores where instead of flights you can use your points to buy goods and services. The difficulty over whether to use your points here is that like flights, not all awards in the store have the same points value. At the Velocity Frequent Flyer Store a $100 Coles Myer Gift card will cost you 14,500 points (that’s equivalent to each point having a value of 0.69 cents each). But if you want to use your points for a new membership to the Virgin Australia Lounge that will cost you 105,000 points. If bought, a new membership to the lounge is $420 so the point-value for the membership is only 0.44 cents per point.
Let points go to waste. If your points are about to expire and you don’t have enough to redeem a flight or reward, donate your points to a charity or transfer them to an eligible family member.
Forget your frequent flyer membership card. There are so many opportunities for you to earn frequent flyer points so make sure you use your card whenever and wherever you can – every point counts! And keep all your receipts as you can claim miles retroactively as long as you can prove your purchases.
Disclaimers: Prices correct as at 20 March 2013. ^Qantas.com.au: Sydney – Los Angeles May 20 – May 27, June 20 – June 27. *Value per point calculation (Flight cost – taxes / points = value per point.) ^^Singaporeair.com: Sydney – Singapore May 20 – May 27, 2013. ***Upgrade value per point (Business class ticket price – Economy class ticket price / points = value per point). Awards point value: Flight cost / points = value per point.