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Frequent flyer points: 5 mistakes that could cost you a free flight

Monday, 14 December 2015

Posted by Shubhda Khanna Nag

Wondering how your friend managed to pay for that flight to Fiji ‘on points’ while your rewards balance hit the expiry date? Did you pick the wrong credit card, the wrong frequent flyer program, or just not spend enough? To add to the confusion, there are all these other choices to make when it comes to earning points - Visa, MasterCard or Amex, Qantas or Velocity, travel miles or gift vouchers! The list just never ends.

Don’t worry, we’ve got the answers to all these questions. Read on as we list 5 common mistakes that could cost you those precious rewards points and that free flight!

#1. Not signing up for a rewards credit card

If you don’t fly that often one of the fastest ways to accrue frequent flyer points is to get a rewards credit card where you’ll earn frequent flyer points for every dollar you spend on the card.

A credit card that offers rewards points can be every traveller’s dream - but you’ve got to know how to use it to your advantage. First of all, compare the top frequent flyer reward credit cards to see which card gives you the best value for your annual spend.

If the card has a bonus points offer, it’s important to check first if there are any requirements to activate these points and that you’d be able to meet the criteria. For example, you can earn 25,000 bonus Qantas points with the ANZ Frequent Flyer card if you spend $2,500 on eligible purchases within the first 3 months.

As long you remember to repay the credit card balance each month, everyday purchases like groceries, movie tickets and petrol can go a long way in terms of earning those precious travel points.

#2. Never utilising the partner network

Earning points through flying and with the credit card isn’t the only way to earn points. There are in fact plenty of other options that can add points to your miles balance and it means you need to get familiar with the program’s partners. Shopping with the Velocity Frequent Flyer program partners for instance can add points towards your next flight, hotel or car hire. Or you can go straight to the airline e-store where earning points is simple too. For example, you can earn 2 points for every dollar you spend with Priceline through the Velocity e-store. Plus there are always plenty of additional offers like Christmas specials that earn you extra points.

Similarly, Qantas points can be earned through partner hotels, restaurants as well as while shopping for more than 3000 products from top brands such as Apple Store and David Jones through the Qantas Online Mall. That’s not all - have you heard of the new fitness app that converts steps into Qantas Frequent Flyer points?

If you’re quick with your research, there are always ways to stock up those miles.

#3. Spreading your points across multiple programs

It’s tempting to sign up for multiple rewards credit cards and airline programs but is it really practical? Unless you travel regularly with various airlines, it’s going to be difficult to accumulate enough points across the different programs to earn flight freebies.

For instance, you need 16,900 points with Virgin Velocity for an economy flight from Sydney to Perth. The standard rate with a Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card is 1 point per dollar for the first $1500 and 0.5 points per dollar after that. So to earn 16,900 points, you’ll need to spend about $32,300. Unless you’re going on a spending spree, earning points on different rewards programs just won’t make sense.

That’s why it’s more useful to focus your energy (as well as spending) on one airline alliance so that you can load up on points that can be used for specific partner airlines. If you’re looking for a comparison between Qantas and Velocity, check out our blog where we found which one of the two has lower requirements for points redemption on flights.

#4. Not flying with partner airlines

It’s a tricky decision when you’ve been collecting points with one airline and another one goes on sale. At a time like this, you’ve got to make your choices very carefully. For example, if the cheaper flight will save you $50 without earning any extra points and the other one can earn you points worth $150 towards your next trip, you could be better off paying that extra bit now.

Apart from the fact that by flying with a partner airline will add rewards points towards your next flight, it can also buy you extra benefits like an upgrade or access to the airport lounge. Another major saving, which you should factor into your flight cost with the frequent flyer program, is the extra baggage allowance. Say you’re travelling from Australia to Asia and you have extra luggage - some Qantas Frequent Flyer members are entitled to an additional non ticketed checked baggage allowance. Whereas, if you’re not a Qantas member, you could have to pay up to $35 per extra kg, which means $700 for 20kg of extra luggage. Like we said, it pays to weigh your options!

#5. Redeeming your points for cheap benefits

To squeeze the best value out of your rewards, using the points for a flight is generally better than opting for a household item or a gift voucher. Sure, it’s a matter of choice and it depends on your rewards program as well as spending habits, but a flight usually leads to more return on your investment. Say for instance, with an American Express Qantas Ultimate card, 8000 points could buy you a Sydney-Melbourne flight whereas you’ll need 17250 points to buy a Myer $100 gift card.

But whatever you do, DON’T let your frequent flyer points expire! If you can’t use them for some reason, do a good deed and transfer them to an eligible family member or charity.

So what are you waiting for? Start racking up those frequent flyer points now!

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