Why are Australians so slack about frequent flyer points?
We love acquiring them, but we're not so clued up about spending them.
Aussies are dead keen on frequent flyer schemes. The latest figures show that Qantas Frequent Flyer has 12.3 million members, while Virgin's Velocity has 9.1 million signed up. Even allowing for overseas members, there's a better than 50% chance that you're in at least one of the domestic airline programs.
That doesn't mean you're doing anything much about it, or that earning points factors into your day-to-day thinking. Just 12% of us consider the value of frequent flyer points we'll earn when we're booking a flight for a holiday, according to a survey conducted by booking engine Kayak. Our top concerns are price (56%), how long the flight is (34%) and whether we can get a direct service (24%). Even whether luggage is included is a bigger consideration, with 19% of us factoring that in (good to know given the continued crackdowns by low-cost carriers in this area I've been reporting on for a while).
Two observations on those trends. Firstly, those factors aren't mutually exclusive, and you'll often have to balance them. Given the choice of a $19 Tigerair fare to Coffs Harbour or a $149 Qantas fare, I know what I'll be picking. But once the prices are closer, I'll also factor in other elements, including how many points I'll earn.
Secondly, sometimes you just don't have much of a choice. There's no way of getting a direct flight from Melbourne to Dallas. There's no way to earn points if you need to fly to Grafton.
However, even with all that said, it is evident that many of us don't put much thought into how we can best maximise our points. That's underlined by recent finder.com.au research that shows just 13% convert our supermarket rewards points (think flybuys or Woolworths Rewards) into frequent flyer points.
I'm not suggesting this is going to be your main tactic for earning points. You'd have to do an awful lot of food shopping to actually earn a free flight. For instance, the cheapest Classic Rewards flight offered through Qantas uses 8,000 points. To earn that through Woolworths Rewards, you'd have to spend $20,000 at Woolies. (You can get there faster with clever tricks like bonus offers from Netflix gift cards, but that's a separate topic for another time.)
You can earn points much more quickly by signing up for credit cards with big bonus offers or high earn rates (we can help there). But you can't sign up for a new credit card every week. You can (and most likely do) shop for food every week. So why not get points at the same time?
That's a particularly useful tactic if you're not a regular flyer, but are saving up points for a dream flight. You need to earn points at least once every 18 months to maintain your Qantas total. Doing that through your supermarket shopping is an easy way to stay active.
Really, I shouldn't complain. The more of those 12.3 million Qantas Frequent Flyers that don't maximise their points, the less competition I'll have when I want to redeem my flight. But it still pains me to see opportunities go to waste.
Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears regularly on finder.com.au.
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