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What is the best frequent flyer program?
From earning and using points to enjoying extra perks with silver, gold and platinum status, here’s how to compare frequent flyer programs and join one that works for you.
Frequent flyer programs offer a range of features and benefits to suit all kinds of travellers, which means there isn’t really one “best” option. Instead, you’ll find that some people swear by one particular frequent flyer program, while others stick with another.
List of Frequent Flyer Programs
- Virgin - Virgin Velocity Frequent Flyer
- Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer
- Singapore - Airlines Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Cathay Pacific - Marco Polo Club
- Emirates - Skywards
- Etihad - Etihad Guest
- Jetstar - Jetstar Frequent Flyer
- Malaysia Airlines - Enrich
- British Airways - British Airways Executive Club
- American Airways - AAdvantage Frequent Flyer
- JAL - JAL Mileage Bank
- United - Mileage Plus
So if you’re trying to find the best frequent flyer program for you, here are the key features to consider when you’re comparing your options. We’ve also got a rundown of five of the most popular frequent flyer programs in Australia, including Qantas Frequent Flyer and Velocity Frequent Flyer, as well as a comparison of how much reward flights can cost.
How to compare frequent flyer programs
While the structure of frequent flyer programs can vary, these are the major features to consider when you want to get the most value out of being a frequent flyer member.
All frequent flyer programs offer you points or miles for flights with the main partner airline. The number of points you earn for each flight is based on factors such as the flight distance, fare class, connections or codeshare segments that are part of your trip and even the cost of the ticket in some cases.
Some frequent flyer programs also have different earning rates for points depending on whether you’re flying domestically or internationally. With Velocity Frequent Flyer, for example, you earn points per $1 spent for eligible domestic flights but points per miles flown for international flights.
As well as earning points for flights you take with the frequent flyer program’s main airline, you could collect more rewards through some of the following options:
- Airline partners. Most frequent flyer programs offer points for flights with a range of partner airlines. Although you’ll typically earn fewer points for partner flights, this gives you more flexibility depending on where you’re travelling and what kind of price you want to pay for flights.
- Hotels. Frequent flyer programs often partner with hotel companies so that you can earn points when you stay with particular hotels or brands.
- Car hire. It’s also common for frequent flyer programs to offer points when you book a car with a partnered car hire company. For example, Qantas Frequent Flyer offers points for bookings with Avis and Budget, while Velocity offers points for bookings with Europcar, Hertz and Thrifty.
- Supermarket shopping. If you're in Australia, you can earn Qantas Points or Velocity Points for your supermarket shopping via the Woolworths Rewards and flybuys rewards programs respectively. If you’re overseas, you may be able to earn frequent flyer points with other supermarkets or retailers, but it does depend on the frequent flyer program and where you’re based.
- Other program partners. Depending on the frequent flyer program, you may be able to earn points through online shopping hubs, wine subscription services, restaurant booking services or for everyday expenses. Make sure you check out these options so you can decide what frequent flyer program offers you the most relevant opportunities for earning points.
Apart from flying, credit cards are one of the fastest and most popular ways to earn frequent flyer points and typically offer a set rate of points for each $1 you spend. Some cards automatically credit your points to your frequent flyer account, while others let you transfer points to a frequent flyer program.
In Australia, the main frequent flyer credit card options are linked to Qantas and Velocity. However, a wide range of credit card reward programs also let you transfer points to other airline loyalty schemes, including Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Emirates Skywards, Etihad Guest, Asia Miles/Cathay Pacific and Air New Zealand Airpoints.
Compare frequent flyer credit cards in Australia
All frequent flyer programs allow you to use points for reward flights. Most also allow you to use points for flight upgrades, although there are often more rules and requirements for this option.
For example, with Qantas Frequent Flyer, you can use points for an international flight upgrade regardless of your membership status, while Velocity Frequent Flyer has restrictions on international flight upgrades unless you are a gold or platinum member.
Beyond flight rewards, the options you have for using you points can vary wildly between frequent flyer programs. However, some of the other rewards you could get include:
Although having options can be useful, in most cases flight rewards offer the most value when you compare the retail cost of rewards to the point requirements.
How many points do I need for a reward flight with different frequent flyer programs?
As well as considering reward options and requirements, it can also be useful to look at how many points you’ll need for reward flights or upgrades with different frequent flyer programs.
To give you an idea of the differences, this table shows the number of points you’d need for a one-way economy flight from Sydney to Los Angeles with five different frequent flyer programs. We have also included examples of how many economy flights you’d need to take between Sydney and LA to earn your free flight, rounded to the nearest whole number.
|Frequent flyer program||Points required||How many one-way flights would I need to take to earn these points?|
|Qantas Frequent Flyer||From 45,000 points||7|
|Velocity Frequent Flyer||From 44,800 points (excluding taxes and fees)||6|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer||55,000 miles||10|
|Asia Miles||40,000 points||6|
|Air New Zealand Airpoints||555 Airpoints||Between 9 and 35 flights|
Table information sourced on 23 May 2018
In this example, you can see that both Velocity and Asia Miles require the least amount of points for a reward flight from Sydney to Los Angeles – closely followed by Qantas. Both Air New Zealand Airpoints and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, on the other hand, would require a lot more flights before you’d be able to redeem this reward.
If you don’t fly that often or if you fly with a lot of different airlines that aren’t linked to the same frequent flyer program, point expiry will be a key factor in choosing which scheme you join. These conditions are very different between frequent flyer programs.
For example, you may be able to avoid point expiry as long as you continue to earn or redeem your points as a Qantas Frequent Flyer or Velocity Frequent Flyer member. On the other hand, if you're a member of Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, your KrisFlyer Miles will expire three years after they were earned. However, if these miles are expiring for the first time, you can request to extend them for a fee.
These kinds of conditions can be the difference between getting value or losing value from a frequent flyer program, so make sure you weigh them up. Otherwise, you could be giving a scheme access to personal details for nothing.
The more you fly with an affiliated airline, the more status credits you’ll earn. This status is your key to unlocking a growing number of frequent flyer benefits, such as additional points, lounge access, extra checked baggage allowances, priority check-in and complimentary flight upgrades. Frequent flyer status is usually grouped into four tiers:
Entry-level. This is your basic frequent flyer membership status, which allows you to earn and use points, but not much else.
Silver. Silver frequent flyer status could give you perks such as additional points for flights, additional baggage allowances, priority boarding and a limited number of lounge passes.
Gold. Gold status typically unlocks complimentary lounge access, priority booking, check-in, boarding and reward preferences. Depending on the program, you may also enjoy complimentary flight upgrades or hotel stays.
Platinum. This is usually as high as you can go with a frequent flyer program and offers more premium benefits on top of the perks available to gold members. Some of these perks could include complimentary companion flights or upgrades, special offers, first preference on reward or everyday flight bookings, complimentary airport transfers and free hotel stays.
Most of these benefits focus on the main airline that’s linked to your frequent flyer program (e.g. Qantas if you’re a Qantas Frequent Flyer member). But you may be able to enjoy some or all of the perks that come with higher status if your frequent flyer program includes partnerships or alliances with other airlines.
Each frequent flyer program has different requirements around how many status credits you’ll need to earn to reach a new membership level. The benefits also vary between programs, so make sure you check these details to figure out what’s realistic for you.
Which frequent flyer program should I join?
The main airline loyalty programs in Australia are Qantas Frequent Flyer and Virgin Australia’s Velocity Frequent Flyer. However, there are many other frequent flyer programs you can consider – particularly if you regularly fly overseas. So, here you'll find details of some of the most popular frequent flyer programs in Australia.
|Qantas Frequent Flyer offers minimum point guarantees for flights with Qantas and Jetstar and is partnered with over 50 airlines. It also has a large number of other program partners that allow you to earn more points, including many credit cards. Qantas Frequent Flyer has a standard joining fee of $89.50, although there are sometimes offers that waive this fee.|
|This frequent flyer program offers you Skywards Miles when you fly with Emirates and airline partners, including Qantas and Jetstar. It’s also one of the only international loyalty programs linked to an Australian credit card: the Emirates Citi World Mastercard.|
|Jetstar is linked to the Qantas Frequent Flyer program, which means you can earn and redeem Qantas Points for eligible Jetstar flights. It also offers reward credit cards that earn Jetstar Dollars, which you can redeem for flights or other purchases with the airline.|
|The Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program allows you to earn KrisFlyer Miles with over 200 partners, including Star Alliance airlines, hotels, car hire companies and credit cards. You can also transfer points between KrisFlyer and Velocity Frequent Flyer.|
|As Virgin Australia’s official loyalty program, Velocity offers a wide range of ways to earn points with the airline and other partners around the world. Like Qantas Frequent Flyer, there are a range of Australian credit cards that earn Velocity points. But unlike Qantas, this program has no joining fee.|
|The Air New Zealand Airpoints loyalty program is focused on flight rewards, allowing you to earn Airpoints Dollars that you can spend on flights, upgrades, hotels and rental cars.|
|Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific is linked to two loyalty programs: the in-house Marco Polo Club, which offers you points and status for flights, and Asia Miles – a broader travel reward program that allows you to earn and redeem miles for rewards including flights, upgrades, hotels, car hire and more.|
|The Enrich frequent flyer program offers points for flights with Malaysia Airlines and its partners, including the oneworld Alliance members, hotels and car hire companies.|
|This frequent flyer program allows you to earn Etihad Guest Miles for flights with Etihad Airways and a wide range of other partners, including Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand. You can also transfer reward points from Australian-issued American Express Membership Rewards credit cards to earn more Etihad Guest Miles.|
If you want to find the best frequent flyer program for you, start by comparing different schemes based on your travel plans and airline preferences. Make sure you also check out the program partners, especially other airlines, credit cards and retail companies that could help you earn more points on the ground as well as in the air.
If you’re already a member of one or more frequent flyer programs, head to the Points Finder homepage for the latest offers, tips and insights to help you get more out of your membership.
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