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.

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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 for all. 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.

Find out which frequent flyer programs you can choose from

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.

Earning points

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 Everyday 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.

Credit cards

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

Name Product Bonus points Rewards program Rewards points per $ spent Purchase rate Annual fee
NAB Qantas Rewards Signature Card
Qantas Frequent Flyer
19.99% p.a.
$295 annual fee for the first year ($395 p.a. thereafter)
Earn up to 110,000 bonus Qantas Points (90,000 when you spend $3,000 in the first 60 days and 20k after 12 months).
Qantas American Express Ultimate Card
Qantas Frequent Flyer
20.74% p.a.
Receive 110,000 bonus Qantas Points and $200 back on your card when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. Plus, a yearly $450 Travel Credit.
Citi Premier Qantas Card
Qantas Frequent Flyer
21.49% p.a.
$175 annual fee for the first year ($350 p.a. thereafter)
Get 75,000 bonus Qantas Points when you spend $4,000 in the first 90 days and a first-year annual fee discount.
St.George Amplify Platinum - Qantas
Qantas Frequent Flyer
19.74% p.a.
Earn 60,000 bonus Qantas Points, plus enjoy 0% p.a. on balance transfers for 15 months with a 1% BT fee.
Qantas Premier Platinum
Qantas Frequent Flyer
19.99% p.a.
$225 annual fee for the first year ($299 p.a. thereafter)
Earn 80,000 bonus Qantas Points when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months, 80 bonus Status Credits on eligible spend and a reduced first-year annual fee.
ANZ Frequent Flyer Black
Qantas Frequent Flyer
20.24% p.a.
New Cashrewards Max benefit. Collect 120,000 bonus Qantas Points and $200 back when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. Plus, complimentary lounge passes.
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - Balance Transfer Offer
Velocity Frequent Flyer
20.74% p.a.
$64 annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter)
Get 0% p.a. on balance transfers for 28 months and a reduced annual fee in the first year. Ends 30 September 2021.
Qantas American Express Discovery Card
Qantas Frequent Flyer
20.74% p.a.
Get 10,000 bonus Qantas Points when you spend $750 within 3 months, plus a $0 annual fee for the life of the card.
Westpac Altitude Platinum Card
Westpac Altitude Rewards
20.49% p.a.
$49 annual fee for the first year ($150 p.a. thereafter)
Get 130,000 bonus Altitude Points (worth $450 cashback) when you spend $3,000 in the first 90 days, a 0% balance transfer offer and a $49 discounted annual fee.
American Express Platinum Edge Credit Card
Membership Rewards
20.74% p.a.
$0 annual fee for the first year ($195 p.a. thereafter)
Receive 50,000 bonus points when you spend at least $1,500 within the first 3 months. Plus, $200 Travel Credit each year.

Compare up to 4 providers

Reward options

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:

Hotel stays
Car hire
Gift cards
Retail rewards

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 programPoints requiredHow many one-way flights would I need to take to earn these points?
Qantas Frequent FlyerFrom 45,000 points7
Velocity Frequent FlyerFrom 44,800 points (excluding taxes and fees)6
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer55,000 miles10
Asia Miles40,000 points6
Air New Zealand Airpoints555 AirpointsBetween 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.

Point expiry

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.

Membership status

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 logoQantas 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 $99.50, although there are sometimes offers that waive this fee.
Emirates Skywards logoThis 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 logo 2017Jetstar 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.
Singapore Airlines logoThe 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.
Velocity Frequent Flyer logoAs 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.
Air NZ Airpoints logoThe 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.
Cathay Pacific Marco Polo club logoHong 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.
Malaysia Airlines logoThe Enrich frequent flyer program offers points for flights with Malaysia Airlines and its partners, including the oneworld Alliance members, hotels and car hire companies.
etihad guest logoThis 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.

What’s next?

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.

Pictures: Shutterstock

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44 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    MichelleJune 19, 2018

    I am a Qantas Frequent Flyer who makes regular visits to the UK. In the past I saved my points and used them to upgrade to Business. Since joining with Emirates, I cannot do that.

    My main purpose for saving points is to do this. Can you suggest a better way? Should I join a different program?

    Thank you

      Default Gravatar
      NikkiJune 20, 2018

      Hi Michelle!

      Thanks for reaching out to finder.

      While we provide you with general information, please know that we are a product comparison website, therefore we are not in the position to make recommendations.

      You may read the “How to compare frequent flyer programs” and you can see this information above to help you choose the best one for you.

      Hope this clarifies!


    Default Gravatar
    RodSeptember 25, 2016

    Hi, I am a member of the BA executive club and have around 40,000 pts if I join Qantas FF programme can I transfer those points to my Qantas balance when I join?

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JonathanSeptember 27, 2016Staff

      Hi Rod, thanks for your inquiry!

      Unfortunately transferring British Airways Avios points to another program is not eligible.



    Default Gravatar
    BPSeptember 14, 2016

    I’m a platinum Virgin Flyer and Gold Qantas, but as I live in Perth (Aust) the points and tiers are of little value when travelling internationally as neither airline flys overseas from here. (eg flight upgrades or premium lounge access).
    Would it be better to join one of the main middle east airlines or Singapore Air to obtain such benefits and earn points on Australian travel via the code share arrangements?

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      SallySeptember 20, 2016Staff

      Hi BP,

      Thanks for your question.

      As a comparison service, we’re unable to confirm which frequent flyer program will be best for you as the right one will depend on your rewards goals and travelling habits.

      Consider which airline you fly with the most and the rewards you want and start comparing your options with those factors in mind. Otherwise, you might also want to consider the partner airlines associated with Virgin Velocity and Qantas Frequent Flyer. For example, while you might not fly with Qantas very often, you could earn Qantas Points on flights with partner airlines such as Emirates, Cathay Pacific and more.

      I hope this has helped.



    Default Gravatar
    PeterJune 27, 2016

    Hi Sally,
    I have membership of both Qantas and Virgin FF programs. I have over 500,000 Westpac points that I would like to transfer for use on flights to Japan and Hawaii. Can you advise which membership program (including other than Qantas/Virgin) would deliver best value for the transfer? Thank you.

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      SallyJune 27, 2016Staff

      Hi Peter,

      Thanks for your question.

      If you’re not interested in transferring your points to Qantas or Virgin, you can see the transfer ratio to various frequent flyer programs below. Once you’ve read over this, you can see which airlines have available flights that suit you and determine which one offers the most value:

      – Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
      Redeem 3,000 Altitude points for 1,500 KrisFlyer Miles.

      Asia Miles
      2 Altitude Points = 1 Asia Miles point

      Malaysia Airlines Enrich
      2 Altitude Points = 1 Enrich Mile

      As you can see, most of these programs have a transfer ratio of 2:1.

      I hope this has helped.



    Default Gravatar
    sueApril 3, 2016

    Can I transfer Dynasty Flyer points to Velocity points bank?
    If so, how do I do that?

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      SallyApril 4, 2016Staff

      Hi Sue,

      Thanks for your question.

      As Dynasty Flyer and Velocity Frequent Flyer aren’t partners, you can’t transfer points between the two.

      I hope this has helped.



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