Frequent Flyer Fanatics: Arthur Miller
How to use your points to fly flat in business class on long-haul flights.
Arthur Miller is a serial points collector who belongs to more than 20 frequent flyer programs. We chatted with Arthur about his strategy for flying in business class for free and why he has started investing more in hotel rewards.
1. Which frequent flyer program(s) do you belong to?
I belong to pretty much every one I can sign up to. At last count I was a member of 21 programs. Initially I signed up to all the frequent flyer programs which were transfer partners to my credit card rewards program. AMEX, for example, offers redemption options with up to 12 airline and hotel partners, so I signed up to them upon approval of my card.
Admittedly, 21 programs might seem a little unnecessary. However, obscure airlines that you might never have even heard of can pay off big. For example, Alaskan Airlines routinely offers the ability to purchase points with a very substantial bonus. If purchased and redeemed properly, it could potentially save you thousands on your next business class flight with them and also its partners.
2. When did you first become a frequent flyer?
I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to start travelling at a very young age. My parents were expatriates living in both the Middle East and Europe, so travel from there to Australia was commonplace every summer. I was lucky enough to make some of these trips in business class.
I would say that the stage where I became what could be defined a frequent flyer was around 1998. We were flying an Ansett 747 from Hong Kong. We were lucky enough to be in the business/first class cabin and I can remember being so excited that I couldn’t sleep on the night flight. I was given the full tour from the amazing cabin crew and watched about four movies on the personal TV player, which at the time was cutting edge. Then, to top it off, I was invited to sit in the cockpit for the landing into Sydney Airport. This was a truly memorable experience and made me love everything about flying.
3. What's your current points goal?
My points goals have always essentially been the same: travel on long-haul flights in business class. At the moment my wife and I aim to travel overseas at least once a year.
Despite having success at redemptions for business class travel, a new goal I am working towards is point redemptions for hotel stays. A program which I have found from research to have great availability and hotels worldwide is Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG). At the moment I am looking to maximise my point earn on SPG to book hotel stays which tend to be one of the biggest expenses of our travel.
4. What is the best points hack you’ve ever used?
That would have to be on our last trip to Europe which also happened to be our honeymoon. I was able to use points to redeem first class travel in Singapore Airlines Suites on the way to Paris and Business Class return. It was an amazing flight, however, there were a few tricks that ensured I secured the best deal.
The first thing that helped was being a KrisFlyer Gold member. I secured this by virtue of Singapore airlines association with Shangri-La Hotels. I was a Jade member with Shangri-La due to my American Express Platinum charge card which meant that after three flights, I was able to get the KrisFlyer Gold status. This has great perks within the Star Alliance network including Business Class check-in, more luggage allowance, priority boarding and security screening. It also allows you the same perks as Velocity Gold. This means you can also enjoy the lounge check-in.
As well as these perks, status in any airline can also increase your chances of scoring a redemption flight in business or first class.
5. Which points mistake that amateur frequent flyers make drives you crazy?
1. Using your points to redeem products from the frequent flyer store
First and foremost, the biggest mistake I see is when people redeem their points for items at the frequent flyer store. It represents possibly the worst value possible for redeeming points.
For an example, one airline's frequent flyer points is offering a Dyson V8 absolute vacuum cleaner for 119,550 points on discount from 149,950 points. Whilst this seems like a great way to spend your points if you have them and need a vacuum cleaner, when you actually break down the value of the points to a cent value you can see where you might be going wrong with the vacuum. For example, that Dyson V8 Vacuum will cost around $749, which does seem like a bit of a bargain.
However, using the same airline's website, you could use 120,000 points for return business class from Sydney to Hong Kong. A business class return flight from Sydney to Hong Kong during off-peak times will cost you around $5,878.
If you break that down into points per cent, the Dyson V8 gives you 0.6 cents per point. However, the business class fares give you 4.8 cents per point. As you can see, you get about eight times more value for your points using them for the flights and not the vacuum cleaner.
2. Failing to make use of credit card extra features
An example of using insurance products is, again, from my recent honeymoon. We spent a week in Corsica and decided to rent a car. Due to a combination of language barrier and fatigue from the full day of travel, I ended up not getting the comprehensive insurance offered by the rental company. After looking at the paperwork, I noticed that the excess in case of any damage would have been 1,000 Euros. Not wanting to spend that kind of money if any damage occurred - which in the narrow medieval streets of Corsica, I thought would be quite likely - I decided to check to see if my complimentary credit card insurance would cover the excess.
Turns out that since I used my credit card to rent the car the insurance meant that I would not be liable for the 1,000 Euros. Considering that all I did was use the credit card, that is a pretty substantial potential saving, especially considering the extra cover from the car rental firm would have cost an additional 380 Euros for essentially the same benefit.
finder's Frequent Flyer Fanatics series features frequent flyer and rewards experts from Australia and around the world. Check back every Wednesday for our freshest Frequent Flyer Fanatic and the latest points tips.