From what they are to how you can earn them, here’s your guide to frequent flyer points and the benefits they can provide.
If you're a member of a frequent flyer program, you'll be able to earn points for spending with associated airlines and other program partners. These frequent flyer points can be used to redeem a variety of rewards such as flights, flight upgrades, hotel stays, gift cards and merchandise. Depending on the frequent flyer program, you may even be able to use a combination of points and cash, or buy more points if you don't have enough for your chosen reward.
Use this guide to learn more about frequent flyer points, including how to earn and spend them, ways to maximise your frequent flyer rewards and key terms and conditions. We've also included information about different popular frequent flyer programs so that you can find an option that fits with your travel goals.
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How can I earn frequent flyer points?
Frequent flyer programs give you a variety of opportunities to earn points or miles as part of your membership benefits. Depending on the frequent flyer program and the activity, you'll earn points based on the distance flown, the amount of money spent, or a flat-rate of points per transaction (for example, 500 points per stay at a hotel). Some of the most popular ways you can earn frequent flyer points include:
- Flights. You can earn frequent flyer points for flights you take with a partnered airline. For example, if you're a Qantas Frequent Flyer member, you can earn points for flights with Qantas, Jetstar and over 35 partner airlines around the world. The points you earn are usually calculated based on the distance flown but other factors, such as the fare class, ticket cost and your membership status level may also determine how many points you earn.
- Hotels and accommodation. Most frequent flyer programs offer points for stays with hotel partners around the world. For example, if you're a Velocity Frequent Flyer member, you can earn points at over 600,000 properties around the world, with partners including Hilton Hotels, Intercontinental Hotels and Holiday Inn. Some frequent flyer programs also partner with other accommodation providers, such as airbnb, and it's common to earn either points per $1 spent or a flat rate of points per stay.
- Car hire. It's common for frequent flyer programs to offer points for car hire with partners such as Hertz, Thrifty and Europcar. By giving the car hire company your frequent flyer membership number, you'll be able to earn either points per $1 spent on the hire, or a flat-rate of points for the hire.
- Other travel. Depending on the frequent flyer program, you could be able to earn points for many other travel-related activities, including cruise bookings, holiday packages and travel insurance. Your frequent flyer program will have specific details of all the partners and the amount of points you can earn with them.
- Credit cards. Frequent flyer credit cards earn points per $1 spent on your everyday purchases, giving you a way to maximise your frequent flyer rewards even when you're not travelling. Many of these credit cards also include introductory offers that could give you thousands of bonus frequent flyer points when you meet the offer requirements.
- Shopping. As well as earning points for shopping with a credit card, some frequent flyer programs provide online shopping portals that allow you to earn points per $1 spent with a variety of partners. For example, the Qantas Online Mall offers between 1 and 5 points per $1 spent with partners including eBay, David Jones, Apple Store and The Iconic.
- Other lifestyle partners. Your frequent flyer program could include a number of other program partners that allow you to earn points for other everyday activities and services, including health insurance, dining out, phone plans, electricity plans or even spending with a travel money card. Check your program's list of partners to see what's available as part of your membership.
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What can I use my frequent flyer points for?
When you have accumulated enough frequent flyer points in your account, you can use them to redeem rewards. The amount of points you need for a reward varies based on the frequent flyer program and the type of reward you want. In general, flights or flight upgrades with a partner airline offer the greatest value (when rewards are compared to what you'd pay in dollars). The type of rewards available varies between frequent flyer programs but could include:
- Flights. You can use frequent flyer points to book a flight with a partner airline instead of using cash for the fare. Known as "Award" or "Reward" seats, these fares are available for a specific amount of points, usually calculated based on the distance flown and the fare class (economy, business etc). Award seats are subject to availability, so they may be more limited than regular fares.
- Flight upgrades. If you're already booked on a flight with a partner airline, you could use your frequent flyer points to upgrade your fare to a higher class. For example, from economy to business class. Flight upgrades can be a cost-effective way to get a more premium seat on your flight but, similar to flights booked with points, the option to use points for an upgrade is subject to availability.
- Hotels. Some frequent flyer programs also allow you to use points to pay for your hotel stays. For example, if you're a Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer member, you can use your points for free nights or upgrades at any Shangri-La hotel when you convert your KrisFlyer Miles to GC Award Points.
- Other travel rewards. Depending on the frequent flyer program, you could use your points for car hire, travel packages or additional baggage.
- Merchandise and gift cards. While less common than flight or travel rewards, you could also be able to redeem frequent flyer points for gift cards or merchandise such as clothes, electronics and jewellery. For example, both Qantas and Velocity Frequent Flyer programs have online stores filled with merchandise and gift cards from brands such as Apple, David Jones and Myer.
What if I don't have enough points for my chosen reward?
Most frequent flyer programs give you the option of buying additional points or using a combination of points and cash when you don't have enough points for a specific reward. This gives you flexibility to use frequent flyer points on rewards that offer the most benefit to you.
Frequent flyer point pros and cons
- It makes free flights possible. Frequent flyer points give you the chance to book flights you might not otherwise be able to afford.
- You can collect frequent flyer points through everyday spending. If you have a frequent flyer credit card or debit card, or access to other program partners, you can earn points without flying.
- You can skip queues and sit in the best seats. You can use your frequent flyer points for seat upgrades, securing yourself a spot in comfortable airport lounges, skip the check-in queue, obtain priority boarding, and nab free excess baggage.
- The value of rewards are not always clear for free flights. For example, you may still have to pay fees and taxes on your reward flight, meaning it's not technically "free".
- Limited seat availability for frequent flyer points. This often means one’s preferred flight time or destination is not easy to book.
- Frequent flyer point programs require extensive research. There are so many different options for frequent flyers, and many airline websites require time to establish which is worthwhile and good value for money. The deals are there but patience is required to benefit.
What else do I need to know about frequent flyer points?
Keep these factors in mind to make the most of your frequent flyer points:
- Reward value. The amount of frequent flyer points you need varies based on the type of reward you redeem. This means the value of your rewards will vary when compared to the dollar value of them (and what you've spent accumulating points).
- Flight rewards. Upgrading flights or booking award seats with the frequent flyer program's associated airline usually offer the greatest value when you compare points to dollar costs of rewards.
- Points expiry. Some airlines attach an expiry date to points, so this should be checked regularly to ensure no losses occur. For example, Qantas Frequent Flyer Points expire if your account is inactive for 18 months. Once your points have expired, you can’t get them back.
Frequent flyer points are without doubt a bonus for travellers who accumulate large flight mileages annually and, if used wisely, they can offer worthwhile benefits. However, there are certain purchases that should be avoided and measures that should be taken if the buyer wishes to make maximum use of their points.
Frequently asked questions
What do I have to do to join a frequent flyer program?
Each airline provides online information and a sign up facility for their specific frequent flyer program. The most common options include:
- Signing up online via the frequent flyer program website
- Signing up by filling out a frequent flyer membership form online
- Signing up through a referral from an existing member
Is a credit card necessary for joining an airline’s frequent flyer program?
No, you do not require a credit card.
Is there a cost for joining an airline’s frequent flyer program?
Most frequent flyer programs don't charge a fee, but there are some exceptions. For example, the Qantas Frequent Flyer program has a standard joining fee of $89.50, although there are ways to join without paying this fee.
Will airlines offer points for flights taken BEFORE I joined their frequent flyers programme?
Some airlines allow you to claim points for flights taken several months before you join the frequent flyer program. For more information, check out our guide on claiming points after your flight.