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Everything you need to know about frequent flyer points

Information verified correct on December 10th, 2016

From what they are to how you can earn them, here’s your guide to frequent flyer points and the benefits they can provide.

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What are frequent flyer points?

Frequent flyer programmes (FFP) are loyalty programmes offered by numerous airlines. An airline customer who is enrolled in the programme accumulates frequent flyer points which correspond to the distance that’s been flown on the particular airline or its partner airlines. Accumulated points can be used for air travel, eligible goods and services, enhanced flight benefits, flight upgrades, access to airport lounges, and priority bookings.


How do frequent flyer points work?

  • Points and benefits. Frequent flyer points are not a new facility offered by airlines but many travellers don’t take advantage of these benefits - often due to lack of knowledge. Frequent flyer (FF) programmes offer benefits that are not necessarily associated with air travel.
  • Accruing miles. The aim of frequent flyer programmes is to offer incentives as a way of rewarding customers for their ongoing loyalty. When flying, it is possible for the traveller to accrue free “miles” which are linked to flying with a specific airline. The more often you fly with a particular airline the more your awards.
  • Keeping your points active. Your accumulated frequent flyer points remain in your account in a similar way to holding cash in your bank account. They increase the more you fly, but no equivalent of interest is added. Currently, the majority of the bigger domestic airlines work in a similar way and mileage accumulated does not have a use-by date attached. Some activity is required in your account, which is normally once in three years to keep your points. The airlines do sometimes alter their policies on mileage expiration. Once you reach a certain amount of points, you can redeem them for an award which, in most situations, is air travel.
  • Partnered services. There are now other industries linked to travel that have partnered with particular airlines. This includes car rental companies and hotel chains. Hertz is linked to at least 60 frequent flyer programmes, both domestic and international.
  • Hotel deals. Hotel chains, such as Novotel which partnered with Thai Airways, have ongoing relationships with airlines so travellers can use accumulated points to purchase hotel rooms.
  • Earning points. A further benefit for frequent flyers is that points can be earned on a number of transactions that involve non-travel arrangements, too. These include purchases through credit cards where you can often earn one point or more for each dollar charged, as well as on various telephone services. Mortgages and stock trades sometimes have links to airline points, too. You can accumulate points by shopping at certain stores, either in-person or online.

What frequent flyer programs are available?

Qatar Airways Privilege Club EVA Air Infinity Mileage Lands
Asiana Airlines Asiana Club Lufthansa Miles & More
Singapore Airlines Kris Flyer Qantas Airways Qantas Points
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, The Marco Polo Club Korean Air SKYPASS
Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles Air New Zealand Airpoints
Etihad Airways Etihad Guest Swiss International Airlines Miles & More
Emirates Skywards Air Canada Aeroplan
Thai Airways International Royal Orchid Plus ANA All Nippon Airways Ana Mileage Club
Malaysia Airlines Enrich, Asia Miles Hainan Airlines Fortune Wings Club
Garuda Indonesia Garuda Frequent Flyer Virgin Australia Velocity Points

Frequent Flyer Credit Card Comparison

Rates last updated December 10th, 2016
Rewards Points per $ spent (AMEX) Rewards Points per $ spent (VISA/MC) Bonus Points Annual fee
HSBC Platinum Qantas Credit Card
Receive 60,000 bonus Qantas Points on eligible spend within 3 months. Enjoy access to premium benefits and complimentary insurance.
0 1 60,000 bonus points $199 p.a. Go to site More info
ANZ Frequent Flyer Black
Earn 75,000 bonus Qantas Points after you spend $2,500 on eligible purchases within the first 3 months plus enjoy $0 annual fee for the first year. Plus, enjoy easy payments with Apple Pay.
1.5 0.75 75,000 bonus points $0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($425 p.a. thereafter) Go to site More info
American Express Essential Credit Card
Receive a $50 credit on eligible spend and get Smartphone screen insurance combined with a no annual fee for life card. Also enjoy a 0% p.a. balance transfer rate for 12 months.
1 $0 p.a. Go to site More info
American Express Explorer Credit Card
Receive 100,000 Membership Rewards Bonus Points on eligible spend within the first 2 months of Card Membership. Also enjoy a $400 travel voucher and two complimentary airline passes per year.
2 100,000 bonus points $395 p.a. Go to site More info
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - Balance Transfer Offer
A balance transfer offer of 0% p.a. for 18 months. Earn bonus Velocity Points in the first 3 months plus receive a free Virgin Australia $129 Gift Voucher each year. Available from mid-2016.
0 0.66 $64 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter) Go to site More info

Frequent flyer pros and cons

Pros

  • It makes free travel possible. Frequent flyer points gives you the chance to visit somewhere you normally wouldn’t be able to afford.
  • You can accumulate frequent flyer points through everyday spending. If you have a frequent flyer credit card or debit card, 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.

Cons

  • The value of rewards are not always clear for free flights. For example, the cost of fuel charges is often higher with free flights, so the value of a free flight is not so great.
  • 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 to watch out for with frequent flyer points

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. These are explained below:

  • Flyer points used on economy flights aren’t good value for money.
  • Many airlines have their own frequent flyer stores, but these prices are often far greater than in-store. Shop at these stores only when bonus offers are available, and shop around first before you hit “submit”.
  • Upgrading a seat to a higher class is more beneficial than using flyer points for free seats.
  • Some airlines attach an expiry date to points, so this should be checked regularly to ensure no losses occur.

Frequently asked questions

What do I have to do to join a frequent flyer programme?

Each airline provides online information and a sign up facility for their specific frequent flyer programme.

Is a credit card necessary for joining an airline’s frequent flyer programme?

No, you do not require a credit card.

Is there a cost for joining an airline’s frequent flyer programme?

This depends on the airline: some charge for the privilege and others do not.

Will airlines offer points for flights taken BEFORE I joined their frequent flyers programme?

Some airlines do offer this facility but there is no standard followed by all airlines. You must check immediately after you’ve signed up for an airline’s frequent flyer programme to avoid losing any benefits or points.

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