How many points is too many?
When does your points balance become risky rather than rewarding?
14 September 2001 is the most infamous date in Australian frequent flyer history. On that day, Ansett Australia, at the time one of the two dominant domestic airlines, was shut down by its administrators. The immediate consequence for its existing frequent flyers was that they lost their entire points balance. Even though Ansett was a member of Star Alliance, there was no chance to spend those points on other member airlines.
That spectre haunts the memories of many regular fliers, and it leads to an obvious question: is there a point at which having a large frequent flyer balance is risky? If your favourite airline goes into administration, will all that hard work on maximising points go to waste?
Indeed, a scheme doesn't need to collapse for that risk to exist: it simply needs to change. In the lead-up to the combining of the Marriott, Starwood and Ritz-Carlton hotel loyalty schemes, there was speculation that points in some or all of the schemes would be devalued. In the event, that didn't happen, but there was a risk (if a small one) that it might have.
How much risk you want to put up with is an individual decision. There's no single "magic number" after which you'll definitely get in trouble. I know flyers who have literally millions of points and are waiting for the "best" opportunity to spend them.
Personally, I've never seen my Qantas Points total rise above around 240,000. That's meant that I haven't risked losing a particularly large number of points if there's a change to the scheme or (less likely) the airline goes bust entirely.
That said, I haven't been spending points simply so they don't disappear. I always have goals in mind for what I'm planning to spend those points on. Some of those goals can take a while to realise since they'll be dependent on flight availability. In those cases, I'm happy to wait. Others are more immediate: I like having points I can spend on impulse last-minute flights.
The one risk you should definitely watch out for? Make sure you don't let your existing points evaporate. Qantas Points will expire if you have no activity for 18 months. That activity doesn't have to be flying: points earned from an eligible credit card will also count, as will Woolworths Rewards activity.
If you're not earning points from your credit card, then I'd suggest checking out the range of cards available and picking one that suits your spending patterns. That's more points and no risk of expiry both sorted.
Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears regularly on finder.com.au.