Program selection,and where to credit an upcoming EK flight?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Nobby, Apr 10, 2006.

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  1. Nobby

    Nobby Intern

    Nov 18, 2005
    I have an EK flight coming up soon, and I'm faced with the choice of where to credit it. The more I think about it, the more I'm rethinking my overall program strategy. So I thought I'd lay it out here, and get feedback on it, both overall and whether Skywards should be one of the programs I participate in. Hopefully one of the many helpful posters will be interested enough to read this post and provide some suggestions.

    My travel patterns & earn capacity

    I primarily travel for pleasure, in discount economy. I understand the value of program consolidation, but if there's a difference of more than $50 or so, I'm likely to go for the lower fare. I have no business travel at the moment, though there's a reasonable chance of that changing within the next 2 years or so, but even then I'm unlikely to be a road warrior.

    For personal reasons there is a good chance that I'll start having a significant amount of domestic travel. Starting within the next 6 months or so, and lasting roughly 1 year, I'll likely start flying one weekend/month. The particular city at the moment is unknown, but it will be NSW/VIC/QLD/SA. I'm based in SYD.

    Credit card earning is an important component. I spend $20-25k/year on cards. My primary card is an Amex Reards Maximiser (1.5 QFF or Virgin Atlantic points). Also have the ANZ QFF card, which I took up for the 16k points, and will be cancelling Nov-06. Same story for the two Velocity credit cards.

    What I want to get out of FF participation

    Status is not a key objective for me -- my travel patterns are unlikely to get me a meaningful tier.

    Because my earn ability isn't great, I'm mostly focused on sub-80k point rewards. I plan to fly to the US once every 2 years or so, to visit relatives on the American east coast, so the cost of those redemptions are important to me. Other than that, whatever I can get from the points I earn is great -- domestic, south pacific, southeast asia, etc.

    Where I stand now

    QFF: 16,987
    Velocity: 30,000
    Northwest Worldperks: 54,670 (from when I lived in the US, and before I knew much about FF programs)
    Amex Membership Rewards: 5,087 (xfer to WFF or Virgin Atlantic)
    Programs with less than 6,000 miles (promotions, etc): US Air, AAdvantage, Delta, Czech Air)

    Core Programs

    I'm not a fan of the burn rates at all, but I expect QF to make up a large proportion of my flights, and it is also the likely home to my credit card spend.

    Expect reasonable amount of travel, and the 30k points from credit card bonuses have given me a great headstart

    Northwest Worldperks
    Not the best burning program, but I've amassed 54k points -- not quite enough to be useful. So looking to get more points into this account so I can burn

    Virgin Atlantic
    Never flown with them, but the fact that I can transfer credit card points 1:1 to them brings them into the core

    Other prime candidates

    Home for Star Alliance points, and good burn rates. Reasonable chance of flying them on a few transpacific flights

    Great product and also often one of the cheapest discount economy fares, so expect reasonable amount of flying with them. Not an alliance member, but there are many airlines that I travel on that can be credited here.

    United or Emirates? Or both?
    The question is, should I go for both? Or should I focus on just one?

    Burn rates are pretty similar for both, but UA offers anywhere in South Pacific for 20k, a more likley tier for me to reach:

    Flight EK UA
    SYD<>NAN n/a 20k
    SYD<>BKK 45k 50k
    SYD<>HKG 50k 50k
    SYD<>NYC 60k 60k

    In terms of earn, I'm pretty well-covered picking either program. Among the airlines I'm likley to fly, if the airline is only covered by one of the programs, it can also be credited to Virgin Atlantic, with the exception of Thai:


    A bit of an edge to United, since I'm more likely to fly Air NZ, Singapore, & Thai than Continental & Delta. The burn rates are also better in UA/EK than VS, because there seems to not be very many destinations available from SYD in the VS program.

    On the other hand, EK's initial bonus and online booking bonuses are helpful.

    I'm leaning more towards UA.

    So where to credit the upcoming EK fligh?

    It's a small flight, probably not even worth the energy thinking about, but it kicked off this whole bit of thinking. It's a one-way AKL-SYD flight, in N class.

    Credit options:
    EK: 1,345 + 2,500 first flight bonus = 3,845
    UA: 1,345
    DJ: 717 (0.5 earn in EK N class)

    What are your thoughts? Any help would be much appreciated! Thanks!

  2. QF WP


    Jun 20, 2002
    Flight Map:
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    nobby, an excellent post, put's my AA one to shame.

    Okay, lets have a look at your situation:

    Domestic Travel

    As you noted you are a fare chaser (discount economy). There would be a point though, if you chose one FF program over the other, that you would accept paying a higher fare on a particular route on an irregular basis if it meant keeping the majority of your earning to one program. You mentioned the break point would be $50 per sector.

    One major point for Qantas is that is where your current CC earn is being credited from Amex (because of the higher earn ratio) rather than Velocity (through NAB, where I don't know what the earn ratio is). I have not researched the Velocity program, so will have to limit my comments and comparison heavily to the QFF program.

    Can your domestic travel & CC spend be credited to a program that has earn & burn for both Dom & Intl. Obviously with QF, the answer is yes and you have full crediting for discounted QF Dom & Intl flights as well as enhanced earning on your credit card spend (1.5:1). The one negative is the higher burn ratio for award flights, so this discounts the higher earn ratio from CC spend

    I understand from the information you supplied, that EK flights can be credited to DJ, but is the reverse true? That still doesn't account for the CC earn, where you would prefer to receive 1.5 points:$1 rather than 1:1. Whilst you can credit the majority of your flying to the DJ program, you would have to accept two detrimental points:

    1. Accept the lower crediting rate for discount EK flights
    2. Accept the lower crediting rate from CC spend

    Would that be acceptable??

    When comparing the two on an earning capacity, I think QF wins. But when comparing on a burn capacity, QF's higher burn is detrimental to your objectives (I can't comment on the DJ burn rate, as I am unaware of the program details).

    I've run out of time to compare the International ones and then give my overall recommendations, but I'll be back..

    (can you tell I'm a financial planner :wink: :D )
  3. browski

    browski Established Member

    Sep 8, 2004
    Hi Nobby, I think you have come to the most important juncture of your life here - How to pick your third FF program (Spoken only of in hushed tones and written in moth eaten books of long ago. Still found in some old cultures and called "The Third Path")

    If you are domestile in Oz then you will probably need Qantas (or AA for the flyer who in the same way prefers Mozilla to IE)

    If you are discerning in nature then you will also need a Star Alliance Program, the natural enemy of John Travolta.

    Then for the third choice, you seem to have narrowed it down to EK Skywards or Virgin Atlantic.
    Whilst both good choices, I would suggest you look at Korean Airlines Skypass. You will be able to earn on all Skypass members as well as EK and Vietnam airlines and Aeroflot!

    Now, if Virgin Blue start reciprocating points to EK or Virgin Atlantic, you may have to reconsider your choice and reconsider EK Skywards. But in the meantime pick Korean Airlines and fly Aeroflot plenty.

    I, of course, followed none of my own advice and have chosen Middle East Airlines Cedar Miles as the "Third way". This was a mistake.
  4. scibo10

    scibo10 Member

    Jan 19, 2005
    Hi Nobby

    One thing you may wish to consider is that with the Skywards program, miles do expire, (I think after 3 years), regardless of whether you have had activity or not, whereas with United, points don't expire as long as you have activity once every 3 years. May be a factor for you if you don't amass enough points with this program in time for anything meaningful.

    Just quickly off the topic, I noticed you wrote that you have 2 velocity cards, and you got 30,000 points. So did you receive 15,000 bonus points for both the Visa and Amex card?
  5. Nobby

    Nobby Intern

    Nov 18, 2005
    Thanks a lot for the very helpful replies! I really appreciate the thought that went into them. I'm starting to get my head around the various options a bit better now.

    Lindsay: Thank you, but your AA post was definitely better and more interesting. I'm very interested to hear more about how it goes. If it wasn't for my difficulty with AA earn (poor discount economy earn and no Aussie CC partner), I'd be switching to AA in a heartbeat.

    It's tough to pick between QFF and Velocity. The burn seems pretty similar -- the cheapest redemption on various routes seems roughly the same. I really like Velocity's "any seat" redemption, but it's essentially the same as the American-style charging different amounts for "saver" and "rulebuster" categories. But I believe the availability is genuinely better. I've never redeemed with either program though, so maybe someone else can fill me in on how good QFF's award availability is.

    On earn, Domestic earn seems pretty comparable between the two programs. International earn in discount economy is better for QFF though, as well as credit card earn (NAB Amex is 1:1, NAB Visa is 2:1). Rumours at the Velocity launch were that DJ flights would soon be creditable to EK and VS, but that doesn't seem to have materialised yet.

    So QFF is the preferred program. But Velocity will still be an important one, because I anticipate making a number of flights with them.

    scibo10: Thanks a lot for the information about expiration. That's enough to kill Skywards for someone like me, for whom it may take a very long while to build up a sizeable balance.

    And yes, I did get the 15k velocity signup bonus twice for hte two cards, back when it was first offered in December. Their ads say they've capped it at 15k per customer this time around though, so it looks like only 15k is possible :?

    browski: I think you're right about needing to have a Star Alliance program -- Virgin Atlantic isn't a sufficient replacement

    So here's what I'm thinking now

    The 4 main programs I'll participate in are Qantas, Velocity, Northwest, and United.

    Emirates gets the axe due to points expiry, and Virgin Atlantic because all of their key earn partners are alreday covered by my other programs. It's a real shame to axe Virgin Atlantic, because I was very gung-ho about them after it was announced that they're joining the Amex membership rewards program. Does anyone know if there are more burn options than shown on the VS website ex-SYD for VS partner airlines? If so that might change the equation a bit, but for now there aren't many available destinations.

    So here's a table of all of the airlines I can think of that I might fly in the next few years, and where I would credit those flights if I flew on them. It also illustrates why I will not be participating in the Virgin Atlantic FF program.

    Green is where the points would be credited, yellow is where they could be credited, but will not be:

    What do you guys think of this?? Thanks a lot!![/img]
  6. QF WP


    Jun 20, 2002
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    Splitting amongst 4 programs will mean it longer to get to any awards. Know that on AA, because of the better earn & burn (over QF), crediting anything there other than O class is equal to (or in some cases, better) than QF.

    To illustrate an example, (without any status) AA's 500 mile minimum per sector can be equal to QF's 1,000 mile minimum because of the better earn rate on AA awards within Australia, NZ and SW Pacific. As an example, what's QF's points for BNE/PER/BNE ?? (I'll get you to search for it, this is an interactive post :D ). Well, contrast that with the AA award of 20,000 miles. Or what is it to fly SYD/PPT/SYD or SYD/NAN/SYD. Still 20K points with how many QF award points??

    Now on the slightly longer sectors within Australia, AA's points (again because of the better burn rate) is better than QF's; but it does depend on fare class.

    Now if you have status with AA (and QF), then it changes. AA Gold gives you 25% bonus, AA Plat 100%. Let's presume you never get to the heady heights of ExPlat. Compare that earning with QF Silver (equiv to AA Gold) at 25% and QF Gold (equiv AA plat) at 50%.

    Categorically shows that earning under AA Plat is better than QF Gold. Now how long does it (would it) take you to earn BIS (bum-in-seat) QF Gold. A long time, looking at your fares, and probably not feasible in a membership year for you.

    However, you can earn AA Plat with a well researched, correct fare, International trip. They can even be domestic (see my previously mentioned thread for my flights), but for you the best would be to look at some of your International flights. Particularly when flying QF, but accesing the AA codeshare, where earning on the AA flight number is 100% of flown miles, rather than the discounted version under the QF flight number.

    Now, every flight (including the flight that you reach the 10,000 Q-Points and thus AA Plat status) gives you 100% bonus. So for the next period of time (depending on when you reached the Challenge, it can be as short as having Plat status for 3 months, as long as 20 months where you reach after 1 July), all yuor flying is credited with the 100% bonus. This means earning on all fares [other than QF's O class (red e-Deals)] is significantly better than QF. So you have a period of time to make hay while the sun shines.

    Even when you drop to Gold (it's a soft landing, or down one level at a time like QF), your earning is still equivalent to what you would have received if you retained QF Silver for the next year. So AA earning can be better or equal to QF for as short as 15 months or as long as 32 months. During the time you were AA Plat, you also had QC access, business class check-in. Sure you get separate check-in for Silver but you only get 1 visit to the QP every renewal.

    So, some more food for thought.

    BTW, your posts includes graphs. Hell, that beats mine hands-down :(
  7. scibo10

    scibo10 Member

    Jan 19, 2005

    No problems. That's what makes this forum so useful, as each FF program is different and you're bound to miss one restriction when trying to make comparisons.

    Thanks for updating me about the Velocity cards. And I was sooo close to applying for both cards in December!! Ah well, 15,000 points is still better than nothing :)
  8. Nobby

    Nobby Intern

    Nov 18, 2005
    Thanks a lot Lindsay :) I'm a very visual person who loves graphs and uses Excel for almost everything... even frequent flyer program analysis :p

    The 4 programs are just to ensure that I have converage with almost any airline that I fly. The further to the left the program is in the chart, I drew the higher priority it is. I'd still focus on the top program(s) as much as possible. If the fare difference was less than $50 or so, I'd go with a flight that will let me accrue to a more "left" program.

    Thanks for reminding me about the great advantages of AAdvantage :) Is it really 20k points within all of South Pacific? I was looking at this and interpretted it to mean was 20k within AU/NZ, but 40k to elsewhere in the South Pacific. If it's really 20k, that's a big advantage -- a roundtrip flight to East Coast US would give enough points for a South Pacific trip, even with no status. 20k points for a trip to Easter Island!!

    And that's a good point about the platinum challenge. I would never qualify for platinum through BIS, but just one discount economy return flight to East Coast US would give me enough Q-points to become a candy thief. And it's still true that there's no limit to the number of times you can do the challenge, so you can be platinum for a year, then drop down to gold, then go back up to platinum again through a challange? The status bonus for Sapphire is much better for AA than QF, as you point out, so this could add up quickly. And just a side-question about Sapphire: is the QC access is good for both AU domestic & international flights (with just US domestic excluded)? And you are allowed one non-status-holding guest, correct? The potential status benefits with AA could be very good.

    Credit card earn is still a concern though... with $20k of spend with Amex, I can get 30,000 QFF points. If I instead went 30k Amex points -> 9.9k SPG points -> 9.9k AA points (12,375 if you factor in the 5k SPG transfer bonus). So I'd be getting 60-70% fewer points. Of course, I could move my credit card spend over to the NAB velocity cards, at least for the next 9 months or so, before renewal :p

    So it's a tough call on the earn. It could pretty much net out, or AA might come out on top, depending on how much I end up flying.

    The burn rate is better for AA than QFF, but is it that much better?

    Of course, I've made a chart of this :D


    Do these look right to you?

    I have to admit, I instinctively like bucking the norm, so AA appeals to me even on that level :)

    What do you think about the strategy for the other programs?

    Also, regarding AA, is this caveat something to be concerned about?
  9. Dave Noble

    Dave Noble Senior Member

    Oct 10, 2005
    Your are correct. Flights from anywhere is AU/NZ to anywhere in AU/NZ are 20k; other flights within SWP are 40k

    They do seem to be limiting it so that you cannot just challenge straight back up anymore but you can do it again later when you lose ya gold status


    As long as you transfer in blocks of 20,000 you will be better off unless all your earning is on credit cards with no travel ( and since this is a frequent traveller board I assume that this is not the case ). The number of points needed to top off awards will be less

    Consider.... Take an L class on AA from MEL-SYD-JFK-SYD-MEL and take platinum challenge

    Miles earned would be 41,300 miles

    Take same flight on QF with no status and earn 21,900 miles

    This is something that you should have been able to research for yourself. The points tables are all published

    sample comparison on longhaul


    On AA points, 80k economy, 120k business 160k 1st ( all plus about $150 taxes )
    On QF points, 128k economy, 192k World Traveller Plus (after price increase), 256k business and 384k 1st class ( all plus about $500 in taxes and fuel fines )

    Doesn't seem to be even close to me. 120k AA miles would get you in business class there and back, whilst wouldn't even be enough for an economy flight using QF points

    Do not worry about the 4 sector requirements they do not enforce it and doesnt apply to challenges anyway , but if you are going to America anyway, as long as you book on AA flight numbers, you will reach that requirement anyways

  10. QF WP


    Jun 20, 2002
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    I use spreadsheets but not to the depth and complexity that you do...

    No, sorry I mistakently included SP as 20K. South Pacific is described as "Australia, Easter Island, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Tonga, Western Samoa" and needs 40K Y, 60K J, 85K F.

    Nobby, looks like you have investigated the AA Partner Award Chart already.

    You'll also note the " †Travel between Australia and New Zealand may use the 'Wholly Within' one country award" at the bottom of the table.

    Apparently, there has been a change in the AA Program and back-to-back Platinum Challenges are not possible any more. See this thread on FT's AA Forum.

    Not sure whether you understood the point, but my understanding is that you need to transfer SPG points in blocks of 20K in order to get the 5K FF point bonus. Certainly, that is what I have donw previously (and currently waitig on my next block of 20K to turn up as 25K AA points). So in yoru case, better to contunue to accrue in Amex until you have sufficient, that when transferred, give you the desired bonus.

    The flight award chart looks correct and clearly shows the much beter burn rate that one can achieve using the AA program.

    I've never heard AA actually invoke that caveat. QFF is the same. Certainl

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