Getting Started with Frequent Flyer PointsEarning frequent flyer points wisely can open the door to (almost) free travel all over the world! But it can be difficult to know where to start to maximise the rewards.

SimonAus is a new AFF member who emigrated from the UK to Perth. This member would like to use frequent flyer points to make the long family trip back to the UK every 18 months a bit more bearable.

I have just been reading and discovering the world of FF points over the past few months and am ready to commit the time and energy to hopefully make it work for me and the family.

Our situation: Family of 4, living in Perth. Emigrated from the UK so the main reason for getting involved is to make to flight back to the UK every 18months or so a bit more bearable! Have never flown business and always thought it was out of our financial reach (couldn’t justify the price).

Often, newbies will start out on their points journey by applying for a credit card that earns Qantas points. But every frequent flyer currency is different – some are more valuable than others, and different programs have better or worse award seat availability to different destinations. In the case of SimonAus, Qantas Frequent Flyer might not be the best choice because Qantas almost never releases four Business Class reward seats between Perth and London.

A better strategy when starting out is to use “reverse engineering”. Start by considering how you’ll eventually want to spend your frequent flyer points and determine which is the best program to do that. For SimonAus, Singapore Airlines not only has better reward seat availability to London than other airlines, but Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer charges fewer points and extra charges than Qantas Frequent Flyer for Perth-London redemptions.

The key problem I think you’ll run into is availability of award seats, especially at school holidays times. With something like the Amex MR program, you can at least be selective of the airline partners you redeem with, but you’ll need to choose carefully (I would forget QF if you aren’t going to be flying in the interim, you’ll need WP to get a jump on other status holders for availability and to be able to redeem 4 seats in J). You might be better with KrisFlyer for availability from what I have read.

The other option would be to dollar cost average, ie to book 2 x seats on points in J and 2 x revenue seats in J, which would effectively halve the cost of flying in J, require less points to redeem and require less status to obtain the reward seats.

If possible, the best strategy is often to earn points with a flexible credit card rewards program that allows you to transfer to multiple airlines as required. This avoids the situation of being stuck with one frequent flyer currency that you cannot use effectively.

AFF members have generously offered lots of other advice to help SimonAus getting started in the frequent flyer points game. Here are a few of the best posts…

IMHO it’s important to ensure you mostly do things you would have been doing anyway, just ‘optimised’. Or at least, don’t deviate from what you’d usually do by too much. I can understand people doing ‘status runs’ to some degree, for example, but not if there’re 4 kids at home that you rarely see because you’re travelling all the time …

You could fly economy to Jakarta then you can get a cheap business such as Etihad for ~$2-2.5k return (i did Jakarta-Rome over Easter holidays by booking 9 months in advance). This trip will also net you 400 SCs for your velocity and ~25k points. If you reach platinum you will get access to the first lounge in Abu Dhabi.

If you’re looking to earn a large amount of frequent flyer points quickly, without spending too much, credit card sign-up offers are one of the best ways to do this. However, you should be wary of the impact applying for too many cards can have on your credit rating. Banks will also generally only offer you bonus sign-up points if you haven’t been a customer with them for at least 12-18 months.

Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Complete newbie – is it worth it?

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]