I love frequent flyer miles, but my number one rule is to never spend money just to get the miles - it's usually cheaper just to buy the plane ticket and be done with it.
Here's how I've earned 200 000 (yes, 200 000!) frequent flyer points (with Australian programs) without spending a penny more than I would have anyway!
My Mileage Programs
I belong to three rewards programs:
- Qantas Frequent Flyer
- Etihad Guest
- Virgin Australia Velocity
Qantas is a member of the One World alliance, and I can earn and spend miles on Etihad for Virgin Australia and vice versa.
My Credit Cards
I have an American Express Platinum card that earns 1.5 rewards points per dollar spent. The rewards can go onto any of my mileage programs.
In addition, I have a Visa card linked to my Virgin Velocity membership that also earns 1.5 rewards points per dollar spent, and a Virgin Velocity American Express card that earns 1.5 points per dollar spent, but 3 points for dollars spent on Virgin Australia airfares.
In addition, I have a Woolworths Everyday Rewards card that is linked to my Qantas account. This is a straight loyalty card that earns 1 point per dollar spent over a $30 threshold. We do our grocey shopping at Woolworths, so this is easy to do. I am a member of the IHG Priority Club for hotel stays at any hotel in their chains, and I do market research surveys for e-Rewards, an online market research firm. This is linked to my Etihad Guest account. Qantas has a wine club which I belong to that also earns points for my frequent flyer account and I have an Avis Preferred membership linked to my Qantas program.
How I Work it - Without Spending an Extra Penny!
Every week my family shops at Woolworths, earning at least 200 points per week for my Qantas Frequent Flyer membership via my Everyday Rewards Card. They also have regular "bonuses" where you get extra points for buying certain categories of products. I only ever buy what we can use and what we normally put in our trolley - never things just to "get the points". In total I earn about 1200 Qantas frequent flyer points per month without trying. The wine and car hire are just used when we genuinely need them, and if they are what we want to purchase (I would never buy more expensive wine just to get points for example).
All my purchases go on my American Express Platinum, unless the vendor does not take Amex, in which case I use my Visacard. The reward points from the American Express card just stay on my account until such time as I want to use them. I did transfer 59 000 points to my Etihad Guest account as Amex were having a promotion of a 20% bonus to celebrate Etihad joining the program, making my 50 000 worth closer to 70 000, without spending anything! If I book a Virgin flight (domestically we use a mixture of Virgin and Qantas) I use the Virgin Velocity card and pocket the extra points.
I did treat myself to a one way first class Etihad fare to Europe during this time, but used reward points to pay for my trip home again. With my Gold Status bonuses, I earned just on 27 000 points. Although I have over 130 000 points in my Etihad Guest account, this is the only points earning flight I have taken. The rest of my points have been accumulated by being savvy and going about my ordinary business.
Along the way I do market research surveys online and have earned about 4000 points in the past 6-8 months doing this. I also buy from my programs' online stores - but only if it is goods I would normally buy and only if the price is right. I've earned about 30 000 points doing that in the past six months. If I stay in a hotel in my travels, I am not obsessive about staying in an Intercontinental member but if I am looking at a chain hotel, I will book one of their portfolio. The place I have my car serviced earns me Qantas points - I would get the car looked after there anyway, so this is definitely free frequent flyer miles.
My Tips For Accumulating Frequent Flyer Miles
1. Remember, frequent flyer mileage reward flights are only free if you haven't spent more than you would have normally to earn the points to fund them. If you buy things just to earn points, you are probably wasting your money, and should have just bought a plane ticket.
2. Spent a bit of time browsing your airlines' website and workout how you can increase your points balance within your normal spending habits.
3. Make sure you understand the rules of how your program works, particularly how long your points can accumulate for before they expire.
4. For websites that specialise in maximising your frequent flyer points, check out Travel Hacking Cartel, The Points Guy or Google "Travel Hacking".
Travel Tip shared by Jo Karnaghan