Debunking airline rewards myths

If you think Business Class is always better than Premium Economy, or that you can upgrade any flight with points, think again. The point hackers behind one of Australia’s largest independent platform of airline rewards experts, Point Hacks, have debunked common misconceptions around earning and redeeming airline rewards points to help you maximise the value from your chosen airline rewards scheme.

“The frequent flyer game doesn’t have to be hard if you equip yourself with the right information from trusted sources,” said Point Hacks’ spokesperson Daniel Sciberras. “There may be many rules and restrictions around the accumulation and redemption of points, but the rewards are well worth it when you know where to focus your point-hacking efforts.”

Here are seven fallacies around airline rewards programs:

1. You can earn points when you buy flights with points
Unfortunately, purchasing most reward flights with your points will not earn you points. This applies to every frequent flyer program. Flights purchased using frequent flyer points, otherwise known as Classic Flight Rewards on Qantas and Reward Seats on Virgin Australia, will not earn you any points.

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2. Points Plus Pay is good value
Through Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia, you can purchase award flights outright with your Qantas Frequent Flyer points, or you can purchase flights using a mix of points and cash (called ‘Points Plus Pay’). There is more seat availability when you use Points Plus Pay to purchase a flight, but this kind of redemption hugely devalues your points and is considered poor value: at a rate of around 0.7 cents per point. For a good value redemption, you should be looking between 1.5-14 cents per point, depending on your class of travel.

3. You can upgrade most ‘cheap tier’ flights with points
This is false as you can generally only upgrade on certain tickets. For instance, Qantas’ discount economy – the cheapest Economy fare, also known as Red e-Deal or Sale fares – will only let you use points to upgrade on domestic flights, not international. Meanwhile, Virgin Australia offers upgrades on all domestic Economy fares, but for Business upgrades on international flights, this is only available to Velocity Gold or Platinum members who have purchased the more expensive ‘Freedom’ fare. Often, upgrades from saver fares are not worth it, as the number of points required is similar to the points required for an outright Business Class redemption. A saver upgrade from Sydney to Brisbane would be 10,000 points, while an outright Business redemption would be 13,800 points. Short-haul international flights from Australia (Fiji, Samoa, Bali or New Zealand) only allow upgrades from flexi fares.

4. Frequent flyer points will never expire
Think your frequent flyer points bank is like having money in the bank forever? Not so. Points do expire. Some frequent flyer programs, such as Qantas and Velocity, have a ‘soft’ expiry for points (the points expire if they haven’t had any activity within a specific timeframe), whereas others, such as KrisFlyer and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, have a ‘hard’ expiry (the points expire after a set time, regardless of whether points have been earned or used in the account).

5. All frequent flyer points are equal
Like currencies, the value of airline rewards points are not like-for-like between programs. For example, 100,000 Qantas Points won’t equate to 100,000 KrisFlyer miles. How these points are earned also differs. A return Sydney-London flight on Qantas’ Premium Economy can earn you 31,000 points, but Singapore Airlines’ Premium Economy will earn you 21,152 KrisFlyer miles.

6. Business Class is always better
Surprisingly, on some airlines and on particular planes, Premium Economy is a better experience than Business Class. As some fleets have older seat configurations, Business Class can represent today’s Premium Economy. For instance, Jetstar’s Business Class on a 787 Boeing may not be as great as a Premium Economy seat on Qantas’ Dreamliners, with reclining seats and improved dining options.

7. You need to spend $10,000 to earn 10,000 points
Many believe that reward programs leveraged through credit card spend are only for those who spend generously on their cards, and that steep annual fees and interest rates outweigh the number of points earned. However, the big chunk of points often come from credit card sign-up bonuses and introductory point offers. For example, both the Qantas Premier Platinum credit card and Qantas American Express Ultimate card can earn you up to 120,000 bonus Qantas Points if you sign up before 31 October and 6 November, respectively. Point Hacks then recommends that you simply put as much of your ordinary spending through your points-earning card.

Have you tried any of these tips? What are your reward program tips?

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Written by Point Hacks

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