How to get half-price flights

Frequent flyer expert and Point Hacks spokesperson Daniel Sciberras reveals the least-known ways to score premium flights at half the price.

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Australia’s leading point-hacking experts have revealed one of the biggest ‘secret’ hacks that will get you the premium flight you want for less than half the cost.

The least-known – but most effective – points secret is buying points (or miles) during a promotion with the Alaska and Avianca frequent flyer programs.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan and Avianca LifeMiles are two frequent flyer programs that offer ‘buy miles’ promotions every two-to-three months, often giving you 50 per cent or more bonus points in each promotion.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
Miles from this program can be redeemed for flights on major airlines such as Qantas, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, British Airways and Cathay Pacific. Miles for sale during a promotional period offer greater bonus miles the more miles that you buy, and can cost as low as 2.82 cents per mile. For instance, you can buy 110,000 miles (equivalent to 192,000 Qantas Points, enough to get you from Sydney-LA return in Business class flying Qantas) for just over $3000. This normally costs at least $6600 if paid for on Qantas.

Avianca LifeMiles
Avianca, Colombia’s national carrier, is a member of Star Alliance. Its LifeMiles program offers one of the cheapest Star Alliance redemption rates – allowing its miles to be redeemed for flights on major airlines such as Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways and United Airlines. Purchasing LifeMiles during a promotional period can be as low as 2.36 cents. To redeem Avianca LifeMiles for a Sydney-Singapore return business class flight on Singapore Airlines, you will need to purchase 100,000 LifeMiles at a cost of $2365.  The same Business class seat would cost you at least $4685 if paid for on Singapore Airlines.  

“Jumping on the regular promotions by Avianca LifeMiles and Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is the least known – but one of the most effective hacks and is used by serious points accumulators. This hack is extremely useful when you want an award flight but are short on points,” says frequent flyer expert and Point Hacks spokesperson Daniel Sciberras.

“Those in the know sign up with these lesser-known overseas programs even if they don’t fly with that given airline, as the affordable redemptions allows them to fly on premium cabin classes at a substantial discount compared with buying the fare outright.”

Here are five tips on buying points on promotion and redeeming them wisely:

1. Wait for the right bonus or promotions
Avianca LifeMiles and Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan will advertise their ‘buy miles’ promotions on their website or eNewsletters. The promotion will either be a discount per point or bonus points on a tiered scale. For example, buying 10,000 can get you a 20 per cent bonus, or 20,000 can get you a 35 per cent bonus.

2. Sign up for the programs before a promotion starts
Most promotions require an account to be opened for one or two weeks before points can be purchased. Note that you don’t need to be a resident of a foreign country to be a member in an overseas frequent flyer program.

3. Create multiple accounts if necessary
A downside of buying points is that there may be a cap on the number you can buy each calendar year. For example, Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan introduced a cap of 150,000 miles earlier this year. Setting up different accounts in the same family name is a way to get around this.

4. Have a trip in mind before buying
It’s best to buy points to redeem for flights in the short term, as programs may devalue with short notice. Due to this, only buy as many points as you need for a particular flight you want to redeem. Make sure to find out whether the award flight you want is available before purchasing the points.

5. Factor in exchange rates
Many ‘buy points’ programs are purchased in foreign currency, usually in US dollars. A credit or debit card that offers minimal exchange rate fees or offers you bonus points on overseas spend will come handy when jumping on these promotions.

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Written by Daniel Sciberras

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