Best airline rewards programs

Mick has been travelling a lot since retiring and wants to know the best way to cash in.


Q. Mick
Since I retired last year, my wife and I have been travelling fairly frequently. We have a frequent flyer, but we don’t think we have been getting much out of it. Is there anything we have been missing?

A. It sounds like what you need to look into is achieving gold or platinum membership status within your airline rewards program.

Travellers can achieve this by accumulating set minimum status credits (not frequent flyer points) in a 12-month period. Travellers earn credits each time they fly on an eligible flight. Typically, Qantas Gold members will have had to take an equivalent of 18 one-way Sydney-Brisbane business class flights in a year to earn that membership or eight one-way Sydney-London economy flights.

The benefits are worth the work. Qantas Gold Frequent Flyer members, for instance, get priority for upgrade requests on international flights, extra baggage allowance, domestic and international lounge access and premium security lanes.

Velocity Gold Membership offers access to Lounge Premium Entry and Valet in selected airports, the ability to get confirmed upgrades on all long-haul Virgin Australia flights and the opportunity to ‘fly ahead’ on an earlier flight free of charge.

YourLifeChoices spoke to Daniel Sciberras from and he offered the following tips for achieving gold or platinum membership levels.

Focus on earning status credits – in addition to frequent flyer points
Different frequent flyer programs have different requirements to reach their Gold status. Qantas requires 700 status credits in a membership year to rise to the Gold tier and 600 credits must be earned every year to maintain the Gold status. Meanwhile, Velocity needs a balance of 500 status credits and only requires 400 credits within your 12-month benefit period to maintain your Gold Membership. Additionally, both programs require you to have flown four eligible flights within the specified time frame.

Consider your airline
Virgin Australia requires 200 fewer status credits than Qantas to get to Gold membership. Virgin also allows family members to pool their status credits to help accelerate the ascent to Gold.

Investigate the benefits
Some airline rewards memberships can give you access to far greater benefits than lower tiers. For example, Qantas offers its Silver members 50 per cent more points than a Bronze member and 75 per cent more for Gold members when purchasing an eligible Qantas and Jetstar flight, making it worthwhile to work your way up the tiers.

Maximise your travel within a 12-month period
The majority of programs give travellers a period of 12 months to earn enough status credits to qualify for a Gold membership. With this in mind, commence your strategy in a period where you will be travelling quite a bit.

Book business or first-class flights
When your status credit balance is at zero, flying long-haul international in business class or first class seats is the fastest way to get to Gold. The further the distance travelled and the higher the seat class, the more status credits you earn. For example, two return business class flights from Sydney to New York will earn you 1180 status credits – more than enough to reach Gold membership.

Make bookings far in advance and during a sale
Getting the cheapest fares means you will spend significantly less to reach the Gold tier. Booking in advance also means you are likely to get a better deal. It’s also worth looking for flights with partner airlines, as they may have better fares and will still earn you the credits.

Find status credit promotions and flight deals
Airlines will run status credit promotions and flight deals to help their members move up to the next membership tier. For instance, Qantas offered a six-day promotion in which travellers could earn double status credits for a domestic or international flight.

Which airline rewards program do you think is best?

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