How To Use Your Frequent Flyer Points To Fly For Free

It’s the secret everyone wants to know, isn’t it. How can we fly for free?

The common misconception is that the only way you can earn a big amount of frequent flyer points is by flying all the time with the same airline. But over the years frequent flyer programs have expanded, making it easier than ever to earn and use your points to help you travel more while you’re living your normal life.

Here’s an inside look into what we do to earn points and use those points to fly for free! By using even just a few of these ideas, you’ll be on your way to a mountain of points and a whole world of travel opportunities.

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Figure out which airline program would be the best for you

Every airline offers their own version of a frequent flyer program, that offers different rewards, opportunities and discounts. They will all have their own number of points you can earn, ways you can spend them and ease of access when you want to use them.

In my opinion, you should definitely be signed up to more than one program. Sometimes, it’s just not possible to exclusively use one airline or program, and it doesn’t hurt to earn points with other airlines as well as opposed to not earning anything for that flight.

But it’s a good idea to work out which program will give you the most benefits and focus on earning those points as much as possible. When you’re trying to decide who to focus on, here are some of the things you should consider:

Where do they fly? Do they offer flights to places you are planning to travel to in the future or a network of places you travel to often.

Who are their alliances? Can you earn points with other airlines. For example, Qantas is part of the OneWorld alliance, meaning that you can earn point with top airlines like Cathay Pacific, British Airways and American Airlines to destinations that aren’t covered by the Qantas flight map. They also have an exclusive partnership with Emirates. Alternatively, Virgin is part of the StarAlliance group, which also includes Singapore Airlines, Etihad, South African Airways and Air New Zealand.

What other ways can you earn points? Is there the possibility of earning points without flying, from shopping, health insurance policies, credit cards, etc. You don’t really want to rely on flying being the main way to earn points if you’re not travelling all the time.

Our focus is on the Qantas Frequent Flyer program, we try to earn points with them as much as possible and their program is very easy to get the most out of. You can use this link to sign up to the Qantas Frequent Flyer program for free.

The other reason we love the Qantas program is because you can book their rewards flights for Jetstar flights. Jetstar have a massive flight network across Australia and also cost less in points than a Qantas flight, making it super easy to get away on a quick getaway for the weekend with our points.

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Set yourself up to earn as many points as you can

Once you have chosen which program you want to focus on, it’s not hard to work out a strategy so you’re always earning points.

Credit Cards

The first step is to make sure you have a credit card that accumulates points. That way, even if you’re just buying a banana from the supermarket, you’re always earning points on the dollar. It’s a good idea to do a bit of research into credit cards and what each one are offering.

We change our credit cards regularly depending on what the different banks are offering. I use Finder to find the best deals and sign up bonuses to decide which credit card to use. This website also lists all the benefits and fees that are associated with each card, so it’s very helpful! Some of the credit cards we have used in the past have also offered sign on bonuses of up to 85,000 frequent flyer points when you sign up and spend a certain amount on the card in the first couple of months.

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After you’ve got the right card, make sure you’re shopping at places that are part of the program. For example, in Australia – Woolworths Rewards program allows you to directly earn frequent flyer points when you’re doing everyday things like shopping at Woolworths for your groceries, filling up your car at Caltex or buying drinks at BWS.

It’s also a good idea to keep your eyes on your emails for bonus points. By using coupons the rewards programs send you, you can often earn bonus points on your shopping – sometimes up to 8 times the amount of points you would normally!

As an added bonus, many programs have their own shopping portal, where you can earn points for shopping on websites that you do all the time anyway. Qantas in particular, has partnerships with so many big brands, such as Apple, eBay, David Jones and The Iconic. It’s as simple as logging into the portal and then clicking through to the websites you want to shop at through their links. Simple!

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Extra Add Ons

These days, most airlines and frequent flyer programs are affiliated with all types of other services. The really big one at the moment is insurances – travel insurance, health insurance, car insurance, even life insurances are all products that you can earn points with these days.

Obviously, you have to weigh up whether this is beneficial to you or not. If you are already paying for health insurance or car insurance, it can be beneficial to get a quote from the company you can earn frequent flyer points with. As long as you’re not paying a higher premium and you’re still getting the same benefits and coverage as you would with your current provider, why not get more for your money? Often these partnerships offer you bonus points for signing up, plus monthly points when you pay your premium.

You can also earn points on every day activities, like going out for dinner! Making your reservations through the Qantas website can offer you 100+ points per dinner, or 300+ points if you prefer the Velocity program.

And obviously, it’s always beneficial to use the airline you’ve chosen as much as you can – or one of their affiliates. Whenever possible we will try and fly Qantas, however obviously you can get some crazy cheap fares on budget airlines so we don’t always stick to this.

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Pool your points with your family

This one comes in very handy! Most programs will either allow you to transfer or pool your points with other people in your family or household. This is great for us because it means that all of our points are just going to one card number, rather than having half of our points on my account and half on Thom’s.

In Australia, Qantas offers transfers of points between accounts in your family, and Virgin’s Velocity program allows direct pooling if you live in the same household. These two options are both free, which is fantastic. Many other airlines will make you pay for transfers between cards, if they allow it at all, so these programs are definitely the ones to consider if this is an important feature for you.

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Take advantage of anything your airline sends you

I don’t just mean things that cost money either. Qantas will often send me surveys and questionnaires where they’re asking for feedback in return for points. Generally the questionnaires offer a few hundred points, but hey, if you do them all you’re sure to keep those points building!

Qantas also have an app that offers you points if you keep your step goals throughout the day. In a world where we’re all beginning to focus on our step count for the day and not being so sedentary, this is a super easy way to push yourself to get those extra steps. Download the Qantas Assure app on your phone or check out their website to learn more about how you can earn points just by walking!

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Using your points to get free flights

Once you’ve accumulated all your points, it’s time to book! Here’s the big tip for those of you who are loyal Qantas frequent flyers – there is a huge difference between a Classic Rewards Flight and booking a flight with points plus pay.

Classic Rewards Flights are booked only with points. You must have enough points to book them and you can’t pay the difference. There are only a particular number of them available on each flight, and once those seats are sold out you will not be able to book a Classic Rewards Flight for that day.

Alternatively, booking a flight with points plus pay means that you can book any flight at all, use your points and pay for the rest of the ticket. You can do it on every fare on offer and there is no limit to how many people on each flight can do this. The downside to booking this way is that it will often take up to twice as many points to book the same flight.

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Using your points to book a Classic Rewards Flight is definitely the best way to make the most out of your points. It’s a good idea to wait until you have enough points for the route you want to take before you book, and often being flexible with your travel dates, even one or two days either side of your ideal date can make a big difference.

When you’re booking a Classic Rewards Flight with Qantas the points will take care of the whole fare and then you will just have to pay the taxes, fees and carrier charges. These fees differ between locations and there are lots of contributing factors to how much this fee will be, so I can’t give you a definite amount.

To give you an idea though, Thom and I have booked flights to The Cook Islands for later this year as classic rewards flights. The tax for these flights cost about $100 per person per flight. which was about $400 total return for the two of us. If we had of  booked these flights normally, they would have cost over $1,000 per person, so it was a huge saving!!

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On the other hand, Virgin Velocity lets you pay for the flight in points and then decide whether you would like to pay for the tax in cash or in points as well. So if you’ve been dedicated to points collection you might even get your flight absolutely free!

One thing to keep in mind is the airline you choose to book with. For example, Qantas lets you book Classic Rewards flights for both Qantas and Jetstar flights. Even though they’re travelling to the same place, Jetstar flights often cost less in points than booking on a Qantas flight, as they are a low cost carrier. For example, a one way classic rewards flight from Melbourne to Auckland costs 18,000 points with Qantas, but only 14,400 with Jetstar. Both direct flights – just at different times of the day with different allowances.

The last thing I always take into consideration is the destination. Due to the fact that you need to pay the tax, sometimes it’s just not worth booking a Classic Rewards Flight. For example, a flight from Melbourne to Sydney costs 8,000 in points with Qantas + $36 in fees and taxes. Since I know that I can get flights as low as $39 to Sydney during a sale, I am often reluctant to waste my points on a close domestic flight. I would rather save my points to travel somewhere internationally and really make the most of them.

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Upgrade with your points

If you’re looking to travel in a little more luxury, the other option is to use your points for a free upgrade. While we’re all hoping for that elusive ‘free upgrade’ when you get to the counter, the reality is unless you’re a high tier member with your program, it might just never happen. It’s even less likely to happen to people travelling in couples or groups – with solo travellers found to be the most likely to be upgraded.

However, if you’ve been accumulating your points and don’t want to just spend them on a regular flight, why not book your regular economy ticket and then use your points to upgrade to first or business class. Live like a king in the sky!

In all honesty, I haven’t done this before so I’m 100% sure about the ins and outs of this process. But I would recommend doing your research – make sure there are no loop holes or terms and conditions you’re unaware of before you book. And if you still need some extra guidance, give the airlines membership customer service line a call to ask your questions.

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Take note of point expiration dates

Depending on the program, some frequent flyer points will expire after a certain period of time or inactivity. For example, points earned through Singapore Airlines Krisflyer program will expire 36 months after they were acquired. On the contrast, Qantas frequent flyer points do not expire, as long as you earn or use points at least once every 18 months. This should never happen, as it’s as simple as swiping your loyalty card at the supermarket to keep it active.

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So what are you waiting for?

By signing up to a couple of programs and keeping a few extra cards in your wallet, you can be earning up a storm just by filling up your car or grabbing the ingredients for your dinner.

Do you have any travel hacks? Share your secrets below!

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Emma is a travel writer, photographer and blogger, chasing the sun around Australia. Travelling in her recently renovated vintage Viscount caravan, along with her husband Thom and daughter Macey, she's sharing the very best experiences from around her beloved sunburnt country.

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1 Comment

  • Rachel May 28, 2018 at 11:02 pm

    Thanks for this post. We haven’t tried point hacking in the past, but are starting to realise if we focus on collecting points we can achieve more flights for the family! Keeping an eye out for deals on new cards has been a very successful strategy for us so far.

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