Update: Since original publication of this article we have commenced travelling full time, and now and enjoy a location independent lifestyle enjoying the benefits of house sitting and exploring new destinations worldwide.
How we are using Frequent Flyer points for travel
Over the past decade my wife and I have visited many exciting destinations using Frequent Flyer points.
One of the first things people ask us is how do we manage to travel so much using frequent flyer points and how do you accumulate so many frequent flyer points in such a short space of time, as you always seem to be going on holidays. We are proof that it is possible to travel to far away places and I hope to briefly explain how we have done it using frequent flyer points.
Accumulating Frequent Flyer Points
It’s true we have been fortunate to have some exciting overseas holidays and if all those trips were funded by cash we would have never been able to travel so far and so often. We have always enjoyed travel but like most people on very average incomes we soon realised that the cost of travel far exceeded our budget especially when raising children, paying off mortgage, school fees the list goes on. We decided long ago that as we were not in a position to fund the travel that we both longed for with savings, we would need to come up with another solution.
Either wait till we retire and use our savings for a couple of tours, or have trips overseas now without using too much of our hard earned dollars. Naturally we chose to travel now rather than wait till we retired as we had seen others that never realised their travel dreams.
Airline Frequent Flyer Programs
To fund our travel we joined the Qantas airline frequent flyer program. We maximise our frequent flyer points or as some call it frequent flyer miles by redeeming them for flights. Accumulating enough points to travel the places we have does take time but it’s surprising just how quickly the points can add up by being creative and ensuring you take every opportunity to get that point. There are many ways to earn points including the obvious flying, shopping, dining at certain restaurants, car hire etc. One of the easiest ways to accumulate points is to earn points on every everyday expenses and this is achieved by paying for everything using a rewards credit card linked to a frequent flyer program which earns points for every dollar spent that can then be converted to frequent flyer points.
Earning points though credit card expenditure
Naturally using credit cards for every day expenses takes discipline and this method only works if you use the cards to your advantage by ensuring that the cards are paid in full before any interest is incurred, or you will quickly outweigh any point benefits.
This system works for us but may not be for everyone and I would urge anyone to carefully consider if it is right for them. Having said that if your disciplined and prepared to use credit cards for everything points can grow very quickly. Some credit cards have an earn ratio of one point for every dollar spent while others have a higher earn ratio. Many financial institutions are eager to sign up customers and offering incentives, so quite often you can earn bonus points just for signing up and these can be quite substantial.
We try and ensure that single every dollar spent is earning at lease one point. I am often asked what is the best frequent flyer credit card but really that’s up the individual. Some prefer airline credit cards issued directly by the airlines but there are many more that offer points that can be credited back to frequent flyer programs.
Earning points through loyalty
We are from Australia and another method we use includes signing up for the Woolworths Rewards card that earns points which can be redeemed for frequent flyer points on household grocery shopping, as well as additional partner shopping, and depending on your spend level often bonuses are awarded on the purchase of certain items. In addition to shopping using the Woolworths Rewards card we also then pay for the items using a point earning credit card thereby effectively increasing the points earned.
Airline loyalty also plays a part and we find that the Qantas rewards program in conjunction with the Oneworld alliance partner airlines works best for us but I also know others who are equally successful with other rewards programs via different airline alliances. The key, is find one that suites your circumstances best, depending on your location and schemes on offer.
Over the years when we really started to take the accumulation of points seriously, and managed to travel from Australia to Europe four times, frequent trips to Asia and the South Pacific, and around the world twice. One of the around the world trips was in economy and the other in business class. Our latest trip in Business Class took us from Australia to New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Europe, United Arab Emirates and India. Read about our Travel Memories – World Journeys HERE
The airlines included Qantas, LAN, Ibera, Cathay Pacific, BA and Air Berlin. We also had our first Business Class experience on the A380 and 787 Dreamliner. We try to travel once or twice a year for approximately a month at a time and in the case of our latest trip substantially longer.
While we still need to pay for accommodation and transportation in these countries the air travel component is offset by the points. We also research each place before visiting and book all our accommodation independently, and if possible sign up for hotel loyalty programs which offer points that can also be redeemed for additional nights or earn frequent flyer points.
How many Points are needed using Frequent Flyer points for travel?
When we tell people that we fund the travel on points the question mostly asked is how many points does it take?
Points needed really depends on how far you want to take it, the sky really is the limit and it just depends on how many points you can accumulate and depending on your work situation how much time you can spend away.
We have recently semi-retired so we now have the time available and the key is to maintain the level of travel we have enjoyed over the years by maximising point value. There are many websites devoted to explaining how to get the best value from points and one in particular that I use is Australian Frequent Flyer. This site has many members that are only too willing to help, and I have gained a wealth of knowledge via that site.
Maximising Frequent Flyer point value
We have met many people who will go to great lengths to maximise the point for dollar ratio. This is done by using frequent flyer points for upgrades to Premium Economy, or Business Class, after purchasing a non discounted economy class ticket. Providing the ticket rules permit upgrades using points this can be a great way to get the most value out of points.
In our case we mainly wanted to travel distances without spending the dollars so we opted to take the other approach of accumulating points then redeeming for travel in economy class. It is only recently that we have strayed from this approach to experience an around the world trip fully in Business Class by redeeming a large quantity of points.
Other considerations when redeeming points
Redeeming points does not mean that the air travel is totally free as there is still a charge for airport taxes which needs to be factored in, but overall these fees can be minimised by being a little creative, and does not amount to a huge expense in the scheme of things. I won’t go into that in this article but if you would like more information please feel free to leave a comment or contact me.
Another consideration when accumulating points is the role played by airline loyalty and Status Credits. If you’re in the position to also fund travel you can accumulate airline Status Credits based on the distance travelled, and the higher level you gain the more frequent flyer points are awarded depending on your status. Sounds complicated but it’s not once you’re familiar with how they work.
Frequent Flyer Status Credits take the flying experience to a whole other level, and unlock options such as having more seats available at the time of booking based on your status level, and when higher levels are obtained, can grant access to airline lounges, priority boarding, extra baggage allowance etc. It is outside of the scope for this article but stay tuned as I will be doing a story on Status Credits in the future.
Share your points tips & tricks
I hope you have enjoyed this insight into flying funded using frequent flyer points and would like to hear from you and your experiences in using Frequent Flyer points for travel. Please leave a comment below as I am sure their are many other ways to accumulate points.
This article is from our personal experiences using Frequent Flyer points and we are not affiliated in any way with any of the companies listed.