Frequent Flyer hacks have become something of a competitive game between those who travel frequently, with everyone searching for a way to make their airline points go further. After all, why languish in economy when you can be living the high life at the front of the plane.
Fortunately, the life of luxury is not exclusive to travel bloggers, wealthy oligarchs or even those pesky Instagram ‘influencers’, with just a few considered decisions you too can be sipping martini’s at 35,000 feet. It’s all about not falling for the ‘free travel’ trap and rather using the points you have in the smartest way possible to get the life of luxury you deserve.
Chris Park, a regular financial professional from Australia, is one such person who managed to fly around the world in business class, shower in an Emirates suite and regularly enjoys the pointy end of the plane all thanks to his realisation. Over three years Park’s managed to build up three million points and used them to upgrade himself, rather than purchase economy class tickets and getting the points wasn’t that hard.
“The idea to gain points is to spend the same way you normally would, whether it be in-store or shopping through a points mall, but using your points-earning credit cards and being strategic about how you can maximise this. I would never use my points for round the world in economy as it’s not worth it. “
Park started his journey by visiting Point Hack, possibly the best-known of the ‘frequent flyer hacking’ blogs with all the latest in credit card schemes and other handy tricks to make the most of your points. Over three years Park built up three million points simply by switching credit cards, referring friends, taking out insurance and even by walking through the Qantas Wellbeing App.
“My car registration, my insurance, my water bill, my rates, my everything – basically I’m looking at a card to put it on that will earn points.”
The temptation among many ‘newbie’ frequent flyers, this writer included, is to purchase whole tickets using points. Free travel certainly looked attractive to me, but instead if you want to go business or first class and still afford things at your destination you’ve gotta use points wisely. And it all comes down to upgrades and the way you make the points.
Park told D’Marge that all of the little points ended up affording him and his wife a level of luxury they would otherwise not have been able to afford. Certainly drinking $1,000 Cognac whilst bathing in your in-air shower is not something most people would label as affordable.
“Rather than giving you free travel – nothing is free – it allows you to travel in a level of comfort most people cannot afford. I love Emirates for their over-the-top luxuries, You’re able to have a shower in the sky, drink $1000 cognac, and their first class seats even have doors for privacy. ”
Refinancing his mortgage let Park and his wife book last-minute flights to North America on business class and becoming a member of 54 rewards programs has allowed Park to be a frequent user of premium services offered by the airlines.
“Singapore Airlines, offer a service called Book the Cook, which allows you to pick your meals from a wide variety of food in advance. You’re not picking chicken or fish off the trolley cart, but you’re choosing between lobster thermidor or a steak.”
Sometimes though the temptation to spend a little extra to get some points is too great even then there are ways to do it. Park once donated to the Red Cross in order to get 5000 of the points that would eventually help him to afford First-Class across the ditch (Melbourne – Auckland). Now, who said charity doesn’t give back? One of his other unusual spends was a subscription to an Irish newspaper.
“On some occasions, I deliberately do something to buy the points. I’ve subscribed to an Irish newspaper, which gave me 18,000 British Airways points – enough for a return business class ticket from Mel-Syd at the time.”
One of Park’s little known hacks is with Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan which often offers a 50% bonus when you purchase points. This was used by Park who managed to purchase 250,000 points allowing for a cheap business class upgrade when travelling to America from Australia.
Points rules are changing though, with one of the biggest programs run by Qantas recently undergoing a refresh which devalued all points by 15%. This, of course, was in the context of reducing taxes on reward seats by 50% but it was still a massive shakeup. And they are not the only ones. Emirates recently unbundled its point schemes to give more people access to certain services while making other ones more exclusive.
There are numerous stories of people doing ridiculous trips to maintain their status credit, which is often harder to achieve than just points alone. In fact, a D’Marge traveller even told us of trip to the pub that got him the required Virgin status credits.
“Was 5 status credits short for Velocity Platinum last year so flew to Hobart Airport, couple of beers and flew home again. Don’t tell anyone.”
In general, though Park advocates for not spending any more money than you already do. But rather than using a regular credit card to buy things like suits or watches, you should instead be using credit cards that will maximise the points because in the end first-class is somewhere we all dream of being.