In Style + Design

Golden Rules For Redeeming Airline Points, According To A Pro

Steve Hui knows airline miles. The self-described The Points Whisperer runs iFlyFlat, a company dedicated to managing people’s points. (And yes, such a business exists.)

“Australians love maximising points,” says Hui. “But they don’t know how to use them. And I think using them is by far more exciting than collecting them.”

Hui says the main problem Australians have with points is that they don’t have a plan. Without a trip in mind, they don’t know how many points they need to fly, and therefore have no way of knowing if they’re nearing their goal. “They’re basically just hoarding them,” Hui says.

airline miles

Image: Qantas / supplied

A simple mind shift, however, can make the difference between a free holiday or not, he says. “Every point that you’re earning through doing activities – someone else is really paying for them. So that drives me to use more points because someone else is paying for my trip.”

Ahead, Hui shares his top tips for maximising points:

Set a goal

As mentioned, the first place to start is by picking a trip destination. “Once you know how many points you need to fly there, then you know whether it’s worth the effort to collect those points,” says Hui.

“Say you want to go to Los Angeles, if you didn’t know how many points it took to fly there, you’d just be aimlessly collecting points. You’d have no idea if you’re getting close.”

Book ahead

Then there’s what Hui says is Australians’ biggest misconception about points. Most people think they’re like cash tickets with price fluctuations, he says. When, in fact, it’s a fixed number of points to fly all year round.

“That’s the benefit of using miles – it’s the same number of miles to fly the whole year.”

airline miles

Image: Unsplash

The key, he says, is in finding a seat. If you know the dates of your trip well in advance – say a trip home for Christmas or a break over school holidays – it’s worth going ahead and booking your flights.

With Qantas, it’s only 6000 points to cancel, and $60 with Virgin. And with both airlines, you’ll receive your points and taxes back. Had you bought a discounted cash ticket, however, there’s a good chance you might not receive any refund at all.

Don’t bother trying to stick to one airline 

Another misconception about points? Thinking flying is the best way to earn them.

“You typically only earn a small portion of points from flying,” says Hui. “You actually earn a larger portion by spending money on your credit card or by doing points-earning activities like using Deliveroo or booking with Qantas Restaurants.”

Because people don’t earn most of their points through flying, it’s not worth trying to always fly the same airline. Instead, fly the airline that offers the best routing, timing and price, he says.

Use points on flights – not upgrades

airline miles

Image: Etihad / supplied

“Is it better to use points for an upgrade than on a flight? It’s a good question,” says Hui. “I say no. Because upgrade is waitlist. So you make the waitlist but you may not get the upgrade. Most likely you end up flying economy and not business class.”

Avoid using points to book hotel rooms

While Hui says it’s fine to use points for hotel rooms, you won’t get as good of a value as if you’d used them to fly instead.

“The main reason is seats,” he says. “The airline runs those so it’s actually excess capacity they have and doesn’t cost much. But hotel rooms, they have to buy them from someone.

“You’re not going to get the best bang for your buck.”

(Lead image: Qantas) 

Published 27 September, 2019