Over the years I have been very fortunate to travel – alot! A couple of years ago, while receiving emails and letters from credit card companies trying to entice me to sign up to their products that it would be possible for me to easily accumulate enough points to get free flights. Not just in economy class but business class!
I soon then discovered that travel hacking is a thing – a big thing. Since then, through travel hacking and credit card collecting I have travelled to Europe several times, USA, Fiji and New Zealand on free flights made possible through credit cards.
As an Australian, it can be more difficult to amass a huge number of points as we just don’t have the number of banks offering sign up bonuses as other countries in the world. However, if you are willing to travel on more than one airline this opens yourself up to further opportunities to accumulate points.
How it works?
Firstly, you need to be a member of a frequent flyer program, or possibly more than one. The majority of frequent flyer programs are free to join with the exception of Qantas which charges a sign up free however a quick google search will find you a code where you are able to sign up for free.
Secondly, keep an eye out for credit card providers offering large sign up bonuses. Once you have found a card with an attractive bonus – sign up! If you are approved and meet the conditions of the card, a couple of months later you will receive a nice bundle of frequent flyer points into your account.
Is there a catch?
Once you have found a bonus offer that catches your eye, be sure to check the terms and conditions. These cards always come with a minimum spend amount within a particular number of months – generally 3 months. The minimum spend can range from $500 to a whopping $7500. If you do not meet the minimum spend – you will not receive the bonus points offer.
Make sure you also check the fees associated with the card. Often on sign up there will be offers of the first year annual fee free to encourage new customers to sign up. The annual fees on these reward cards can be HUGE – so make sure you know what you are signing up for before doing so. I have seen cards with an annual fee of $1200 – that would be a nasty surprise if you hadn’t done your research.
What’s in it for the banks?
A lot of my friends seem to think this idea of travel hacking is quite dodgy – however I am following the terms and conditions stipulated by the credit card providers and using them to my advantage!
So what’s in it for the banks? Put simply – money. By encouraging new customers it is good for their stats, but really what they want out of it is money. Each time you use the card to make a purchase, they make money. It’s a win – win!
What about my credit rating?
It is true that signing up for a number of cards can effect your credit rating. If you are smart and make sure you only spend what you can afford, and pay off the card in full each month you are unlikely to suffer any permanent damage to your credit rating.
If you don’t have a high level of self control and are likely to spend more than you can afford to pay – you should probably consider alternative ideas to accumulate points.
Which frequent flyer program is the best to sign up with?
I have found the Qantas Frequent Flyer Program and Virgin’s Velocity Frequent Flyer as the programs where it is easiest to accumulate large numbers of points which will allow you to get free flights. It is possible in Australia to sign up to credit cards where you accumulate Emirates Skywards points and also Singapore Airlines points however I have yet to see a large sign up bonus with these making it difficult to accumulate a large number of points unless you are spending huge amounts of money a month.
What cards are the best?
This changes on a monthly or even daily basis depending on what you are trying to achieve. If you have a particular destination in mind and only Qantas flies to this location, you would want to maximise your Qantas frequent flyer points.
The offers available also change and expire on a daily basis meaning that a particular points offer available today may not necessarily be available tomorrow. If you see a good one – jump on it.
The best cards I have found are:
Qantas Frequent Flyer
– ANZ Frequent Flyer Black, Platinum or General – ANZ seem to have the most consistent large point sign up offers with Qantas and almost always offer the first year free. Currently they are offering 75,000 points with no annual fee on the ANZ black card. To put this in perspective, you only require 129,000 points to fly business class from Sydney to London.
– American Express – AMEX are known for offering huge sign up bonuses on their cards, however often these come with a large annual fee. The annual fee though brings benefits of its own – including overseas travel insurance, product purchase insurance, travel concierge and often lounge access.
Velocity Travel Rewards
The availability of Velocity branded cards is far more limited than Qantas, however this does not mean you will not be able to use these points to your benefit.
The current best offer is with Virgin Money – offering 105,000 points for $289 annual fee.
Of course you could use the points you accummulate to receive gift vouchers, items for the airlines online store, flights or other options. Really you can use on points on just about anything. I only use my points on flights – specifically business or first class flights. By the time you take into account the taxes that airlines charge (particularly Qantas) the value of an economy flight is significantly dimished.
To see some examples of the savings that can be gained by travel hacking see below:
- Paris to Sydney – 139,000 Qantas Points – Total savings min approx $2,500
- Athens to Sydney – 115,000 Velocity Points – Total savings min approx $2,800
- Sydney to Los Angeles – 44,000 Qantas Points (upgrade from economy) – Total savings min approx $2,000
- Sydney to Zurich – 199,000 Qantas Points – Total Savings min approx $8,100
Of course, this won’t work for everyone. You should consider your own circumstances and whether or not this method will work for you. Happy travels all!