This post is certainly a little different from my usual Marketing or CX (Customer Experience) pieces, but a number of people have asked me about this over the years, so I thought I’d write a post about it.
While I’m certainly no expert in this area, I have earned almost 1,500,000 Velocity (the partner program of Virgin Australia) frequent flyer points to date …and spent most of them, too! – so I must be doing something right and would love to share my tips with you. Leave a comment at the end if you have questions – and always do your own research, too.
Frequent Flyer Points vs. Status Credits
First things first – let’s look at the key differences between points and status credits…
What Are Frequent Flyer Points?
- These are generally earned through purchases – be it a flight, hotel booking, using a points-earning credit card, signing up to an offer, etc.
- Often, the earn-rate is set as a “points per dollar” figure. For example, using my AMEX I earn 2.25 points per dollar when using the card on flight purchases, and 1.25 points per dollar nearly everywhere else I use it.
- In most cases, frequent flyer points do not expire, so long as your frequent flyer account remains active (through earning or redeeming some points at least once every 18 months for Qantas or 24 months for Virgin Australia)
- Having lots of points won’t do anything to help you move up the ranks from Silver to Gold, Gold to Platinum, etc. Only status credits do this.
What Are Status credits?
- Status credits can generally only be earned by flying.
- That said, there are a few exceptions – such as spending a lot of money on your credit card in a certain amount of time, or through program partnerships like Coles flybuys + Virgin Australia Velocity. However, as a rule of thumb, you won’t climb the tiers solely through your grocery shopping.
- Status credits generally only last 12 months – then they expire. This forces you to keep flying & earning in order to maintain your program status (eg. Gold, Platinum, etc).
In this post, we’ll purely look at frequent flyer points; I’ll leave status credit earn tips for another time.
Earning Points on Everyday Purchases
One of the ways I’ve managed to earn so many points over the years is to focus on earning points on every single purchase you make.
To do this, I use the credit card that earns me the most amount of points wherever I can. For me, this is my AMEX Velocity Platinum Card. I love this card, because you get complimentary international travel insurance, a free return flight every year, free lounge access in certain places as well as great points-earning rates (some of the best out there) on everyday purchases. It also has a great sign-up bonus for new card members.
For all other purchases (ie. where AMEX is not accepted), I use a Velocity High Flyer Visa card, as it too has a great sign-up points bonus for new users, gives you a bunch of complimentary free flight ‘credit’ to towards a Virgin flight each year, as well as a decent points-earn rate (though, not as good as the AMEX mentioned above). Either way, regardless of the card I have to use, I earn points on every dollar spent.
But No One Takes AMEX, Right?
Five years ago I would have agreed, but this isn’t really the case anymore. For example, in 2021, AMEX added over 50,000 Australian retailers to their network. Additionally, all large stores generally accept it – Coles, Woolworths, Bunnings, Kmart, etc. I’d say 9 out of 10 places I go to accept it. And if they don’t, I use my fallback credit card – that Velocity High Flyer Visa I mentioned earlier.
AMEX even has a handy map-search website where you can find merchants that take their card – which is handy if you have a big purchase to make and want to maximise your points earn …like a car service, for example.
When it comes to online stores, many merchants will take AMEX these days – but if not, why not see if they take PayPal, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or Google Pay as a payment method? You can add your AMEX card into these third party wallets & make it your funding source. Yep, you’ll still earn points this way!
Earning Extra Points Through Special Websites & Promos
Very few people (in my circle, at least) seem to know about this one… but did you know that you can earn points at hundreds of online retailers, simply by logging into your frequent flyer program’s ‘eStore’ first?
Let’s take the Velocity Rewards program as an example (though I do know Qantas have this too). By logging into the Velocity eStore and clicking a special link first, your online purchases at eBay, Kogan, iTunes, The Iconic, Asos, Apple, David Jones, AliExpress (and many, many more online retailers) are tracked via a browser cookie – and you’ll earn points for every dollar spent on their website.
The points-per-dollar does vary per merchant, but your frequent flyer program’s eStore will tell you how much you earn from each online retailer.
As an example, eStore merchant ‘Under Armour’ recently had a promo with Velocity to earn 6 points per dollar. By clicking through the website, purchases were tracked but I also paid with my AMEX which increased this. 6 points per $ at the eStore + 1.25 points per $ with my AMEX meant that all purchases from that merchant results in a points earn totalling 7.25 points per $ …awesome!
You can also find occasional promos & special deals. A few years back, Velocity ran a Christmas promotion where you could earn 4x the usual points-per-dollar rate with certain online retailers within their network. 8 points per dollar on eBay was great – especially since I did my Christmas shopping entirely on eBay that year! 8 points per $, plus the 1.25 points per $ points-earn on the AMEX meant I was earning 9.25 points per dollar on all of my Christmas shopping.
Earning Extra Points Through Offers
Another way to earn points is through sign-up offers. Some credit cards will have promotions for new customers, refer-a-friend promotions (more on this in the next section) – and I’ve also seen several program partners offer sign-up rewards in the form of frequent flyer points from time to time – e.g. signup to XYZ electricity supplier and get 20K points.
Often you’ll have to stay with that company for a certain period to keep the points too; you can’t just sign-up, get the points then switch back to your original supplier (though that wasn’t always the case!).
However, always do the maths. If their services cost more than another provider, don’t switch providers simply for the points if it’s not worth it in the end.
As I touched on earlier, Coles flybuys also has a partnership with Velocity Rewards, allowing you to earn status credits on your grocery shopping & transfer your flybuys points into Velocity points – which I’d recommend doing.
Earning Ongoing Bonus Points
As you would have read by now, many credit cards also have sign-up bonuses and incentives. For example, at the time of writing my favourite card – the AMEX Velocity Platinum Card – has a sign-on incentive of 60,000 bonus Velocity Points when you apply, are approved and spend $3,000 on your new Card within the first 3 months (when you are referred; less points if you are not referred). If you do end up getting one, why not refer your partner, spouse or a friend and use your personal AMEX referral link to get a few bonus points yourself, too!
My fallback card, the Velocity High Flyer Visa card offers an incentive of 80,000 Velocity Points (40,000 points for each month you spend $3,500 or more on eligible purchases in the first 2 months from card approval). 80,000 points will get you one-way from Brisbane to Europe – not bad just for signing up & meeting the spend criteria!
However, note that these huge sign-up bonuses are one-offs. If you cancel the card then sign up for it again, you won’t get the same bonus. This is why many people ‘card-hop’. This is the act of moving from credit card to credit card (with different providers) every year or so, in order to continually get big sign-up bonuses. Though do remember to cancel the old card when switching to another provider. Having a lot of credit against your name makes it harder to get new cards and probably isn’t good on your credit profile.
Card hopping has allowed me to earn enough points (through sign-up incentives) to fly several times to Europe and back in their stunning business class cabin on award-winning carrier, Singapore Airlines. In other words, ‘free’ (aside from the fees & taxes).
Some of the higher point per dollar cards have high interest rates and / or annual fees. In the case of the AMEX Velocity Platinum card, there’s an annual fee of several hundred dollars – however, you do get a free return flight once a year, free lounge access, travel insurance and a number of other benefits.
In my case, these benefits outweigh the annual card fee – but do the maths, and always pay off your card quickly. Also note that while some cards give you sign-up bonuses (such as tens of thousands of free Velocity points), you need to spend a certain amount of money in order to get this offer.
That said, regardless of whether you meet the card issuers spending goals or not, you will still earn points on your purchases – so look at it purely from that point of view first, before considering whether the sign-up bonuses are achievable or even worth going with one card over another.
What Can I Do With Points?
You can redeem points for hotel stays, flights, flight upgrades & reward seats, gift vouchers and a whole raft of stuff on your points earning program’s online redemption store.
For me personally, I generally use my points on rewards seats (flights), or flight upgrades. For example, a random search of the Virgin Australia website shows a Brisbane to Sydney reward seat costing just 14,000 points… or 9,000 points +$38 for taxes.
Saving up points to fly with a partner airline is another way to bring down the cost of that overseas holiday – with plenty of options with both major carriers here in Australia. One such stand-out is the tie-up between Virgin Australia and Singapore Airlines, and the unique ability to be able to transfer Virgin’s Velocity points to Singapore Airline’s KrisFlyer Miles (and vice-versa) is fantastic and unlocks flights on the entire Star Alliance network.
TL;DR – My Picks
While I’m not a financial planner and you shouldn’t take anything I say as financial advice, I am certainly happy to share what’s worked for me. In my case here in Australia, I use and recommend the Velocity Rewards program – as the program tiers are more achievable than Qantas, purely from a status credit point of view.
However, in terms of points earn – well, to be honest I don’t know which program is better as I only use one of them.
Points Earning Cards
My personal picks are:
By the way, all of the cards mentioned here are bank-agnostic, so if you change banks it doesn’t matter as they aren’t tied to any particular one. Transferring money onto them is done via BPAY or an instant a bank transfer using PayID through your online internet banking.
So there you have it – some handy tips to help you make the most of your frequent flyer program and points earning ability. Did you find this article useful, or do you have any comments & tips to add? Please leave me a comment below!
Disclaimer: Details posted here are correct at the time of writing. Some links contained within this article may earn me (and you) a referral bonus if you sign-up; this does not cost you anything. Always do the maths and seek financial advice before signing up for new products.