Qantas announced changes to its frequent flyer program last week and it is "mum and dad" travellers who stand to gain the most, according to an airline points expert.
Daniel Sciberras, senior writer at PointHacks.com, says the changes are broadly "quite reasonable", but that families on a budget wanting to go overseas should be happiest.
That's because the number of frequent flyer points needed to redeem an international economy seat has dropped by 10 per cent, while the additional fees typically paid on top of points have been slashed.
"Changes have really been focused on this international economy redemption," Sciberras says. "They're decreasing by about 50 per cent. That's around a $200 saving for every return international trip.
"That is really targeting that mum-and-dad-style frequent flyer member who probably doesn't have the points balance to send their entire family in business, so they will look for that international economy redemption.
"It got to the ridiculous stage with economy class redemption, given the high carrier charge," he says.
A return economy flight from Sydney to LA could cost 96,000 points with a further $700 to be paid in fees and charges.
"Then they'll have a sale on Sydney to LA for $899. You're spending 96,000 points to save $150 to $200."
Frequent flyer points needed to redeem premium seats (domestic business class and international premium economy, business and first class) have increased by around 15 per cent, depending on the route, Sciberras says. The number of points needed to upgrade a fare has also risen by up to 9 per cent, he says.
"If you're looking for premium seats it is a bit of a mixed bag," he says. "It's subjective. Overall we thought the changes were positive because even though the points requirement has lifted, there's more availability."
Qantas has added 1 million extra frequent flyer points redeemable seats across all classes each year.
"What's the point of frequent flyer point saving if there weren't any seats available?" Sciberras says.
"Even though you have to pay more in points, the availability is the benefit."
While the changes have altered how travellers might choose to use their points, they've not had any impact on the golden rules for getting the most frequent flyer points from your spending.
These include signing up for multiple credit cards with frequent flyer points attached to them, and being across all the different relationships between brands, shops and airline frequent flyer points schemes.
"We always caveat that with two things: If you do get a rewards credit card, make sure you pay off your credit card in full every month because they're usually high interest. And make sure you don't change your spending habits to try and get these points," Sciberras says.
"It's a case of if you'd usually pay for something with cash, pay for it with your credit card instead. Including the morning coffee, because they all add up."
"There's so many ways that members can earn points and the problem is there's so many that people can't keep up with them. People make all these purchases and they don't know they could be earning points."
The best way to stay across all frequent flyer points deals is to regularly visit your scheme's website or read articles by media outlets devoted to covering the programs, he says.
"A key one for me is online shopping. Anytime I buy an Apple product I will see how many points I get at the Velocity eStore or Qantas Mall.
"Log in through that and it tracks your purchase through the Apple Store."
Meanwhile, Virgin Australia has taken out a cheeky ad poking fun at last week's Qantas changes, with billboards proclaiming "Huge news. Nothing's changed." The ads point out that Virgin had won awards for best reward seat availability from 2013 to 2019.
TOP TIPS FOR MAXIMISING FREQUENT FLYER POINTS
- Choose an airline rewards program which has a low miles requirement (eg Virgin Australia and Velocity, rather than Qantas Frequent Flyer).
- Start with a 12-month period where you will be able to fly frequently.
- Find status credit promotions and flight deals.
- Choose a credit card that offers high frequent flyer points for every dollar spent – particularly one that offers more rewards when used on your everyday spendings (ie. major supermarkets and petrol stations).
- Join a hotel loyalty program that allows you to transfer points from your stay to a range of frequent flyer program partners.
- It's better value to buy business class tickets with points only, not by purchasing an economy fare and upgrading.