Hacking Frequent Flyer Points & Cheap Award Flights

Want to fly business class without spending any more? Frequent flyer miles are easy and cheap to collect. You can travel in style across the world in style, by working smarter not harder.

In this post I’m going to share a few simple secrets to both collect and use points to full advantage.

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Credit Card Point Hacking

Credit card point hacking is the easiest way to collect hundreds of thousands of points. Sound risky or shady? Not at all. Without spending any more than normal, you can fly business class across the world. The trick is to monitor credit card signup bonuses. In Australia and the USA in particular, credit cards hand out 20k – 120k per credit card. You simply signup, meet the requirement hurdle (either a purchase, or certain amount spent in a month) and then cancel the card.

Note: We recommend you keep the card for just under 12 months then cancel. It doesn’t cost any more and it will help your credit score.

What are the hidden costs?Frequent Flyer Cards
Thanks to very strict advertising laws, all the terms and conditions are clearly laid out for every card.  What they say is what you get.  For example, I recently earned 60,000 Qantas points with Westpac for $0.  Yep, I just ordered the card, purchased my morning coffee on the card and boom 60k points.

Does it affect your credit score?
There’s a lot of conjecture that having multiple cards is bad.  We did some digging and found that if you have a good credit rating now, then churning cards is really not a problem.  This article from Nerd Wallet explains it quite well.  We also found some references of people’s credit scores improving by taking on just a few cards and paying them off on time.

The key to any credit card, is always pay it off.  Never use cash you don’t have.  If you are trying to travel, but don’t have the money in the bank, perhaps reconsider a cheaper alternative or wait for an amazing discount fare.

You can check your credit score for free here: WalletHub

How many points can I score?
500k – 1 Million per year is entirely probable.  This month I’ve collected 250k points myself. Thanks to Christmas gifts and a few flights, I was able to meet the spend requirement of $2,500 on one card the same day I received it.  Points for nothing… boom!

Read how Nomadic Matt scores 1 Million points per year.

Can I reapply for the same card / bank?
Yes, but the waiting period between each card is different.  Keep track of what you have owned before, and check the Terms & Conditions document available on each card. It’s easier than it sounds.

Best credit card guide – Australia

  1. Point Hacks
  2. Credit Card Compare
  3. Finder
  4. OzBargain Travel

Best credit card guide – USA

  1. The Points Guy
  2. Nerd Wallet
  3. The Simple Dollar
  4. One Mile at a time
  5. View from the wing

Other Point Opportunities

There are point hacking opportunities around every corner. Paying attention to forums like OzBargain, Flyer Talk and others will help you find these and take advantage.  Below is a current example offering 10,000 Qantas points for just $16 Aussie dollars.

 

For a funny read, checkout this article about a man who earned 1.2 Million miles by purchasing $3,140 worth of pudding cups (about 12,000 individual servings).  The long story short, is that David Phillips saw pudding cups for $0.25 each, and every 10 labels earned 1,000 miles.  So enlisting some help from a local charity, he donated the pudding in exchange for their help cutting off the labels.  Final result, 1.2 Million points.  Genius!

USA Extra Point Opportunities

  1. Dans Deals
  2. Mommy Points
  3. One Mile at a time

Discount Point Sales

The easiest way to buy cheap points is to keep a look out for the once or twice annual sales.  Almost all airlines now offer them as a way of generating cash-flow, and for the savvy flyer this can be pay dirt!

Black Friday is a great time for all point buyers. In 2017 we saw 50% off deals across the board, and these helped me reduce a flight from Panama to Cancun from $750 down to $200 with LifeMiles.  It’s a simple process with incredible benefits.

Keep an eye on these sites to know when the annual sales occur.  I also recommend knowing where you want to go, and roughly how many points you will need.  That way, purchasing in advance makes everything easier.  There is a small risk prices will go up, but in the long run you are sure to end up ahead.

More info here: Airline Offer Deals Explained

Buying Second-hand Points

Buying frequent flyer points is a grey market. Whilst frowned upon by the airlines, the practice is alive and well.  For many, it’s a great way to arbitrage points (buying cheaply), and fly in the style you dream of!

Sites to Buy Miles

A great article about real mile buying experience: The marvelous world of online mileage brokers

Redeeming Reward Flights

A reward flight is one you buy with points. The best value for your miles is to upgrade class. Whilst some people choose to purchase economy tickets with their points, you still pay the taxes and fuel charge, so in some instances it’s simply not worth it.

Take for example a flight to Hong Kong. I’m flying there in March, from Melbourne. The economy flight cost is $550 return.  In Qantas points, it’s 56k + $311 in tax.  Therefore, the value of my points is a mere $0.004.

In contrast, buying the same fare in business class is 144k + $424 (normally $3,765) = $0.023 per point. That’s 5.75 times better value for your miles.

 

Business Class Trick
When booking your business fare, make sure you check it’s business for every leg. Online portals will often show you one leg as business, and the other as economy.  This can be a worthy sacrifice, but with a little more shopping, you can fly the lot in style.

It’s always important to carefully check your business class reward flights.  Ensure every leg is the class your purchased, and you will avoid being disappointed.  With most of the booking sites, it’s just as easy and hovering over your dates and double checking each leg is a full business ticket.

Remember, the taxes you pay will be about the same no matter what class you fly, so value-wise, business class is a better bang for your buck.  Moreover, if you’ve read my post on finding discount flights, you will know economy flights are dirt cheap already.

 

Booking rewards with partner airlines
Booking reward flights are getting harder and harder.  For those who don’t want to spend hours pouring over the numbers, the below list is a direct copy from FlyerTalk Forum.  These services are great for making reward flights easy.

For Australian customers and business owners, you might also want to check out Steve Hui’s, ‘I Fly Flat‘. I am not a customer, but have talked to Steve before and the reports of his service are excellent.


Award booking services (alphabetical):
  • Award Advocate – Domestic $75 p/p International $100 p/p, no additional charge for last minute. Also 10% discount for families traveling with children.
  • AwardBird – Economy: $39 for the 1st passenger and $19 for each additional; Business/First: $69 for the 1st passenger and $39 for each additional.
  • Award Booking Service – $125/person.
  • AwardButler – Award Search: $79 for up to two passengers. Booking starting at $129 for first two passengers.
  • AwardChaser – Searches availability starting at $99, free to search, you only have to pay once they find availability.
  • Awarding Canada – Specializing in awards for Canadians, especially with Aeroplan, but with expertise available for anyone, worldwide. $150CAD for first passenger, $100CAD per passenger thereafter. Infants charged $25 instead. 2% discount if paid by Interac e-Transfer.
  • Award Planners – One way $99, additional person $49; Round trip $149, additional person $99; Multi City $199 additional person $99
  • Award Travel Consulting – Award Search: $150/person | Booking ticket: $75/itinerary; changes: new trip.
  • Awardmagic – $139 per person or $249 per person for RTW trips
  • Awards & Travel – (iqbalt from FTFlyerTalk $100 for the first person; $50 for additional personnel. Explorer and RTW awards will be $200/ per person.
  • Book Your Award – (Gary Leff/View From The Wing): Booking: $150 per person; changes: $75 per one-way.
  • BoundlessMiles – (Dominik Żmuda/Travelling the World): Booking: $50 USD per passenger, $25 change/cancellation fee per passenger.
  • CabinChief – Bookings are $49 per pax.
  • First Class and Beyond – “Concierge-style” bookings for $250/person (and up). Fee is based on the value of the retail ticket. Phone calls encouraged.
  • Flightfox – Consultative flight searching; fees start at $100 (requires credit card authorization up front).
  • iflywithmiles.com – (Mike/Melissa): 150 USD first person, 85 for additional person on same itin. Change fees vary.
  • Luxury Travel Consulting – (Jasper2009 on Flyertalk): $150 per person per ticket (discounted fee for additional pax and itineraries wholly within NA)
  • Juicy Miles – (Adam/Point Me to the Plane): $125 per person for the first two travelers and then $100 per person for each additional traveler. For Round-the-World (RTW) awards, pricing will vary.
  • Loophole Travel – Award Travel Coaching $150 for first passenger and $100 for each additional passenger. Points Earning and MS Coaching also available.
  • MilesConcierge – (callmedtop onFlyerTalk) “High-touch” award bookings, emphasizing personalized engagement for every customer. $125 for first passenger, $100 for each additional.
  • MilesElite – $99 for award search and $149 for award search and booking.
  • Miles Momma Booking Services – Airline Booking: $150 up to 2 passengers. $25 additional passengers. Hotel Booking: $100 for up to 3 hotels.
  • MileValue Award Booking Service – (Scott Grimmer): Booking: $125 per person per award; changes: $79 per person.
  • PMM Travel Consulting – (Miguel R. Quinones/AwardWallet Blog): Booking: $125 per passenger for the first two, $99 for each additional. Credit card advice and travel planning services.
  • Point Me to the Plane – (Adam) Booking: $125 per person; changes: included within reason.
  • PointsPros – (Ben Schlappig/One Mile At A Time): Booking: $200 first passenger, $100 each additional passenger; changes: “a nominal fee”.
  • Reward Flyer – Free service as long as you apply for credit cards through their site.
  • Shrewd Travel – (skyvanman onFlyerTalk) Booking: $250 per person; changes: varies; Available via phone or e-mail or evenFlyerTalk PM.
  • SFO777.com – (SFO777 onFlyerTalk) Booking: $200 first passenger, $100 each additional passenger; change fees vary
  • The Flying Mustache – $100 per passenger, no rush fee for last minute bookings.
  • The Points Jet Setter – $150 for the first passenger and $75 per each additional passenger
  • Upgrd Awards – (MatthewLAX onFlyerTalk, Live and Let’s Fly blog) $150 first passenger, $100 each additional passenger; changes $75 but can vary.
  • zainman – FlyerTalk member since 2009, offers his consultant services for $ as well.

One Practical Tip for rock star service
When flying business class on a reward ticket, remember to be courteous to your host.  These guys and girls work tirelessly in the world’s most trying restaurant.  I recommend bringing a bag of candy, or some trashy magazines.  Not only will you receive rock-star service, but the look of delight on their faces when you show a little appreciation, is worth it’s weight in gold.

Summary
I admit, learning to to collect and use points takes a bit of effort.  For those who like me, have a curious mind, you will love this world of point hacking.  Others will prefer to pay a small fee and have a data-nerd do it for them.

I recommend reaching out to a couple of the companies listed above.  It’s amazing what a couple quick emails can do for you, taking the burden off your shoulders and opening you up to a world of luxury flying!

Travel well friends, and don’t forget to read this post: The Ultimate Guide To Discount Travel

 

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About Joshua Strawczynski

About Joshua Strawczynski

Joshua is obsessed with efficiency. He tests and trials different ideas and technologies to share them with you!

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