For those that read my first Trip Report on this blog, I talked about the fact that we (my wife and I) only recently got back into the airline miles game. With crazy credit card sign-on bonus, shopping portals, holiday booking portals it seems to be easier than ever to earn stupid amounts of Airline points for use on premium cabin travel.
Many people ask us how we earn points and how we keep booking holidays travelling in First Class. So I thought I would do a little review of how we came to earn 1 million (well ok it is actually 993k) velocity points in just over 18 months since we started playing the 'game' again . I have seen very few bloggers talk about how they have accumulated points other than simply recommending credit cards so I thought it would be fun to dive into it with a little more detail.
Key Earning Opportunities
So I thought I would outline some of the key things we do to maximise point earning potential.
Now there is so much to go in here and I am really only going to scratch the surface, but it is important to note the earning points comes at a cost and that cost varies. It may be the annual fee on a premium credit card or the booking fee by using a hotel portal. These costs need to be looked at carefully and I am by no means suggesting that we have managed to accumulate these points for free or that our travel in First Class has come at no cost. However I have crunched these numbers and I am happy with the cost vs. benefit, maybe I will write a post about that at some point.
These are the 8 or so key things we have done to maximise our ability to earn airline miles.
1. Airline status helps a lot! - I am a gold velocity member which means I usually get a 75% bonus on most miles earned via flights, but more importantly shopping portals and hotel/holiday booking portals.
2. Credit card sign on bonuses - Our single biggest point accumulation has come from the sign on bonuses on premium credit cards, now these don't come cheap so you have to evaluate them carefully.
3. 'Refer a friend' bonus - This is mainly an AMEX thing but it can also be very lucrative (at one point AMEX were offering 80k bonus points to refer a friend). In one instance, Mrs Bwhouse signed up for a credit card using my referral link, earning us both additional points.
4. Shopping Portals - Both the major programs in Australia (Qantas & Virgin) offer shopping portals. These essentially allow you to shop online and earn additional points per dollar on that spend. The earning rate varies, but they often have bonuses. For example, buying from David Jones via the Qantas portal gets you 10 points per dollar, combine that with the right credit card and you can get an additional 1.5 point per dollar taking your total earn to 11.5ppd. Imagine you need to buy a new TV worth about $800, you could go anywhere, but if you buy it at David Jones you would earn 9,200 Qantas points in that one transaction. You obviously need to weight up the price of the TV at David Jones vs another retailer. There are also many everyday retailers available on the shopping portal, we heavily use Menulog for example.
5. Hotel / Holiday Portals - Virgin used to partner with Agoda, they now have their own Virgin Holiday's portal. But essentially you book your hotel via the portal rather than directly. As a gold member this usually means earning 4.5 points per dollar on the hotel spend, plus whatever your credit card earn is on the actual transaction. You need to be careful about the rates, but they are generally the same
NOTE: If you hold status at a hotel chain it can be far more beneficial to book directly.
6. Know your credit cards - There is no doubt about it, credit cards are a great source of points, both from the sign on bonuses but also for everyday spend. But you need to know the in's and out's of each card. For example, some AMEX cards give you 3ppd at restaurants (we paid for our wedding reception on AMEX, which was a huge point earner at 3ppd) others give you bonus points on airfare purchases and the list goes on.
6. Put all spend on credit cards - I am hesitant to mention this one as it can be quite dangerous and I am by no means advocating getting into credit card debt. But if you are ok at keeping to a budget and paying your credit card off every month so you don't get hit with interest, it is a great idea to funnel as much everyday spend as you can through your credit card. I may be known to put my hand up to pay the bill when out with friends at a restaurant (with my 3ppd earning card) and get cash from everyone else :)
7. Stack you earning opportunity - Once you know all the portals and various earning partners for your chosen airline program and you also know the various bonuses available on your credit cards, you can begin to stack point earning potential. I mentioned one of these above, but another example, we often order takeaway (probably too much, but that's another story) by ordering via the velocity store portal and paying on a Velocity Platinum AMEX - we end up earning 6 points per dollar. Now you might say on a $30 transaction this doesn't seem like much, but those 180 points here and there add up and every point counts!
8. Mileage Sales - This isn't really a topic for this post, as it isn't applicable for Velocity points. But another great opportunity to earn points is to actually buy them. Many overseas programs allow you to buy points and they often run big sales or bonuses that make it worthwhile to purchase points in some situations for cheap premium cabin travel.
Out Of The Ordinary Things That Contributed
So before I go through the detailed breakdown of how we raked up the velocity points, I thought I should highlight a bunch of things that happened over the 18 month period that where very much out of the ordinary. These things significantly contributed to earning these points.
We got married in October of 2015 and we had been saving for quite a while for the wedding. Whilst I wouldn't say we had a super expensive wedding, it certainly wasn't cheap. It was also around this time that AMEX was offering the 110k sign-on bonus for the Velocity Platinum card and our interest in Airline miles peaked. So we were able to maximise our point earning potential with many of the wedding suppliers. Most notably the reception venue, which AMEX classed as a restaurant.
On top of the wedding, we were also planning and booking a Honeymoon. This allowed us to book some flights and hotels that would help maximise points earned. We also booked a cruise that happened to have a 20,000 point velocity bonus on offer.
Large Family Holiday
A number of my wife's extended family were in town for awhile and we all decided to go on a holiday (11 people in total). The holiday of choice was a cruise from Sydney to Tasmania and back. For many reasons, we ended up booking this holiday for everyone and they reimbursed us. This meant we got not only the credit card spend but also points from cruisepilot (Virgin's cruise travel agent).
So Where Did Our Million Points Come From?
Ok so here is the breakdown, I have tried to catagorise the points as best as I can. This is what we have earned over the last 18 months or so depending on whether you use activty date or posted date on the account.
|Credit Card Sign On Bonuses||520K||Lots of bonuses here, we doubled up on the AMEX Velocity Platiumum 110k bonus and both got a NAB 60k bonus. Then on top of this we netted a few referral bonuses (several 20k ones and an 80k one). There is also an AMEX loyalty bonus in here.|
|Wedding Spend||101k||So using the methods mentioned above we managed to earn a crap load of points paying for our wedding on credit card rather than eftpos or cheque, most of this 100k was at 3ppd and the rest at 1.5ppd|
|Flights||67k||Pretty self explanatory, this is a bunch of flights. We also pool points and status credits to help maintain status|
|Points Transfer||68k||This was mainly from a points transfer from my parents, they had ~50k Velocity points and were going to use them to buy a return ticket from Sydney to Adelaide, instead, I paid for their ticket and they transferred me the points, it was effectively buying points for ~1.2c pp. The rest came from my wife's family after our family cruise.|
|Credit Card Spend||82k||This is just general credit card spend. Mostly at 2 points per dollar, but a bunch was also at 3 points per dollar. This is bills, strata, groceries, holidays. You name it, it ends up on the credit card. Also the entire family holiday|
|Pooled from my Wife||53k||Mainly Flights, Shopping Portals, Hotels and a little bit of CC spend|
|Cruisepilot Booking Portal||52k||See section above on out-of-the-ordinary things that contributed|
|Purchased Points||22k||Yup I purchased a points top-up :( It was terrible value but flights came up from LA to SYD and I wanted to secure them for an upcomming holiday.|
|Portals (Shopping, hotels, etc)||17k||Again the large family holiday contributed to this significntly.|
|Other||11k||Other bonus and points earned. Things like refer a friend to velocity for 5000 points etc.|
So that's it. Lot's of things contributed to collecting almost a million airline miles in 18 months and I certainly don't think we will be able to continue to earn them at anywhere near that rate. But I thought it would be good to go through it as an example.