We just booked four Virgin Australia return flights to New Zealand and paid nothing at all! We will be visiting the closest neighboring country and that is almost a four hour flight from Melbourne. That is comparable to a flight from Amsterdam to Morocco. Yes, that is how remote Australia is.
Did you win the lottery?
No, we did not. We booked these flights completely with our frequent flyer points. For these flights we needed about 200,000 points and this is how we collected them:
- The first half of those velocity points were easy. By signing up for a AMEX -card and spending $1,500 per month for the first 3 months we already received 100.000 points. This is not a huge spending amount in Australia, so not too hard to do. There is a fee for this card, but it pays off, at least in the initial year.
- Paid (almost) everything by credit card, earning between 1-3 points per $1 spend
- Looked out for special deals that you receive bonus points on
- Used the family pooling option, so all the points collected on paid flights went to one account. Also the status points went to one account and a higher status means more bonus points on flights
- Yes, Oliver did fly a lot in the last two years, but this has not been the majority of our points
The good thing in Australia is that you can collect frequent flyer points on your every day purchases.
Things we might do:
- Cancel our Amex card after using it for one year. In the second year you do not receive new bonus points. The fee is too high for that in our opinion, as we have not made use of the free flight. After another year it is possible to get the bonus points again and then it does make pay off again.
- Sign up for a Visa or Mastercard with bonus points. Already keeping on eye on the current possibilities on a credit card comparison site.
- Virgin Australia also has a low cost carrier TigerAir. Although you do not receive points on TigerAir flights, it is possible to pay or get a discount for them with frequent flyer points.
It is handy to have both a Amex card and a Visa or Mastercard, since you can not pay everywhere with an Amex card, or there is a high(er) fee. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted and can be used for almost all purchases.
Oliver flies with Virgin Australia if he flies for the company, so the Velocity program is best suited for us, but Qantas has a similar program as well.
How many Velocity points do you need for a free flight?
It all depends on the distance you fly and the rate that is available. The thing I struggle a bit with is how much value for points you get, as they always seem to be different. It is hard to find flights available for the minimum amount of points that are needed, so it is easier to look on the Virgin Australia website and instead of looking at the price to view in Velocity points:
I made a rough calculation that you need about 154 Velocity points per $1 flight costs. If anyone has more insight to this, or knows of a website or blog that can give more insight to this, please leave us a comment.
A quick calculation: TigerAir currently has a $33 special for short internal flights. You would need $33 * 154 = 5,082 points. With the Amex sign-up bonus you could already book 19 of these flights. Or even without those, if calculated with a 1 point earned per $1 spent, it does not take long to collect these points for a family, as you can read in our cost of living post.
I found the following websites useful:
Comparisson of Velocity Credit Cards
Comparisson of Qantas Frequent Flyer Credit Cards
All I can say is to start collecting frequent flyer points as soon as you arrive in Australia. It pays off, as saving for about a year and a bit has already brought us free flights for our family to new Zealand. Sheep, thermal springs, mountains, scenery and hiking trails, we are almost coming!