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Question I get asked is what is the best frequent flyer program? Well – hate to say it – but it depends. Almost everyone who flies or shops will have their own preferred Frequent flyer program that they like to have points credited to. My answer to you is – what is your goal? Is it to fly to the US in 2 years time with your family? Is it to fly business class to Singapore next year? Do you just want to redeem the points for a toaster?

If you live in Australia – it will be hard to get away from Qantas or Virgin frequent flyer programs. The reason is that many of the shops such as Woolworths, Coles, Target, Big W allows you to credit your points to different programs which then allows you to covert them straight to Qantas or Virgin points.

Since my family shops regularly for groceries – the two biggest players in the Supermarket wars here in Australia is Woolworths and Coles.

Woolworths has the Everyday Rewards system where you are able to link the account with your Qantas account. To create a Qantas account usually costs $82 – but if you create through the Everyday Rewards account – it is free. So therefore saving you the once-off fee.  For every dollar you spend above $30 – you earn one Qantas point into your account. What I love about this is that you can combine any other card such as the American Express Platinum Credit Card – which you receive 3 points per dollar you spend – to accelerate your points. So if I spent $100 at Woolworths I would earn 3 x 100 Amex Points plus 70 Qantas Frequent Flyer points. So total would be about 370 points.  Personally I value the points at 5c per points. Therefore 370 points x 5c = $18.50.

This means when I spend $100 at Woolworths – I am receiving $18.50 worth of points if I am ultimately going to redeem for a business class seat later on with Qantas for example.

Coles on the other hand has the Flybuys program. Unfortunately I have not been a very big fan of this program for the last 15 years. For every dollar you spend at Coles – you receive 1 Flybuy point. You can transfer the points to an airline – but as I understand it the conversion rate is less than desirable. I’ll be the first person to put my hand up and say that I redeem the points for a magazine subscription ever year – which is a complete waste of points – but then the amount of time required to save the points to redeem a business class seat is ridiculously unrealistic. But I do shop at Coles as when I use the Amex Platinum Edge card – I receive 3 points for every dollar I spend.

So between Woolworths and Coles – I’m picking Woolies on this one because of the better points accumulation.

I have more that 30 frequent flyer and hotel reward points accounts that I use.  The reason being that we live in a worldwide economy especially in today’s digital age. The best frequent flyer program has to consist of the following:

  1. Ability to earn points on not just flying – but shopping
  2. The number of award seats that is available to redeem is decent and not stingy
  3. The benefits of reaching elite status within the frequent flyer program. For example American Airlines allows 4 system-wide upgrades that you can use to upgrade from economy to business every year for domestic and international flights should you reach elite status
  4. Consistent promotions which allows you to accelerate your points accumulation
  5. Alliance with one of the big three worldwide networks which are One World, Star Alliance and Skyteam.

My personal favorite in terms of Airlines is US Dividend Miles from US Airways. Reason being that the ability to buy miles when on special and redeem miles for business and first class will cost you’re the price of an economy ticket in a lot of cases. Though this is becoming more expensive due to the merger with American Airlines in the second quarter of 2015.

My favorite credit card to hold points is the American Express Membership Rewards program. With more than 10 airlines that you can transfer your Amex MR points to – you are spoilt for choice. Also Amex consistently has great points promotions that you are able to earn than business class that you are aiming for faster.

The hotel preference that I use currently is the Hilton HHonors program. Even though the required number of points has doubled since the beginning of last year to redeem for rooms – there are still some sweet spots in certain hotels around the world that you could redeem quite cheaply for (Hint: Doubletree Kuala Lumpur). As there is a Hilton hotel in most cities in Australia – to earn points is quite simple. Plus as I have written in a previous blog most – to gain Hilton Gold membership which provides benefits such as buffet breakfast, executive lounge access and room upgrades is quite easy to obtain. Don’t get me wrong – I also have other hotel accounts such as IHG, Hyatt, Starwood and Marriott - so which ever hotel provides me with the best chance to upgrade to a suite and the benefits provided – that will be the hotel I will be booking for.

So which is the best frequent flyer program? I have a few and this is what I encourage all aspiring points/miles collectors to have. Diversify a bit so you have choices and you are not stuck with just one airline, hotel or credit card program. At the end of the day – you may find a certain airline or hotel is better for you because of the routes you take, the hotels you stay and the places you spend. Everyone is different – but it sure is a great debate that will continue for a long time.

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