It's easy to rack up Qantas Frequent Flyer points. Every time you take a flight, stay at a hotel and swipe your credit card more points are added to the pile.
But making the most of those hard-earned points isn't quite so simple. Here are four quick rules for maximising your frequent flyer points.
(As a general rule, these strategies also apply to Virgin Australia's Velocity Frequent Flyer scheme and the equivalent programmes of most airlines. But we've called out specific examples based on the Flying Kangaroo's rates and rewards).
1. Avoid shopping at the frequent flyer store
If you're sitting on a stack of points, perhaps the single worst way to use them is to trade them for goods at an airline's online frequent flyer store.
It's useful to think of frequent flyer points as a unique currency with a specific value.
In the case of Qantas, with almost 10 million frequent flyer members on its books, Qantas points are almost a de facto currency after the Aussie dollar.
The trick is that while frequent flyer points have an actual face value, that rate isn't fixed. Your points can be worth more or less depending on how you spend them.
A baseline value for Qantas points can be taken as 0.75¢ each, based on Qantas selling $100 Myer Gift Cards for 15,100 points.
Throughout the store, the best deal you'll get will value your points at about this mark – but with some products your points plummet in value to half that.
Of course, if you don't have enough frequent flyer points for a free flight then the Qantas Store could be your only option.
But even then, do a little 'window shopping' to check the price of goods in retail shops or online – especially during sales or if they will price-match against a competitor – versus the number of points Qantas is asking for.
One of the smartest things to buy with your frequent flyer points is a gift voucher from stores like David Jones, Myer and JB Hi-Fi, because you can use this to take advantage of sales in those stores and in general have a wider choice of what you want to buy.
2. Think twice about ''free'' flights
Always look for the best fare before you consider using your points. There's plenty of competition, even on domestic business class flights as well as international routes, which makes for some incredible deals.
Using your points when tickets are already very cheap gives your points an effective ''exchange rate'' that's well below their worth. If you're just looking for a cheap flight, buy a ticket.
"You can work out the value per point by finding the price you would otherwise pay," says Lauren McLeod, whose Aussie start-up Flightfox taps the knowledge of frequent flyer experts to crowdsource the best airfare and point redemption deals.
"For example, a budget economy flight on Qantas from Sydney to Melbourne may cost $100 or 8,000 points," says McLeod. Using your points would mean a per-point value of 0.71¢. "And remember, you still pay some fees when redeeming points."
"On the other hand, a one-way business flight on Qantas from Sydney to London may cost $10,000 or 128,000 points, so your points would have a per-point value of almost 8¢," or 11 times more than the discounted domestic flight.
"Personally, my favourite use of frequent flyer points is on round-the-world tickets with one of the alliances," McLeod says.
"In the case of Qantas, that means One World. With the right work, you can craft an amazing five-continent journey for roughly the same number of points required for a return flight to London."
You should also consider the additional taxes and charges levied on frequent flyer reward seats, which can be so high that you're better off to keep your points and buy a ticket.
3. Apply for an upgrade
Another top way to burn those points: buy an economy ticket that's upgradable (not all of them are) and use your points to apply for an upgrade.
This has been made more appealing now that Qantas processes upgrade requests at literally the last minute, right up to the departure gate, instead of closing its books several hours before the flight departs, and can also cater for upgrading just one leg of a two-flight trip.
"With Qantas it can be a great deal to use points to upgrade to premium economy, business class or even first class," says frequent flyer guru Ben Schlappig, who writes the One Mile at a Time blog and clocks up over 300,000 miles of air travel a year.
"Qantas is one of the few airlines that lets you 'double upgrade' with miles, going from economy to either premium economy or business class. And unlike some other airlines their upgrade costs are also reasonable, making upgrades pretty attainable for frequent flyers."
4. Call in the experts
Travel agents can ferret out the hot airfares, but when it comes to converting frequent flyer points you're pretty much on your own – and thus at the mercy of the airlines themselves.
The conditions, caveats and lack of availability of reward seats can all make things a bit too hard for the average traveller. So it pays to call for some expert advice from the frequent flyers themselves.
Flightfox runs crowd-sourced ''contests'' in which frequent flyers can unearth the best routes to suit your point balance.
Ben Schlappig's PointPros service specialises in transforming points into trips, often based around an idealised itinerary.
"Airline websites rarely display anything except the most direct routing, which is almost always not available," Schlappig says. "We know the routes that most commonly have award space, and also know the ins-and-outs of airline alliances and partnerships, and leverage that to find our clients the best flights possible."
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About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.