When travelling abroad it can be a challenge to make the most of the miles you're flying by earning frequent flyer points and status.
So the obvious question for Australian business travellers is whether you'll earn Qantas or Virgin Australia points, since airlines that have partnerships with Australia's carriers are the best way to keep your frequent flyer account balance ticking along.
But if you're travelling overseas, you often end up on unfamiliar airlines that aren't partners with Virgin or Qantas.
The trick is to keep a mix of other frequent flyer programs that can help you avoid losing out on miles and points.
And remember: most frequent flyer programs are free to join, so you won't be out of pocket.
We've put together a selection of frequent flyer programs that will let you pick up points from a comprensive range of different airlines' programs -- while still allowing you to spend them relatively easily closer to home.
Got a favourite of your own? Let us know which other cards you add to your wallet in a comment at the end of the article.
Qantas Frequent Flyer
Qantas has Australia's most internationally useful frequent flyer program, so it's at the top of the heap.
Qantas Frequent Flyer members can collect points on: Aer Lingus, Aeropelican, Air Niugini, Airnorth, Air Pacific, Air Vanuatu, Alaska Airlines, Alitalia, American Airlines, Brindabella Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific (including Dragonair), China Eastern, El Al, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines (including JALways, JAL Express and Japan Transocean Air), Jet Airways, LAN (including LAN Express, LAN Peru, LAN Ecuador, LAN Argentina, Malev*, Mexicana*, Royal Jordanian, S7 and South African Airways.
* airlines currently out of service
Virgin Australia Velocity Frequent Flyer
Velocity members can collect points on: Air New Zealand, Airlines PNG, Delta, Etihad, Hawaiian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Skywest, Virgin America and Virgin Atlantic. (The Virgin-Malaysia Airlines partnership ends on 1 April.)
But let's say you're flying on other airlines. What's the next most useful account to pick up? Middle Eastern airlines are a decent choice, since they tend to have partners across the major alliances and opportunities to redeem points for domestic or regional flights closer to home.
Emirates has a fairly extensive network of flights to and from Australia, including across the Tasman, so its Skywards programme is a useful place to stash points from Jet Airways, Kingfisher Airlines, Korean Air and South African Airways, since you can redeem for flights -- or upgrades to business and first class -- relatively easily.
Emirates is also a Japan Airlines partner, though you're probably better off funnelling JAL flights to Qantas Frequent Flyer.
Etihad has a remarkably wide range of partners across the major alliances for its Etihad Guest program, and its miles can be spent on Virgin Australia or Air New Zealand flights locally.
Frequent flyers can collect Etihad Guest miles on: Alitalia, ANA, Asiana, Bangkok Airways, Brussels Airlines, Jet Airways, Malaysia Airlines, Oman Air, Sri Lankan Airlines and Ukraine International Airlines, with Air Berlin soon to join.
While Etihad also has partnerships with Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia, it's likely to be a better idea to put those flights towards your Virgin Australia Velocity account.
Similarly, although Etihad partners with American Airlines, Qantas Frequent Flyer is likely a better home for AA flights.
All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club
For Star Alliance airline flights without local partners, you might be surprised that we recommend ANA.
While Star members Singapore Airlines and Air New Zealand are Velocity Frequent Flyer partners, there's no other really useful option for Star Alliance miles. (And Air New Zealand's Airpoints program is a notoriously poor program, especially if you don't live in NZ.)
Caveat: if you're flying more than 20,000 miles in a year, Aegean may be a good option -- see below.
ANA has a very useful mileage redemption booking engine, and is a favourite of several in-the-know frequent flyers for that reason. (Korean airline Asiana comes a relatively close second.
Mileage Club is a good place to stash flights on most Star Alliance airlines: Adria Airways, Aegean Airlines, Air Canada, Air China, Asiana, Austrian Airlines, Blue1, bmi, Brussels Airlines, Continental Airlines, Croatia Airlines, EgyptAir, Ethiopian Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), South African Airways, Spanair*, Swiss, TAM, TAP Portugal, Thai Airways, Turkish Airlines, United and US Airways.
* airline currently out of service
Star members Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines are also ANA partners, but it's likely better to funnel those points to Velocity.
ANA Mileage Club is also a useful program for Air Macau, Eva Air, Jet Airways, Qatar Airways and Shenzhen Airlines. ANA also partners with Etihad, Hawaiian Airlines and Virgin Atlantic, but those are probably better put towards Velocity as well.
The exception to the ANA-for-Star-Alliance recommendation comes if you're planning to fly around 20,000 miles (or just 10,000 miles in business class) with Star Alliance airlines, because Aegean will give you a superbly quick route to Star Gold status.
So check out our guide to the Aegean Star Alliance Gold shortcut for the benefits to Gold status and how to snag it.
But where's SkyTeam?
The big problem with the SkyTeam airline alliance is that there isn't really a compelling program for Australians, and several key SkyTeam players will allow you to earn on other programs.
Delta flights get you Velocity points, China Eastern and Alitalia can be funneled to Qantas Frequent Flyer, Korean Air will earn Emirates Skywards miles, and that doesn't leave a lot of SkyTeam members you can't earn on.
If you're flying enough on SkyTeam members that won't earn you points elsewhere, you're probably best off picking the frequent flyer scheme from your most frequently travelled airline -- or feel free to ask a question below and see if your fellow AusBT readers have suggestions!
What's in your wallet?
Does that look like your frequent flyer wallet? What's your portfolio? Share your tips, tactics and strategies in a comment.
About John Walton
Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.