Virgin Australia's Velocity Frequent Flyer program offers a unique yet little-understood feature called 'family pooling'. Here's a look at how it works and how you can make the most of it.
Why it's cool to pool
In Virgin Australia's program, pooling lets you collect the Velocity points and status credits earned by your partner and other family members when they fly. Alternatively, you can funnel your points and status credits to different members of your family.
Velocity family pooling couches the way things work in terms of "contributor" and "beneficiary" accounts.
It usually makes sense for the beneficiary to be the person doing the most travelling -- but as we explain later on, that's not always the case.
Once your family members become contributors to your beneficiary account, all the points and status credits they earn during their travels will be assigned to your Velocity frequent flyer account. (There's no complicated proportional allocation like in some programs.)
Setting up your pool
To start pooling, nominate the Velocity account of each family member as a contributor to your account. (Click here and log in to the Velocity website.)
You can pool with up to six family members. The actual breakdown is up to two people over 18, and up to four kids under 18 (the kids are optional, so pooling also works with just two people).
A Virgin Australia spokeswoman confirmed to Australian Business Traveller that the airline's definition of "members of a family" means "any 2 adults (over 18) and up to 4 children (under 18) who reside at the same address".
If one of your under-18s turns 18, they'll be removed from the pool if you already have an over-18 member.
There's a specific ban on pooling "for commercial purposes or by commercial entities" -- and you may want to read the full family pooling terms and conditions (they're not that long or in-depth) for all the details of what you specifically can and can't do.
How you collect points and status
Points from your contributors will automatically be transferred to your beneficiary account as soon as they're earned. However, points and status credits earned before the pool was formed won't be carried over.
You can, however, transfer points (not status) between accounts with the usual transfer process.
(The rules on transfers are: each account is allowed four transfers of between 5,000 and 100,000 points a year, and it's free to do online.)
So if you have several family members and are planning to swap points around between accounts, be aware that you have a limited number of transfers per account.
Top tip: be careful if you're about to reach a tier
If you and your other half (or one of your kids) is approaching a status tier upgrade -- such as stepping up from Silver to Gold, or Gold to Platinum -- be smart about when exactly you add them to your pool.
Any flights they take once they're a contributor and you're the beneficiary will add to your status credits and points balance, not theirs. This means they will keep their current level of points and status credits until the usual point/status credit expiration date.
So if you're Platinum and your other half is about to turn Gold, for example, you'll want to wait until he or she hits that status upgrade before making him or her a contributor to your account.
How to max out both your and your partner's status
There's also a nifty hack to get both you and your other half bumped up in the status stakes.
This is useful if you ever travel apart, so that you both have access to extra luggage, better seating, lounge access, priority boarding, and so on, even when you're travelling separately. And you'll then both get the extra status credit bonus that higher tier frequent flyers get.
Let's say you've finally hit Platinum status but aren't likely to reach the 1500 points bonus level needed to get a partner Gold card for your other half.
You can turn yourself and the rest of the family into contributors and your other half into the beneficiary, which will fast-track them to Gold. You'll need to log into each of the contributor accounts to make that change.
But don't forget: the beneficiary will also get any points when you and the other contributors fly, which you'd have to transfer back using the usual transfer process.
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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.