Plane Wing flying at Sunset

Point Hacking: The Secret to Flying Business Class for FREE (or Super cheaply)!

If you’ve followed our journey over the past 9 months you might be wondering how we, two unemployed 20-something backpackers, have managed to fly business class (multiple times now). Perhaps you were wondering how the heck you could also earn enough points to be that comfortable on your next long haul flight. So, in this incredibly long post I will explain how we managed to get so many points, and tell you how you can do the same.

Please Note; the examples used will be Australian-focussed (as we are Aussies), but all the advice and tips are universal, and we will link to relevant resources for credit cards in different countries also!

There’s a good chance this post contains affiliate links, which means we earn a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you purchase anything from them. For more info about this, and because Dan really enjoyed Lawyer-ing out with the disclaimer, feel free to check out our Privacy Policy and Disclosure.

Us in Qatar business class with welcome drinks
Cheers!

Heads Up: I am by no means an expert on ‘point hacking’, or earning and using frequent flyer points, I have merely done a lot of reading on the topic over the past two years and wanted to share my experience and what I have learned. There is a lot more detailed information out there on the web if you would like further information, this is just intended as an introduction and basic guide to using credit cards to earn extra frequent flyer points.

Point Hacking: The Secret to Earning LOTS of Frequent Flyer Points

To get these awesome business class flights we dabbled in something called ‘Point Hacking’ in internet circles. Basically, it involves signing up for multiple frequent flyer credit cards when they have special offers for large signup point bonuses and reduced or waived annual fees.

We managed to accrue approximately 400,000 Qantas frequent flyer points by doing this, which equates to 2x business class flights to Dubai, 2x one-way economy flights from Europe to Central America, and 2x one-way economy flights from South America to Perth, or, basically all our long distance flights for our trip.

Plus we got other benefits such as lounge passes and free travel vouchers with each card. And it only ended up costing us a couple hundred dollars in annual card fees.

*UPDATE October 2019
We have actually flown twice in Business class now! First on Emirates from Melbourne to Dubai in February, plus now on Qatar from Vienna to Bangkok (via Doha). We have also purchased multiple domestic flights within Australia to get us home to Brisbane (via Perth and Melbourne)!

Our Point Hacking Strategy

We ended up choosing to use three different frequent flyer reward cards in 2018, the year preceding our big trip. We applied for two under Dan’s name and one in mine.

Unfortunately, most rewards cards only allowed one person to apply for them (no joint applications), so we had to strategically choose who would apply for which cards based on (formally stated or implied) income requirements, credit history, and previous credit cards we’ve had with different banks.

We applied for the cards over a period of approximately 8 months, spacing them out so that we could reach the minimum spend required for each one before applying for an additional one, choosing times when we would be making larger purchases (flights, insurance etc) to ensure we reached our goal.

Additionally, we decided to apply for no more than 2 cards each to reach our points goal. We didn’t mind a small hit to our credit scores by applying for and closing a couple of credit cards, as we were going to be overseas for the next year, and we don’t plan to buy a house for at least 2-3 years, but if we applied for too many in a short timeframe (6-12 months I believe) it could cause a bit of a hit to your credit history.

What Credit Cards Did We Choose?

*Please note, these cards were the best deals for us in 2018! Things change over time and these may not be the best deals around anymore if they’re still available…

See here for the best comparison websites showcasing the current frequent flyer deals!

ANZ Qantas Frequent Flyer Black

Primary Cardholder: Dan (Ash additional cardholder)
Card type and point earn: Visa (1 points per $ spent)
Bonus points: 75,000
Annual fee: *waived for first year ($425)
Minimum spend for bonus points: $3,000 in first 3 months
Other perks: 2x Qantas Domestic Lounge passes, credit card travel insurance

For the current offers on this card: Check Here


Qantas American Express Ultimate Card

Primary Cardholder: Dan (Ash additional cardholder)
Card type and point earn: AMEX (1.25 points per $ spent, plus 1 extra point per $ on Qantas branded purchases)
Bonus points: 100,000
Annual fee: $450* (offset with travel credit)
Minimum spend for bonus points: $3,000 in first 3 months
Other perks: *$450 Qantas travel credit, 2x Qantas Domestic Lounge passes, 2x AMEX Sydney International Lounge passes, general credit card travel insurance

This is a good deal for ongoing point earning as the yearly travel credit offsets the annual fee and the point earning is slightly higher, though it is AMEX so it’s less accepted than Visa and MasterCard at as many outlets outside the USA.

We used the travel credit to book domestic flights to visit friends in Brisbane, but you can also use it for hotels  (credit is for AMEX Travel agent online). Be aware of T&C’s, to get the Qantas lounge passes you needed to spend a certain amount on Qantas (the AMEX store doesn’t count, so you need to purchase other flights with the card from Qantas itself). We didn’t end up meeting this, but as we had lounge passes with every other card it didn’t matter in the end.

For the current offers on this card: Check Here


Qantas Premier Platinum Mastercard

Primary Cardholder: Ash (Dan additional cardholder)
Card type and point earn: MasterCard (1 points per $ spent, 1.5 points per $ international spend, plus 1 extra point per $ on Qantas branded purchases)
Bonus points: 70,000 (plus 30,000 if you keep for a 2nd year)
Annual fee: *reduced to $149 for first year ($299)
Minimum spend for bonus points: $3,500 in first 90 days
Other perks: 2x Qantas Domestic Lounge passes, credit card travel insurance, one 20% companion fare discount (booking 2-9 tickets together)

This was one of the best offers available at the time, especially for slightly lower income earners (as you may not be eligible for the ‘black’ cards), and its a pretty good deal if you plan on keeping the card for longer (second year bonus points) but you will have to pay the higher renewal fee). 

For the current offers on this card: Check Here


champagne, wine list and newspaper in business class
This could be YOUR next flight!

Important Stuff to Know BEFORE Starting Point Hacking

We’re really glad we have inspired you to try Point Hacking for yourself and benefit from these great deals.

Here’s a few things to keep in mind before you start applying:

Opening New Credit Cards Will Probably Impact your Credit Score

Opening multiple credit cards will likely impact your credit score. This can be a positive or negative impact, depending on how you utilise credit.

Basically, credit scores (in Australia at least) assess part of your score on the percentage of credit utilised, not simply how much credit you actually have.

For instance, someone with a $2,000 credit card who owes $1,500 is using 75% of their available credit, while someone with a $15,000 credit card who also owes $1,500 is only using 10%.

The way credit scores are calculated means that generally, the person with the lower percentage of credit utilised will have a higher score, as they have used less of their credit capacity. So by applying for multiple credit cards, you may in fact increase your credit score temporarily, however when you close them later you may see negative effects in the short term.

PLEASE, consult a financial advisor (or at lease google some stuff and don’t take my word for it) before committing to opening ANY credit cards!

A New Customer is the BEST Customer

Company loyalty seems to be a thing of the past now! Long gone are the days of getting special ‘perks’ for being a long-time customer, now the only people getting real bonuses are the new, shiny customers (unless you want to be on the phone for hours complaining to the bank – and who has time for that!?).

What this means for you… You can (usually) only benefit from the bonus deals as a new customer. So if you already have credit with that bank (or have in the last couple years) you probably won’t be eligible for the bonus points.

BUT, there are heaps of banks our there offering similar deals at different times of the year, so keep looking!

BUT, Brands Want to Keep You All to Themselves

Despite what I just said above about companies not caring about long-term customers… they also don’t want you to leave them!

You’ll find for Airline Points, you’ll usually get the best deals if you keep all your points with the same company. Brand loyalty as they say.

So, some things to think about when choosing your airline partner (which is obviously Qantas/Jetstar or Virgin in Australia):

  • What Airline do you fly with most often?
  • What Airline do you prefer flying with?
  • Who has the better airline partners (for international travel) – Qantas is a OneWorld member with over 50 airline partners, while Virgin isn’t part of a global alliance but has individual partnerships with 12 major airlines
  • Who flies to the destinations you want to go to?
  • What Airline has better connections for you (do you prefer morning flights or night flights? Where would you rather have stopovers?)

Check the BONUS POINTS!

The best earnings are usually on the initial bonus points when signing up for rewards credit cards.

Obviously you still earn points with everyday spending on your card, and if you are planning to make some bigger purchases it can be a good way to earn points, but keep in mind those bonus points are where it’s at!

Stay SMART!

Remember, its still a credit card!

If you struggle to manage money or tend to overspend on a credit card, earning points for spending is an easy way to think you’re getting yourself a great deal when in reality you are only digging yourself a great debt hole and losing any financial benefits you could have gained with frequent flyer points.

Don’t be that guy!


drawstring bag with qater complimentary PJs for business class
There’s even complimentary PJs on Qatar Business Class

How to Start Point Hacking

So you’re still keen to give this a try, awesome! Now you’re probably wondering how to choose a card, what you need to look for, what kind of extras are included, and whether there are any sneaky loopholes that will end up costing you. Read on…

How to Choose the BEST Frequent Flyer Rewards Card

I wish we could answer this for you, but the best option is going to be different for everyone. There are so many cards and banks our there offering frequent flyer points, and the special offers change regularly so even if we did outline the best offers they might be gone by the time you’ve read this.

As a general rule, the best deals come with ‘platinum’ or ‘black’ cards, AKA the ones with higher income requirements, however you can still earn great points with any of the card options.

What we can tell you is WHERE TO FIND the best offers, as there are a few websites out there specifically focussed on finding the best offers that are updated regularly.

For Australia

Our favourite website for Australian’s (well Ash’s, Dan just nods and smiles when she explains this stuff) is Point Hacks. It lists all the current deals, the pros and cons, and compare different cards.

There is also a comments section a the bottom of each credit card deal review where people can also post questions or their experience with the card or offer.

Other good options in Australia are Finder and Credit Card Compare. Both do general comparisons of the cards and their benefits and costs, though they aren’t as detailed as Point Hacks.

For the USA

The USA is the birthplace of point hacking and its market is full of incredible credit card deals!

The best resource for point hacking and credit cards in the USA is The Points Guy. Here you’ll find detailed reviews of all the major players in the reward credit card sector and his favourite card deals of the year.

If you’ve got all the info you need and are just looking for the best current deals, check out NerdWallet. They have heaps of credit card reviews and a monthly roundup of the best deals.

For Canada

For a roundup of the best travel rewards credit cards for the year check out RateHub, whereas if you want to find the best current deals Young and Thrifty have monthly updates of the best travel reward credit cards.

For the UK

Unfortunately, the UK seems to have a pretty limited flight rewards credit card market, with British Airways and Virgin the obvious contenders. For the best flight rewards cards check out The Points Guys UK, or for the best travel and rewards credit cards (not just flight rewards) have a look at these options from MoneySavingExpert.

ash sleeping in dark business class cabin
Yes, you can lay flat in Business, I’ll be dreaming of this on our next Economy flight!

Important Features to Look For in a Frequent Flyer Credit Card

While we can’t tell you what specific card to choose, there are many universal features, perks and fees to keep in mind while hunting for your perfect card (or cards).

Big BONUS POINTS for Signing Up

These were the backbone of our point hacking strategy because they are simply SO good!

An estimate for Bonus Points (in Australia) you can expect:
Regular Reward Cards: 40 – 60k
Middle Tier Reward Cards (Platinum Cards): 60 – 80k
Top Tier Reward Cards (Black Cards): 80 – 100k +

Minimum Spend to Quality for the Bonus Points

All reward cards will have a minimum spend to get the bonus points.

Generally, its something like a $3,000 to $5,000 spend in 3 months / 90 days. Make sure you are aware of the minimum spend and timeframe requirements, and obviously that you can meet them, before applying.

Applying around birthdays and holidays is a great way to get the minimum spend since you are often spending more during these times. You can also offer to pay for group accommodation or meals on your card and then have others pay you back!

Waived or Reduced Annual Fee

Most cards will offer a deal a couple of times per year where they reduce, waive, or offer a voucher to offset some cost of the annual fee for the first year!

This is a great way to get the points with minimal cost to you, just make sure you remember to cancel the card before the year is up!

Its also totally within the rules to cancel the card as soon as you get your bonus points if you’re concerned about overspending on your shiny new card. But make sure to wait until the points are credited to your frequent flyer account, and use any extra perks before cancelling as you will lose them.

Ongoing Earning Potential: Points per $ Spent

Consider cards with good ongoing point earn rates to continue growing your points. American Express usually has slightly higher points per $ spent, however isn’t as widely accepted as Visa and Mastercard (though most major retailers these days don’t charge extra for AMEX). Remember you can continue using the card and cancel just before the annual fee is due again the following year.

Earn More by Shopping Online

Consider purchasing online through your partner airlines dedicated shopping portal to maximise your frequent flyer point earnings.

Qantas has the Qantas Mall, while Virgin offers the Velocity eStore. Both online portals partner with many retailers to offer bonus points like 4 points per $ spent, plus you’ll also earn points for the $ spent if you use your flyer card. Lots of retailers are available on both online stores, including some of our fave’s; Ebay, Apple and Kathmandu!

To use this feature all you have to do is navigate to the store via Qantas Mall/Velocity eStore (ie. go to Qantas Mall/Verocity eStore, click the store you’re looking for, and use that link to enter the retailers online website to make you’re purchase).

Navigating to the online shop via Qantas/Velocity allows cookies to track your purchase and credit the points. Unfortunately you can’t apply for the points later if you forget to go via the Airline Partner first.

Extra Perks

Lounge passes, travel credits, dining partners with free bottles of wine… so many potential perks with these cards. Be aware the the ‘higher tier’ your card, the more extra perks you’re likely entitled to.

Know what you’re getting with the card, and make sure to use it! We got free lounge passes with every card, and in the end struggled to use them all! You can also transfer them to other people, just check with your provider on how to claim and get the passes as there may be extra requirements (as we mentioned earlier with the AMEX card).

We also got a travel credit to use with our American Express card. So while the card had a high annual fee ($450), we got a $450 credit to use at the ‘AMEX travel store’, which was basically a place to book flights or hotels etc. So that pretty much cancelled out the annual fee, and we got lounge passes and bonus points on top!

Free Frequent Flyer Membership

Ensure you’re credit card doesn’t charge you to open a frequent flyer account, if you don’t already have one, as the fee can sometimes be $90+.

Often the banks will include membership free when opening the credit card, otherwise look into other shopping partners that will waive the fee (for years you could get it free through Woolworths- this has ended now- but ask/google around).


empty business class seat Qatar 787
The ultimate use of points: Business Class!

How to Use Frequent Flyer Points

So you have signed up for a card, made the minimum spend and have been credited those precious bonus points, but how should you spend them?

Since they are airline reward points, it makes sense when I say that the best use for frequent flyer points is to spend them on FLIGHTS… right!

For more airline partner specific points advice please check here: Qantas Frequent Flyer or Velocity Frequent Flyer

Purchase ‘Reward’ Seats or Fares

Reward seats are the best use for cheap seats using points. With these seats your point cost is based on distance travelled (ie. Melbourne to London/Paris is 60,000 points one-way economy), however seats can sell out quickly for popular routes so you might need to book early depending on where you’re going.

The most bang for your buck use of frequent flyer points is definitely in purchasing Business Class seats! For around double the amount of points (92,000 points from Melbourne to Dubai) you can fly in Business Class luxury, a service that costs $6,000+ to buy outright.

Keep in mind you still need to pay the taxes in cash, which are usually around $200-300 for international tickets. On some airlines the Business Class fees are higher than Economy class for reward seats, but this is not always the case!

We flew with Qatar from Vienna to Bangkok, and the main reason we decided to splurge on Business Class over Economy was that the fees were exactly the same! Some spent $600 + 160k points for Business, rather than $600 + 90k points in Economy. It was well worth it in our opinion!

Check Different Flights and Routes to Find the Best Deals

Make sure to check out different routes, as some airport fees are much cheaper than others, so play around with departures and destinations.

You can use the ‘multi-city’ function to force the airline to search for different routes and stopovers, and look at different departure and arrival airports (ie in Europe look at France, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Switzerland etc not just London) as they might have more seats available, or cheaper fees.

We did this when flying to Bangkok on and managed to get a cheaper fare, plus it was on Qatar Airways 787 Dreamliner which has an absolutely amazing Business Class cabin and service!

Use Frequent Flyer Points for Seat Upgrades

Points for upgrades is a little different than Reward seats. This option is used to upgrade an already purchased seat to a higher class fare.

For example, you have purchased a full-fare Economy seat to Europe, but want to upgrade the longest leg to Premium Economy or Business Class for extra comfort.

We have never done this, but have been told its also a great use of points! You can find lots of information online if you’re interested in trying this out for yourself.


Goodluck on your Point Hacking Journey!

Hopefully this post has been useful, or made you super jealous of our Business class adventures! Unfortunately it’s back to budget airlines and cramped Economy for us…

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