Getting fewer points for flying? Think about your other options for accumulating points.

Getting fewer points for flying? Think about your other options for accumulating points. Photo: Janie Barrett

Qantas's dramatic overhaul of its frequent flyer program hit many of its near-10 million members where they hurt, with travellers on cheaper tickets earning fewer points from July 1.

From a business perspective, the new revenue-based points scheme is perfectly fair. An airline should favour those spending more to fly, as against those who swoop on the cheapest possible tickets.

As Clive Dorman rightly states, “much of the criticism has been from those aggrieved about the winding back of benefits for those flying in the cheapest seats, indicating that the changes are spot-on target in doing more to reward the loyalty of those buying full price or near-full price seats in economy, business and first class.”

But there's no denying that a large number of the Red Roo's rusted-on customers are upset at seeing their annual points haul slashed.

However, there are some surprisingly easy ways to make up for that shortfall. In fact, if you play your cards right, you could end up earning more frequent flyer points than you ever thought possible.

When I say 'cards', I'm talking about credit cards – those points-earning slabs of plastic that are already sitting in your pocket or purse.

It's time to put them to good use – to smart use – and get your points piling up. After all, there's no such thing as having too many frequent flyer points.

Use your credit card for every purchase

This may seem obvious, but don't just settle for using credit for long lunches, splashy dinners and large-item purchases.

Get in the habit of using your card every time you make a purchase. Stop paying cash and start swiping that plastic.

It's easier than ever with the advent of tap-and-go technology such as Visa's PayWave and MasterCard's PayPass.

Your morning coffee and muffin? That quick take-away lunch? Magazines, office supplies and anything else for that matter … all those small amounts add up over time.

If you make just five $10 transactions each week, that's a hefty $2400 – or at least 2400 extra points – over the course of a working year.

In fairness, you may encounter the odd credit card surcharge, so you'll need to decide if the extra fee is worth the points.

You'll also need to stay on top of your payments – if you don't pay your credit card account in full, any interest fees and charges will negate your frequent flyer bounty.

Don't pay with BPAY

Most banks don't pay any points on BPAY transactions, including those funded by frequent flyer credit cards, so resist the temptation to take the easy option when doing online banking.

Instead, pay each bill manually with your credit card in hand – whether that's over the phone or through the biller's website.

Your payment will then be treated as a 'regular' transaction, and you'll find the points hitting your account in no time.

If you're a little time-poor, set up direct debit for your regular payments, but use your credit card as the finance source – things like gym memberships, telephone accounts and health insurance lend themselves well to this.

Pay the tax man with plastic

If you lodge your income tax return and wind up with a tax debt, do the smart thing and pay the ATO by credit card.

This isn't limited to personal tax – credit cards can also be used to pay off HECS debts and to cover business tax obligations.

While there's a cap of $50,000 per transaction, larger debts can be broken down into a number of smaller payments. Just be sure to use a business or corporate card for this, or you run the risk of having your personal card cancelled for inappropriate use.

Also, for personal tax payments, check that your particular card pays enough points on tax transactions, as some cards don't earn points at the usual rate.

Set your commuter card to auto top-up

For convenience and points, set your Opal, Myki or Go Card to automatic top-up, again with your credit card as the source.

Not only can you 'set and forget', you'll never need to scrounge for change for the bus or train again!

Of course, if you want to squeeze every possible point from your public transport fares, you won't find American Express or Diners Club card accepted online.

But there's a simple workaround. Head to a participating 7-Eleven store which supports recharges on those public transport cards and use your Amex or Diners Club card to manually top up your card.

Use American Express through PayPal

American Express cards can yield exceptionally generous serves of frequent flyer points, but while Amex is generally accepted by most large companies, you'll still encounter many online retailers that haven't signed up to the idea.

Fortunately, many of these businesses accept PayPal in addition to Visa and MasterCard. The clever bit is that PayPal accepts Amex.

So next time you're shopping online and can't spot the Amex logo, look for a PayPal icon instead.

What are your top tips for earning more frequent flyer points?

David Flynn is a business travel expert and editor of Australian Business Traveller.

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