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Clever tricks to pile up points

Date
It's worth watching for shortcuts to build your bank of frequent flyer points.

It's worth watching for shortcuts to build your bank of frequent flyer points.

Frequent flyer points are a currency in their own right, but flying endless bum-numbing miles is the hard way to clock them up.

Plenty of travellers twig to the fact that there are easier ways to rack up reward points – if you know how to work the system.

And some take things to extremes, with equally epic results.

Melbourne resident Anthony Agius is the latest to find and exploit a loophole which has netted him some 380,000 Qantas Frequent Flyer points for a mere $70.

In January this year Agius, who launched and later sold Australia's popular MacTalk website, noticed a National Australia Bank promotion offering 100 extra Qantas points for each eligible purchase made on the bank's Qantas credit card.

Agius realised he could use his NAB card to make purchases of a mere 1 cent each – mainly to Melbourne toll road operator CityLink.

Each purchase was intended to yield Agius a clean 100 Qantas points on top of the usual earning rate of a half point per dollar.

Things didn't pan out exactly as planned.

As BRW explains, NAB pulled the plug after Agius had made 3800 one-cent transactions over a three-day period, citing that it considered 'eligible purchases' would be "usual everyday purchases".

At the time, Agius said the bank still owed him around 250,000 points, although when approached by High Flyer this month Agius said only that "I can't talk about this" – so we're hopeful that some settlement for those missing points was worked out in the end.

With his canny single-cent transactions, Agius has joined a select band of point-hoarding heroes.

The Great Pudding Caper

Foremost among them is US civil engineer David Phillips, also known as 'Pudding Guy' for earning a massive 1,253,000 frequent flyer miles by buying 12,150 servings of packaged chocolate pudding.

While the puddings cost him some US$3000 ($3185), his million-mile haul was the equivalent of 21 return tickets from the US to Australia.

The eagle-eyed engineer, who also teaches at University of California, was shopping in a supermarket when he noticed a promotional deal on Healthy Choice products: 500 free miles for every 10 products purchased, plus another 500 points if the products were purchased and claimed within that month.

The first product Phillips spotted was a TV meal costing $2, but further down the aisle he spied a Healthy Choice can of soup for 90c.

Philips quickly did the maths and realised that 1000 points for 90c - or less than 1c per 10 points - was a very cheap way to accrue points, so he filled his trolley with soup.

Philips headed to another nearby grocery mart to buy more soup, but discovered something that set his mathematical brain into overdrive: small plastic tubs of individual-serve Healthy Choice chocolate pudding were on sale as part of the flyer miles promotion for just 25c each.

This meant that each individual frequent flyer point had an effective cost of just 0.0025c, because he could buy 10 tubs at 25c each to claim 1000 free miles.

Phillips bought out the whole store's supply of chocolate puddings, then visited three more grocery stores in the area and cleared out their shelves as well. He also had a store manager order him three pallets, or 60 more cases, of the individual serve puddings.

Having stockpiled 12,150 serves of chocolate pudding, Philips then realised he wouldn't have enough time to peel off all the labels and fill in the redemption forms before the "bonus 500 points" deadline expired. So he enlisted the help of local Salvation Army staff to peel off the labels and fill in the forms in exchange for the donation of the chocolate pudding tubs for people in need in the area.

And because this was a donation, Philips was also able to claim a tax deduction on The Great Pudding Purchase, which put $825 back into his pocket via his next tax refund.

Healthy Choice initially baulked at making good on their points promotion, claimed it hadn't received Philips' redemption forms. But after showing them proof of registered delivery, they honored the promotion, and he started receiving thick wads of vouchers in the mail, able to be redeemed with his choice of airline for points.

A safe bet

Another champion Aussie effort was made by a person signing himself as "Abeyant" on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum, who used his NAB Platinum Visa card to gamble on very low-risk bets.

Some credit cards don't treat gambling purchases as cash advances, which don't earn points, but rather as actual purchases – which then count towards points and also qualify for the interest-free period on most cards.

Abeyant maxed out his card's $30,000 credit limit to buy $30,000 dollars of credit in a CentreBet account.

He then redrew on his home loan to pay off his credit card and dump more money into CentreBet, until his account balance was up to around $200,000.

Then it was just a matter of finding extremely low-risk bets to place the money on – bets which were basically 'even money'.

"The night before the (2010 Federal) election I put the $200,000 on ALP (Julia Gillard) to retain the federal seat of Lalor paying $1.01 for every $1 bet," Abeyant said.

With Julia Gillard retaining her seat, this safe bet delivered 132,000 Qantas Frequent Flyer points plus a bonus $2000 in winnings – at which point Abeyant withdraw his funds from CentreBet to pay off his home loan again.

"I've done this over a number of elections; both state, federal and US Presidential," he explained. "US election betting basically goes on whether the Democrats or Republicans will win a particular state. So far I've amassed close to 550,000 points in just over 2 years just from this particular strategy."

Don't go rushing out to try this trick: the NAB has since changed its credit card rules to prevent gambling usage from accruing frequent flyer points.

What's your strategy to earn frequent flyer points without endless flying?

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

Twitter: @AusBT

99 comments

  • This article celebrates fraudulent behaviour.

    Commenter
    kosh
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    June 12, 2013, 4:46PM
    • Fraudulent would be claiming something to which you were not entitled. This article celebrates finding loopholes in the Fligh Loyalty/Mile/Rewards schemes. People in the US will often fly to a city and back just to cross a certain threshold and obtain lounge access/bonus miles/etc.

      Commenter
      Matt
      Location
      Heidelberg
      Date and time
      June 12, 2013, 5:14PM
    • How is it fraudulent? Last time i checked buying pudding and on-line sports betting are completely legal...

      Commenter
      tonedoggy
      Date and time
      June 12, 2013, 5:16PM
    • Kosh no more fraudulent than airlines that push the schemes and then make it impossible to redeem anything close to your first choice. The fact is that individuals above are taking advantage of poorly constructed schemes.

      Commenter
      Mitch
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      June 12, 2013, 5:32PM
    • I know. I like it.

      Commenter
      Jeremy
      Date and time
      June 12, 2013, 5:34PM
    • Look at all these people. People who think that walking around the rules to extract vastly more than intended is justifiable.

      Sorry, folks, just because you don't like the company doesn't make your behaviour anything more ethical than theft.

      Commenter
      kosh
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      June 12, 2013, 5:48PM
    • @Kosh, there's nothing fraudulent about these activities at all. As said previously the FF points are continuously devalued and become more difficult to use. If these consumers manage to score a win like that good on them.

      Commenter
      11sjw
      Location
      Perth
      Date and time
      June 12, 2013, 6:35PM
    • @11sjw. Of course this is fraudulent behaviour. It is deceitful and dishonest. Do you really think the points system was intended to be systemically debased in this fashion? Of course not. No wonder the points are devaluing so rapidly; and your take-take-take perspective of "abuse it whilst it lasts" will further accelerate that trend.

      If you take something for nothing, then eventually, that something will be worth exactly that: nothing. And it'll be your fault.

      Commenter
      kosh
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      June 12, 2013, 6:55PM
    • @Kosh, what's it like up there sitting on your high horse?!?

      Commenter
      CSKN
      Date and time
      June 12, 2013, 7:44PM
    • Better check your definition of Fraud - The airline wouldnt have honoured their points if it had been able to legally get out of it (eg by fraud).

      I worked out for example the Jetstar credit card would take over 20 years of 'average' spending on their credit card, to get enough points to fly a family of 4 to the US and back from Aust. Since after a certain amount of purchases each month, you would only get 1/2 a point per $ spent

      Hardly worth it.

      Wish I could get more frequent flyer miles.....

      Commenter
      AliG
      Location
      Just Lucky I guess
      Date and time
      June 13, 2013, 8:29AM

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