In my recent three things to consider post, I discussed keeping a small slush fund of points to use when an attractive situation presents itself. Today I’ll talk about how to maintain a points balance and give you some tips on how to go about it yourself.
Make sure your points credit
This may seem obvious, but after you take a flight, make sure the points have been credited to your account. Airline IT systems are notoriously brittle and occasionally something goes wrong and the points don’t automatically credit. If this happens, it’s up to you to notice this error and ask the airline to credit the points manually. If you don’t do this within a certain timeframe, you lose your ability to claim points for that flight.
Points usually take about 1-2 days to credit your account. In some circumstances, such as taking a partner codeshare flight, the process may take up to one week. My rule of thumb is, if it has been more than a week – start chasing. Make sure you claim the points!
Common reasons points fail to credit:
- Your e-ticket did not have your Frequent Flyer account number attached.
- A change was made to the ticket during travel – last minute flight change, downgrade, upgrade or something of that nature.
- The airline’s system fails to record that you boarded the flight (somewhat common with codeshare partners).
Define your minimum balance
Define what your minimum points balance is and then stay slightly above it. This will vary from person to person. Holding millions of points is leaving yourself exposed to the points expiring or them being devalued. Avoid having a balance that’s very high, unless there’s a good reason.
My personal minimum balance is around 250,000 Virgin Atlantic points. That balance allows me to take a full reward Upper Class flight anywhere on the network, at any time. And it still leaves me enough for upgrades on cash flights I may need to take too.
If you do lots of short-haul flying, then a good minimum balance would be one or two full reward flights in the highest cabin. If you do long haul flights, it should be enough for you to do any upgrade plus maybe one or two reward flights.
Bonuses and boosters
Bonuses are hard to predict, but every now and again, airlines will offer some extra incentive to fly by offering bonus points for flying at certain times or on certain routes. If you can time your travel to take advantage of one of these bonuses, it’s extra beneficial.
Boosters are something some airline programs offer where you can boost the base points you earn by purchasing a booster. Usually, these are a nice way to add some additional points to an existing trip, Virgin even let you do it retrospectively up to 6 months after the flight. I regularly use boosters to help me maintain a points balance.
Another common way of boosting is to take advantage of the points multiplier on branded credit cards. For example, if you have a British Airways credit card, you earn extra Avios when you use the credit card to book a flight. These are small gains, but small gains add up over time.
Do you have a nice points balance already? We’re here to help you spend it!