Are frequent flyer programs a giant rip off?

I’m a diligent saver. Whether I’m squirrelling away money, Easter eggs or frequent flyer points, I pride myself on my ability to prioritise the ‘big picture’ and save rather than giving in to immediate indulgences.

It’s why I literally have a Humpty Dumpty Red Tulip egg in my pantry from Easter 2015.

And it’s why I have accrued more than half a million Qantas frequent flyer points, despite not getting up to much flying of any frequency over the last decade.


Rather, I’m an opportunist – meaning I switch credit cards when big point bonuses are offered, and I routinely shop with stores that offer high reward points. This has helped me pile up precisely 503,455 Qantas Frequent Flyer points in eight years.

The problem I have is that I’ve recently come to the conclusion they’re worth next to nothing.

For instance, I crunched the numbers on a trip to Fiji. It’s going to cost 115,200 points plus taxes for my family of four paying fares to travel to this beautiful island nation.

When I first discovered this, I was wrapped. That’s four FREE family holidays that I have languishing in my pile of points – well, free flights, at least.

Then I read the fine print. The taxes on this journey amount to a whopping $1,011!

Or, I could just buy the fare outright for $1,152.

Flying on the exact same dates. At the exact same times. On the exact same airline.

That makes my 115,200 points are worth precisely… $143. Like I said, next to nothing.

To test the system again, I punched in a request on their website for flights to Honolulu. For a not insignificant 280,000 points, more than half my balance, my family can travel return to Hawaii, as long as we kick in $1,631 in taxes – and spend a night in Sydney airport waiting for our connecting flight back to the Coast.

When Jetstar was advertising $400 return flights just last month, that doesn’t seem like such a good deal.

In fact, I’m starting to think that frequent flyer programs are a giant scam. They keep you shopping loyally at the same places, but don’t give you much in return when it’s time to reap the rewards.

What are your thoughts on frequent flyer programs? Are they a big fat rip off, or have you worked out some secret strategies to make the most of your points? I’m all ears!

The Meddler

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