Luxury flights on a maccas wage
AT JUST 17, Zac George has done more flying up the pointy end of the plane than most of us could hope to do in a lifetime.
And much of the time, he doesn't pay a cent - instead using his enormous bank of frequent flyer points to fund his passion for travel.
"Since I was 13 or 14, I've been absolutely obsessed with flying and I was flying on the weekends just from Brisbane to Sydney to take photos of aircraft," said the Brisbane teen who paid his way working casual shifts at McDonald's.
"It got quite expensive and I needed to find a way to do it cheaper so I started looking into credit card points, and how valuable they are. They're almost like a currency."
Now with 10 credit cards to his and his parents' names, Zac is something of an expert in frequent flyer points and loyalty programs and knows which ones provide the best deals.
"It's expanded into a job for me - I do this full time, 12 hours a day," he said.
"I have a blog and do affiliate marketing, and then I use that income to buy points and that enables me to continue flying."
As well as choosing a credit card that offered the best points-for-spend return, Zac recommended joining as many loyalty programs as possible and taking advantage of various promotions.
"Virgin Australia currently has a billion points giveaway where you get 15 per cent more points for converting eligible credit card and flybuys to Velocity points," he said.
"I always sign up for promotions - even if I don't end up taking advantage of them."
Buying points at a discount was another way Zac managed to accumulate around two million a year - to fund his twice-monthly overseas jaunts.
"A lot of people don't know about buying points but Alaska Air is probably the best to buy them from, because there's no real limit on how many you can buy and they can be redeemed on multiple airlines like Emirates, Qantas, LATAM, Cathay Pacific and Japan," he said.
"If you buy Alaska points on sale, for about $1900 you can get enough points to fly first class from Sydney to LA on Qantas - that's about one-tenth of the actual price."
Alaska Air media relations manager Halley Knigge was happy to hear an Australian teen was singing their praises, which she said were well known in North America.
"We're the only major airline loyalty program that still rewards a mile flown with a mile earned (on Alaska and Virgin America flights) and we offer an expansive network of global partners," said Ms Knigge.
Mother Lauren said she was proud of her son's drive to realise his dream of travelling the world in first or business class.
"We didn't encourage him at all with the points thing. He researched it all and did it all by himself and it's just evolved to what it is now," said Ms George who runs a medical company with husband Brad.
"It's been a great benefit to us. Most people in the corporate world don't know how to use them properly. It's saved us a lot of money and helps out with paying for accommodation when we go to conferences."
ZAC'S TIPS FOR AMASSING FREQUENT FLYER POINTS
- Don't be afraid to have multiple credit cards - just be sure to pay them off in full each month.
- Double points by using credit cards for other goods and services that attract points - such as restaurants, fuel, groceries. That way points are earned from the credit card company and the goods provider and add up very fast.
- Sign up for promotional points' giveaways even if you're not sure you will take advantage of them - at least be registered in case an opportunity arises.
- Use points earned from airlines as soon as possible. Loyalty programs change regularly and it may well be a case of, if you don't use them, you'll lose them.
- Points earned on credit cards have more longevity, and cards such as AMEX allow points transfers between airlines.
- Investigate buying points. Airlines like Alaska Air have regular points sales for mileage club members which is free to join. American Airlines also sells points relatively cheaply.
- Don't burn points on domestic flights - keep them for international travel.
- Don't burn points on airline shopping malls where their value is heavily diminished.
- The best use for points is for upgrades - where their value is maximised.
- All frequent flyer programs are not equal. Join the free ones that have good airline partnerships.