We were lucky enough to catch up with Steve Hui, Australia's most celebrated Points Whisperer and CEO of iFLYflat - an Australian start-up which helps travellers manage their loyalty points and secure business class flights for a fraction of the cost. Read on to find out Steve's top point hacking tips and what inspired him to start this innovative company.
Can you give us a quick history of Steve Hui and how you ended up as Australia’s most knowledgeable ‘Points Whisperer’?
iFLYflat was started from my frustration of hearing stories about people redeeming their hard earned points for normal everyday products.
The trigger was when I heard about someone from my prior work had redeemed over 100,000 points for an iPad (valued at approx. $1,000), and the accountant in me thought that was a tremendous loss of opportunity and was poor value. Whereas those same number of points could have been used towards a one-way business class ticket to London, or a return business class ticket to Hong Kong, valued at more than $5,000.
That's more than 5x the value with the same point but using them smarter.
Additionally, I had grown to love the comfort and efficiency of business travel from a number of work trips I had taken, and thought that premium travel is the point of flying. As an accountant, I always felt comfortable with numbers and dollars, and to me it always made sense to maximise the potential value of something.
This lead me to start iFLYflat, in order to help everyone to optimise their points to get more value out of them and experience something with a WOW factor, such as flying First or Business class. These are brilliant flying experiences which most people are not willing or cannot afford to fly if they were paying full price, but it is totally achievable with a points plan.
What are 5 tips for travellers to make the most of their travel points? Is there anything they should look out for? Any secrets you can let us in on?
1. When it comes to earning, the right card makes all the difference. Take a look at your lifestyle and where you spend most of your expenses, different cards can earn double or triple points on different type of expenses for the same spend. Some American Express cards can earn triple points on restaurants or supermarkets, double points on travel, petrol or on Google advertisements, IT and freight expenses.
2. It’s not just about earning more points, it’s about earning the right type of points. Pick a card where reward points are transferable to many different partners or used in many different ways. This increases your options to use them across multiple airlines when you decide to fly.
3. Use points for ‘WOW’ experiences. There is nothing more exciting than knowing you scored an experience for a fraction of the cost. So have a plan for your points and reward yourself with something really cool, such as flying business or first class.
4. Understand that different airlines have different sweet-spots. For the same destinations, frequent flyer programs charge less points. For example, using points to fly on Singapore Airlines to Europe is approximately 18 to 25 percent cheaper than using Qantas or Virgin.
5. Set yourself some travel goals for the near and long term future. This will help you save your points consistently. Points can be extremely valuable when redeemed for the right things, like exploring your world in business class. Having a clear goal will keep you on track and help you fly sooner.
Where is your favourite place to travel to? And your best travel memory?
My favourite place is New York, while it may sound cliche because I know most people would also choose it because there is so much to do and discover, but with New York being such a long flight from Sydney it can be a real discomfort to fly in Economy and a real expense to pay for a normal business class ticket. (This is where using points shine).
My best travel memory is a trip to Copenhagen in the same year as the London Olympics (2012), with the magical long days, the laid-back attitudes of the locals and the flat landscape. I remember cycling throughout the whole city and enjoying all the sights, bites, cafes, restaurants, and bar from very early till very late.
What do you love about flying business class?
The best thing is the freedom factor, you have enough private space to move around, to get up when you need to, and space to put your belongings.
The freedom to speed through check-in, security and to board as you please. And the freedom once on board to eat, drink, watch movies, read or sleep as you feel like it.
This is the key pleasures of flying business class over economy. And if you can do it for cheaper - then you can get addicted to collecting points.
What’s next for iFLYFlat and where can we find you?
We’re continuing to expand our team and help more people fly business class for less. We also have a goal to help 1,000 new businesses each year to realise their opportunity easily earn more points through their everyday expenses and to turn into reward travel at low cost.
We think this can give Australian businesses the competitive advantage to travel more often and engage in global markets and increase our impact.
You can earn points with Qantas and Velocity Frequent Flyer when you stay at any TFE Hotels brands in Australia and New Zealand. Click here for details.