Sign up and start earning

After years of putting it off, I finally joined an airline rewards scheme - now I just wish I had done it sooner.

Signing up was never high on my agenda because I've always had a slightly pessimistic view of loyalty programmes.

I see them as marketing ploys designed to make people think they're saving money when actually they're being encouraged to spend more.

But after doing some research I realised there's nothing to lose in joining the right rewards scheme.

Seeing as I usually fly Air New Zealand, I figured I might as well join the 1.4 million others who have already signed up to its Airpoints loyalty programme.

Registering online was straightforward. You fill in some personal details, set a username and password, tick the box saying you've read the terms and conditions (which no one ever does) and you're good to go.

An email then lands in your inbox with your unique Airpoints number and an online account allows you to check your balance and flight details anytime.

The Airpoints programme has two currencies: Airpoints Dollars which can be used just like cash to purchase flights and other rewards and Status Points which help travellers upgrade.

Airpoints can be earned on most Air New Zealand fares, all 27 Star Alliance airlines and selected services on 11 other airlines including Cathay Pacific, Virgin Australia and Etihad Airways.

Last minute "greenlight" fares through do not earn points.

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The more expensive your fare, the more Airpoints you will earn so remember to always provide your Airpoints number when you book a flight.

An online Airpoints tool allows customers to calculate how many Airpoints dollars they will receive.

A flight from Auckland to Wellington can earn a member up to 17 Airpoints dollars. An economy ticket from Auckland to Los Angeles can earn 80 Airpoints dollars, while a business class ticket can earn members more than 400 Airpoints dollars.

Airpoints can also be earned with ANZ, BNZ, Kiwibank and American Express credit cards.

After signing up to Airpoints you receive a card, which can be scanned to earn Airpoints Dollars at any store where Fly Buys is accepted.

One Airpoints dollar equals $1 and Airpoints can also be used to purchase or renew Koru membership.

When an Airpoints member dies, Air New Zealand closes the account. Once it has confirmation of the beneficiary of the deceased person's estate, it transfers the Airpoints balance to the beneficiary's account.

One advantage I've already experienced from having an Airpoints membership is gifting points. As an early birthday present, a family member with a stockpile of points upgraded a recent flight I took to Perth from a basic economy fare to business class. This gave me priority check in, access to the Koru lounge and a delightful journey in business class.

All major airlines have frequent flyer programmes. Qantas has Frequent Flyer points and it charges New Zealand residents a one-off joining fee of $50 and Australian residents $100.

The Frequent Flyer programme can be used with Jetstar, Emirates and more than 35 partner airlines.

John Anthony is a journalist with the Fairfax Media business bureau. Contact him at john.anthony@fairfax

 - Stuff

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