Family transfers on frequent flyers points could be the fastest way to an upgrade

There are plenty of ways to rake in the frequent flyer points other than flying, from day to day spending to generous sign-up bonuses for new credit cards.

But there are also times when that teetering pile of points falls just short of what you need to claim that free flight – especially an indulgent business class or first class ticket – or upgrade.

Taking advantage of those fat sign-up bonus deals on a new credit card is tempting: there's often as many as 100,000 frequent flyer points on offer for a single card.

But it can take up to three months for those points to land in your account, and time isn't always on your side.

The best solution for a fast points top-up is often the one which a surprising number of frequent flyers overlook, or are even unaware of: family transfers.

Family flyers

Both Qantas and Virgin Australia allow members of their respective frequent flyer programs to transfer points to other family members.

And it's a fairly broad definition of "family": not just spouses, de facto partners, parents, children and siblings but grandparents, grandchildren, in-laws uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces and even first cousins.

Any of those folk with frequent flyer points to spare can transfer them into your account via the airline's website at no cost, although there are limits on how many points you can send off.

Qantas caps transfers at 600,000 points every 12 months (with a minimum transfer of 5,000 points).

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For Virgin Australia it's four outbound transfers each year, from 5,000 to 100,000 Velocity points, which equates to a maximum transfer of 400,000 points in any 12 month period.

If you're thinking of seeking points from outside each airline's definition of 'family' – including buying them through trading websites such as Gumtree and OzBargain – you run the risk of your frequent flyer account being cancelled and all of your points being lost.

It's cool to pool

Beyond simple points transfers, Virgin Australia also offers a 'family pooling' system through which frequent flyer points and status credits earned by up to five family members living at the same address can be funnelled into the account of a sixth family member.

The inclusion of status credits can make this a useful shortcut for getting Velocity Gold or even Platinum frequent flyer status and enjoying perks such as lounge access, priority check-in and boarding, extra checked luggage and a serve of bonus points each time you fly.

If a few family members fly with Virgin Australia but none of them travel often enough to earn that valuable Gold card (indeed, some may be infrequent flyers who neither need nor care for status), combining your status credits could see at least one of you elevated to the Golden realms.

Unlike manual family transfers – which are limited to frequent flyer points – family pooling automatically moves points or points and status credits across to your account as soon as they're earned.

These earnings aren't subjected to the annual limit imposed on points transfers, making it easy to keep everybody's points in a central account and ready to use on that free 'reward seat' when the moment strikes.

Few people spend more time on planes, in lounges or mulling over the best ways to use frequent flyer points than David Flynn, the editor of Australian Business Traveller magazine. His unparalleled knowledge of all aspects of business travel connects strongly with the interests of Executive Style readers.

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