Why change your loyalty programme address?

I put out an invite on PTBM's Facebook account yesterday asking if anyone had a question or topic they want answered in a post. Nick asked the following

Are there opportunities for being based in one European country but registering a frequent flyer account in another European country, and are there any practical upsides or downsides for doing so?

Well let me start off by saying that I started playing the points game when I took notice of discrepancies and arbitrage opportunities that arise in loyalty programmes. These often come about through being registered in different countries! Part of the difficulty of playing the points game is keeping track of these. That's where my blog comes in.

Often airlines will tempt non-residents of their own countries by setting lower thresholds to reach elite status.

In the case of British Airways, “Euro-cheaters” (members whose addresses were registered in Europe but excluding the UK) were able to qualify for top tier status with just 800 tier points, rather than the 1500 required for UK members. Since long haul flights get you 35/70/140 tier points for discount economy/full fare economy/ business class, that's a lot of extra flying to punish UK members!

So what other examples are there of airlines setting different thresholds? Well take a look at Air France with their programme Flying Blue:

Elite status thresholds for Flying Blue

While 20,000 extra miles for the top tier isn't the end of the world (two transatlantic return flights…roughly) it's still annoyingly unjust to know your national carrier is treating other customers better. Even KLM, another airline within the Flying Blue group, doesn't impose these requirements on its Dutch residents!

Turkish airlines also has a similar pattern for its Turkish residents

In order to re-qualify for Elite membership , Members residing in Turkey need to collect 30.000 Status Miles either within the first year or 45.000 Status Miles within 2 years of the Elite membership.
Members residing out of Turkey need to collect 25.000 Status Miles either within the first year or 37.500 Status Miles within 2 years of the Elite membership. Otherwise, the membership status will be renewed as “Classic Plus”.

 

So how do you avoid these high thresholds? The simple answer is to register your address abroad! One method is to use my foreign forwarding address technique. The other method I learnt in person from Raffles at Head for Points though he has since gone public on the technique in this post. but I'll outline the method below:

  1. Change your contact details to a fake address in the country of lower thresholds.
  2. Take advantage of the promotion or lower threshold you're aiming for. Your new card will be sent to your foreign address. It'll take ages for the pack to be ‘returned to sender' if at all.
  3. Change your address back to your normal one, then request a replacement card online.

My justification (though on shaky grounds I'll admit…I'm not a lawyer!) is that the European Union specifically protects any EU citizens from discrimination due to nationality or residence. Article 18 from the Treaty expresses non-discrimination of nationality explicitly and Article 61 blurs that difference between nationality and residence.

So what are the disadvantages of changing your address? Well firstly there is the small hassle of having to jump through hoops in order to take advantage of these discrepancies – but that's the price to pay if you want to fly around cheaply!

The other disadvantage is that some loyalty programmes may threaten to close your account if you ‘abuse' the programme. This is pretty extreme and I've heard of accounts being audited usually for far worse than using a foreign address. I certainly don't call the above ‘abuse' but other people may see differently. I just see it as taking rough justice into my own hands.

To conclude, here's the take-home message in one sentence. Make sure you keep an eye out for the T&Cs of different promotions and if necessary adjust your contact details to suit. 

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