Edward Alder CA: Optimise your rewards… and life
Too many frequent flyer points are never enough for Point Hacks CEO and CA, Edward Alder. So, what’s the secret to making millions?
So many businesses are founded on a light-bulb moment - a single burst of clarity that sends an individual on a completely new career, business and life path.
For Point Hacks founder Keith Mason, an Englishman working as a manager in a media publishing house in Australia, that moment occurred in 2011 when he was researching the cost of taking his wife and new-born daughter back to the UK for a holiday.
Keith wanted to fly business class but didn’t want to pay for it, so he researched the way points systems worked and looked into several credit card offers that gave new users a certain number of points for signing up and making a minimum spend.
Once he’d ‘hacked’ his family a few business class seats, Keith realised there would be a market for such knowledge.
Virgin and Qantas love Point Hacks because we’re teaching people the value of their frequent flyer programs.
The Point Hacks brand quickly found its feet, developing a cult following of high-income earning business and leisure travellers, and was subsequently purchased by a group of investors.
In that group was self-confessed points junkie Edward Alder, who also happens to be a rare creature - an Australian-born ICAS member. Edward, who earned a Master in Marketing after completing a Bachelor of Commerce, is now CEO of Point Hacks.
How does an Australian with a Master in Marketing become a CA?
I worked at JBWere, the stockbroking firm, when I was at university. I’d always had an interest in numbers, accounting and finance. I ended up working in a management consultancy role, doing a lot of data analytics and various presentations.
I had British ancestry from my grandmother, whose grandfather was J.B. Were (Jonathan Binns Were), and he founded JBWere in 1840. So, my ancestors have all been in the finance world.
My girlfriend and I took off to the UK when I was 23 or 24. I landed a job at EY in their Corporate Restructuring team, in a business development role. EY offered to support my ICAS qualification. I jumped at it because I knew it would set me up for my entire future and it did. I use those skills every single day.
Did you stay in London for long?
I did four and a half years at EY in London and it was amazing. I worked in New Delhi, I spent three months in Russia, I worked in Boston, all over the UK and Scotland. I was on the Emerging Leaders program, then I was asked to do a transfer to the Royal Bank of Scotland to work in their restructure team.
Why did you come home?
We got sick of the weather and we wanted to come back and get married and start a family. I came back with EY, then spent two years with ANZ, before joining a business called M&A Partners where I spent just over four years buying and selling businesses.
Then I went in-house at health, life and car insurance comparison business iSelect for four years before the Point Hacks opportunity came up.
Where does Point Hacks’ revenue come from and what is the business model?
We create leads for people who are interested in credit cards that have frequent flyer points attached. We create leads for people who want to review how to fly business class, or first class, or premium economy. It’s a very aspirational site.
It attracts a strong lead, because the cards that we promote are generally platinum, black and gold, which require a high salary. They do their research on our site then click through to make an application for that card.
We currently have around 200,000 unique visitors a month to the website, and that number is only getting bigger.
Are the airlines upset by the work you do?
Actually, we’re a big friend of loyalty programmes. Virgin and Qantas love Point Hacks because we’re teaching people the value of their frequent flyer programs. They’re heavily promoted by our website and we help their customers redeem points.
We’re also looking at moving into the UK market. We’re not disrupting industry, we’re simply providing a platform for life optimisers.
What should travellers be doing to max out their points earn?
- If you’re paying for the flight, make sure you’re getting points. Join up as a member with two or three frequent flyer programmes. If you’re in Australia, make sure you’re signed up with Qantas, Virgin and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, at the least.
- If you want to fly business class without paying for it, book well in advance. Flights are generally released about 11-and-a-half months in advance. When they’re released, there are very few first- or business-class reward seats. Airlines watch their load and will release more reward seats only if it makes economic sense.
- When you make big purchases, figure out if it makes financial sense to put those purchases on a points-earning card.
- Be aware that you can buy points, typically in America, during double-points promotions. There’s a fantastic story of a guy who spent AU$4,000 to fly return from Melbourne to New York in first class. He bought Alaskan Airways points during a double-points deal - two points for the price of one.
Alaskan Airways is a Qantas partner, so he used those points for a one-way, first-class ticket. Then he bought more double-points through a South American airline and used those points for first-class tickets with their partner airline, Korean Air, to fly New York to Korea and Korea to Melbourne. In all, he paid 30% of the retail fare.