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Ask Finder: What should I spend my frequent flyer points on apart from flights?

When flying is not an option, these are the best ways to spend your rewards points.

Updated

Resting in hotel with breakfast

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Hey Finder, I've got 10,000 Qantas Points, and I want to spend them before they expire. I know that using points for flights is the best choice, but there's no chance of me getting on a flight this year because of family and work commitments. What's the best thing to do with them? Thanks, Value Seeker

Whatever frequent flyer scheme you're in, spending your points on flights (or upgrades) delivers the most bang for buck. By Points Finder's calculations, you can get up to $80 in value per 1,000 points you spend that way, which is much higher than any other use for your points.

However, as this question highlights, that's not always an option. If you can't fly (maybe you're too busy; maybe the points are due to expire soon; maybe you don't have enough for any of the flights options available; maybe you never plan to fly with that airline again), what are the best alternatives?

The exact choices you have will vary depending on your frequent flyer scheme and the number of points you have. Generally speaking, though, the best options for spending your points outside of flights are:

  • Hotels
  • Charity donations
  • Gift cards

We'll discuss each of these options in more detail, and look at how much value per 1,000 points spent you get from each of them. We'll use examples from Qantas Frequent Flyer and Virgin Australia Velocity, since those are the most popular choices in Australia.

We haven't included other purchases from online rewards stores such as coffee machines, vacuum cleaners or toasters for a simple reason: they're not good value. You'll be lucky to get anywhere near even $5 in value per 1,000 points you spend.

Spending your points on a hotel room

Both Qantas and Virgin let you redeem points for hotel stays, and it's an option you'll find with most frequent flyer schemes. The number of points you'll need varies depending on the hotel you choose and your target dates. Note that unlike reward flights, these aren't fixed values.

Here are some typical examples based on looking up the same hotels for domestic Australian one-night bookings in October 2020:

SchemeHotelPoints$ priceValue/1,000
QantasIntercontinental Adelaide69,496$419.00$6.03
QantasCrowne Plaza Surfers Paradise24,915$149.00$5.98
QantasRydges Melbourne32,687$196.00$6.00
VelocityIntercontinental Adelaide64,500$419.00$6.50
VelocityCrowne Plaza Surfers Paradise23,200$149.00$6.42
VelocityRydges Melbourne34,500$196.00$5.68

Across both airlines, the typical value appears to settle around $6 per 1,000 points. That's still better than what you'd get from most online store purchases. Remember you don't need to travel to take advantage: you can book a "staycation" in your home city.

As with reward flights, you'll find more choices by booking further in advance. Qantas recommends checking dates at least six months ahead.

Spending your points on charity donations

Qantas offers a range of 12 charities you can donate to, including the Red Cross, WWF, Unicef and the Indigenous Marathon Foundation. Whichever you choose, a $25 donation requires 2,900 Qantas Points. That gives an effective value of $8.62 per 1,000 points.

Velocity offers just one charity option, the Starlight Foundation. A $25 donation costs 3,125 Velocity Points, which works out to a value of $8 per 1,000 points. That's a little lower than Qantas, but still a solid deal.

Either way, donating to charities is an effective way of using up small points amounts.

Spending your points on gift cards

Exchanging your points for gift cards offers reasonable value, and gives you more flexibility in how you ultimately spend your money. Rates vary depending on the cards, but here are some typical examples from Qantas and Virgin:

SchemeCardPoints$ priceValue/1,000
Qantas$50 Hoyts8,840$50.00$5.66
Qantas$50 JB Hi-Fi9,020$50.00$5.54
Velocity$50 Hoyts9,900$50.00$5.05
Velocity$50 JB Hi-Fi9,030$50.00$5.54

As you can see, the value here is typically around $5.00–$5.50 per 1,000 points. Note that digital gift cards generally require fewer points than actual physical gift cards.

Conversely, buying gift cards with bonus frequent flyer point offers can be a useful way to boost your points balance. Check out our full guide for more on that approach to gift cards.


So the bottom line? If you can't fly, then book a hotel room, make a donation or pick up a gift card. Better doing that than just letting your points expire.

Ask Finder is a regular column where Finder's expert writers answer your questions. All rates and fees are correct at time of publication and we only give general advice. Got a question for Points Finder? Hit us up on Facebook.

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