Ask Finder: How many points will I earn for a flight upgrade?

Does flying in business class mean you'll earn more points?

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Woman flying business class
Hey Finder, Recently I upgraded a flight from economy to business using points. When I checked my statement later, I only earned points and status credits for an economy flight. What gives? Thanks, Wants More Points

It's easy to assume that if you're flying in a business cabin, you should be earning business points. However, if you've found your way into that cabin through a points upgrade, that isn't generally the case, whatever airline you fly.

Invariably, if you check the terms and conditions for an upgrade, you'll discover that you will only earn the number of points and status credits that would have applied to your original fare, not to your upgraded seat. Qantas, for instance, points this out quite clearly in its FAQs on reward seats:

You will only earn Qantas Points and Status Credits for the fare class you originally purchased.

Virgin Australia takes an identical approach for Velocity flyers:

Members will earn Status Credits and Points based on the original fare class booked for flights.

The same stance applies on every points-earning carrier I'm aware of. You always earn points for the fare you actually paid for, not the class you upgraded to.

Similar logic means you don't earn points for a full-blown rewards seat either. You can earn points for an Any Seat reward, but those don't offer anywhere near as much value for your points in the first place.

Does that mean upgrades are a bad deal? Not at all. They remain one of the most effective ways to spend your points.

Here's a simple example: upgrading from economy to business class between Sydney and London one-way on Qantas requires 130,800 Qantas Points. An economy one-way seat typically costs around $1,500 (cheaper sale fares generally aren't eligible for upgrades). The same one-way seat in business will set you back $7,600 or so.

That means you'll be spending 130,800 Qantas Points for $6,100 of value. That translates to $46.64 in value for every 1,000 points you spend. This is well above the Points Finder minimum benchmark of at least $20 per 1,000 points. Indeed, outside of upgrading into first class (much trickier) or some high-priced domestic routes, it's as good a deal as you're ever likely to see.

So enjoy your upgrade. Just don't assume it will earn you bonus points in the process. It won't.

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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