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How to use your frequent flyer points

What you should redeem your frequent flyer points for to get the most out of your rewards.

If you belong to a frequent flyer program, you will usually have your choice of flights, travel packages, merchandise, gift cards and more when it comes time to redeem them. This smorgasbord of choice can make it tricky when deciding how to use your points and some options offer more value than others.
To take some of the guesswork out of it, use this guide for the tips you need to compare your options, avoid common mistakes and get the most out of your hard-earned frequent flyer points with some of Australia’s most popular airline loyalty programs.

6 tips for maximising your frequent flyer points

traveller

    • Opt for an international business class seat

Redeeming a classic flight reward with your points is the least expensive option apart from having to pay a surcharge and taxes, but there are limited seats sold for points, so they’re hard to come by. To counter this little high demand/low supply problem, Qantas offers an any-seat award option for any flight, but it requires many more points.

You may want to consider the ‘any seat’ option. While costing more points, it does not levy additional surcharges or taxes. On top of that, you earn Qantas points and status credits on an any-seat flight as if you’d paid for it in cash.

A little trick may take your points even a little further here. If you pay some cash using the “Points Plus Pay” option, you can reduce the number of points you’re paying down to the same number you’d have given up for the classic flight reward. The remaining cash component is only a bit more than you would have paid in surcharges and taxes with the classic option. This will keep your cash expenditure value down and the value of your points high.

    • Use them for upgrades

An efficient way to gain the most from points is to buy an economy ticket and use your points for upgrading it to a higher class, perhaps even first class. Not all tickets can be upgraded, so you have to research the possibilities before you commit to a plan. For example, Qantas processes upgrades right up to the moment of boarding, so the astute bargain hunter can seize some strong last-minute opportunities.

    • Don’t use them to trade goods

Frequent flyer programs have online stores where you can buy merchandise instead of spending your points on airplane tickets. But if you do the maths, it doesn’t take long to work out that the exchange rate isn't always the most competitive option. For example, to redeem Qantas points at the Qantas store, a $50 iTunes gift card costs 8,730 points, yielding an exchange rate of 0.57 cents per point*. Various denominations of David Jones eGift Cards yield an exchange rate of 0.62 cents per point*. You would enjoy a much better yield for your hard-earned points by paying cash for the goods you need and using your points for flights.
*Figures are correct up to 26 July 2016

    • Reconsider ‘free’ flights

If you spend your points on flights that are already cheap, you may in effect be diluting their value and not getting the best deal. With cheap flights it’s better to pay money and collect more points that you can use later on more expensive flights.
To derive the exchange rate for the deal in terms of dollars per point, divide the item’s cash value by the number of points needed to redeem it – typically the answer should range between 0.08 (eight cents) and 0.005 (half a cent) per point.

If you’re getting only the equivalent of less than half a cent per point, you’re not getting good value for your points. If, on the other hand, you are getting as much as eight cents worth of airplane ticket per point, then you have a pretty good trade opportunity.
Of course, if you don’t fly very frequently, it’s best to use the points any way you can, but beware of exorbitant taxes on your redeemed flights. If you factor in the worth of your points, a supposedly free flight can actually cost you more than if you had paid for the ticket in cash.

    • Ask your travel agent

The options associated with flying are complex and often overwhelming. Travel agents can help you sort out the best way to get somewhere and even save you money. They do not, however, profit much from your use of frequent flyer points.

    • Watch expiry dates

If you don’t use the points you earn, it’s likely that they will expire. This expiration timing depends upon the airline, with some counting from the time you last flew. In this case, you might have earned some of your points many years ago, but as long as you keep flying, the activity on your account keeps all its points alive. For example, your Qantas points generally won’t expire unless you do not earn or use any points for 18 months. Earning frequent flyer points from purchases on affiliated credit cards also counts towards activity.

With some airlines, points age according to when they were awarded to your account and new activity won’t help extend the lifespan of older, unused points. If they aren’t used, they slide off your account – typically somewhere between 12 months and three years after the time they were earned.

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Qantas

How to use your Qantas frequent flyer points

Qantas and Partner Classic Flight Rewards

Classic Flight Rewards mean trading your points for tickets on flights aboard Qantas or any of its associated airlines. These airlines include Jetstar, American Airlines, Emirates, Aer Lingus, Air Niugini, Airberlin, AirNorth, Air Vanuatu, Alaska Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, DragonAir, China Eastern, El Al, Fiji Airways, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Jet Airways, Qatar Airways, LAN (Chile), Royal Jordanian and S7 Airlines (Russia's largest domestic carrier) and more. By flying Qantas and connecting to any of its numerous partner airlines, you can earn points for travelling almost anywhere in the world.

Here are some examples of how you can use your Qantas points for Classic Flight Rewards:

TripsPointsZone (Miles)Class
Sydney - Melbourne (stop)8,0001 (439)Economy
Canberra - Sydney - Singapore (stop)28,0005 (4,056)Economy
Sydney - London (stop)128,00010 (10,586)Business
Melbourne - Los Angeles (stop)144,0008 (7,923)First

Points Plus Pay

Qantas allows you to buy tickets with a mixture of points and cash. Passengers who buy their tickets through the Qantas website can select the “Use Points Plus Pay” option while purchasing a ticket if they have the minimum number of points. The option is not visible until you reach the “Check” page of your booking.

Classic Flight upgrades

Qantas now allows you to upgrade eligible QF tickets to Premium Economy, Business or First class using your frequent flyer points. This is only applicable to Qantas flights. You can upgrade a ticket for yourself or any eligible family member, but the available seats are also limited. As an alternative solution, Qantas has also rolled out a “Bid Now Upgrade” option, which allows you to make a bid for your upgrade. Bids are strictly by invitation only, and there will be a stipulated minimum number of points acceptable for the bid dependent on factors like your flight distance and class difference.

Hotels

You can also book your hotel accommodation using Qantas points or Points Plus Pay. The available places range from luxury 5-star hotels to budget motels both within Australia and worldwide. You can book a one-night stay in a Melbourne boutique hotel for $275 or 43,919 points (giving it a value of 0.63 cents per point) or a night at the Tokyo Hilton for $362 or 56,841 points (giving it a value of 0.64 cents per point).

Car hire

You can now spend your Qantas points with Avis and Budget in Australia and New Zealand. A minimum of 3,500 Qantas points is required. You can rent a standard car from Avis for a day with $82.93 or 13,000 Qantas points (approximate rate of 0.64 cents per point) or a premium vehicle from Budget with $96.84 or 15,000 points (approximate rate of 0.65 cents per point).

Qantas Store

The online store sells a wide variety of goods including luggage, kitchen appliances, headphones, alarm clocks and laptop computers. There are also digital gift cards for Myer, David Jones and JB Hi-Fi. Subscriptions to popular magazines range from Better Homes & Gardens and Fishing to Golf Digest and Home Beautiful. If you’re a music buff, you’ll be glad to know that you can buy music from Spotify and iTunes. You can even arrange a jet boat ride to speed you across Sydney Harbour or a stock car to race you around the track.

Auto Rewards

At your request, Qantas Auto Rewards will automatically convert some of your points to a Woolworths Gift Card every three months. You can opt for a $5 gift card for 750 points (again a 0.67-cent exchange) up to a $20 card for 3,000 points.

Qantas epiQure

Qantas epiQure lets the wine connoisseurs among its frequent flyers enjoy at home the fine wines that Qantas serves on its flights. Qantas epiQure members earn points for buying wine on flights or from home, receive invitations to events that offer fine wine and food, rate wines served on flights and enjoy discounts on fine wine. A 12-month membership costs $99 (including GST) or 13,000 Qantas points (an exchange rate of 0.76 cents per point, which is not a particularly good exchange rate).

Qantas Assure

You can now also use your Qantas Points to pay for for health and travel insurance policies underwritten by the QBE Insurance Corporation. Qantas Assure offers a range of hospital and extras covers in the way of health insurance. Travel protection includes reimbursement of the flight cost if you have to cancel your trip because of illness or injury, trip delay and stolen baggage coverage, emergency medical evacuation and care and round-the-clock worldwide assistance. Visit the Qantas Assure site for more details.

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Jetstar

Earning Qantas points with Jetstar flights

The Jetstar group boasts 3,000 weekly flights to 60 destinations in 16 countries and territories across the Asia Pacific region. These include destinations in Australia and New Zealand, Hawaii, Japan, Singapore and Vietnam. Jetstar flights earn Qantas points if you travel on Starter Plus, Starter Max or Business Max fares with the following airline partners:

  • Jetstar (JQ)
  • Jetstar Asia (3K)
  • Jetstar Japan (GK)
  • Jetstar Pacific (BL)
  • Jetstar New Zealand domestic fares

Earning Qantas status credits with Jetstar flights

As long as you fly with a Jetstar group airline mentioned above, you'll earn Qantas status credits to go towards your frequent flyer tier. Remember to quote your Qantas frequent flyer membership number when booking.

How to use Qantas frequent flyer points on Jetstar

  • Classic Flight Rewards. Use your Qantas points to book seats on eligible flights on Jetstar. These flights can either be booked for yourself or any eligible family member. It is important to note that no Qantas points or status credits are earned on Classic Flight Rewards.
  • Points Plus Pay flights. Book any available seat on a Qantas flight with a QF flight number or a Jetstar flight with a JQ flight number. You can book flights for yourself or any eligible family member.
  • Qantas and Jetstar Any Seat rewards. Qantas and Jetstar reserve only so many seats per flight that can be bought with points as a Classic Flight Reward. There was previously a great shortage of seats, meaning that passengers sometimes had to book as far as a year in advance to use their points. To solve this problem, Qantas introduced the Any Seat program that allows points to be redeemed for any seat. The catch is of course that these seats cost significantly more points.
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Virgin

How to use your Velocity frequent flyer points

Velocity frequent flyer points is the frequent flyer program for Virgin Australia, its international airline partners and its global network of program partners.

Flights

As with all airlines, the original way to use frequent flyer points is to buy another airline ticket at a substantial discount. Passengers can buy tickets with cash, points, or a mixture of the two. Taxes, carrier charges and fees apply.

Some examples of the points needed for Reward Seat flight redemptions in Economy, Premium Economy and Business class:

TripZoneOne-Way MilesEconomyPremium EconomyBusiness
Brisbane - Perth32,24017,80026,70035,500
Melbourne - Singapore53,75227,80044,70059,500
Sydney - Hong Kong54,58527,80044,70059,500
Sydney - Hong Kong54,58527,80044,70059,500
Sydney - Los Angeles87,49544,80071,70095,500

Reward Seat flights are limited and may not be readily available. Virgin offers an alternative way to redeem flights with “Any Seat” and “Any Seat, Any Airline” options, where more seats are available on Virgin or its partner airlines at a higher points cost.

Airlines participating in Virgin Australia’s frequent flyer program include Virgin Australia, Delta Airlines, Etihad Airways, Singapore Airlines, SilkAir, Virgin America, Virgin Samoa, Air New Zealand, Virgin Atlantic, Air Berlin, Hawaiian Airlines, South African Airways and Alitalia.

If you don’t have the required number of points, you can also use “Points + Pay” for your flight redemption.

Points + Pay

Virgin Velocity also lets you make purchases with a mixture of points and cash. When making your booking on the Virgin Australia website, check the “Use Points + Pay” checkbox before beginning your flight search. When you reach the final payment confirmation page, you can adjust the combination of points and cash you’d like to pay using the slider. Note that minimum point thresholds apply.

Flight upgrades

Virgin Australia offers three ways to upgrade your ticket: UpgradeMe Points, which draw from points in your account; UpgradeMe Platinum Member Offer, which uses one of the four complimentary upgrades received as part of platinum membership; and UpgradeMe Premium Bid, which allows passengers with Saver fares and above to submit a bid on an upgrade to a higher cabin class. If you win the bid, you'll be notified no later than two days before departure. Seats for upgrades are subject to availability and limited by a quota.

Car hire

You may use cash, points, or a combination of both to rent a car from Europcar in Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, France, Italy, Portugal, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Austria and Switzerland. Make your booking through the Velocity website and pay for the base cost of your car hire with points, excluding taxes and extra charges.

Hotels

You may exchange Velocity points for hotel accommodation at 75,000 different hotels in 180 countries. Choose to pay for the whole stay with your available points, or with a combination of points and cash. Arrangements can be made through the Virgin Australia website.
Holidays and travel extras
Virgin Australia Holidays accepts your Velocity points (or some combination of points and cash via “Points + Pay”) in return for planning a vacation “that's only limited by your imagination”. Virgin Australia Holidays will arrange your entire trip from flights and accommodation down to the land tours, activities and insurance.

The Virgin Australia Lounge also lets you buy lounge privileges with Velocity points, whether it be a single entry pass or annual membership. If you prefer nautical adventures, Cruisepilot accepts Velocity points for its cruise packages, and to cap the entire luxury experience off, you can also use your points for limo services by Brunel Limousines.

Fuel

You can now pay for fuel at BP with your Velocity points. Create a Velocity PIN online and opt in for the $10 BP in-store redemption, which ranges between $10 and $60. You can change this at any time on the Velocity Pay with Points page. After you’ve done this, you can swipe your Velocity card at BP counters to pay for your fuel. If you have insufficient points, you can also pay with a combination of points and cash.

Velocity rewards store

The rewards store sells iPads, Kindles, cameras, luggage, headphones, kitchen gear and sporty sunglasses, featuring brands like Panasonic, iHome, Sangean, brother, dyson and Coleman. It also offers a wide range of clothing, lifestyle, health, home and decor goods, as well as food and wine, and even theme park and cinema tickets.

Online shopping

Velocity has partnered with Onsport, an online sport and fitness store that will accept any combination of cash and points for your purchases. The online store offers a wide range of clothing and gear for today's active Australian.

Charities

If you have the mind to spend your points not on yourself but on a worthy cause, you can donate 15,000 points that will translate into a $100 donation to Green Cross Australia, or 17,500 points for the same amount to Surf Life Saving Australia or White Ribbon Australia. Lesser donations of $25 are available, as well as a host of other charitable beneficiaries.

The best and worst ways to spend your Velocity points

Please be aware that these products and pricing can be modified at any time, so it’s best to visit the Qantas or Velocity website for up-to-date information on their rewards offers.

The best way to spend your frequent flyer points will vary from person to person. Whether or not you have a rewards goal in mind, it’s wise to compare your options, understand the terms and conditions and make sure you’re getting the most value when redeeming your frequent flyer points.

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Sally McMullen

Sally McMullen is a journalist at finder.com.au who is a credit cards, frequent flyer and travel money expert by day and music maven by night.

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32 Responses to How to use your frequent flyer points

  1. Default Gravatar
    Sell | July 20, 2016

    Where can I sell or trade excess frequent flyer miles?

    • Staff
      Sally | July 29, 2016

      Hello,

      Most frequent flyer programs don’t allow you to trade or sell frequent flyer miles.

      However, some do offer options to transfer points to family members or friends. If you can confirm which frequent flyer program you’re with, we can provide you with further details regarding your options.

      Cheers,

      Sally

  2. Default Gravatar
    Helen | July 12, 2016

    Hi,
    Can you book tickets (international) for other people (friends) using your frequent flyer points if you the frequent flyer member are not travelling with them?

    • Staff
      Sally | July 14, 2016

      Hi Helen,

      Thanks for your question.

      This depends on the frequent flyer program you’re with.

      Some programs allow you to transfer your points to other members or use your points to redeem rewards on behalf of other frequent flyers, but most require you to the flight ticket to have the same name as the frequent flyer account to redeem points for flights.

      I hope this has helped.

      Cheers,

      Sally

  3. Default Gravatar
    Kerry | July 3, 2016

    Hi- my husband has 14000 points on his velocity card. What sort of discount does that give us on a flight from Melbourne to Cairns?

    • Staff
      Sally | July 4, 2016

      Hi Kerry,

      Thanks for your question.

      Unfortunately, the Velocity website doesn’t confirm exactly how many points you need to take a flight from Melbourne to Cairns.

      However, using the points table, I can confirm that a flight from Melbourne to Cairns (1453 miles) falls into the 1,201-2,400 points bracket that would require between 20,000 and 56,000 points depending on what flight class you chose.

      I hope this has helped.

      Cheers,

      Sally

  4. Default Gravatar
    helen | June 20, 2016

    What is the procedure for redeeming my Qantas points at Myer, David Jones or JB Hi-Fi?

    • Staff
      May | June 20, 2016

      Hi Helen,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      There are actually several rewards you can choose from to redeem your Qantas points. You can see how on the Qantas page I’ve forwarded to your email.

      I hope this helps.

      Cheers,
      May

  5. Default Gravatar
    Mike | May 24, 2016

    I find myself flying from the southern US, to WA State, about once a month.
    And, not always on the same airline. Usually United or American. What is the best way to take advantage of any and all frequent flyer points that may be available doing this?

    • Staff
      Sally | May 25, 2016

      Hi Mike,

      Thanks for your question.

      Just to confirm, you have come through to finder.com.au, an Australian comparison service.

      Unfortunately, as United Airlines and American Airlines aren’t partnered, I’m not sure if there’s a way you can merge frequent flyer points from both in one account. Instead, you might have to consider signing up for both separately.

      I hope this has helped.

      Cheers,

      Sally

  6. Default Gravatar
    Gerry | April 14, 2016

    how many points will it take to fly from Melbourne to Cairns?

    • Default Gravatar
      Gerry | April 15, 2016

      qantas frequent flyer been in it for 15 years
      so how many pts to fly from Melb to Cairns

    • Staff
      Sally | April 15, 2016

      Hi Gerry,

      Thanks for clarifying!

      If you were to fly economy from Melbourne to Cairns with Qantas, it would cost you 18,000 Qantas points.

      I hope this has helped.

      Cheers,

      Sally

    • Staff
      Sally | April 15, 2016

      Hi Gerry,

      Thanks for your question.

      How many points it will take to fly that route will depend on the airline you’re flying with and the flight status you’re after (e.g. economy, business, first etc).

      If you could please confirm the airline and frequent flyer program you’re with, we can provide you with further information.

      Cheers,

      Sally

  7. Default Gravatar
    Matt | March 11, 2016

    Is there an agency that one can use to redeem frequent flyer points?

    • Staff
      Sally | March 14, 2016

      Hi Matt,

      Thanks for your question.

      The ways you can redeem your frequent flyer points depends on which program you belong to.

      If you could confirm which program you’re referring to, we could provide you with further information.

      I hope this has helped.

      Cheers,

      Sally

  8. Default Gravatar
    Cas | January 14, 2016

    How long from gaining points to points expiry?
    Do I have to use points in a certain time frame?

    • Staff
      Sally | January 14, 2016

      Hi Cas,

      Thanks for your question.

      Whether your points will expire will depend on the frequent flyer program you’re with. If you could please confirm which program you’re referring to we can provide you with further information.

      Cheers,

      Sally

    • Default Gravatar
      Cas | January 14, 2016

      Hi Sally
      I have NAB Velocity rewards?

    • Staff
      Sally | January 15, 2016

      Hi Cas,

      Thanks for following up so we can help you with your enquiry.

      As your NAB Velocity Rewards will follow the same terms and conditions of regular Velocity Points, your points will only expire if you don’t have any activity on your account (e.g. earn or redeem rewards) within 36 months.

      I hope this has helped answer your question.

      Cheers,

      Sally

  9. Default Gravatar
    j | October 15, 2015

    i would like 1 business class seat on points with virgin from Sydney to San Francisco preferably in July 2016 but August will also work. I have kept calling since seats were supposed to have been released but found none. How can I set up alarms/notifications by email etc so I hear when they become available please so I can nab them. J

    • Staff
      Sally | October 15, 2015

      Hi J,

      Thanks for your question.

      Just to confirm, you have come through to finder.com.au, not a frequent flyer program.

      If you could please confirm which program you’re trying to get in touch with, we can provide you with further information and the relevant contact details.

      I hope this has helped.

      Thanks,

      Sally

    • Default Gravatar
      j | October 15, 2015

      Thank you Sally. I am unable to reply to you using the reply button , so using this way. Yes, I know I am on finder.com.au.

      I would like suggestions about how to get instant notifications when award seats are available from virgin. It is likely to be a third party site that can do that for me, and I would be grateful to know the URL, or how to get notifications from whichever source.

    • Staff
      Sally | October 16, 2015

      Hi J,

      No worries and thanks for following this up.

      The official frequent flyer program or airline is always the best source to confirm this type of information.

      After speaking with a member from the Virgin Australia team, I can confirm that they don’t have an automatic notification service that can inform you when the seats are available.

      However, the representative mentioned that if you’re unable to locate the flight online, you can contact their customer service team to book a seat on the flight in advance over the phone. If you’re hoping to use your Velocity Points to pay for the flight, make sure to have your Velocity Frequent Flyer number on hand at the time of making the booking.

      I’ve sent you Velocity’s customer service contact number for your convenience.

      I hope this has helped.

      Thanks,

      Sally

  10. Default Gravatar
    Stuart | August 8, 2015

    Hello,

    Can i spend my British Airways avoid miles on the Qantas Store?

    • Staff
      Sally | August 10, 2015

      Hi Stuart,

      Thank you for your comment.

      According to the Qantas website, you can only use your British Airways Avios Miles for Qantas Classic Flight Rewards.

      I hope this has answered your question.

      Thanks,

      Sally

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