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


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

Whatever frequent flyer scheme you're in, spending your points on flights (or upgrades) delivers the most bang for buck. Finder analysis shows you can get up to $70 in value per 1,000 points you spend that way, which is much higher than any other use for your points.

However, 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 in 2023?

Your choices 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.

Example of a Velocity redemption

Here are some typical examples based on looking up the same hotels for domestic Australian one-night bookings in May 2023:

SchemeHotelPoints$ priceValue/1000
QantasIntercontinental Adelaide36,070$299.00$8.29
QantasCrowne Plaza Surfers Paradise21,747$180.00$8.28
QantasThe Langham Melbourne41,585$345.00$8.30
VelocityIntercontinental Adelaide49,900$299.00$5.99
VelocityCrowne Plaza Surfers Paradise30,000$180.00$6.00
VelocityRydges Melbourne57,600$345.00$5.99

Across both airlines, the typical value settles at $6 per 1,000 points for Virgin, and a higher $8 per 1,000 points for Qantas. Either way, that's better than what you'd get from online store purchases. Remember you don't need to travel to take advantage: you can book a "staycation" in your home city.

Example of a Qantas redemption

As with reward flights, you'll find more choices by booking further in advance.

Spending your points on charity donations

Qantas offers 4 sustainability charities you can donate to:

  • Great Barrier Reef Foundation
  • Kimberley Land Council
  • OzHarvest
  • Unicef

Whichever you choose, a $25 donation requires 3,200 Qantas Points. That gives an effective value of $7.81 per 1,000 points.

Velocity offers just one charity option, the Starlight Foundation. A $25 donation costs 4,950 Velocity Points, which works out to a value of $5.05 per 1,000 points. As with hotels, that's somewhat lower than Qantas.

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/1000
QantasJB Hi-Fi51840$250.00$4.82

As you can see, the value here is typically around $4.00–$5.30 per 1,000 points. Qantas offers slightly cheaper prices for digital cards (such as Sephora) than for physical ones (such as IKEA). Virgin's rates are slightly more generous.

Either way that rate is lower than hotels or charities, but gives you a potential wider range of places to shop.

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.

Want to keep your frequent flyer points balance growing? Check out the latest credit card sign-up deals.

We updated this guide in May 2023 with current points totals and charity partners.

Image: Supplied
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