As airlines restart flights to and from Australia, experts say now is a great time to use up any frequent flyer points you’ve been sitting on since the start of the pandemic.
That’s because while tickets can be pricey, the cost to redeem points remains the same as before.
“Airlines haven’t really started discounting paid airfares yet, and so if you’re redeeming points, the number of points needed is still fixed,” Australian Frequent Flyer editor Matt Graham told The New Daily.
After government travel announcements in October, Qantas released the largest number of reward seats in the airline’s history.
Virgin Australia has also just restarted its Velocity frequent flyer program for the first time since April 2020.
But Graham called Virgin’s scheme “a bit of a minefield” because the airline is largely offering domestic flights, and its six international partners have very limited availability at the moment.
Daniel Sciberras, managing editor of the website Point Hacks, said there is pent-up demand for flights and now is a good opportunity to make use of old points.
“If you need or want to go to London, Tokyo, or Los Angeles, or any of these new routes that are opening up again, and you want to do it in style, absolutely try and see if there are award seats out there,” he told TND.
“But don’t go and use your points saying, ‘I’m just going to fly anywhere just to use up my points’, because if you’re going for just for a trip that you don’t really want to go on, that’s not going to be good value.”
Here’s what to keep mind when it comes to using up old frequent flyer points.
Longer international flights typically offer better value for your points than domestic flights.
“In terms of the value proposition, the best value for your points is always going to be on long-haul premium class seats,” Sciberras said.
For example, domestic economy flights can equate to roughly 1.2 cents per Qantas Point spent, whereas a business-class flight will net you closer to 4.5 cents per point spent.
“With domestic flights, the number of points required for redemption is lower, but also the cost of buying the equivalent ticket also lower,” Graham also noted.
No cancellation fees
One advantage of redeeming points is that Qantas and Virgin will waive any cancellation and rebooking fees if your plans change.
This is particularly handy for border closures that travel insurance won’t cover.
People who redeem Qantas Points for domestic or trans-Tasman trips can change or cancel their flight free of charge until February 28.
This also applies to international flights until December 31, 2022, so long as the flight is booked before February 28.
People who redeem Virgin flights using Velocity Points can also cancel or change their fare free of charge until April 30.
“It’s actually like a really good insurance policy, in a way,” Graham said.
Don’t waste your points on appliances or wine
“During the pandemic, what a lot of the airlines were doing was promoting other uses of your points, rather than flying,” Sciberras said.
Both Qantas and Virgin allow members to redeem things like appliances, apparel and wine.
However, he said this is a bad deal.
Meanwhile, Graham went as far as to call these schemes “totally crap”.
He ran the numbers and found that buying a toaster with Qantas Points equates to 0.53 cents per point, compared to 4.71 cents per point for a return business-class flight between Melbourne and Sydney.
“The value of redeeming for business class is like 10 times that of redeeming for a toaster or a gift card,” Graham told TND.
The best bang for your points
Graham said the best deal for someone looking to spend Qantas Points was Oneworld Classic Flight Reward.
This is a round-the-world ticket on Qantas and its partner airlines, which costs a similar number of points as a return ticket to Europe.
The benefit here is you can have up to five stopovers wherever Oneworld airlines fly, and the dates are flexible.
“So it’s clearly way better value,” he said.
“That’s probably the No.1 best value way to redeem Qantas Points would be the Oneworld Classic Flight Reward.”