Are frequent flyer points worth less now? How to get the best value from your points

Tried using frequent flyer points to book air travel lately? In a recent Finder survey of flyers who were able to book a flight in the past 6 months using frequent flyer points, 60 per cent said it was more expensive or more difficult than expected.

There’s a perception that frequent flyer points ain’t what they once were. According to Traveller reader Alan Thomas of Hawthorn, Victoria, “Maybe you’ve noticed that Qantas reward points are easier to get these days and you only need to look at credit card applications, health insurance and much more. Why? Because they are less rewarding than they used to be.”

Delta, Emirates and Virgin Atlantic have all upped the points required to book some of their seats. From mid-2022 Singapore Airlines devalued its KrisFlyer points by between 8-15 per cent, depending on the flight.

Just as pressing is the challenge of using those points for flights because the availability of reward seats is being strangled right now. Airlines are beset by constraints that prevent them from getting all their aircraft back in the air but demand for seats is high, especially on international routes. If the airline can fill a seat with a fare paying passenger, why would they offer it to someone for points?

That doesn’t mean reward seats are non-existent. You could fly from Melbourne to Darwin using Qantas points in two weeks’ time. You could even fly Qantas to Europe on points – provided you book a long way ahead. Flying Sydney to London at the end of August 2023, returning in early September would cost 325,800 points in economy. You could even fly business on those dates, at just a snitch over 1.6 million points.

It’s survival of the fastest. There are plenty of flyers sitting on a pyramid of points that has grown over the last couple of years and now they’re keen to use them to travel, appetites sharpened by the high dollar price of flight tickets. If you expect to compete for the reward seats that are available, you need to be on your game.

Booking far in advance is key. Qantas’ reward seats are in demand and once they’re gone the number of points you need for a seat heads skywards. If you want to fly from Melbourne to Adelaide return with Qantas in a week’s time, the cheapest points fare will cost 60,800 points, since there are no Classic Reward seats left. Book the same route for six months’ time and you can shoehorn yourself into a Classic Reward seat on the same journey for just 16,000 points.

You’ve got a much better chance of scoring reward seats on domestic flights rather than international. For overseas travel, it’s imperative to book as far ahead as possible. Qantas Frequent Flyer members can access reward seats 350 days before the date of travel. That also applies to Qantas’ Oneworld partner airlines.

Look out for deals

Points bonuses, two-for-one deals and points incentives from merchants put wings on your points balance. Keeping up with all the latest offers is tedious but the Point Hacks website mans the watchtower for avid points harvesters. Click on “Deals” or make it easy on yourself and sign up for the Point Hacks email feed.

From time-to-time Qantas offers so-called “Points Planes”, flights where every available seat can be booked as a Classic Flight Reward. Vanuatu was one such recent destination after the country re-opened to international travellers on July 1, 2022, but you need to be on your toes to get on board.

Other uses for frequent flyer points

Movie tickets, wine and dining out are just some of the ways you can redeem frequent flyer points and gift cards make it possible to exchange points for virtual cash that you can use just about anywhere. A $100 Apple gift card costs 19,330 points, a value of 193 points per dollar, and that’s fairly typical of the value retailers offer for Qantas points. That includes accommodation providers such as Accor Hotels and Airbnb. Staying within the travelsphere, hotel stays and car hire are some of the best ways to squeeze value out of your points.

Hotels

Hyatt Regency Sydney.

Hyatt Regency Sydney. 

Fancy using Qantas points for a long weekend in Sydney in October? A king room at the smart Hyatt Regency on Darling Harbour starts at 128,989 points. Cash price for the same room on the Qantas website starts at $1155, which values those points at about 112 points per dollar.

At the ultra-cool Little National Hotel midway between the city centre and the Barangaroo waterfront precinct, a double room starts at 93,000 points, slightly less value for at around 92 points to the dollar.

In Port Douglas next May, five nights at the Mantra PortSea starts at 185,006 points, but the bargains are even better overseas.

A hotel stay in Bangkok next May? Three nights at the Millennium Bangkok could cost as little as 68,759 points, or the same three nights at the swanky, statuesque Shangri-La Bangkok, right on the Chao Phraya River from 95,406 points.

May is also prime time in Bali where five nights at The Westin Resort in Nusa Dua costs just 141,437 points. Or maybe those same nights with friends or family at Villa Santi, a deluxe five-bedroom villa in Ubud with a private pool for 455,519 points.

You can also use those Qantas points to pay for hotel and resort stays from Luxury Escapes, a curated assembly of some of the most luscious and desirable properties in the Asia-Pacific region.

Car hire

The cost of car hire is still high at many domestic locations but using points to pay represents decent value. A one-week hire of a Toyota Corolla hatchback from Avis in November, pick-up and return at Hobart Airport, costs 92,050 points. That puts the value of those points at 118 per dollar. Far north Queensland has also seen a big rise in car-hire prices and that same Corolla hatch for a week in November will cost you 106,100 points, equal to 105 points per dollar.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.