Best (and worst) ways to spend your Qantas Frequent Flyer points

By David Flynn, March 11 2013
Best (and worst) ways to spend your Qantas Frequent Flyer points

It's easy to rack up Qantas Frequent Flyer points. Every time you take a flight, stay at a hotel and swipe your credit card more points are added to the pile.

But making the most of those hard-earned points isn't quite so simple. Here are five quick rules for maximising your frequent flyer points.

(As a general rule, these strategies also apply to Virgin Australia's Velocity Frequent Flyer scheme and the equivalent programmes of most airlines. But we've called out specific examples based on the Flying Kangaroo's rates and rewards).

1. Avoid shopping at the frequent flyer store

If you're sitting on a stack of points, perhaps the single worst way to use them is to trade them for goods at an airline's online frequent flyer store.

It's useful to think of frequent flyer points as a unique currency with a specific value.

In the case of Qantas, with almost 14 million frequent flyer members on its books, Qantas points are almost a de facto currency after the Aussie dollar.

The trick is that while frequent flyer points have an actual face value, that rate isn't fixed. Your points can be worth more or less depending on how you spend them.

A baseline value for Qantas points can be taken as 0.5¢ each, based on Qantas selling $100 David Jones Gift Cards for 20,010 points.

Throughout the store, the best deal you'll get will value your points at about this mark  but with some products your points plummet in value to half that.

Of course, if you don't have enough frequent flyer points for a free flight then the new Qantas Marketplace – now offering at least three Qantas Points per dollar spent online – could be your only option.

But even then, do a little 'window shopping' to check the price of goods in retail shops or online – especially during sales or if they will price-match against a competitor – versus the number of points Qantas is asking for.

One of the smartest things to buy with your frequent flyer points is a gift voucher from stores like David Jones, THE ICONIC and JB Hi-Fi, because you can use this to take advantage of sales in those stores and in general have a wider choice of what you want to buy. 

2. Think twice about ''free'' flights

Always look for the best fare before you consider using your points. There's plenty of competition, even on domestic business class flights as well as international routes, which makes for some incredible deals.

Using your points when tickets are already very cheap gives your points an effective ''exchange rate'' that's well below their worth. If you're just looking for a cheap flight, buy a ticket.

"You can work out the value per point by finding the price you would otherwise pay," says Lauren McLeod, whose Aussie start-up Flightfox taps the knowledge of frequent flyer experts to crowdsource the best airfare and point redemption deals.

"For example, a budget economy Qantas flight from Sydney to Melbourne may cost $150 or 8,000 points," says McLeod. Using your points would mean a per-point value of 1.87¢. "And remember, you still pay some fees when redeeming points."

"On the other hand, a one-way business flight on Qantas from Sydney to London may cost $10,000 or 144,600 points, so your points would have a per-point value of almost 7¢," or 3.7 times more than the discounted domestic flight.

"Personally, my favourite use of frequent flyer points is on round-the-world tickets with one of the alliances," McLeod says.

"In the case of Qantas, that means One World. With the right work, you can craft an amazing five-continent, multi-city flight for almost the same number of points required for a return flight to London."

You should also consider the additional taxes and charges levied on frequent flyer reward seats, which can be so high that you're better off to keep your points and buy a ticket.

3. Book redemption tickets in advance

Should you decide to put your well-earned frequent flyer points into a Qantas ticket, make sure you plan ahead to increase your chances of scoring a good deal. 

If spent wisely, Qantas Classic Flight Rewards are one of the best ways to redeem Qantas Points, but they are often limited, specially on popular long-haul routes and in premium cabins like business and first class.

As a Qantas Frequent Flyer member, however, you get first dibs on redemption seats made available by Qantas, being able to book these seats a full 353 days before departure.

Compare this to some of the other airlines competing for Qantas award availability and this gives you up to a 3 week head start to secure any award seats on Qantas flights.

4. Apply for an upgrade

Another top way to burn those points: buy an economy ticket that's upgradable (not all of them are) and use your points to apply for an upgrade.

Qantas Frequent Flyer members with Silver or above status should find that the chances of securing an upgrade via Qantas Classic Upgrade Rewards are relatively high when avoiding flights during peak holiday seasons – specially on domestic routes. 

Adding to that, Qantas Classic Upgrade Rewards upgrades on domestic routes can be confirmed instantly if an upgrade is available, or waitlisted for consideration later on. 

Missed the chance to upgrade Via Qantas Classic Upgrade Rewards? You can still try luck at the airport via Qantas’ Domestic On Departure Upgrade Rewards, where you may find occasional last-minute bargains if the airline is trying to fill up the plane.

Read: Qantas frequent flyers now get last-minute upgrades

"With Qantas it can be a great deal to use points to upgrade to premium economy, business class or even first class," says frequent flyer guru Ben Schlappig, who writes the One Mile at a Time blog and clocks up over 300,000 miles of air travel a year.

"Qantas is one of the few airlines that lets you 'double upgrade' with miles, going from economy to either premium economy or business class. And unlike some other airlines their upgrade costs are also reasonable, making upgrades pretty attainable for frequent flyers."

5. Call in the experts

Travel agents can ferret out the hot airfares, but when it comes to converting frequent flyer points you're pretty much on your own – and thus at the mercy of the airlines themselves.

The conditions, caveats and lack of availability of reward seats can all make things a bit too hard for the average traveller. So it pays to call for some expert advice from the frequent flyers themselves.

Flightfox runs crowd-sourced ''contests'' in which frequent flyers can unearth the best routes to suit your point balance.

Ben Schlappig's PointPros service specialises in transforming points into trips, often based around an idealised itinerary.

"Airline websites rarely display anything except the most direct routing, which is almost always not available," Schlappig says. "We know the routes that most commonly have award space, and also know the ins-and-outs of airline alliances and partnerships, and leverage that to find our clients the best flights possible."

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

10 Jul 2011

Total posts 2

Precisely on point!
I was looking at one-way tickets between Sydney and Singapore. Economy cost approximately $800 (or 30,000 points) whereas business class cost approximately $5200 (or 60,000 points). I got much more bang for my points by purchasing the business class ticket on points.

23 Jan 2015

Total posts 2

If you use 60K points Aust to SIN you can nest a return fare ex SIN booked on the QF website for about SGD600.00 return so that gets you back to Aust in addition to having a positioning flight back to SIN. To get back from SIN to Aust on the second trip you could do another J class award for 60K points thus giving you two trips to SIN for a reasonable price.   

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Nov 2012

Total posts 68

There are seriously many ways to get from A to B cheaply by harnessing frequent flyer points, if you know how to. But who has the time to play around with that complexity?

I definitely would agree to call in the experts, who understands the rules and know all the tips and tricks and do all the leg-work for you.

Ben - he is like the grand master, he has even helped me. Though he is USA based and flies around the world like a machine. Makes me jealous.

I do something similar as A Loyalty Program Concierge. Managing individual & SMB Frequent Flyer Programs, but on a more personal and custom basis around Sydney.

I love frequent flyer points, not just optimising collecting them, but adore spending them on something way extravagant and aspirational - something you would never really bring yourself to pay real cash for.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

09 Mar 2013

Total posts 6

I switched from QFF to Velocity a few years ago now and have had a number of points sitting in the (now silver from platinum on the slow decline) account. I find the domestic upgrades the most rewarding especially on the perth red-eye (which for some reason, although 7 bookings on the same work travel req had "VA only please" in the comments section, was taken to mean i wanted Q on the only one I didnt comment on!!)

I keep an eye on the reward seats but as stated above with the current fare wars it works out better to just spend the $150 dollars it now costs to fly just about anywhere.

At the moment im just smashing my velocity account to make the most of these status point earns, which YES DO APPLY TO UPGRADES!!! :) 

Looks like some more lucky family members are getting the companion platinum this year :)

04 Nov 2012

Total posts 213

Totally agree, I use JASA couple times a year, last was 2 x J seats BNE/LAX/DFW/BNE was 380K points and couple grand absolute bargain IMO.


I am looking at the qantas frequent flyer site now to review the conversions.  They don't seem to work out the same way you have previously indicated.  When I try to get a first class flight from Melbourne to Heathrow, it requires:  $6472  or  705400 points.

01 Mar 2016

Total posts 2

I am not sure who did your calculations but they should be fired.

firstly a $100 voucher at 15,100 points is not 0.75 cents per point its 0.62 cents per point. Also a business class trip to London is not 128,000 each way, thats the points required for an economy trip to london. the value per point on the flights is roughly 0.89 cents per point based on my research. while the value of vouchers is around 0.60 cents per point.

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2438

Hi swas, you'll notice that this article was actually published nearly three years ago and isn't kept as an up-to-date resource.

Also, the 128,000-point figure is correct ("on the other hand, a one-way business flight on Qantas from Sydney to London may cost $10,000 or 128,000 points") - the return cost 256,000 points while a return economy trip on the same route would actually be 120,000 points.

01 Mar 2016

Total posts 2

I didnt notice the date until after posting, my bad. The costs (in points) have risen significantly since then I see.

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