Are my Virgin Australia Velocity frequent flyer points safe?

With Virgin Australia in administration and Velocity Points currently frozen, some members are rightly concerned.

By Chris Chamberlin, May 8 2020
Are my Virgin Australia Velocity frequent flyer points safe?

Sitting on a sizeable bounty of Virgin Australia Velocity Frequent Flyer points, and concerned about what’s going to happen to those points in the current climate?

You’re not alone. With over 10 million members, Velocity is one of Australia’s largest loyalty programs – and with all Velocity Points currently ‘frozen’ in members’ accounts, it remains to be seen when people will be able to spend their points once again.

Here’s what you need to know about the current state of play.

Are my Velocity frequent flyer points safe?

The short answer is that nobody knows how safe your Velocity Points are – not even the administrators at Deloitte who've been appointed to find a new owner for Virgin Australia and the Velocity scheme, following Virgin's collapse on April 21, 2020.

Your Velocity Points are certainly not as safe as they were a few short months ago, because there's no guarantee of what the future will hold.

Virgin Australia’s administrators have said their preference is to see Virgin Australia sold as a package deal which includes Velocity, so that Virgin's buyer can quickly relaunch the airline with a loyalty program intact.

Even so, it would be up to the owners of 'Virgin 2.0' to determine how much value your Velocity Points hold. For example, will the number of points needed for an upgrade or a 'free' flight be the same as before, or will you need more points?

An alternative scenario could see Velocity handed off to a seperate entity such as the retail-based Flybuys loyalty program.

Read more: 20 cashed-up buyers are now circling Virgin Australia

What’s happening to Velocity Frequent Flyer?

Although Velocity Frequent Flyer itself is not in administration, it definitely hasn't been smooth sailing.

The weeks leading up to Virgin entering administration saw Velocity pause points transfers to the KrisFlyer scheme of partner Singapore Airlines, and then impose strict limits on using points to purchase gift cards.

On April 21, Virgin temporarily paused the redemption of Velocity Points for an initial period of four weeks, following what Virgin Australia CEO Paul Scurrah described as "a run on points" which threatened to weaken the airline's already-precarious cash balance.

It was subsequently revealed that Velocity Rewards gave Virgin Australia a $150 million loan in 2014 – a loan that's has never been repaid, and which now sees Velocity joining a queue of some 10,200 creditors – including financiers, aircraft leasing firms, airports, suppliers and staff – owed an estimated $6.8 billion by the failed airline.

If those creditors receive cents in the dollar against Virgin's debt, this would likely have a flow-on impact to how much money Velocity holds against its outstanding points.

Can I still earn Velocity Points?

Velocity Frequent Flyer members can continue to earn Velocity Points in many of the usual ways, although some of those opportunities are currently limited.

For example, with Virgin Australia operating only a limited set of domestic flights – and many of Virgin Australia’s international partner airlines pausing flights Down Under with various travel bans in effect – members are more likely to be earning points on the ground than in the air.

This remains possible with many of Velocity’s partners, such as through the Ola ridesharing app, various online retailers which are linked to the Velocity eStore, and by converting Flybuys points into Velocity Points.

Being the loyalty program of Coles supermarkets, Coles Express petrol stations, and related brands such as First Choice Liquor, Liquorland, Kmart and Target, Flybuys members first earn Flybuys points on these spends, which can still be converted into Velocity Points.

However, some of Velocity’s usual partners – including major Australian banks and credit card issuers – have currently paused the ability to convert credit card points over to Velocity.

Read: Banks pull down the shutters on Virgin Australia Velocity

These pauses will remain in place until the Velocity Frequent Flyer program once again allows its members to spend their points.

This doesn’t mean you’re necessarily ‘missing out’ on points by not being able to convert them from your bank over the Velocity program – it just means you’ll need to keep them in your bank’s own loyalty program for a little longer, and transfer them all across when the option returns.

Can I still use my Velocity Points?

For the time being, Velocity Frequent Flyer members cannot spend their Velocity Points in any way.

This applies both to the Velocity Points that were already in your account on April 21 – the date the freeze was imposed – as well as any new points that you earn while the freeze is in place.

When will my Velocity Points be ‘unfrozen’?

Velocity Frequent Flyer says the pause on spending points will be in place until at least May 19 2020, and this date could be pushed back further until there's more clarity around the immediate future of the rewards program and Virgin Australia itself.

However, Velocity has repeatedly assured that its members’ points are safe and will remain in their account.

Can I convert my Velocity Points into KrisFlyer miles?

Not right now. Velocity Frequent Flyer suspended the ability to convert Velocity Points into Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles on April 4 2020.

At the time, Velocity advised that the ability to convert points into KrisFlyer miles would be halted until "flight schedules return to normal".

As such, even if the Velocity program reinstates the ability to use points on or around May 19, conversions to the KrisFlyer program may remain blocked until a later date.

Can I buy gift cards with Velocity Points?

Not right now. In the same way that Velocity Points cannot currently be used to book flights, secure upgrades or be converted into KrisFlyer miles, turning those points into gift cards is also off the table until the ability to spend points is restored.

The same is true of using Velocity Points for other merchandise such as kitchen appliances, wine, sporting gear and electronics: all of which is unavailable until the program returns to normal.

Before the freeze, Velocity – as well as its rival Qantas Frequent Flyer – imposed limits on the number of gift cards that its members could redeem their points for, with Velocity capping this at one gift card per member per 24-hour period.

When the ability to cash out points for gift cards returns, it’s likely that a similar limit will apply while demand remains high.

Can I transfer Velocity Points to family members?

Yes, you can. Even though you can’t currently spend Velocity Points, those points can still be transferred between eligible family members.

Normal transfer limits apply, which means each Velocity member can make up to four family points transfers per year, each of between 5,000 and 125,000 Velocity Points.

There’s no limit on the number of points an individual member can receive into their account from other eligible family members: only on how many points can be transferred out of an account.

Of course, regardless of whose account any Velocity Points are residing in, they can’t be spent until the program returns to normal operation.

Read more: How to transfer Virgin Australia Velocity frequent flyer points

What happens to Velocity 'family pooling'?

There's no impact on family pooling in the Velocity Frequent Flyer program as a result of these updates: except, of course, that any pooled points cannot currently be spent.

Family pooling allows Velocity Frequent Flyer members living at the same address to direct either the Velocity Points they earn, or the Velocity Points and status credits they pile up, to a particular member's account.

Traditionally, this has helped to avoid the limitations of manual Velocity Points transfers for high-earning members, while also making it easier for some members to climb the status ladder, by having other people earn status credits on their behalf.

Read more: Velocity family pooling is your shortcut to Gold frequent flyer status

What’s next for Velocity Frequent Flyer?

The first step in getting Velocity Frequent Flyer back to ‘business as usual’ will be restoring the ability for its members to spend their points, even if in limited ways at first.

This could occur on May 19, being four weeks after the initial pause, or later, if the freeze is extended.

With 20 potential buyers currently circling Velocity’s parent company, Virgin Australia, bringing the airline out of administration would also help shore up the Velocity program, and pave the way for other uses of points, such as conversions to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, to return.

Also read: Virgin administrator says Velocity won't be stripped down, sold off

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Jun 2011

Total posts 142

Short answer. No. No the points aren't safe.

14 Oct 2016

Total posts 67

Not really, the Velocity Business holds its assets in a Trust. If the Business were to liquidated, then from my understanding, the Velocity members would get a cheque from the trust as they are beneficiaries. Not 100% on all the Velocity structure, but it is quite different to other Frequent Flyer programs, so the points are unlikely to disappear like other business failings.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Jun 2011

Total posts 142

I like the optimism...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1218

Exactly right, @tm_smile.

People tend to forget that at the end of the day the points don't even belong to you, the programme owns them. So you are at the complete mercy of the programme and what its administrators decide to do with their points.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 463

I remember the days of people losing millions of points and around the world first class tickets with Ansett when they went under. Lucky experience told myself to transfer points before the system crashed.

23 Aug 2016

Total posts 13

My 13k of points matters not. What concerns me is the $$$ in my travel bank, and the thousands in forward flights. This won't have a happy ending.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 278

Travel Bank account holders are rightly regarded as a Creditor of the VAH group of companies currently under administration. If you haven't already done so, you should go to the Deloitte web site (https://www2.deloitte.com/au/en/pages/finance/articles/virgin-australia-holdings-limited-subsidiaries.html), click on and download the 'Proof of Debt Form', complete it (Travel Bank account number, balance, etc., remembering to put a cross against 'Virgin Australia Airlines Pty Ltd' and, on a duplicate copy, Virgin Australia Holdings Limited) and email BOTH of the forms to [email protected] You should use a separate but otherwise identical form for both companies, just to be safe, ticking only one company name of each.

VFF members aren't regarded as 'creditors' of Virgin, but I note that 'Velocity Rewards Pty Ltd' has been recognised as a creditor of the companies under Deloitte's administration. Allow a 5 day turn-around for Deloitte to revert and formally acknowledge you as a creditor.

Hi B-T

I had flights to NZ for Easter for my family and I. Virgin have held the funds as a credit for future use but nothing shows in my travel bank, which has a balance of zero. They were booked through a travel agency (franchise member of national chain)

What is your advice, please? Should I complete the Deloitte creditor form? I need to do what I can to make sure I don't lose it all!

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 463

I'm in the same boat and will use credit card chargeback if they fail to deliver on goods, same with flight centre even though flight centre are threatening black marks on credit rating for doing the charge back.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 278

You should go to the web site Deloitte has for the Virgin Administration, download and complete 'Proof of debt' form and email it to the email address shown. Read the form very carefully. I sent two in, one for VAH the other for Virgin Airlines Australia. An earlier, more detailed post with a hyper link hasn't been accepted by the moderator.

I now see there's a PM facility on this web site, so if you want to send a message to me that way I'd hope I could be of better help (perhaps?).

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

08 Jun 2018

Total posts 92

As a thought piece. Why do people seem to think a new owner would want velocity? As a new owner you are acquiring an airline that will be cash negative for a substantial period. On top of that you are also being expected to take on the effective liability of providing services for free to the holders of points through velocity. There is no moral or legal obligation for a new owner to take it on, nor do I believe velocity is the ‘asset' so many people seem to think that it is. But we shall see. The key will be if VA is acquired as a going concern - a scenario that in my view is less likely with each passing day.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

14 Mar 2017

Total posts 147

Fair point, but a new owner may have no choice if they want to retain existing business.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

08 Jun 2018

Total posts 92

Potentially. If it's sold as a going concern. The point I am making is that a going concern basis sale is looking less and less likely. May be that a newco acquires the assets and the only link to a VA past is that they are flying some of the same planes and using some of the same slots, etc. New name, new ownership, etc, etc. I accept that if it is sold on a going concern basis then the consideration on the value of velocity to the new owners would be different. We shall wait and see. There is a divergence if views on this on these forums and the only way we will find anything out for definite is when initial offers are tabled on the 15th. And ultimately if and how they survive Due Diligence. Fingers crossed for the best outcome for all stakeholders.

03 May 2020

Total posts 4

I used velocity points to purchase a Singapore business seat mid June. Should I cancel the flight in which case the points would go back to my velocity account or is there a way to keep them in Singapore Airlines? Any suggestions appreciated.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 463

I'd be rescheduling the Singapore flight to another date

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

17 Aug 2017

Total posts 22

If the new owners scrap Velocity they will lose a lot of customers to Qantas including myself. Most travellers have QFF and Velocity accounts.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

08 Jun 2018

Total posts 92

Maybe, that's why a buyer has to decide if the liability that Velocity has in terms of effectively providing 'free' flights is worth it or not. And also why Velocity is not the asset to a new owner that many seem to think it is. They will make a business decision that determines if they feel it is worth it, which will no doubt mean that they will factor in the likelihood of people taking the view you do. They will also factor in that many people may simply try and spend their accrued points and simply move to Qantas anyway!! There will be some transfer pricing mechanism for conversion of velocity points to, say, Kris Flyer miles and I can't see a new owner wanting to stump that cost. Its all additional cash drain. I can see the underlying assets of the airline being rolled into a newco, with a different brand and effectively starting again with a new business model, with no liability for velocity points and no relation to the velocity scheme, which they may see as tarnished anyway. People keep referring to the 'new owner' - that assumes it is sold as a going concern. That is looking less and less likely.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 278

A potential buyer would be insane/incompetent to burn the loyalty program for the reasons you contemplate. Far easier to 'provision' for the liability (owed when the points are redeemed) and if, say, the hard cost of that liability (not to be confused with RRP) is $120 million (after allowing for no claims, etc.), deduct it from the price offered that would otherwise be offered. And whilst the details of the offer would need to be confidential, I'd then leak it to the media that 'Team Wagga Wagga' bid offered had fully valued the VFF members. That would pressure all other bids (already on Deloitte's desk) to come back and do likewise.

That's how cap-trans like this are done (in any deal). As the 2nd smartest TV executive in Australia once remarked: "Winners have parties, losers have meetings".

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1389

Why keep Velocity - because a well run loyalty program is exceptionally profitable for an airline.

Banks and credit card companies hand you money to buy points at say 1.0c per point. If redeemed for goods/vouchers you make 20-30%.

But if redeemed for a seat that would otherwise fly empty, you've got a marginal cost of fuel and food&bev, probably an 80% margin.

Also remember the Trust still has other $s in it, and the loan to Virgin is based on an AFR article secured (not sure against what though)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 278

Most 'smart travellers' do, Luke49, you're quite correct. And I'll not even blink doing so if that were to happen.


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