Executive Traveller exclusive
As Star Alliance celebrates the 25th anniversary of its founding in 1997, the global airline group is launching its own Star Alliance Rewards loyalty program spearheaded by the co-branded HSBC Star Alliance credit card, and it’s potentially a game-changing move in the airline loyalty landscape.
What is Star Alliance Rewards?
Star Alliance Rewards is an all-new loyalty program created by the Star Alliance group, with the intention of tapping into the same rich revenue stream which has made airline loyalty programs into highly-profitable businesses win their own right.
However, Star Alliance Rewards doesn’t replace the frequent flyer program of any of Star’s 26 member airlines – in some ways it’s not ever a frequent flyer program of its own.
Rather, it’s a frequent buyer program launched alongside a Star Alliance credit card with which you can earn points on purchases big and small.
What are Star Alliance Points?
Star Alliance Points are the loyalty currency of Star Alliance Rewards, in much the same way as KrisFlyer miles for example are the currency of Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer program.
Every dollar you spend on the HSBC Star Alliance credit card earns Star Alliance Points.
The HSBC Star Alliance credit card is launching exclusively in Australia, with the following earning rates:
- 1 Star Alliance Point for every A$1 spent on eligible purchases up to $3,000 per statement period
- 0.5 Star Alliance Points per A$1 spent on eligible purchases beyond $,3000 per statement period
Can I transfer Star Alliance Points to an airline’s own rewards programs?
Yes, in fact that’s the entire rationale behind Star Alliance Points – because at the time of writing, it appears there’s little that can be done with them on their own. (That may well change in the future, of course, as the program evolves).
After earning Star Alliance Points on everything from your morning coffee to your weekly grocery bill and larger expenses, those points can then be transferred into the currency of any ‘participating frequent flyer program’ to book a point-based reward flight, request an upgrade, buy a lounge pass and so on.
Which airlines are transfer partners of Star Alliance Rewards?
Seven Star Alliance members are participating frequent flyer partners for the HSBC Star Alliance credit card, with Star Alliance Points conversion rates as follows:
- Air Canada Aeroplan: 1,000 Star Alliance Points = 800 Aeroplan points
- Air New Zealand Airpoints: 1,250 Star Alliance Points = 10 Airpoints Dollars
- EVA Air Infinity MileageLands: 1,000 Star Alliance Points = 800 Infinity MileageLands Miles
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer: 1,000 Star Alliance Points = 800 KrisFlyer miles
- South African Airways Voyager: 1,000 Star Alliance Points = 800 Voyager miles
- Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus: 1,000 Star Alliance Points = 800 Royal Orchid Plus miles
- United Airlines MileagePlus: 1,000 Star Alliance Points = 800 MileagePlus Miles
So where’s Lufthansa, Swiss, SAS, Turkish Airlines and the rest of the Star Alliance family?
“Not all member carriers of the Star Alliance network are participating in this program through their respective frequent flyer programs,” Star Alliance says.
How do I convert Star Alliance Points to airline points or mies?
After signing up to Star Alliance Rewards, members can visit the Rewards Portal dashboard and nominate a ‘Status Airline’ from the seven airlines listed above by providing their frequent flyer account details.
Every month, their balance of Star Alliance Points earned on the HSBC Star Alliance credit card will automatically be transferred across to their Status Airline account using the appropriate 'exchange rate’.
However, you don’t have to wait until the end of the month: you’ll be able to transfer Star Alliance Points to any nominated frequent flyer program at any time with a minimum of 1,000 Star Alliance Points per transfer, going up in increments of 100 points, to a maximum of 1,000,000 Star Alliance Points converted in a single transaction.
Can you transfer points between airlines?
What about the option of transferring points directly from one airline’s loyalty program to another – for example, from Air New Zealand to Singapore Airlines?
This isn’t something that can be done via Star Alliance Rewards: the program simply facilitates a one-way transfer from Star Alliance Points to the points or miles of a participating airline.
But given that Star Alliance Points serve as a ‘common’ currency with set exchange rates for each participating airline’s own currency: then yes, in theory this could be enabled further down the track.
Star Alliance Rewards members would need only to have each airline frequent flyer account set up in the Rewards Portal and then agree to the Star Alliance Points conversion rate for swapping currencies.
Can I change my Star Alliance Rewards Status Airline?
Executive Traveller understands that Star Alliance Rewards members will be able to set up and switch between multiple Status Airline accounts, so that they can direct their Star Alliance points into any chosen frequent flyer program.
This could be useful for spreading your points across several airlines to suit your upcoming travel needs.
What are the Star Alliance Rewards status tiers?
Star Alliance Rewards has the same two status tiers which apply across the Star Alliance group: those are Star Alliance Silver and Star Alliance Gold (although there’s been speculation and discussion of a Star Alliance Platinum tier.)
The HSBC Star Alliance card offers an initial fast track to Star Alliance Gold once you spend $4,000 in the first year – this is realised as the equivalent Gold-grade tier in your nominated Status Airline.
However, to keep that gratis Gold status, HSBC says “you must spend at least $60,000 on eligible purchases in each 12-month period starting from account opening to retain Gold Status.”
There’s also less appealing option of Star Alliance Silver status based on an annual spend of between $30,000 and $60,000.
Once an HSBC Star Alliance credit card holder reaches the spend-based status threshold they’ll has 14 days to change their nominated Status Airline, in case they’re prefer to have Gold status with a different airline to the one that’s been collecting their points.
However, if you already hold Gold status with one of the participating airlines you can claim 40,000 Star Alliance Points instead of the card-supplied status.
How do I join Star Alliance Rewards?
At this stage, the only way to join Star Alliance Rewards is to hold an HSBC Star Alliance credit card – and that, in turn, is restricted to residents of Australia.