This week's frequent flyer wrap

By Chris C., December 18 2015
This week's frequent flyer wrap

It’s a big week for Virgin Australia Velocity members with Hilton offering double Velocity points on stays over the coming four months and Starwood serving up double Starpoints, which can be converted into Velocity points on a 1:1 basis.

However, Velocity members will begin to earn fewer points on their credit card spends next year with both Virgin Money and Citibank reducing their earning rates – the latter also affecting travellers chasing Qantas points.

Also in this week’s wrap for Qantas frequent flyers, Woolworths backflips on earning frequent flyer points at the checkout with a new conversion system between Woolworths Dollars and Qantas Points, while Qantas may ink a new points deal at the pump with Caltex in 2016.

Rounding things out for another week, we take a look at Qatar Airways’ latest double points and Oneworld Sapphire fast-track promotion, how Velocity Platinum members can enjoy free business class upgrades and at United’s new and improved earning MileagePlus rates in business and first class.

Citibank cuts credit card frequent flyer points

Far-reaching changes to Citibank’s line-up of credit cards will affect all customers earning Qantas, Virgin Australia, Singapore Airlines and Emirates frequent flyer points on their plastic through new monthly earning caps, reduced earning rates and increased Citibank Rewards conversion rates.

Credit card BPAY payments will also no longer earn points from next year, while Citibank’s overseas transaction fees rise to 3.4% across the board: increasing the cost to earn points overseas while also broadening to apply to ‘any transaction with an overseas merchant’, including in Australian dollars.

See how you’re affected: Citibank cuts credit card points

Woolworths brings back Qantas points for shoppers

Woolworths shoppers will once again be able to earn Qantas Frequent Flyer points with the grocery giant reversing a widely-criticised decision to axe its points partnership with the airline.

The new scheme will allow the store's recently-introduced Woolworths Dollars – earned only on selected products marked with an orange ticket – to be converted into Qantas Frequent Flyer points instead of cash discounts at the checkout, with 10 Woolworths Dollars getting you 870 Qantas Points.

Due to take effect by mid-2016, the revised Woolies dollars-for-points deal will replace the current model, due to expire on December 31st, which sees shoppers earn Qantas Points for every actual dollar they spend above $30.

Read: Woolworths brings back Qantas points for shoppers

Up next for Qantas: new fuel deal with Caltex?

Qantas is expected to pursue a partnership with Caltex in the new year which would allow frequent flyers to earn Qantas Points each time they fill their tank.

The airline's current alliance with Caltex-Woolworths outlets will cease as of December 31st following a controversial overhaul of the Woolworths Rewards scheme, which will allow Qantas to consider a direct partnership with Caltex and bring more service stations – including those operating under the Star Mart or Star Shop brands – into the points-earning network.

Virgin Australia took the lead in the 'points at the pump' stake earlier this year when the challenger airline joined forces with BP.

Read: Up next for Qantas: new fuel deal with Caltex?

Virgin Money trims credit card frequent flyer points

Virgin Money credit card customers will earn fewer Virgin Australia Velocity frequent flyer points on their everyday spends from next year with the popular two-for-one flight discounts also being scrapped.

Come April 1 2016, Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Visa cardholders will earn a lower 0.66 Velocity points per dollar on the first $1,500 spent every month – down from the current rate of one point per dollar for the same – and will continue to earn 0.5 points per dollar above this threshold.

Virgin Australia Velocity High Flyer Visa users with the card’s more-impressive 1.25 points/$1 earning rate pared back to an even one point per dollar on the first $10,000 of monthly spend, and 0.5 points per dollar thereafter (uncapped).

See what else is changing: Virgin Money trims Velocity points

Hilton HHonors serves up double points

Hilton HHonors members staying at any hotel in the Hilton portfolio – including at related brands such as Waldorf Astoria, Conrad and DoubleTree by Hilton – can earn either double HHonors points or double airline frequent flyer points from January 1 2016.

Running through April 30 2016, members need to register their preference on the Hilton website before their stay to choose their preferred reward, which comes in addition to what you’d normally earn.

It’s an especially great bonus for Virgin Australia Velocity members who already earn a higher two Velocity points per US$1 spent versus one point with Qantas and the other major airlines, with the promo boosting that to four Velocity points on the same spend, plus your usual HHonors points.

Qatar Airways: double points, Gold fast track

Qatar Airways Privilege Club members travelling on the airline's new flights from both Sydney and Adelaide can earn double frequent flyer points and can also fast-track to Gold frequent flyer status under Qatar's latest promotion.

Sydneysiders can collect those double points – or 'Qmiles' in Privilege Club lexicon – by booking a Qatar Airways journey to Doha and beyond to any of 150+ destinations between December 15 2015 and March 31 2016, for travel between March 1 and July 31 2016.

Similarly, Adelaide residents can book between December 15 2015 and May 31 2016 for travel between May 2 and September 30 2016 to earn their own serve of double Qmiles.

Read more and go for Gold: Qatar Airways’ latest promotion

SPG offers double points plus 250-point bonus

Guests visiting at any Starwood hotel worldwide such as with Sheraton, Westin, W Hotels and St. Regis can earn double points on stays of two nights or more through SPG’s latest ‘Take Two’ promotion.

Similar to the Hilton deal, you’ll need to register your Starwood Preferred Guest number on the SPG website to earn double points, with an added bonus of 250 Starpoints per stay at participating hotels overseas.

Using Virgin Australia's Platinum business class upgrades

Flying business class for the price of an economy ticket is arguably Virgin Australia’s most generous Velocity Platinum perk, with special 'upgrade certificates' allowing top-tier frequent flyers to move to the pointy end four times each year – without paying an extra cent.

That means you can trade-up on four solo one-way flights, or could take a trip with a partner, colleague or even your boss and upgrade the both of you to more comfortable surroundings in business class for the return journey.

Here’s what you need to know to make the most of your complimentary Velocity Platinum business class upgrades.

Read: Using Virgin Australia's Platinum business class upgrades

United boosts qualifying rates in business, first class

United Airlines will increase the number of Premier-qualifying miles (PQMs) awarded to business class and first class passengers from January 1 2016, following a similar move by American Airlines which came as part of a broader overhaul of its AAdvantage program.

In ‘discounted’ business class and first class, travellers will earn 2 PQMs per mile flown on tickets in the A, C, D, Z and P ‘fare buckets’, up from 1.5 PQMs previously.

On full-fare tickets in the F and J booking classes the 1.5 PQM rate doubles to 3 PQMs per mile flown, which makes United’s elite Premier tiers twice as easy to reach from the New Year.

For more information, head to the United website.

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Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

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