This week's round-up for road warriors and avid points collectors

By Chris C., March 20 2015
This week's round-up for road warriors and avid points collectors

We’re jam-packed with frequent flyer news this week – whether it’s how to fly in business class for the price of economy, how to match your frequent flyer card to get a free Oneworld Sapphire membership or even what’s happening in the world of credit cards, we’ve got you covered.

There are a few easy deals among the mix – including triple miles with Etihad Guest, an easy 1,000 Hilton HHonors points, quadruple Qantas Points at Hilton hotels, and almost half a million Qantas frequent flyer points on the table for customers signing up for new credit cards.

Also in this week’s wrap, how ANZ Rewards customers have a short window to earn Virgin Australia Velocity status credits without leaving the ground, how to earn Air New Zealand Airpoints as a Kiwi after BNZ exits the program as a partner, and how to buy HHonors points on the cheap.

To wind things up, we’ve got a shortlist of the five best credit cards for paying your income tax, and new and surprisingly lower credit card annual fees from the Commonwealth Bank.

This week’s frequent flyer promos

Win a share of one million Qantas Points

Qantas frequent flyers can win their slice of one million frequent flyer points to celebrate the launch of ‘Points Destination’ – a new Qantas website where travellers can make a points-related goal and can keep tabs on their progress.

That goal can be anything from a pair of noise-cancelling headphones in the Qantas Store to an actual destination and a way to get there, such as a pair of round-trip business class tickets from Sydney to Dr Evil's Secret Lair.

Enter now: Win a share of one million Qantas Points

Buying Elevate points for low-cost Virgin Australia business class

Fancy flying in Virgin Australia business class from Sydney to Melbourne for around $450 round-trip? How about from Brisbane to Melbourne for less than $700 return, or all the way to Perth and back again for just over $1,100?

Those are just some of the incredible deals you can squeeze from Virgin America’s latest promotion for buying frequent flyer points, currently on the block with bonuses of up to 80%.

Elevate is Virgin America’s own frequent flyer scheme and completely separate to Virgin Australia and Velocity Frequent Flyer, although the partnership between the two Branson-backed airlines lets you collect points with one airline and redeem them with another.

Here’s how it’s done: Buying Elevate points for Virgin Australia flights

Free Airberlin Topbonus Gold, Oneworld Sapphire status match

Aussie travellers should move swiftly to take advantage of a great ‘status match’ offer from Airberlin, where jetsetters can flash their existing frequent flyer card and pocket Silver or Gold status for 12 months from the German airline's Topbonus loyalty scheme.

As it happens, Airberlin sits in the convenient centre of a virtual ‘love triangle’ with Qantas, Virgin Australia and Etihad – offering perks such as airport lounge access, priority check-in and priority boarding with all three airlines.

Add to that Airberlin’s standing in the global Oneworld airline alliance and you’re also looking at lounge access and other benefits with airlines such as British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and Qatar Airways for cardholders at the Gold/Oneworld Sapphire tier.

Get in quick: Free Airberlin Topbonus Gold status match

Earn double, triple miles with Etihad Guest

Book flights with Etihad for travel until the end of May and you’ll collect double miles and tier miles economy and triple miles and tier miles in business and first class with the Etihad Guest scheme.

But be quick – you’ll need to register and make your bookings by this coming Sunday, March 22, so register now before the deal passes you by.

Register at the Etihad Guest website: Earn up to triple miles

If you’re new to Etihad Guest, also check out our handy ‘101 guide’ that covers everything from how to earn and redeem points through to which benefits are offered to frequent flyers and how to move your way up the status ladder in Etihad’s program.

Read: Etihad Guest: the unofficial guide for Aussie frequent flyers

This week’s top credit card news

490,000 Qantas Points up for grabs this March

It’s 'March Madness' at Qantas' bank partners, with a large number of banks practically giving Qantas frequent flyer points away to customers who sign up for a new credit card.

Between them all there's almost half a million points on the table.

If your wallet is due for a makeover or it’s time to add a new piece of plastic to join your stable, here are ten of the best credit card sign-up deals available this month that you need to know about.

Read more: 490,000 Qantas credit card points up for grabs

Air New Zealand signs up Westpac NZ as new credit card partner

Air New Zealand will drop the Bank of New Zealand from its roster of credit card partners next month, with Westpac stepping in to replace BNZ as of May 1, 2015.

Westpac New Zealand will join Kiwibank, ANZ and American Express in issuing credit cards which can earn Airpoints, the currency of AirNZ's frequent flyer scheme.

BNZ GlobalPlus credit card holders will continue to earn Airpoints on their current card up until midnight 30 April but will need to choose a new Airpoints earning credit card from another bank if they wish to continue to earn Airpoints on their credit card spend from 1 May.

Read more: Air New Zealand Airpoints signs up Westpac NZ

Commonwealth Bank lowers frequent flyer credit card annual fees

Annual fees on the Commonwealth Bank’s range of Awards credit cards have been reduced, with travellers now paying less and yet continuing to earn the same number of frequent flyer points.

The entry-level Awards MasterCard + American Express combo can now be had for $59: down from $89 and a $30 reduction overall, even in the absence of the previous discount available to selected customers.

Gold Awards cards drop from $144 to $119 – marking a $5 price rise for some on the previous discount scheme but a $25 saving for others – while Platinum Awards is lowered from $280 to $249 for all.

At the top of the pile come the highest savings, with the Diamond Awards cards dropping from $425 to just $349 each year while still serving up 1.5 Qantas or Virgin Australia frequent flyer points per dollar spent on the attached American Express card.

A Commonwealth Bank spokesperson confirmed to Australian Business Traveller that existing CBA Awards cardholders will automatically be charged the new and likely lower annual fee when the charge next falls due on their account.

The five best credit cards for paying your income tax

Using your points-earning credit card to pay the Australian Taxation Office is a long-established but rarely-discussed trick of savvy frequent flyers, and one that can turn a tax bill into a near-free flight or even an upgrade to business class when you’re next in the air.

In short, the ATO website lets taxpayers settle their obligations via credit card – whether that’s a personal income tax payment or to chip away at their lingering university HECS debt – providing an opportunity to earn frequent flyer points on money you’d otherwise spend.

Visa and MasterCard payments attract a surcharge of just 0.42% while American Express costs a higher 1.45% to process, and although some credit cards earn a reduced number, or no points, on ATO payments, here are five of the best cards for cashing in on your tax.

Read more: The five best credit cards for paying your income tax

ANZ: 20% points bonus, free Velocity status credits

ANZ Rewards cardholders shipping their credit card points across to Virgin Australia’s Velocity Frequent Flyer program can earn a cool 20% bonus atop what they’d normally get for their points.

Further, make the transfer – whether at the absolute minimum level or up to 70,000 ANZ Rewards points – and you’ll collect 50 status credits from Virgin Australia, while converting over 70,000 ANZ Rewards points comes with an even-higher 100 status credits.

For more information, head to the ANZ website.

This week’s top hotel loyalty deals

Buying Hilton HHonors points to trim your travel costs

Through April 22 2015, Hilton HHonors members can pocket up to 80,000 points with a cool bonus of 40% more on the side.

Those points are best swapped for stays at hotels such as Hilton, Conrad, DoubleTree and Waldorf Astoria – including in Shanghai at the Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund.

Instead of paying ¥9,315 (A$1,956) for three nights in a King Deluxe room and its attached hotel service charge, savvy travellers could instead stock up on HHonors points and relax in luxury for around 20% less.

Here’s how: Buying Hilton HHonors points to trim your travel costs

Stay with Hilton, earn quadruple Qantas points

Hilton HHonors members travelling within Australia and the Asia Pacific region can collect quadruple Qantas frequent flyer points on their hotel stays at brands such as Hilton, Conrad, Waldorf Astoria and DoubleTree.

And if you journey further afield, you'll still pocket triple Qantas Points in countries such as the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Register now: Earn quadruple Qantas frequent flyer points with Hilton

Earn 1,000 Hilton HHonors points for changing your password

Change your Hilton HHonors password by March 25 and you’ll pocket an easy 1,000 HHonors points.

Simply log into your Hilton HHonors account, visit the ‘personal information’ tab, click ‘change password’ and follow the prompts.

While the utility appears to be down for maintenance this afternoon, we’d suggest giving it a whirl across the weekend before you forget.

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Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

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