Your mid-February frequent flyer wrap

By Chris Chamberlin, February 12 2016

It’s been a busy fortnight in the world of frequent flyer programs with both Qantas and Virgin Australia gaining new points partners in Vodafone and Sendle, respectively, with Qantas also toying with the idea of frequent flyer upgrades on American Airlines flights.

Added to that, this February we look at how else points can be earned including a new Velocity tie-in with Westpac Altitude credit cards, changes for some Lumo Energy customers and whether the concept of buying hotel loyalty points for discounted hotel stays actually adds up.

We also put Qantas and Velocity Frequent Flyer head-to-head on points and taxes when it comes time to redeem your hard-earned bounty, zone-in on how to earn bonus points on new Qantas credit cards and whether the HSBC Qantas Platinum Visa still presents value post-devaluations.

Rounding things out for another week, we examine whether Le Club AccorHotels points are best-used on flights or hotel nights and show how a four-night stay with Shangri-La could churn out an impressive 24,000 Velocity points.

Airline earn and burn

Qantas vs VA: which is best for award seats?

It's easy enough to earn frequent flyer points with Qantas and Virgin Australia – but when it's time to trade those points in on a free flight, which airline comes out in front?

We've crunched the numbers for these frequent flyer 'reward' seats (set aside on each flight for a fixed number of points) based on the most popular routes flown by both airlines within Australia and overseas.

The winner? Continue reading and find out!

Read: Qantas vs Velocity: which is best for frequent flyer award seats

Qantas mulls points upgrades on AA

With Qantas cosying up to American Airlines through the duo’s latest joint venture partnership, one question on the minds of business travellers is whether they’ll be able to use their Qantas points to upgrade to business class or even first class on American Airlines flights between Sydney and Los Angeles.

Food for thought: use points for business class upgrades on American Airlines...
Food for thought: use points for business class upgrades on American Airlines...

Qantas Frequent Flyer members headed to the US can currently book a points-based upgrade only the Qantas-operated Airbus A380 or Boeing 747 flights.

But that could change, with Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce telling Australian Business Traveller at a joint Qantas/American Airlines briefing that he is “absolutely looking at that (upgrades on American Airlines flights)”.

Read the full interview: Qantas mulls points upgrades on AA

Earn Velocity points on parcels with Sendle

Virgin Australia Velocity members can now earn points on parcel and courier services with Sendle, Australia’s first door-to-door carbon neutral delivery service to rival the likes of Toll, StarTrack and TNT.

Until February 29 2016 you can collect three Velocity points per dollar spent with Sendle, reverting to one Velocity point per dollar thereafter.

For more information or to start earning Velocity points, head to the Sendle website.

Qantas, Vodafone ink frequent flyer partnership

A new hookup between Qantas and Vodafone offers another way to dial up your frequent flyer points balance.

Customers on selected Vodafone Red plans – which are being cannily dubbed 'Qantas Red' plans as part of a co-marketing campaign – can earn from 4,000 to 15,000 Qantas Points over the 24 months of their contract.

All of the Qantas Red plans include free roaming across New Zealand and also let travellers use their plan’s data, calls and text allowance in some 50 countries across Asia, Europe and the Americas for a flat $5 each day.

Read more: Dial P for Points with Qantas, Vodafone

Lumo Energy becomes Red Energy in NSW

NSW Velocity members accustomed to earning six Velocity points per dollar spent on their household electric bill will soon find their points supply cut off with the NSW arm of Lumo Energy bought out and soon to be replaced by Red Energy, which isn’t a Velocity partner.

What’s more, Red Energy doesn’t directly accept American Express payments which can attract more points per dollar spent – only Visa and MasterCard – but you can continue to use your AMEX by making your payments manually via the Australia Post PostBillPay portal.

Lumo Energy business customers in NSW aren’t affected by the takeover and will continue to remain with Lumo Energy (and earn Velocity points), as will all customers in all other states and territories where Lumo Energy operates.

Frequent flyer credit cards

Velocity points turn automatic with Westpac Altitude

Forget the days of manually converting your Westpac Altitude Rewards points into Velocity points: cardholders can now switch on ‘auto-redemption’ and have their credit card points earnings automatically shipped to Velocity every month.

Opt-in and you’ll also collect a 15% bonus on any automatic transfers made until March 31 2016 and can save 15% on your next (paid) Virgin Australia domestic flight for bookings made until the same date, provided your flights are locked in at least 20 days in advance.

Altitude members may instead do nothing and continue converting their points to Velocity manually when desired, with no change to the current conversion rate of 2 Altitude Points = 1 Velocity Point.

The five best Qantas frequent flyer credit card deals this February

As summer begins to cool off, there's no reason your frequent flyer points balance should do the same – if anything, it's a great chance to get rid of any melted plastic in your wallet and replace it with something more pristine.

Whether you're only interested in earning frequent flyer points or want other perks too like lounge access and travel insurance, you're bound to find an enticing deal on the cards with up to 100,000 Qantas frequent flyer points up for grabs from a single card application.

You'll also continue to earn frequent flyer points on monthly spends made with all of these cards, and as it happens, the cards below offer some of Australia's highest frequent flyer earning rates to boost your points balance even further.

Read: Top five Qantas credit card deals this February

Review: HSBC Qantas Platinum Visa credit card

HSBC's Qantas Platinum Visa credit card has undergone a significant transformation over the past year with many favourite perks including free airport lounge access and double points on foreign spend stripped away, but with the annual fee remaining unchanged.

Instead, new features have arrived with cards now Visa Paywave-enabled for quick and easy contactless payments in-store, and a refreshed online banking portal that's better-suited to smartphone browsing.

On top you'll also find new and continued special offers in HSBC's 'home&away' program – but is it still worth paying $199/year for a card that earns fewer points and has no lounge access? We put the HSBC Qantas Platinum Visa under the microscope to find out.

Read: HSBC Qantas Platinum Visa credit card review

Hotel loyalty points and programs

Is buying hotel points good value?

Buying airline miles to book low-cost business class and first class flights is an almost-secret trick of savvy travellers as the cost of those miles is significantly lower than buying a ticket on the same flight in the ‘usual’ way: but does that same principle also apply to hotel points?

Hilton HHonors, IHG Rewards Club and Starwood Preferred Guest frequently run deals where the overall cost of their points is either reduced significantly or remains the same but with a bonus on top, such as Hilton’s most recent deal which offered 80% more points for the same price.

We look at where buying points makes sense, and where it doesn’t.

Read: Is buying hotel points to 'save' on hotel stays good value?

Collect quadruple Velocity points at Shangri-La

Booking the Best Available Rate at participating Shangri-La, Kerry, Hotel Jen and Traders hotels can deliver up to quadruple Velocity points over the coming weeks.

You’ll earn double points on stays of two consecutive nights, triple points when staying for three consecutive nights and quadruple points for four nights or more until February 29 2016.

Ordinarily, Shangri-La guests can earn three Velocity points per dollar in Australia and 1,000 Velocity points per stay abroad, with the quadruple points offer promising an impressive 12 Velocity points per dollar spent in Australia, or 24,000 Velocity points on a four-night stay with a nightly room rate of $500.

Le Club AccorHotels points: flights or hotel nights?

Le Club AccorHotels members are spoiled for choice when it comes to using their Le Club points for rewards, with two of the best options being discounts on future hotel stays and converting those points into airline frequent flyer points with the likes of Qantas and Virgin Australia.

But which reward choice delivers the best overall value?

For starters, a modest balance of just 4,000 Le Club points is worth either €80 off your next hotel stay (or the equivalent in the hotel’s local currency), or could instead become 4,000 Qantas or Velocity frequent flyer points

Continue reading: Le Club AccorHotels: flights or nights?

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Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!


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