Complete Guide to Maximizing the Qantas Frequent Flyer Program
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Due to the vast distances of the Australian Outback and continent’s remote location, Qantas has a rich aviation heritage stretching back nearly 100 years. Qantas is part of the Oneworld Alliance, and it’s simply-named Frequent Flyer program offers award travelers some interesting opportunities, even if you have no plans to visit Australia. And more recently, Qantas made some changes that have reduced fees and expanded award availability while (predictably) increasing the miles needed for many awards.
The Qantas Frequent Flyer program is also interesting because you can now transfer your American Express Membership Rewards points to it — along with Capital One Miles, Citi ThankYou Points and Marriott Bonvoy points. In today’s post, I’ll present a comprehensive view of this program, with an eye on opportunities for Americans to acquire and redeem Qantas points, whether or not they have the chance to visit the Land Down Under.
In June, Qantas announced changes to its Frequent Flyer program, both positive and negative. On the positive side, it’s planing on lowering the price of economy class redemption by as much as 10%, and it claimed that it will increase the number of award seats available on Qantas- and partner-operated flights, including up to 30% more premium cabin seats. This coincides with the addition of five new partners: Air New Zealand, China Airlines, Bangkok Airways, Air France and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines — although it’s still unclear how much awards will cost for these partners. Qantas also said that it will lower carrier-imposed fees, mostly on economy awards, and that users will be able to more easily search for awards.
But on the negative side, it’s increasing the price of premium cabin awards by as much as 15% and upgrade awards by up to 9%. These changes are effective as of September 18, 2019, so there’s still plenty of time to realize value from the current award chart.
Earning Qantas Miles from Credit Cards
One thing that won’t be changing is the ability to earn Qantas miles from nearly all of the major transferable rewards programs.
American Express Membership Rewards
American Express offers several cards that participate in the Membership Rewards program, including:
- American Express® Gold Card: Earn a welcome bonus of 35,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership. It has a $100 annual air travel fee credit and a $120 annual restaurant credit, which largely offset its $250 annual fee (see Rates and Fees).
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn a welcome bonus of 60,000 points after you use your new card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first three months. The card provides an array of perks, including Priority Pass Select membership, a $200 annual airline fee credit and access to Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts. This card has a $550 annual fee (see Rates & Fees).
- The Blue Business®️ Plus Credit Card from American Express: Earn 2x Membership Rewards points on all purchases up to $50,000 per year (then 1x points), a great return on a card with no annual fee (see Rates & Fees).
Capital One Miles
Capital One miles now transfer to many airline partners — including Qantas Frequent Flyer — at a 2:1.5 ratio (and other partners at a 2:1 ratio), meaning that two Capital One miles can be transferred to 1.5 Qantas Frequent Flyer miles.
If you’re looking to boost your Qantas Frequent Flyer balance, you have some solid options with Capital One:
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. This translates into 37,500 miles with Qantas Frequent Flyer or any of the program’s other 11 transfer partners with a 2:1.5 transfer ratio. You’ll earn 2x miles on most purchases but will take home 10x miles on hotel stays booked and paid for at Hotels.com/Venture (ends Jan. 31, 2020). There’s a $95 annual fee for this card that’s waived the first year.
There are also versions of the above cards with no annual fees that still allow transfers to partners: the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card and the Capital One Spark Miles Select for Business.
Citi ThankYou Rewards
Qantas is also a transfer partner of Citi ThankYou points at a 1:1 ratio. A great option for earning ThankYou points is the Citi Premier℠ Card, which is currently offering 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. You also earn 3x miles on all travel and gas purchases, 2x at restaurants and on entertainment, and one mile per dollar spent elsewhere. There’s a $95 annual fee for this card.
Marriott Rewards points can be converted into Qantas miles at a 3:1 ratio. You also get a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points you transfer. So if you were to move 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points to Qantas miles, then you’d receive 25,000 Qantas miles, giving you an effective transfer ratio of 2.4:1.
You can earn Marriott Bonvoy miles from the following cards:
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: Earn 75,000 bonus points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first three months. It has a $450 annual fee (see Rates & Fees)
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card : For a limited time, earn 100,000 Bonus Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
- Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card — For a limited time, earn 50,000 welcome points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.
Earning Qantas Miles from Flying
As with a handful of foreign carriers, Qantas has a distance-based award chart, but the miles you earn are still subject to the fare class you booked, making the results similar to revenue-based reward programs. Unrestricted tickets earn the most miles and highly discounted tickets earn the least. You can also credit flights from American Airlines and other Oneworld partners to the Qantas Frequent Flyer program.
In addition to its Oneworld partners, Qantas also has the following non-alliance partners that allow you to earn miles:
- Aer Lingus
- Air Niugini
- Air Vanuatu
- Alaska Airlines
- El Al
- Fiji Airways
The following carriers will be joining the program as earning partners on September 20, 2019:
- Air New Zealand
- China Airlines
- Bangkok Airways
- Air France
- KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
Qantas miles can be redeemed for award flights as far out as 353 days in advance, which is a bit farther than most airlines (about 330 days is the standard). Also, note that Qantas Frequent Flyer is one of the rare loyalty programs that only allows you to redeem miles for family members. Although it has a fairly generous definition of family, this could be a real problem for people traveling with a friend or significant other to whom they aren’t married or in a domestic partnership. But in my experience, your family relationships aren’t actually verified in any way.
Qantas offers different distance-based tables for redeeming their Classic Flight Rewards. The first and most favorable one covers award fights operated by the following carriers:
- Fiji Airways
- Air Vanuatu
- American Airlines
The second, slightly less favorable chart covers the following carriers:
- Aer Lingus
- Air Niugini
- Alaska Airlines
- British Airways
- Cathay Pacific Airways
- China Eastern
- El Al
- Japan Airlines
- Malaysia Airlines
- Qatar Airways
- Royal Jordanian
- S7 Airlines
- SriLankan Airlines
Finally, there’s a chart for Jetstar, Qantas’s low cost subsidiary, which has different mileage zones than Qantas flights.
The Best Uses for Qantas Miles Right Now
Qantas should be commended for offering its customers three months notice before changing its award charts, so we have plenty of opportunity to redeem miles at the current prices. Here are some of the best options between now and September 17, 2019.
1. Short flights on American Airlines to Mexico or the Caribbean
As with other distance-based award charts — like British Airways Avios — the best uses for Qantas miles are when you’re traveling a relatively short distance but crossing a traditional airline’s zones. For example, award flights to Mexico and the Caribbean can be relatively short, but American Airlines will still require 15,000 miles each way — since you’re flying from one region (US-48) to another (Mexico). In contrast, one-way flights under 600 miles in distance are only 8,000 Qantas miles in economy, and one-way flights that cover 601-1,200 miles in distance are just 12,000 Qantas miles. For example, you could fly from Miami (MIA) to Montego Bay, Jamaica (MBJ) for just 8,000 miles each way, or you could book a flight from Miami to San Juan (SJU) for 12,000 miles each way.
2. New York to London
Another way to extract value from distance-based award charts is to fly between two points that fall at the top end of the distance range without going over. For example, awards that are 2,401-3,600 miles in distance cost just 22,500 Qantas miles, and the distance between New York and London happens to fall at the high end of that range: 3,451 miles. This means that you could fly to London round-trip in economy class for just 45,000 miles. Business class is also reasonably priced at 100,000 miles (round-trip), a rate that is 15,000 miles fewer than American’s MileSAAver level. Just be sure to avoid ticketing awards on British Airways, which imposes massive fuel surcharges that Qantas passes along.
3. Flights on El Al
El Al’s own Matmid frequent flyer program is not very highly regarded, and the transfer ratio from the American Express Membership Rewards program makes this option a poor value. But if you’re looking for awards on Israel’s flag carrier, Qantas is your best option. For example, flights between New York-JFK or Newark (EWR) and Tel Aviv (TLV) are just under 5,800 miles long, meaning that you can book an economy class award for 42,000 miles each way, a premium economy award for 63,000 miles and a business-class award for 78,000 miles. From Los Angeles (LAX), you’re looking at spending 56,000 miles each way in economy and 104,000 in business. While these might not be super bargains, they are often your best options for these routes.
Better yet, you’ll find excellent award availability traveling between Tel Aviv and other cities outside of North America. For example, the flight from Tel Aviv to Johannesburg (JNB) is 4,000 miles, which equates to a mere 35,000 in economy and 65,000 in business class.
4. Short Hops Around Australia
Distance-based awards are great for traveling around Australia, and of course Qantas has you covered, starting with one-way flights under 600 miles that’ll cost you 8,000 miles each. And while the carrier’s distance-based chart isn’t as generous as British Airways Avios, it charges for the entire journey, not by the individual legs. So if you have to change planes, Qantas just adds up the total miles without making you redeem the equivalent of two awards like the British Airways program does.
5. Booking Qantas First Class
Qantas’s first class is renowned, but awards are extremely scarce. One reason is that most partners’ frequent flyer programs — like American Airlines AAdvantage or Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan — only let you book Qantas award flights 331 days out. However, Qantas opens award seats to its own members 353 days in advance, giving you a valuable 24-day head start. No, these awards aren’t cheap (144,000 miles between LAX and Sydney, each way), but sometimes you have to splurge.
6. Flights to Fiji
Fiji Airways is a Qantas partner that’s included in the program’s more generous award chart. Flights from LAX to Nadi (NAN) are just 5,519 miles in distance, which falls just within the award zone for 35,000 miles each way in economy and 72,000 miles in business. You should even be able to add on a short inter-island flight for the same price.
7. US East Coast to Dubai on Emirates
Emirates flights from several East Coast destinations are within 7,000 miles in distance and are just 40,000 each way in economy and 84,000 each way in business.
8. Round-the-world awards on OneWorld carriers
Qantas is one of a dwindling number of carriers that still offer Round-the-World awards, which is essentially Zone 10 of the OneWorld Classic Flight Rewards table. You can take flights that cover up to 35,000 miles in distance for 140,000 points in economy and 280,000 in business class.
The Qantas Frequent Flyer program hasn’t been the most valuable out there, and the upcoming changes to its award chart will further that reputation. Nevertheless, there are some decent options for redeeming Qantas miles, and since the program is a transfer partner of Citi, Amex and Capital One, you may have a lot of these miles at your disposal for your next award trip.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Business Plus, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Bonvoy Brilliant, please click here.
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