Your points and miles guide to Melbourne, Australia
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With Australia reopening, travel Down Under is a real possibility again. If you've been itching to see the other side of the world — literally — you've finally got your chance after nearly two years of the Australian border being closed to international tourists.
And while Sydney may be the first place that comes to mind when you think of cities to visit in Australia, Melbourne has plenty to offer, too. In fact, it's a great place to start your Australian adventure. This capital of Victoria pulses with a dazzling array of culture, funky shops, innovative cuisine and vibrant nightlife — with something going on all 24 hours of the day, in one neighborhood or another, to suit the needs of jet-lagged travelers.
Here’s how to get to, stay in and get around Melbourne for less by using points and miles.
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Melbourne Airport (MEL) is the second-busiest in the country, handling more than 27 million passengers annually (pre-pandemic).
But despite all this activity, nonstop flights from the U.S. are rare and long: It's a 15 1/2-hour journey from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO) or an 11-hour ride from Honolulu's Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL). You’ll have to connect through these cities if you want connections within the States — and booking a nonstop flight from Honolulu with miles isn’t easy. Otherwise, various connections are available, with Asia being the most common layover point.
Booking flights with United
United’s nonstop flights from the West Coast are convenient but not necessarily cheap. Economy awards are affordable, at least at the moment, with most flights clocking in at 32,000 United MileagePlus miles each way. Round-trip taxes are a reasonable $100.
However, if you want to stretch out, prepare to pay. Premium economy and business awards are rarely priced at the low level and most dates will cost 170,000 miles one-way in premium economy or 200,000 in business — ouch! That said, business-class awards can be booked for as few as 80,000 United miles one-way or 160,000 round-trip if there's saver space available, but it's hard to come by.
Likewise, if there’s saver-level space available, you could be better off booking through ANA Mileage Club. This program charges 75,000 miles round-trip in economy and 120,000 miles in business class. You can also combine United flights with other Star Alliance carriers and pay the same number of miles.
You can transfer points to United from Chase Ultimate Rewards if you carry the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card and to ANA from American Express Membership Rewards.
Related: Everything you need to know about United Polaris business class
Booking Qantas flights to Melbourne
Though American Airlines has historically operated a nonstop flight to Sydney, all Oneworld routes directly to Melbourne are operated by Qantas.
Award availability in economy has always been decent (and right now, it's excellent) with premium seats tough to come by regardless of how you book. I was lucky enough to score first-class seats from Los Angeles to Melbourne back in 2019; while it was undeniably comfortable, it's not so amazing that it would be worth postponing or canceling a trip if you can't find award seats.
Even if flying Qantas, booking through the Qantas Frequent Flyer program itself is an expensive way to do it. That's because the program is distance-based and from the U.S. to Australia is a long flight. Instead, awards can be booked for 40,000 AAdvantage miles one-way in economy. Prices for business (80,000) and first (110,000) are reasonable, assuming you can find award space.
The exact same flights can be booked with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles, with tickets available for 42,500 miles for economy, 47,500 for premium economy, 55,000 for business class and 70,000 for first class. These are particularly excellent rates for premium Qantas seats and a great use of Alaska miles.
Coming in from Hawaii? Jetstar has a nonstop flight from Honolulu that you can book with Qantas points — an Amex, Capital One, Citi and Marriott transfer partner. Starting at 28,000 Qantas points each way in economy, it's a fair price, assuming you have a good way to get to Honolulu.
Once you arrive, keep in mind that Melbourne (also known as Tullamarine) Airport is a fair distance from the city center. Your options are to spend a lot on a taxi or Uber ride into town, or to make things easy by hopping on the SkyBus for $19.75 Australian dollars (about $15) each way with free Wi-Fi to boot. If you rent a car, remember they drive on the left.
Related: Australia is reopening: How to book a trip to Sydney with points and miles
Where to stay
In Melbourne, you'll find hotels with every major hotel group, making it straightforward to use points in the city. But before you do, check the cash rates: Particularly on off-peak dates, you might find it better to pay for your stay and earn points on your reservation.
Redeeming World of Hyatt points in Melbourne
Within the city center, you'll find three Hyatt hotels (with a few more in commuting distance). Brilliantly, none of them are terribly priced, with the Grand Hyatt and Hyatt Centric both Category 4 properties and therefore eligible for any free night certificates you have on hand.
The five-star Park Hyatt Melbourne is only a Category 5 property and most nights are priced at 20,000 World of Hyatt points on standard dates. This is a great opportunity to try out the Park Hyatt brand and also enjoy its central location overlooking St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Fitzroy Gardens.
Redeeming IHG points in Melbourne
On my own trip to Australia, I stayed at the InterContinental Melbourne. It's a cool property that brings together two old buildings (when you go inside, check out what used to be a cobbled lane in the 1890s) and rates are often under 40,000 IHG Rewards points per night. When they are, you can use your free night certificate from an IHG credit card without having to top off using extra points. One downside to this hotel: Since it's in the business district, it can feel a little deserted on weekends.
If you don't need luxury, you'll find three other IHG hotels in Melbourne, plus two more opening soon. The new Voco opening in April at Melbourne Central promises to be "reliably different" — if you love the extra character you find in non-chain hotels, this is a great way to blend the best of both worlds. Or, try one of IHG's value-centered brands to save a few more points each night and stay longer.
Remember, if you hold the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card and redeem points for your stay, the fourth reward night is free.
Redeeming Marriott Bonvoy points in Melbourne
Maybe you’re looking to redeem Marriott Bonvoy points. No problem.
There are a handful of hotels in Melbourne, with central options ranging from Category 4 to 6 until Marriott gets rid of award charts next month. More importantly, the properties score highly in guest satisfaction.
One of the best options is The Westin Melbourne. This property is located right in the center of the city, giving you easy access to entertainment and dining options. Plus, you can book it for just 40,000 Marriott points per night at the time of writing. Paid rates generally hover around $300 to $350, so you're getting a solid redemption value too.
You can also book the W Melbourne, which is one of Marriott's newest additions to the Australian market. It opened its doors in 2021 and boasts a central location, posh lobby bar and sleek rooms. You can book a night for 60,000 points at the time of writing, though you should check paid rates as the hotel can be often booked for under $300 per night.
Marriott has done a great job of adding properties in the most popular parts of town; there's enough choice in both brands and locations that everyone should find something they like. Based on several sample searches, The Westin Melbourne tended to provide the highest value for your points: A Category 5 hotel, even on peak nights, costs 40,000 points and could save you about AU$400. Of course, this pricing might change when award charts are removed.
You'll save even more by staying longer: When you redeem points for five consecutive nights, you'll receive a complimentary night.
Redeeming Hilton Honors points in Melbourne
Hilton has just two properties within Melbourne city but you'll likely be pleased with both. Points rates vary, since Hilton Honors uses dynamic pricing, but since cash rates aren't sky-high, points stays aren't either.
The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Melbourne — Flinders Street is unsurprisingly on Flinders Street, the closest street to the Yarra River. The hotel features one of the most striking lobbies you’re likely to see in a DoubleTree and can nearly always be booked for 50,000 points per night or less — sometimes half that!
Nearby, you’ll find the Hilton Melbourne Little Queen Street, which is within walking distance of several major tourist attractions. Rates hover around 55,000 Hilton Honors points per night.
Related: 10 new hotels in Australia you can visit now that the country is reopening to tourists
Beyond the free tram zone in the city center, trains and buses go all over and use a Myki card for payment — buy and fill it with value using your Chase Sapphire Reserve Card to get 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar for the travel purchase. Uber is also available if you’re in a hurry.
You probably won’t need a car if you’re staying in the city, but I urge you to rent one and drive along one of the most spectacular roads on earth.
The Great Ocean Road hugs the coast and in about four hours, brings you to 12 Apostles, a stunning rock formation amid the limestone cliffs. If you’re opposed to driving on the left side of the road, visit the Great Ocean Road as part of a daytrip from Melbourne — Viator and other local tour companies offer great half- or full-day options so you can sit back, relax and enjoy the view.
For animal lovers, it’s only an hour from the city to Moonlit Sanctuary, where you can feed a kangaroo and hug a koala. One hour more and you’re on the beaches of Phillip Island, where people sit on the bleachers at dusk to watch the Penguin Parade, where dozens of penguins emerge from the ocean and waddle toward their homes along the shoreline. A closer alternative to seeing the penguins in Melbourne is in St. Kilda, easily reachable by public transportation.
These side trips can make for long days. Alternatively, spend the night and book an independent hotel through your card's travel portal, such as Capital One Travel.
Related: Second Cities: Destinations to add onto a trip to Melbourne
With so much to offer, it’s easy to see why Melbourne is consistently rated the world’s most livable city. It also happens to be one of the world’s most visitable. That’s why I say go to Sydney to look at Australia; go to Melbourne to experience it. Make sure you use points and miles along the way — you can save hundreds of dollars in the process, and upgrade your experience.