The Value of Overseas Frequent Flyer Programs

Many Australians are familiar with the frequent flyer programs of Qantas and Virgin Australia. But there are other airline loyalty programs out there that offer considerably better value.

Qantas Frequent Flyer and Virgin’s Velocity program are by far the most widely used by Australians. This makes sense, as it’s much easier to earn points within Australia with these programs. If you usually fly either Qantas or Virgin, using the airline’s own program also gives you access to certain benefits such as the ability to upgrade using points.

If your main goal is to earn status, it’s generally best to stick with the frequent flyer program of the airline you fly with most. But if you would like to travel in premium cabins cheaply, overseas programs can be an enormous help. There are many overseas airlines that partner with Qantas and Virgin, meaning you can still earn points and use the benefits of your status for domestic flights. But the key is that many of these programs also sell their own miles – often at generous discounts. You can then take advantage of these programs’ competitive redemption rates and low fuel surcharges when redeeming the miles. Points can also be transferred from some Australian credit cards via the SPG program.

Another good feature of US (and other) ff programs is that you can occasionally buy ‘miles’ quite economically, and never have to actually fly the airline (or at least pay for a revenue seat).

Programs that sell miles include American Airlines AAdvantage, United Mileage Plus and Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. American Airlines and United miles can be redeemed to fly on any oneworld or Star Alliance airline, respectively. Alaska Airlines is not in an alliance, but miles can be redeemed to fly on an extensive range of partners including Qantas, Emirates and Cathay Pacific.

Check out AS (Alaska Airlines) can buy as many miles as you like, often have promo’s on 30/50% extra miles for free, have alliances with numerous mainly OneWorld airlines, I have used them a lot. Done CNS to HKG return few times in J was around $1800 for the 60K miles about 1/3 price normally changed by CX.

It’s also worth keeping an eye out for the Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles programs. Points earned through many Australian credit cards can be transferred to these programs, and most redemptions require significantly fewer miles than an equivalent flight booked through Qantas or Velocity. For example, a Business class award ticket to Europe would cost over 30% fewer miles if booked through KrisFlyer or Asia Miles, compared to using Qantas points.

It can take some time to get your head around the complexities of each of the different frequent flyer programs out there. But with so much value to be gained outside of our two local loyalty schemes, it’s worth the time and effort.

Since I discovered this forum I have points across a large number of programs, indeed I have most points in non-Australian programs as I think the value they provide is better. The main reason I still have QF/Velocity points is that FF signup deals are just so prevalent and you can’t always credit to the overseas, but where I can I certainly try and maximise the points which go there rather than Qantas.

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]