An introduction to the Cathay Pacific Asia Miles program and which credit cards earn Asia Miles

GUIDE: Program Guide
DIFFICULTY: Intermediate
TIME TO READ: 4 minutes
POSTED: January 19, 2017
UPDATED: April 23, 2017
LOYALTY PROGRAMS: Cathay Pacific Asia Miles

Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles program is a useful frequent flyer program for Australian travellers. With Cathay Pacific a member of oneworld, Asia Miles partners with Qantas for points earn and redemption, and Asia Miles is a transfer partner of several bank rewards programs in Australia.

It’s harder to earn Asia Miles from day-to-day activities outside of credit card spend in Australia, but Asia Miles redemption rates are cheaper than Qantas Frequent Flyer, and as such it deserves your attention.

Read the full list of Point Hacks Asia Miles guides here →

How useful is Asia Miles for travellers from Australia?

The Asia Miles program from Cathay Pacific is actually potentially far better value for redemptions, point-for-point, than Qantas and, as a result, it’s in the top four frequent flyer programs Australian travellers need to be aware of.

While it’s harder to accrue Asia Miles from a wide range of sources in Australia, earning points from credit card spend is very doable with a number of card programs offering transfers to Asia Miles.

Redemptions are sufficiently cheaper that it’s worth considering the scheme seriously when it comes to redeeming for Business and First Class travel on Cathay Pacific and oneworld airlines.

What’s also worth thinking through is whether Asia Miles can be thought of as a usable substitute for Qantas Frequent Flyer redemptions for those who don’t want to participate in Qantas Frequent Flyer, say if you prefer to hold your points in Amex Membership Rewards or Westpac Altitude, allowing for more flexibility in their future use.

What’s the difference between Asia Miles and the Marco Polo Club?

It’s actually quite easy: Asia Miles is Cathay Pacific’s points currency, whilst elite status is earned through Marco Polo Club. Most other loyalty programs, like Qantas Frequent Flyer and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, have them together, but Asia Miles separates them.

Through Asia Miles, you earn and redeem points to use on flights with Cathay Pacific and all of its airline partners, whether part of the oneworld alliance or not. However, you’ll only earn ‘club points’ (the same as ‘status credits’ with Qantas) through Marco Polo for travel with oneworld airlines.

Status with Marco Polo will give you benefits like lounge access, upgrades, priority boarding, etc. when travelling on Cathay Pacific and oneworld airlines.

In terms of membership, Asia Miles is free to join for anyone aged two years or older and your miles expire after three years. Conversely, Marco Polo Club charges $100 USD/year to join, but that’s waived if you earn 100 club points each year.

This video from Cathay explains the differences in a little more detail:

Earning Asia Miles

Through credit card spend

The most available method to earn Asia Miles is from credit card spend, followed by flights from oneworld partners.

There are a few different ways to earn miles into the Asia Miles program from credit card spend in Australia. While there’s no dedicated Asia Miles card in Australia, there are a few schemes with Asia Miles as a transfer partner:

American Express Platinum Edge - No annual fee on the first year

American Express are offering 5,000 bonus Membership Rewards points and no annual fee on the first year with the Platinum Edge. This includes $200 travel credit each year, 3 points per $ at supermarkets, and 2 points per $ on fuel.

  • 5,000 Membership Rewards point bonus
  • $200 travel credit each year which can be used for flight, hotel or rental car bookings with Amex Travel
  • Travel and purchase protection insurances (PDS)
  • 3 Membership Rewards points earned per $ spent at supermarkets, 2 points earned per $ on fuel, and 1 point per $ everywhere else except for utilities and the ATO
  • 0% p.a. on balance transfers for the first 12 months, with a 1% establishment fee - maximum balance transfer is $10,000 or 70% of your approved credit limit, whichever is less
  • Annual fee: Free on the first year (usually $195 p.a.)
  • Card Members who currently hold or who have previously held any Card product issued by American Express Australia Limited in the preceding 18 month period are ineligible for this offer. Previous and existing bank-issued American Express companion cardholders are eligible for this offer.
  • $750 minimum spend in 3 months required to earn bonus points

Find out more or apply →

Point Hacks earn a maximum of $180 per applicant for this card. More about this →

Citi Prestige Visa - 70,000 Citi Rewards points (35,000 KrisFlyer / Velocity points if transferred)

70,000 Citi Rewards Points are on offer with the Citi Prestige Visa when signing up and linking to Citi Rewards. Note that points earn rates are changing on this card on June 15 though - read more about this.

  • 70,000 Citi Rewards points after first eligible transaction
  • Ability to transfer points to Velocity, Krisflyer, Asia Miles or other international frequent flyer programs
  • Priority Pass lounge access, Visa Luxury Hotels service, and other premium benefits
  • 2 Citi Rewards points earned per $1 or 1 Qantas point per $1 on eligible Domestic Spend, 5 Citi Rewards points per $ earned on eligible International Spend until June 15, changes after
  • 0% interest p.a. on balance transfers for 6 months
  • $700 annual fee
  • $150,000 p.a. minimum income requirement
  • Offer expires: April 30th 2017

Find out more or apply →

Point Hacks earn a maximum of $280 per applicant for this card. More about this →

American Express Platinum Charge - 100,000 Membership Rewards points

With a 100,000 Membership Rewards points bonus available on sign up, the American Express Platinum Charge is a great card for those who want to earn Membership Rewards points on everyday spend with lots of additional benefits. Read the Point Hacks guide for the full rundown.

  • 100,000 Membership Rewards points signup bonus
  • $300 travel credit annually
  • Unlimited access to certain airline lounges - including Virgin Australia Domestic, Delta and American Express lounges globally
  • Access to American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts perks & discounts
  • 3 Membership Rewards points earned per $ spent at restaurants, 2 points earned per $ on travels, and 1 point per $ everywhere else except for utilities and the ATO
  • $1200 p.a. annual fee
  • Offer ends: 1st May 2017
  • Card Members who currently hold or who have previously held any Card product issued by American Express Australia Limited in the preceding 18 month period are ineligible for this offer. Previous and existing bank-issued American Express companion cardholders are eligible for this offer.
  • Bonus points require $1,500 minimum spend in first 3 months
  • Charge card, not credit card - balance requires payment in full each month but with no pre-set spending limit - more about this

Find out more or apply →

Point Hacks earn a maximum of $330 per applicant for this card. More about this →

Westpac Altitude Business Platinum American Express & Visa

Westpac's Altitude Business Platinum card is one of the few cards that can transfer points to Qantas Frequent Flyer (as well as others) on demand with an effective earn rate of 1.5 points per $, and no annual fee in the first year.

  • No annual fee in first year
  • 3 Altitude Points for every $1 spent on the American Express (=1.5 Qantas Points, Velocity points, Krisflyer, Enrich or Asia Miles)
  • 1 Altitude point per $ on the Visa domestically, 2 points per $ on overseas transactions and 0.5 points per $ on government spend
  • No points capping
  • 0% p.a. interest for 12 months on purchases
  • Business and travel insurances
  • $295 annual fee ongoing
  • 0% interest p.a. on purchases for first 12 months
  • Offer ends: 30th April 2017
  • Applicants must have ABN or ACN

Find out more or apply →

Point Hacks earns a range of commissions per applicant for this card. More on my featured credit card policy →

Through flying

Earning points from flights, including from Qantas flights, is as simple as including your Asia Miles number in your reservation.

Redeeming Asia Miles

Asia Miles don’t charge any more for flying with a oneworld partner airline versus Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon, unlike Qantas which has an increased points price for flying with certain partners. Flying with Cathay Pacific from Sydney or Melbourne to Hong Kong in Business Class for example, would be 65,000 points, vs 60,000 with Qantas.

Asia Miles also then charge less, outright, for making a redemption on this particular route – 45,000 Asia Miles would be required for a one way. And then adding to Asia Miles favour, a return ticket is less than twice the one way cost, and would be 80,000 Asia Miles.

The full award chart is here.

Maximising value from Asia Miles redemptions

Here are examples of some common redemption opportunities from Australia:

  • Any Australian city to Hong Kong operated by Cathay Pacific: 80,000/54,000 points return in Business/Premium Economy
  • Sydney to Tokyo on Qantas or Japan Airlines: 80,000/54,000 points return in Business/Premium Economy
  • Sydney or Brisbane to Los Angeles on Qantas: 120,000/72,000 points return in Business/Premium Economy

Some more examples are taken from the analysis of Membership Rewards options for using points on oneworld airlines:

  Asia Miles(MR 1:1)AA Miles (via SPG @ 0.5:1)Qantas FF
one wayreturnone way (AA Miles)one way
Cathay PacificFirst Class
Hong KongTaipei25,00040,00055,000 (32,500)26,000
Hong KongTokyo40,00070,00070,000 (40,000)56,000
Hong KongBangkok30,00055,00055,000 (32,500)38,000
Hong KongNew York130,000220,000115,000 (67,500)144,000
QantasFirst Class
SydneyLos Angeles105,000180,000120,000 (72,500)144,000
MelbourneSingapore70,000120,00080,000 (45,000)90,000
British AirwaysFirst Class
LondonNew York70,000120,000105,000 (62,500)78,000
LondonTokyo105,000180,000120,000 (70,000)126,000
LondonSydney160,000260,000130,000 (80,000)192,000
Cathay PacificBusiness Class
SydneyNew York110,000*175,000*100,000 (60,000)
QantasBusiness Class
SydneyLos Angeles70,000120,000105,000 (62,500)96,000
MelbourneSingapore45,00080,00060,000 (35,000)60,000
SydneyNew York85,000*145,000*105,000 (62,500)
SydneyLondon110,000175,000100,000 (60,000)128,000
Qantas 'Domestic'Business Class
SydneyPerth30,00050,00035,000 (17,500)36,000
MelbourneAuckland30,00050,00035,000 (17,500)36,000
PerthAuckland (via SYD)45,00080,00035,000 (17,500)50,000

You might also be interested in checking out our guide to the best uses of 100,000 Asia Miles.

Things to be aware of when redeeming

The current gotchas are:

  • It is not simple or quick to book partner awards outside of British Airways or Qantas, needing a phone call
  • Cathay Pacific have explicitly flagged that they are looking at the value proposition of Asia Miles and will rejig earn and redemption rates in the future

For now, Asia Miles transfers from credit card programs should only be made for immediate travel plans.

Summing up: why consider Asia Miles?

Asia Miles has been around for a while and has historically been a fairly stable program, however, this is likely to change in the near future. The extent to which redemptions will be affected is uncertain though.

There is at least a limited time opportunity to use credit card program points or airline travel for good redemption rates on Cathay Pacific and oneworld partners, so it’s worth being aware of the opportunities Asia Miles offer and keeping your eye out for future changes.