Super guide! How to use points from non-Qantas credit cards for Qantas flights

It’s no secret to anyone who has been reading for a while that we think the American Express Platinum Edge card is one of the most useful credit cards around for collecting points, with its bonus point earn categories matching well to where a lot of household spend goes, and is one to consider for people starting to look into optimising their frequent flyer points.

Amex’s Membership Rewards program being a flexible rewards program offers a lot of transfer partners and gives you a lot of options with where to redeem your points.

One of the biggest objections, however, I hear from people is that you can’t transfer your points to Qantas Frequent Flyer, and that they prefer to fly on our national airline – but there are ways to use these points for Qantas flights.

This guide is long – so set aside 10 minutes to get through it – but not complex to understand. In short:

  • Qantas, as oneworld member, allows oneworld partner airline programs to redeem points for Qantas flights
  • Those partner frequent flyer programs have different points pricing to Qantas Frequent Flyer for the same flights
  • Most major banks have a transfer partnership with these frequent flyer programs, allowing you to redeem points outside of Qantas for Qantas Flights
  • In many cases, using partner airline points are cheaper on a point-per-point comparison basis than using Qantas Frequent Flyer.

Here’s how it all works.

Background – most Qantas-linked credit cards are ‘direct earn’

Several years ago, Qantas made a commercial decision to stop flexible rewards programs transferring points to Qantas Frequent Flyer (with a couple of notable exceptions of very high end cards such as the Westpac Altitude Business card and the eye-watering $1200 annual fee American Express Platinum Charge ).

This means that you either need to sign up for a card that directly earns Qantas points (where the points sweep to Qantas Frequent Flyer on a monthly basis with no choice to you), or a flexible program that excludes Qantas.

For many big bank issued cards they offer a choice of Qantas or flexible cards that are roughly equivalent, but this isn’t always the case for other card issuers (including the better Amex cards that earn into Membership Rewards).

Even though you can’t transfer these points to Qantas Points, you can still however redeem them for Qantas flights, and often at better value than using Qantas Frequent Flyer!

Redeeming for Qantas flights without Qantas Points

Qantas is a member of the oneworld alliance, meaning that (amongst other things) seats on Qantas flights can be redeemed by their alliance partners. Of most interest to Australian point collectors, Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles and Malaysian Airlines’ Enrich are transfer partners of Membership Rewards and Westpac’s Altitude. Asia Miles is an option for other Australian flexible programs such as ANZ Rewards.

By signing up to one of these programs and converting your points, you can then use this program to book a seat on your preferred Qantas flight.

Asia Miles and Enrich, like Qantas, both have distance-based award charts (meaning that the cost of a flight is based on which band of miles the redemption falls in. The bands of miles for Asia Miles and Enrich are roughly similar, but the cutoffs vary slightly so if your redemption is near a cutoff make sure you check the relevant award chart to see where your redemption falls:

Asia Miles award chart

Enrich award chart

Let’s have a closer look at some of the redemption possibilities:

One Way Qantas redemptions

Class:
Redemption Miles
Economy
Qantas Points
Economy
Asia Miles
Economy
Enrich Miles
Premium Economy
Qantas Points
Premium Economy
Asia Miles
Business
Qantas Points
Business
Asia Miles
Business
Enrich Miles
FIrst Class
Qantas Points
First Class
Asia Miles
First Class
Enrich Miles
0-6008,00010,0009,00012,00012,00016,00020,00021,00024,00025,00027,000
601-1,20012,00015,00015,00018,00018,00024,00025,00027,00036,00030,00033,000
1,201-2,40018,00020,00018,00027,00024,00036,00030,00033,00054,00040,00042,000
2,401-3,60022,50025,00027,00037,00030,00050,00045,00048,00075,00070,00066,000
3,601-4,80028,00025,00027,00045,00030,00060,00045,00048,00090,00070,00066,000
4,801-5,80035,00040,00036,00054,00048,00072,00070,00066,000108,000105,00096,000
5,801-7,00040,00040,00036,00063,00048,00084,00070,00066,000126,000105,00096,000
7,001-8,40045,00055,00048,00072,00066,00096,00085,00072,000144,000130,000102,000
8,401-9,60055,00055,00048,000840,00066,000112,0085,00072,000168,000130,000102,000
9,601-15,00060,00070,00060,00096,00084,000128,000110,00087,000192,000160,000132,000

On many flights (particularly the premium cabins that we love to redeem for) Enrich offers some good value for one-way redemptions compared to Qantas.

For longer flights, both Asia Miles and Enrich offer better value than redeeming through Qantas Frequent Flyer.

Note that the flight mileage bandings shown here are based on the Qantas award chart. As previously stated the other programs have slightly different cutoffs in their bands, but this gives a pretty good idea. Also, Enrich doesn’t offer Premium Economy redemptions, hence they are not shown here.

Return Qantas redemptions

Class:
Redemption Miles
Economy
Qantas Points
Economy
Asia Miles
Economy
Enrich Miles
Premium Economy
Qantas Points
Premium Economy
Asia Miles
Business
Qantas Points
Business
Asia Miles
Business
Enrich Miles
FIrst Class
Qantas Points
First Class
Asia Miles
First Class
Enrich Miles
0-60016,00015,00018,00024,00018,00032,00030,00042,00048,00040,00054,000
601-1,20024,00020,00030,00036,00024,00048,00040,00054,00072,00055,00066,000
1,201-2,40036,00030,00036,00054,00036,00072,00050,00066,000108,00070,00084,000
2,401-3,60045,00045,00054,00074,00054,000100,00080,00096,000150,000120,000132,000
3,601-4,80056,00045,00054,00090,00054,000120,00080,00096,000180,000120,000132,000
4,801-5,80070,00060,00072,000108,00072,000144,000120,000132,000216,000180,000192,000
5,801-7,00080,00060,00072,000126,00072,000168,000120,000132,000252,000180,000192,000
7,001-8,40090,00090,00096,000144,000108,000192,000145,000144,000288,000220,000204,000
8,401-9,600110,00090,00096,000168,000108,000224,000145,000144,000336,000220,000204,000
9,601-15,000120,000110,000120,000192,000132,000256,000170,000174,000384,000260,000264,000

The same notes as the one-way comparison apply here regarding the cutoffs being slightly different for the different programs and the lack of Premium Economy with Enrich.

Asia Miles’ program is particularly generous on return fares, with them being priced significantly less than two one-ways as most other programs are.

The best value redemption for any return ticket on Qantas flights is achieved using Asia Miles (so even if you could convert your points to Qantas for these redemptions, you’d be better off not!)

Some Examples

To show how this would work in practice, a couple of examples of costs:

For me to travel cross-country from Perth to the east coast and back to check out Qantas’ new business suites on the A330 would cost me 50,000 MR points (via Asia Miles), rather than 72,000 Qantas points earned on another card.

A weekend trip in economy from the east coast to New Zealand would cost me 30,000 MR points rather than 36,000 with Qantas.

To travel return business class from Sydney to Los Angeles on Qantas would cost you 145,000 MR points (again via Asia Miles) rather than 192,000 with Qantas.

And finally, to do Qantas’ flagship Kangaroo Route from Sydney to London and back in First class, would only cost you 260,000 MR points via Asia Miles, rather than a whopping 384,000 Qantas points from another card.

Transferring points and booking with Partner Airlines

To transfer your points to Enrich or Asia Miles:

  1. You’ll need to be a member of their programs, so make sure you’ve signed up.
  2. Once you have your membership number, you can transfer your points to Asia Miles or Enrich through the points area of Membership Rewards or your bank’s rewards program.
  3. When the miles are in your account, it’s time to book!

Asia Miles: you can book Qantas flights online through the Asia Miles web site.

Enrich: you will need to call the Enrich call centre to make partner airline bookings (13 26 27 in Australia). Factor the inconvenience of having to book over the phone rather than online in when deciding which airline to transfer to (although you can always search for availability through the Qantas or Asia Miles website to find the flights you want before you call).

Taxes and charges will be payable in the currency of the home country of the partner airline you’re booking through (Hong Kong or Malaysia), but should be equivalent to the Australian Dollar amount you’d be charged by Qantas for the same redemption.

Some things to be aware of

These numbers and considerations are for simple one-way or return flights using Qantas both ways. The Oneworld alliance lets you put together more complex itineraries mixing multiple carriers, but when you do that these numbers may or may not apply because the different programs put different rules in place.

For example, Asia Miles lets you use this award chart for a single Oneworld partner (i.e. Qantas) or a ticket with a flight on Cathay Pacific and one other Oneworld airline. Any different to that and you’ll be looking at a different chart with different pricing.

Also be aware that both Asia Miles and Enrich miles have an expiry date (as opposed to Qantas where points don’t expire as long as there is activity on the account in the past 18 months).

For this reason I wouldn’t stockpile miles in these programs but transfer the amount of points you need at the time you want to make a redemption.

Finally, Enrich are particularly bad when it comes to cancellations – you won’t get a refund of your miles. Ouch.

Another option for Domestic and Trans-Tasman flights

There is another option for using your Membership Rewards points for business class domestic and trans-Tasman flights that can be good value. This is a little bit more complicated than the above option because it involves moving points in a few different steps (so if you’re wanting to keep it simple, stick with the above options!)

Avios are the points currency of British Airways, and there’s a sweet spot in their award chart for short flights that suit many domestic Australian flights (especially up and down the east coast) – with business class flights less than 650 miles costing 9000 avios and 651-1151 miles costing 15,000.

American Airlines AAdvantage has a fixed cost of 20,000 miles for any domestic business class redemption, or 25,000 for Trans-Tasman. Being a fixed price, this is expensive for short hops but can be a great option for longer jaunts.

Neither of these programs are transfer partners of Membership Rewards in Australia, so it’s not a one-step transfer like the others.

First you’ll need to move your Membership Rewards points to the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) program, and from there you can transfer your SPG points to Avios or AAdvantage.

The calculation is a little bit more complex as well because it’s not a 1:1 transfer rate like the other programs. You convert your Membership Rewards points to SPG at a rate of 2 MR = 1 Starpoints; and when transferring from SPG to an airline program you get a bonus 5000 points for every 20,000 you transfer.

For example if you transferred 40,000 MR points this would become 20,000 SPG points which would then become 25,000 Avios once transferred.

There is a great guide to using purchased SPG Starpoints to book Qantas flights using Avios and AAdvantage which has all the details, so go and check it out if you have an interest in this option.

For comparison purposes, here’s some example routes and what the cost (in MR points) would be using the different programs:

Example Routes
(One-way)
Qantas points
Required
Asia MilesEnrichAvios via SPGAAdvantage via SPG*
Sydney - Melbourne
(438 Miles)
16,00020,00021,00018,00040,000
Melbourne - Adelaide
(399 miles)
16,00020,00021,00018,00040,000
Adelaide - Sydney
(724 miles)
24,00025,00027,00030,00040,000
Brisbane - Melbourne
(858 miles)
24,00025,00027,00030,00040,000
Sydney - Townsville
(1051 miles)
24,00025,00027,00030,00040,000
Melbourne - Cairns
(1438 miles)
36,00030,00033,00040,00040,000
Melbourne - Perth
(1680 miles)
36,00030,00033,00040,00040,000
Brisbane - Perth
(2244 miles)
36,00030,00033,00065,00040,000
Sydney - Auckland
(1343 miles)
36,00030,00033,00040,00040,000
Melbourne - Auckland
(1640 miles)
36,00030,00033,00040,00040,000
Perth - Auckland
(3319 miles)
55,00045,00048,000100,00040,000
  • Note that everything in the AAdvantage column in this table is 40,000 points. This is because domestic Australia requires 20,000 AA miles and Trans-tasman requires 25,000 – transferring 20,000 SPG points gives you an extra 5000 miles for a total of 25,000 – so for a domestic Australian redemption you will have 5000 left over.

And comparing return redemptions:

Example Routes
(Return)
Qantas Points RequiredAsia MilesEnrichAvios via SPGAAdvantage via SPG
Sydney - Melbourne
(438 miles)
32,00030,00042,00036,00070,000
Melbourne - Adelaide
(399 miles)
32,00030,00042,00036,00070,000
Adelaide - Sydney
(724 miles)
48,00040,00054,00050,00070,000
Brisbane - Melbourne
(858 miles)
48,00040,00054,00050,00070,000
Sydney - Townsville
(1051 miles)
48,00040,00054,00050,00070,000
Melbourne - Cairns
(1438 miles)
72,00050,00066,00070,00070,000
Melbourne - Perth
(1680 miles)
72,00050,00066,00070,00070,000
Brisbane - Perth
(2244 miles)
72,00050,00066,000120,00070,000
Sydney - Auckland
(1343 miles)
72,00050,00066,00070,00080,000
Melbourne - Auckland
(1640 miles)
72,00050,00066,00070,00080,000
Perth - Auckland
(3319 miles)
110,00080,00096,000200,00080,000

As you can see, there’s some cases where the extra effort involved in going via the SPG program can save you some points, namely very short redemptions by using Avios, or very long redemptions using AAdvantage.

Summing up!

Just because you can’t transfer points from your flexible points program to Qantas, doesn’t mean you can’t use them to fly with them if that’s what you want to do; and with the exception of the shortest one-way redemptions, the value for your points is better off by using partner airlines to book.

If Qantas flights are your target, this opens up the option of some of the better credit cards with flexible programs.