In part one, I outlined how a series of recent changes that American Express have made to Membership Rewards have significantly increased the value of Membership Rewards points, and why MR is now my primary way of earning points from Credit Card spend.

That post focused on a comparison of oneworld carrier redemptions as a starting point. In this I’ll look at some example Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand, Virgin Australia and Virgin Atlantic redemptions.

UPDATEI’ve also outlined another one of the best uses of Membership Rewards points, Malaysia Airlines Enrich redemptions, which I didn’t touch on in this post.

Here’s a reminder of the recent developments that have changed the landscape for points earning –

  • The change in transfer rate for Asia Miles to 1 Membership Reward = 1 Asia Mile
  • The change in transfer rate for Starwood Preferred Guest to 1 Membership Reward point = 0.5 SPG points
  • The addition of Etihad to Membership Rewards at a 1:1 transfer rate
  • Singapore Airlines opening up KrisFlyer award space at the lowest saver level on 777 and A380 operated routes

These are the assumptions I’m making in the comparison below –

  • Spend on an American Express Membership Reward credit card is your primary way of earning points
  • You want to redeem your points for travel in Business or First Class cabins, for medium to long haul routes
  • You’re not looking to capitalise on Qantas Any Seat Awards, where you can earn status credits to prop up your hunt for Qantas elite status
  • The ability to earn a larger Membership Rewards balance, than if you used a Visa or Mastercard only. I personally believe this is possible – points not accrued from Merchants that don’t accept Amex is offset by some higher earn rates on cards like the Platinum Edge, and seasonal bonuses at other merchants. With a bit of thought and consideration of where you direct your card spend, it should be possible to earn more MR points than that through a direct earn Qantas, Virgin or KrisFlyer card – at least in my opinion.

Given that, here’s the comparison between Velocity, KrisFlyer, Etihad Guest and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.

Note that I haven’t factored in the 15% discount given to online redemptions for KrisFlyer.

VelocityEtihadKrisFlyerVA Flying ClubQantas FF
Singapore AirlinesFirst Classone wayone wayone wayone wayone way
SydneyNew York400,000-137,500-192,000
SingaporeHong Kong75,000-37,500-56,000
Singapore AirlinesBusiness Class
SingaporeHong Kong60,000-27,500-38,000
SydneyNew York300,000-107,500-128,000
EtihadFirst Class
SydneyNew York187,500232,599--192,000
EtihadBusiness Class
SydneyNew York125,000185,217--128,000
Virgin AustraliaBusiness Class
SydneyAbu Dhabi94,000140,000100,000--
SydneyLos Angeles94,000140,000120,000-96,000
Air New ZealandBusiness Class
SydneyLos Angeles, via AKL140,000210,000125,000-
Virgin AtlanticUpper Class
SydneyHong Kong57,800-40,00060,000
SydneyLondon125,000-95,000 (on SQ)100,000128,000

Once again, one program consistently comes out on top of this set, and this time it’s KrisFlyer for most redemptions. For each comparison, KrisFlyer redemptions at the saver level are significantly cheaper than through Qantas – although of course are on different airlines with different levels of service.

This isn’t anything new – KrisFlyer’s chart has long been competitive, and the transfer rate from Membership Rewards to KrisFlyer has not changed recently. But what did change was the opening up of more ‘saver’ award availability through KrisFlyer on Singapore Airlines A380 and 777 routes back in February.

It’s also worth remembering –

  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is very competitive – for each of the routes I compared, and including their partners, Flying Club has excellent value – but of course Virgin Atlantic has limited routes and partners to play with.
  • Velocity redemptions are best value on their home turf – on Virgin Australia – but are also good for Etihad, with cheaper costs on the routes I sampled than Etihad Guest redemptions
  • Etihad redemptions are rarely great value, but could be used at a pinch if no other award availability is showing in other programs.
  • The KrisFlyer redemptions above are, most likely, going to be 15% cheaper in real life once you factor in the online redemption discount
  • And, as an aside, it’s also possible to transfer Flying Club miles out of the program to Hilton HHonors – at 1:2 this is actually a better rate than you receive through transferring from Membership Rewards directly

Where does this leave us? Again, showing that Membership Rewards is now great value. You get options to transfer to any of these programs, meaning you can accrue points and work out where you want to redeem later. Banking them into Qantas Frequent Flyer is possibly the worst thing you can do, unless you already have a decent Qantas balance you’re trying to improve on.

It also leaves me wanting to make a comparison of AsiaMiles vs KrisFlyer redemptions – coming up in the next (and last) post in the series.


How American Express have leapfrogged the competition – Part 2, Star Alliance, Etihad & Virgin Australia/Atlantic redemptions was last modified: February 9th, 2023 by Keith