American Express adds Avios and HawaiianMiles, devalues KrisFlyer and Skywards
Sweeping changes are afoot for Membership Rewards.
What we'll be covering
Membership Rewards (MR) points just became more useful as American Express adds Qatar Airways and Hawaiian Airlines as transfer partners in Australia and New Zealand. Slated to start ‘in the coming months’, the new partnership will make it even easier to use your MR points to travel around the globe.
But there’s also an incoming devaluation to KrisFlyer and Skywards transfers, with the rate set to change in October 2023. Here are all the changes that are coming.
New transfer partners start from August
American Express will add Qatar Airways to the Membership Rewards program in August 2023. Looking to jet to Honolulu and beyond with HawaiianMiles? Hawaiian Airlines will join the program in October 2023. Here are the transfer rates from Membership Rewards to both programs:
- Qatar Airways: 2 MR to 1 Avios in Australia | 3 MR to 1 Avios in NZ
- Hawaiian Airlines: 2 MR to 1 Hawaiian mile in both Australia and NZ
Of particular interest to Point Hacks readers will be the ability to convert MR points to Qatar Airways Privilege Club Avios, opening up a huge new world of redemption opportunities. From Privilege Club, you can transfer Avios 1:1 to British Airways Executive Club and Iberia Plus, which both have very interesting sweet spots.
For example, you only need 90,000 Avios to fly Qatar Airways Business Class between Australia and Europe – including on the famed Qsuite. With Velocity Points, you’d need up to 139,000 points one-way and with Qantas, 159,000 points.
Looking to fly Qantas domestic Business Class instead? Just 22,000 Avios in British Airways Executive Club will unlock a Business Class reward between Perth and Melbourne, compared to the usual 41,500 Qantas Points you’d need with Qantas Frequent Flyer. That’s almost half the points needed!
With Hawaiian Airlines, you’ll need 65,000 Hawaiian miles to fly in Business Class between Sydney and Honolulu, which we reviewed recently. That compares favourably to the usual 78,000 Velocity Points needed.
With both the Qatar Airways Privilege Club and HawaiianMiles programs, you can also pay double the Avios/miles needed for better seat availability. That might come in handy in a pinch.
KrisFlyer and Skywards become 3:1 in October
From 4 October 2023, you’ll need three Membership Rewards points to transfer to one KrisFlyer mile or Skywards mile. This represents an effective 33% devaluation from the current 2:1 rate and applies to both Australia and New Zealand.
There’s no change to the number of points you can earn from Amex cards. Membership Rewards points also will continue to have no expiry if your account is in good standing.
This is a disappointing change for sure, especially for Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer customers who currently enjoy a decent transfer rate. After the change, it may be worth converting points to Velocity Frequent Flyer, as you can book Singapore Airlines with Velocity Points.
In the future, if a 20% transfer bonus to Velocity returns, you would get more KrisFlyer miles by transferring to Velocity and then converting the points to KrisFlyer miles, rather than transferring to KrisFlyer direct.
- With 20% Velocity bonus: 90,000 MR points = 54,000 Velocity Points = 34,838 KrisFlyer miles
- Direct to KrisFlyer at 3 to 1: 90,000 MR points = 30,000 KrisFlyer miles
If you’re looking to stock up on KrisFlyer miles before the devaluation, take note that there is a 3-year hard expiry.
Overall, it’s good news across the board if you’re keen to swap your Membership Rewards points to Qatar Airways Privilege Club or Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles. The biggest win for points aficionados is the addition of the Avios ecosystem to Membership Rewards. But it’s also handy to have an easier (and cheaper way) to redeem miles to Hawaii.
Unfortunately, it also comes at the cost of a KrisFlyer and Skywards devaluation. The 3:1 rate to those programs is actually standard across other Australian bank rewards programs, so American Express will change from market-leader to simply matching the competition. Interestingly, the St.George Amplify program also recently announced a devaluation to KrisFlyer from 2:1 to 3:1.