Star Alliance Rewards is a brand new way to earn points via credit card spending in Australia. In fact, by spending enough on the right plastic, you could even find yourself elevated to Star Alliance Silver or Star Alliance Gold. That’s your ticket to premium travel perks right around the world.
But what is Star Alliance Rewards, and how can you make it work for you? Read on!
How do I join Star Alliance Rewards?
It’s easy to sign up for Star Alliance Rewards. Just head to the alliance’s website and fill out the form.
You’ll need to provide your name and date of birth. To save any hassle later, be sure this matches your travel documents and your frequent flyer account(s). The website also asks for an email address, and for you to create a Star Alliance ID and password to log in.
That said, there’s currently only one way to earn Star Alliance Points – through eligible HSBC credit card spending in Australia. If you don’t have the HSBC Star Alliance Credit Card, there’s no reason to join just yet.
How do I earn points with Star Alliance Rewards?
Star Alliance Rewards is making its global debut in Australia. But being a brand new program, the opportunities to earn points are currently very limited in scope.
Unless you have the new HSBC Star Alliance Credit Card, there isn’t any other way to earn Star Alliance Points for the time being. If you do add that card to your wallet though, here’s what you can collect:
- One Star Alliance Point per AU$1 spent on eligible purchases, up to $3,000 per monthly statement period.
- 0.5 Star Alliance Points per AU$1 spent on eligible purchases beyond $3,000 per monthly statement period.
For example, spending $6,000 per statement period nets a reward of 4,500 Star Alliance Points. That’s 3,000 points for the first $3,000 of monthly spending, and 1,500 points for the next $3,000 of spend. There’s no overall cap on the points you can earn each month or year, aside from the earning rate being halved on monthly spends beyond AU$3,000.
As is standard in Australia, some transactions aren’t considered ‘eligible purchases’ for the purposes of earning points. With HSBC, ineligible charges include ‘interest free and other promotions, balance transfers, cash transfers, business expenses, cash advances, fees and charges, BPAY, any disputed transactions and government fees and charges.’
Over time, Star Alliance plans to launch more co-branded credit cards around the world, attached to Star Alliance Rewards. The rate at which points are earned is likely to vary between countries and card products.
How do I use Star Alliance Points?
There’s only one way to redeem Star Alliance Points: converting them into airline frequent flyer points.
To put it simply, think of Star Alliance Rewards just like a credit card points program. But rather than compiling a collection of competing airlines, it’s a program that only has Star Alliance airlines as transfer partners.
At launch, seven of Star Alliance’s 26 member airlines are on board for points transfers. These include Air Canada Aeroplan, Air New Zealand Airpoints, EVA Air Infinity MileageLands, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, South African Airways Voyager, Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus and United MileagePlus.
You can convert Star Alliance Points into frequent flyer points with the seven programs above.
To flag an important caveat though, Thai Airways has suspended the redemption of its miles on any Star Alliance partner flights. This is ‘due to THAI’s business rehabilitation’.
Given this, it’s certainly odd that Thai Airways would be included in a Star Alliance initiative like this. Especially so when the airline is actively preventing its members from spending miles on Star Alliance flights and upgrades. For now, Royal Orchid Plus members can only book flights with Thai Airways itself, and Thai Smile.
The Terms and Conditions of Star Alliance Rewards also feature another important condition. To quote, ‘existing participating (frequent flyer programs) may be removed from this program at any time and without prior notice.’
Taking that clause at face value, members could wake up one day to find their favourite frequent flyer program no longer attached to Star Alliance Rewards, and without any prior notice. That significantly disincentivises building a large balance of Star Alliance Points when conversion opportunities could change unexpectedly.
What are the Star Alliance Rewards transfer rates?
Once you’ve earned Star Alliance Points, these can be converted into frequent flyer points. From Star Alliance Rewards, points are generally transferred in 1,000 Star Alliance Points increments. An exception is Air New Zealand Airpoints, where that’s in increments of 1,250 points.
Conversion rates can differ between the Star Alliance Rewards transfer partners. But for the most part, these transfers take place at a 5:4 rate. Here’s a rundown of the program’s current transfer partners.
|Star Alliance Rewards partner||Transfer rate from Star Alliance Rewards||Conversion example|
|Air Canada Aeroplan||5:4||1,000 Star Alliance Points = 800 Aeroplan points|
|Air New Zealand Airpoints||5:$0.04||1,250 Star Alliance Points = 10 Airpoints Dollars|
|EVA Air Infinity MileageLands||5:4||1,000 Star Alliance Points = 800 EVA Air miles|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer||5:4||1,000 Star Alliance Points = 800 KrisFlyer miles|
|South African Airways Voyager||5:4||1,000 Star Alliance Points = 800 SAA Voyager Miles|
|Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus||5:4||1,000 Star Alliance Points = 800 Royal Orchid Plus miles|
|United MileagePlus||5:4||1,000 Star Alliance Points = 800 United miles|
But there’s another important caveat. The Star Alliance Rewards Terms and Conditions also have an unfortunate clause about the value of Star Alliance Points. Here’s that full section.
The rate at which Star Alliance Points will be converted into Converted FFP Miles (the Star Conversion Rate) will be made visible to you on the Rewards Portal before you request a conversion. The Star Conversion Rate may change at any time without prior written notice to you and may not be the same for conversions to different Participating FFPs. The setting of a Star Conversion Rate at a given level at a given time will create no precedent or legitimate expectation as to any future value of the Star Conversion Rate.– Star Alliance Rewards Terms and Conditions
While everybody expects loyalty programs to make changes from time to time, people fairly expect a heads-up before any significant alterations take effect. That’s another significant detractor from engaging with Star Alliance Rewards.
Do Star Alliance Points expire?
Points earned via Star Alliance Rewards are subject to rolling or ‘soft’ expiry rules.
As long as a member earns or converts Star Alliance Points via their Star Alliance Rewards account at least once every 14 months, their entire balance of Star Alliance Points remains valid.
But if 14 months go by and the account is sitting dormant, any remaining Star Alliance Points will be forfeited. If you open but later cancel the attached HSBC Star Alliance Credit Card, that’s worth keeping in mind. Without points regularly coming into the account, make sure they’re transferred somewhere before they lapse.
Once transferred onwards from Star Alliance Rewards, the expiry of points is governed by the relevant frequent flyer program.
Points cannot be transferred from partner frequent flyer programs back across to Star Alliance Rewards.
Earning status through Star Alliance Rewards
Here’s an interesting twist on Star Alliance Rewards. Not only can you earn points, but you can also get status.
For holders of the HSBC Star Alliance Credit Card, that can be with a Star Alliance airline of your choosing. It just needs to be with one of the airlines that are also attached to Star Alliance Rewards as transfer partners.
Here’s what you’d need to do:
- As an eligible new HSBC Star Alliance Credit Card holder, spend $4,000 on the card within 90 days of account opening. This provides Star Alliance Gold with your choice of airline.
- Thereafter, spend $30,000 per year on the card for Star Alliance Silver.
- If you spend a total of $60,000 per year on the card, make that Star Alliance Gold.
For the most part, Star Alliance Silver isn’t too helpful. Across the alliance, you’ll generally just get priority if you’re on a waitlist for a flight. Some airlines, like United, roll out extra perks for their Silver-tier members.
With a United Premier Silver card (Star Alliance Silver), expect perks like complimentary checked baggage on United Airlines flights. You’d also get priority at check-in, security screening and boarding on United Airlines – but not across the alliance.
Star Alliance Gold is what you’ll really want to aim for. It delivers these priority perks across the entire alliance and global lounge access. (An exception is Premier Gold with United, which doesn’t give lounge access on United domestic itineraries).
Get Virgin Australia lounge access while you’re at it
By being savvy, your chosen Gold membership could also get you lounge access with Virgin Australia. Not because of Star Alliance itself, but because some Star Alliance airlines have separate partnerships with Virgin Australia.
Simply choose Air Canada, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways or United Airlines as your Star Alliance Gold option. Gold-grade flyers of these airlines qualify for entry into Virgin Australia’s domestic lounges when flying onward with Virgin Australia.
In fact, these members can even use Virgin Australia’s Premium Entry facilities in Sydney and Brisbane to sidestep the airport queues.
It’s a great perk, although having to spend $60,000 per year on the HSBC credit card to retain that Gold status won’t appeal to everyone.
Swap status for extra points
Being able to earn Star Alliance Gold status via credit card spend is a great feature. But what if you already have Star Alliance Gold?
If that status is with one of the Star Alliance Rewards partner airlines, your efforts won’t be wasted. When it comes time to accept your free status, just enter your existing Star Alliance Gold frequent flyer details. The system will detect that you’re already a Star Alliance Gold member, and offer 40,000 bonus Star Alliance Points instead.
That’s available whenever you again qualify for Star Alliance Gold via Star Alliance Rewards. This would be once a year at most, but it’s a nice way to keep your points balance ticking up.
For some, the elite status may also be irrelevant – such as for travellers who only ever fly Business Class. If that’s you, there’s another way to swap that shiny card for bonus points.
Per the program’s T&Cs, if you forget to nominate a chosen elite status by the deadline, that status will be forfeited. But if you would have been eligible for Star Alliance Gold, 40,000 Star Alliance Points will be credited to your account instead just after ‘missing out’.
Of course, if you’d rather just take the points., you could be strategic and ‘forget’ to nominate on purpose,
Unfortunately, no bonus points are offered in lieu of Star Alliance Silver status – only Star Alliance Gold. That applies whether you forget to nominate, or already held Star Alliance Gold in a linked program.
How do I contact Star Alliance Rewards?
For enquiries about the Star Alliance Rewards program itself, messages can be lodged online for a response.
Just venture to the Star Alliance Rewards website and fill out the contact form.
Star Alliance Rewards doesn’t have a public phone number listed. If yours is an enquiry about an existing credit card account, call HSBC using the number on the back of the card.
Star Alliance Rewards certainly isn’t your typical loyalty program. Instead, it occupies a new space between a typical credit card rewards offering and an airline frequent flyer program.
In some respects, it mirrors the former. Points are accrued via credit card spend and can be converted into frequent flyer points or miles with a chosen partner. But because the program is run by a global alliance – as opposed to a bank – there are some interesting opportunities.
The biggest one is the initial shortcut to Star Alliance Gold status. Most HSBC cardholders wouldn’t have too much difficulty in meeting the first-year minimum spend. That said, spending $60,000 on a card each year is a tall order for many.
That’s especially true for a card that cuts points in half after spending just $3,000 per month. To reach that yearly $60,000 target, monthly spending would need to average $5,000 instead. That could make it quite slow to earn enough points to spend on something meaningful and significant.
Add to that, the fact that Star Alliance Rewards can remove partners and vary conversion rates at any time, and the appeal lessens further.
It’s a real catch-22. Build points slowly in Star Alliance Rewards, and those points could suddenly be worth much less if rate changes or a partner pulls out. But transfer them promptly to an airline like KrisFlyer, and the clock starts towards their eventual expiry.
Star Alliance Rewards will likely become more appealing over time as opportunities evolve to earn more points. For now, the greatest appeal will be for those desiring Star Alliance Gold status, who don’t otherwise fly often enough to earn it.
Also read: Your guide to Star Alliance in Australia
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