The continuing uncertainty arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the Australian Government upgrading their travel advice warning to a minimum Level 3 for ALL countries in addition to mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for all overseas arrivals into Australia, has caused severe disruption to travel. 

We hope that the negative consequences of the coronavirus outbreak will be short-lived, and the thoughts of all Point Hacks staff are with those who will be impacted by the virus, both in terms of their health as well as economically.   

The topic of frequent flyer points, therefore, is unlikely to be at the top of your concerns at present, however, some of you may still be wondering what this situation means in regards to your points, and what strategies to best employ in the near-term. This guide looks to address this topic.

Listen to official Australian Government travel advice

Firstly, health and safety should always be your top priority when travelling, and Point Hacks recommends following all official Australian Government travel advice, which can be found at the Smart Traveller website if you are travelling overseas, and through media outlets for any domestic restrictions should they be introduced. 

Smart Traveller website
Make sure to refer to the Smartraveller website before looking to travel overseas. This should become a habit even after the current virus outbreak ends

In particular, make yourself familiar with the meanings of the Level 1-4 travel advice

Given that all countries are now ranked as Level 3 or 4, travelling to any overseas destination may void any travel insurance that you may have, so make sure to contact your travel insurance provider prior to travel to discuss your options for insurance cover. 

Why you should use frequent flyer points for flight bookings

If the coronavirus outbreak has shown us one thing, it is the advantage of using frequent flyer points to make a reward booking.  Why?  Award seat bookings come with fare flexibility, meaning that you can change or cancel your flights for only a small point or cash cost, and have the value of your original points reimbursed.  

While this benefit has largely been inactivated at present due to the one-off flexible change and cancellation options being offered by airlines due to the coronavirus, this advantage will once again kick in when travel again returns to normal. 

Generally, change or cancellation fees on discounted cash fares can be quite expensive.  Here is a list of these fees for Qantas and Virgin Australia as a guide.

Should my strategy for using points change?

We have consistently advised Point Hacks readers that the best value redemption is for premium class seats on long-haul flights. But with this option being severely curtailed over the coming months for many Australia-based travellers, you might be assessing what the next best value redemptions are during these times. 

How to redeem your Qantas Points for flights to the US from Australia
With Qantas grounding a majority of their A380 fleet, redeeming for First Class seats such as these may need to wait until the outbreak subsides

Remember that while this may feel like a never-ending issue with the blanket coverage that it is receiving, it will eventually pass, and hopefully sooner rather than later. Given this, you may simply wish to hold onto your points or use this time to effectively stockpile points through non-flying earning activities to use at a later time.  

Some of you, however, may be looking to use your points sooner, and perhaps be looking to travel closer to home. With the recent devastating bushfires in Australia, holidaying closer to home will provide a much-needed boost to the local tourism industry. 

With a compulsory 14-day self-quarantine required for all overseas arrivals, holidaying closer to home such as the Gold Coast may be the ticket

If domestic travel is on your agenda, then again, using points for flights in Business Class will again reap you the best value for your points.  Also, Economy flights to various regional areas within Australia that normally have higher cash fares can also be a great use of points. 

Qantas 717 Domestic Business Class
Regional flights served by Qantaslink and Virgin Australia can represent a great use of points both in Economy and Business Class

Of course, if travel has been taken off your agenda entirely, for now, there are also many other ways to use your points, including purchasing gift cards and other physical items from the Qantas Shopping Rewards Store and the Velocity Rewards Store, but note that this is not the best value use of your points.

Summing up

It is no doubt that these are extraordinary times that most have not experienced since the inception of frequent flyer programs in Australia in the early nineties.  

For many, this will be business as usual in terms of their points strategy. Save points to eventually use for long-haul premium flights, albeit for some, the date of travel may be delayed. For others, it may mean using your points wisely for destinations closer to home or for physical goods.  

Whatever your strategy, remember that the value of points has not changed due to this outbreak.  In fact, I hope it has highlighted the many benefits that points can have on your travel bookings, especially the flexible nature of change and cancellation fees as compared to paid discounted cash fares.  

I wish all readers the best of health, safe travels, and a big thank you for your continued support of Point Hacks.   

As always, we look forward to providing you with the very best points hacking articles to ensure that you reap the very best value from your points, both today and into the future. 

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Message from the Editor – Update on COVID-19 travel restrictions was last modified: March 21st, 2020 by Daniel Sciberras