Your ultimate, comprehensive guide to Australia’s frequent flyer reward programs
In Australia there are two main airline frequent flyer programs to know about – Qantas Frequent Flyer and Velocity Frequent Flyer. Both programs are reasonably similar, so it can be hard to tell which offers the best value. This guide aims to help you make an informed decision about which program is best for you.
How to join?
Qantas frequent flyer normally has a $99.50 joining fee, although it is simple enough to join for free. The best way to get a free membership right now is to sign up via this link. Virgin Australia’s Velocity frequent flyer membership is completely free, use this link to join.
Verdict: Virgin Australia is slightly ahead here, but as you can join both programs free of charge we’ll call it a draw.
When do frequent flyer points expire?
Your points won’t expire as long as you earn or redeem within 18 months for Qantas and 36 months for Velocity.
Verdict: Virgin Australia is definitely the winner here, Velocity points expire 1.5 years later than Qantas points.
How to earn frequent flyer points by flying
Virgin Australia offer five points per dollar spent for domestic, trans-Tasman and international short-haul flights. For international long-haul flights as well as flights marketed on one of Virgin Australia’s partner airlines, points are awarded based on the fare class and number of miles flown. Premium Velocity members will also receive bonus points – 50% more for Silver, 75% more for Gold and 100% more for Platinum.
With Qantas, points are awarded based on the number of miles flown and the fare type purchased. Generally, this means more expensive flexible fares will earn you more points.
You are guaranteed to earn a minimum of 800 points on eligible Economy flights operated by Qantas. In Business and First, you’ll receive at least 1400 Qantas Points. For flights marketed as one of Qantas’s partner airlines, you will earn slightly less points compared to the same route with Qantas. Although, points are still awarded based on flight miles, fare type and route. Qantas’s points calculator is the easiest way to find out how many points you’ll earn for a specific route.
Elite Qantas Frequent Flyers receive bonus points for flights with Qantas, Jetstar and American Airlines – 50% more for Silver (25% on American Airlines), 75% more for Gold and 100% more for Platinum.
Verdict: Qantas has the edge here thanks to its minimum points guarantee and earning calculated based on miles flown. This means that choosing a cheaper flight within the same fare type won’t affect the amount of points you earn.
How to earn frequent flyer points with accommodation
There are multiple ways to earn Velocity points when booking accommodation:
-Directly with hotel partners – By booking directly with one of Virgin Australia’s hotel partners you can earn Velocity Points for your stay. Normally you should earn three Velocity Points per $1 spent for stays in Australia, and 600–1000 points for the entire stay at International properties. Partner hotels include Crowne, IHG, Accor, Pan Pacific and Shangri-la
–Velocity hotels – Earn three points per $1 spent through Velocity Hotels
–Expedia – Using this link you can earn three Velocity Points per $1 spent on hotel bookings through Expedia
–Agoda PointsMAX – Using this link you can earn at least five Velocity Points per $1 spent on bookings through Agoda
There are multiple ways to earn Qantas points when booking accommodation:
-Directly with hotel partners – By booking directly with one of Qantas’s hotel partners you can earn Qantas Points for your stay. Like Velocity, you should earn three points per $1 spent for stays in Australia, and 600-1000 points for the entire stay at International hotels. Partner hotels include Crowne, Rydges, Pan Pacific and Shangri-la
–Qantas hotels – Earn three points per $1 spent through Qantas Hotels
-Partner hotel rewards – Earn up to 1000 points per booking or three points per $1 spent by linking partner hotel rewards programs such as Hilton Honors or Marriott Rewards to your Qantas Frequent Flyer membership
–Airbnb – Earn one Qantas Point per $1 spent on Airbnb bookings
Verdict: Qantas outperforms here as it has more ways to earn points, and more hotel partners.
How to earn frequent flyer status
Reaching elite frequent flyer status brings about some great benefits including lounge access, priority boarding, bonus points and extra baggage allowance. Velocity and Qantas frequent flyer programs both have Silver, Gold and Platinum levels of status. Qantas has an additional level of status called Platinum One, which Virgin Australia has no equivalent of.
Elite frequent flyer status is reached by obtaining the required amount of status credits within a 12-month period. Status credits are earned through flying, with the amount of credits earned for each flight determined by the fare class and flight miles. Longer flights on higher fares will earn more status credits.
Once you have reached a status level, the required status credits to keep it for the next year is less. Qantas also records lifetime status credits and awards Silver and Gold lifetime memberships, something that Virgin Australia doesn’t offer. The required status credits for each level are listed below.
Qantas Frequent Flyer:
-Silver – 300 to earn, 250 to renew, lifetime 7000
-Gold – 700 to earn, 600 to renew, lifetime 1400¬¬
-Platinum – 1400 to earn, 1200 to renew
-Platinum One – 3600 to earn, 3600 to renew
Velocity Frequent Flyer:
-Silver – 250 to earn, 200 to renew
-Gold – 500 to earn, 400 to renew
-Platinum – 1000 to earn, 800 to renew
Examples of status credits earnt for one-way flights:
-SYD-MEL, Economy: QF=10, VA=7
-SYD-MEL, Flexible Economy: QF=20, VA=25
-SYD-MEL, Business: QF=40, VA=50
-SYD-PER, Economy: QF=20, VA=15
-SYD-PER, Business: QF=80, VA=90
-SYD-HKG, Economy: QF=30, VA=30
-SYD-HKG, Premium Economy: QF=60, VA=90
-SYD-HKG, Business: QF=120, VA=120
Verdict: Velocity is in front here as it is easier to achieve elite status with Virgin Australia. However, it does not offer lifetime status like Qantas, which can be beneficial to those who spend a lot of money on flights.
Virgin Australia offers family points pooling, which allows members to pool Velocity Points and/or Status Credits with family members living at the same address. Up to six family members are allowed, with Points/Status Credits automatically transferring to the beneficiary.
Qantas does not offer automatic family pooling, but does allow points to be transferred between family members. The amount of transfers is not limited, however a minimum of 5000 points is required. You may transfer a maximum of 600,000 points over a 12-month period.
Verdict: Virgin Australia trumps Qantas with the ability to set up automatic family pooling. This is an easy way to obtain elite Velocity status.
Qantas is a member of the Oneworld alliance, a group of 13 airlines that work together to offer benefits including smoother transfers between member airlines, combined frequent-flyer benefits and wider access to airline lounges. This means you can use Qantas Frequent Flyer to earn and redeem points on most airlines in the alliance including American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways and Fiji Airways.
One of the best features of the Oneworld alliance is the ability to book round-the-world tickets. You can use Qantas points to buy a round the world ticket in Economy (132,400
points), Premium Economy (249,600 points), Business (318k points) or First class (455k points). These tickets offer great value, allowing 35,000 miles of travel in one direction with up to 15 flights on partner airlines.
Qantas also has several partnership agreements with other airlines including Emirates, China Airlines, Air Vanuatu and Alaska Airlines. Most of these partnerships allow Qantas Frequent Flyers to earn and use points, access airline lounges and fly on some world-class Business and First class products.
Virgin Australia has a number of partnerships with some excellent airlines, notably Singapore Airlines, Etihad Airways, Delta and Air Canada. These partnerships allow Velocity members to earn and use points on some of the world’s most highly rated airlines. Many of these partnerships also include benefits such as lounge access, connecting checked baggage and priority security screening.
Verdict: Although both have partnerships with some world-class airlines, Qantas comes out on top here due to the Oneworld alliance giving great value round-the-world redemptions.
Generally speaking, Virgin Australia’s Velocity has low taxes and fees for award bookings. Although, you will pay more when flying internationally or on Etihad or Delta. Virgin Australia’s carrier charges are calculated depending on the class of travel and route. Currently, the surcharge for a one-way domestic or trans-Tasman flight is just $3.50 in Economy and $5.50 in Business. However, that will increase to $10 for both Economy and Business on 8 January 2020. Even worse is the surcharge for a Business redemption to Hong Kong which is almost doubling to $98.
Despite this, Virgin Australia almost always has lower surcharges than Qantas, which is known for its high surcharges when redeeming points. For example, the surcharge for a one-way flight from Sydney to Los Angeles is $204 for Economy or $359 for Business with Qantas. With Virgin Australia the surcharges are $60 for Economy or $230 for Business.
Verdict: Even with the planned increase, Virgin Australia’s surcharges are still considerably lower than Qantas’s.
Summary: which frequent flyer program should you choose
Both Qantas and Velocity frequent flyer programs have their pros and cons, as well as some similarities. Both programs are so competitive that there is not one clear winner, which is certainly a good thing. This is why it is important to consider the differences between Qantas frequent flyer and Velocity frequent flyer in order to determine which is best for you. Factors such as airline partnerships, the ways you can earn and redeem points, carrier surcharges for award bookings as well as where you fly most often will have an impact on which program is best for you.
Instead of determining which program is the overall winner, use the information in this guide to decide which frequent flyer program will offer better value for you. My advice would be to sign up to both, however remain focused on one program, and use the other for times when you are not able to use your primary program.