Time to ditch your Qantas frequent flyer points?

Should you hang on to your Qantas frequent flyer points or have one last hurrah? Photo: Penny Stephens
Should you hang on to your Qantas frequent flyer points or have one last hurrah? Photo: Penny Stephens


Anybody sitting on a pile of Qantas frequent flyer points has one question front of mind at present: are my points safe?

With Qantas facing financial turbulence to the tune of a record $252 million loss in the past six months alone, and determined to jettison $2 billion in costs over the next three years, it's a fair question.

Should you cash in your hard-earned hoard of Qantas points now, by booking a handful of trips or even a last hurrah around-the-world first class junket to empty your account ahead of an impending points apocalypse?

My advice is no, and I'm walking the talk.

I've got just over a half-million frequent flyer points in my account as I steadily work towards a first class return trip for two to London.

It'll take me another year to reach that goal, and I'm not rushing to ditch my points in the meantime.

The reason for such confidence in the fate of my precious points?

I don't expect any short-term changes to the Qantas frequent flyer scheme.

It's true that Qantas CEO Alan Joyce declared “all options are on the table”, including putting part of the airline's lucrative frequent flyer program on the auction block.

And if Alan Joyce is looking for a quick way to shovel cash into the Flying Kangaroo's pouch, that frequent flyer scheme is perhaps the shiniest silverware in the drawer.

Experts believe that even a 49 per cent sale of the scheme would deliver between $1.3 billion and $1.6 billion in much-needed cash for the beleaguered airline.

Such a deal is believed to be in the works, with a SWAT team of spreadsheet jockeys preparing this near-half sale of the frequent flyer program for later this year.

If you're wondering why the scheme is so valuable, it's because Qantas manufactures the points, sells them to retail partners like credit card companies and then buys those points back from shoppers in the form of free flights and upgrades.

It's like a licence to print money, and with almost 10 million members Qantas frequent flyer points are Australia's de facto second currency.

That's why the airline and any potential partner would be loath to mess with that success, at least in the early stages.

What can't be ruled out is a longer-term 'devaluation' of your frequent flyer points.

After all, if points are a currency then their purchasing power can drop when it comes to trading those points for flights.

It's already hard enough to find a free seat on the flights you want during peak travel seasons.

As Qantas retires aircrafts, cuts flights and drops some routes entirely, those seats will become even harder to snare.

And nobody can rule out a rise in the cost of redeeming your points on any available seat.

But none of that is a cert, and whatever does happen is unlikely to happen any time soon.

In the meantime, your best strategy is to make sure all of your Qantas points don't vanish because you haven't earned or spent any points in the past 18 months. That's an often overlooked piece of fine print in the Qantas frequent flyer scheme.

Spending just $30 at Woolworths while nominating your Everyday Rewards Card will add one Qantas point to your account which then keeps all of your points safe for the next 18 months. That's plenty of time to plan for your next trip.

David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller, Australia's leading independent website for business travellers and frequent flyers.

This story Time to ditch your Qantas frequent flyer points? first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.