With the coronavirus crisis grounding most international and domestic flights, frequent flyers may find themselves at a loss with their carefully-accumulated points.
Though Qantas and Virgin have reintroduced certain domestic routes to allow stranded Australians to return home and for coronavirus frontline personnel to travel, non-essential travel is still largely banned.
But that doesn’t mean your frequent flyer points have all gone to waste: here’s what to do with them while they’re in hibernation.
1. Redeem them for goods
According to Champagne Mile publisher Adele Eliseo, you can redeem your frequent flyer points with Qantas and Virgin’s loyalty program reward stores to exchange points for products.
“High-end electronics jostle alongside luggage and kitchenware products, all enticingly displayed and cheerfully offered at what would usually represent questionable redemption rates,” she said.
However, you should know that due to the panic-buying, Qantas has restricted limits to two items per store, while some Velocity members have reported delays.
2. Redeem for gift cards
If you’re in a rush to liquidate your points, gift cards could be an effective way to use them, although you may not be getting the most bang for your buck.
“The fact is, in the current climate, even seasoned Frequent Flyers have taken to splashing points on gift cards,” said Eliseo.
“As a result, both Qantas and Virgin have taken steps to limit redemptions.”
You should know that higher-figure gift cards have been removed, while Virgin will limit you to only one gift card redemption a day.
3. Keep saving them
According to Point Hacks frequent flyer expert Daniel Sciberras, it’s a good idea to use the time to save more points. Qantas has a feature that lets you know which websites also let you earn Qantas points while you shop, he said.
“When you visit a Qantas partner’s website, it will provide you with an alert, so you don’t miss out on any points,” Sciberras said. Some retailers include The Iconic, Adidas and JB HiFi.
“Start accumulating points that you can redeem in the airline stores or choose to save for when flights are back up and running.”
4. Redeem the points
Domestic routes will open sooner than international routes, so if you fancy a local holiday, spend your points on domestic flights down the line, according to Eliseo.
“Alternatively, if you have your heart set on international travel, try to book as far out as possible and opt for high traffic routes which are likely to stay in operation.” You can book flights well into 2021, she added.
“Premium cabin points redemptions, particularly those in business and first-class, offer an excellent value proposition if you can nab them. As an example, right now, via the Qantas website, savvy Frequent Flyers can use points to lock in business or first class flights between London and Tokyo for April 2021.”
And if your booking doesn’t go ahead, airlines are expected to deal with cancellations fairly, so you shouldn’t be too out-of-pocket if your flights can’t go ahead when the time comes.
5. Hold onto them
The coronavirus pandemic will come to an end at some point – so if you know exactly where you’d like to go and when, you can use the points on flights well into the future.
“Redeeming points on flights continues to offer the highest-value redemption, compared with any other service or product available. While air travel isn’t a possibility at the moment, the travel bans will eventually lift,” said Sciberras.
“Rather than using your points on products you don’t need now, consider not touching them and using them on award flights once the bans and restrictions are lifted. You are likely to be itching to travel once this is all over.”