My Musings

December 17, 2013

Around the World for $150


Exchanging Qantas Frequent Flyer points for actual flights can be a notoriously difficult task. While there are great bargains to be had, getting the most value out of your points requires a lot of time and patience as you start comparing Classic vs Points Plus Pay, navigate deals under partner sites, and weigh up the benefit of paying directly, or upgrading previously purchased fares.

Despite this complexity, there is one simple reward available to members, and with a little planning can often represent the best value redemption your points can afford. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Oneworld RTW award. 

While there are a myriad of rules and conditions you need to consider before booking this one, the long and the short of it is as follows:

1) Must include 2 non-QF OneWorld partners. This means you cannot include non-alliance partners (like Alaska Airlines or Etihad) and must include two other carriers (which can be tough for somewhere like South America, which pretty much only has American and LAN, though there are possibilities as I will discuss below).

2) A maximum of 16 segments, with a maximum 1 open-jaw. An open-jaw that’s not between the first and last cities counts as a segment, as does a land segment between two co-terminals (like connecting between LaGuardia and JFK).

3) You can stopover at a city 1 time, and connect through a city 2 times. That means you could potentially fly through a city 3 times, but can stop there for just 24 hours once. Once you return to the first airport you departed, the award is pretty much over.

4) The total countable miles includes all flown segments, but not land segments. In addition, a flight has a layover on the same flight number, you’ll only be deducted the direct flight miles.

5) Award travel must be complete within a year of ticketing.

6) No changes to routing or carrier are allowed after ticketing, although date changes are fine.

Basically, if you have the luxury of being a very flexible leisure traveller without any sort of a strict itinerary, this is a very good way to explore the world.

The amount you would pay for a full-priced ticket varies schizophrenically depending on dates and destinations, but as a guide, these are the prices Qantas publishes via their website.

Round the World Ticket   Student Flights and Trips   Qantas

Needless to say, we are not going to be paying anywhere between $4,000 – $16,000 for an economy or business class seat.

A better way

With a bit of work tweaking your itinerary it is very possible to get a One World Explorer in Y (Economy class) for as little as 140,000 QFF points. Alternatively, you could even look at upgrading to J (business class) for 280,000 points. This is tremendous value, considering the same flights booked and paid for directly could cost you as much as $6,000 or $16,000 respectively.

To make this happen you will need to use the OneWorld RTW tool to plan your itinerary. Once you’ve got your trip planned call up QFF and see how close you can get to said itinerary under the rules of the “OneWorld Explorer”. This is where the phone call comes in handy, as, if you have say 6 stopovers, they can suggest which flight you should pay extra for to limit the number of points used (i.e. a shorter, 8k points flight).

Great, but I don’t have 140,000 points

This is where you get really smart. You don’t have to be George Clooney in ‘Up in the Air’ to smash out 150k points. Banks are more than happy to just give them away. In the past year alone I have accumulated in excess of 150,000 points across Velocity and QFF, at a total cost of less than $130. Here’s how:

Card #1 – American Express Velocity Platinum card

Annual fee: $349

Points benefit: 50,000

Additional Benefits: Free return flight to anywhere in Australia + 2 x Virgin Lounge access passes. I redeemed the flights for a trip to Sydney which would have cost in-excess of the annual card fee. As such, I consider this to be a null cost card.

Card #2 – Jetstar MasterCard

Annual fee: $99 (now $149)

Points benefit: 30,000

Additional benefits: 2 x Qantas Club entries. I sold these for $100, so again I consider this to be a null cost card. One other additional benefit – you don’t pay credit card surcharge fees when booking Jetstar flights so I’m actually considering keeping this one for the future!

Card #3 – Macquarie Platinum Visa Card

Annual fee: $99

Point benefit: 40,000

Additional benefits: Again, 2 x Qantas Club entries which I will sell when I receive them. This card has actually been a pain in the ass to deal with, but 40,000 points for free is pretty hard to pass up. I’m not certain if that promotion is still happening, but worth looking into if it is.

Card #4 – Commbank Qantas Rewards card

Annual fee: $140 the first year (or $125 for qualifying customers)

Points benefit: 30,000

Additional benefits: Nothing of note, however you are dealing with Commbank directly here (all the other above cards are administered via CardServ with your service done in the Philippines. This results in a very painful experience if you have any issues or when you want to close the card down). Regardless, $125 for 30k points is a great deal.

So there you have it, if you follow my approach you can conceivable score a $6,000 RTW ticket for $125. Catch you in the lounge!