How to book a flight with points

A guide on how to book a flight with points
Using your points is what this all about. Travelling to far flung destinations all around the world using points you acquired by just spending what you normally would have spent anyway. But, here is where I get the most questions from friends and family. They’ve worked hard, got their points and are ready to get their free flight and all they see is exorbitant prices like what you see below. So here’s how to book a flight with points.
Points are a liability for airlines. They don’t make it easy to redeem flights and they especially don’t want you using them on popular routes which make them lots of money from people paying cash. But with a few simple tricks you will get to your destination on points and I will show you how. I’m going to take you through how I would book this same flight. For reference this flight is leaving one month from the date of writing. I am focussing on just using Qantas points for the sake of simplicity here. I will post new articles over the next few months about other airlines.
find qantas classic reward seats by pressing this toggle
Qantas for example has hidden away their option to search just for reward seats (these are termed classic rewards instead of any seat rewards). Any seat rewards are available on any seat that is sold to the public but the prices fluctuate as they do with normal plane tickets. I mentioned in my previous article that Qantas has a number of airline partners that offer much better value redemptions than Qantas and the often the only way to see this is to filter by Reward Seats. Once you’ve done this you might get lucky and find a good value redemption. I found this one which doesn’t look too bad.

This is where I would look at breaking up the journey. Compared to other countries Australia has relatively few reward seats available meaning that the good value ones are taken up quickly especially if they’re in premium classes of travel. One popular destination which also makes transiting extremely easy is Singapore. So this is where I would start looking.

What if there are no flights available?

This is where I would look at breaking up the journey. Compared to other countries Australia has relatively few reward seats available meaning that the good value ones are taken up quickly especially if they’re in premium classes of travel. One popular destination which also makes transiting extremely easy is Singapore. So this is where I would start looking.

As you can see the above flight with Finnair (a Qantas partner) represents extremely good value. Only 45,000 points and $97 in taxes albeit with a short stop in Helsinki. But now, how would you get from your starting point in Sydney to Singapore? There are many options you could try. This is where I think there is an advantage in collecting points with multiple programs. Singapore Airlines has excellent availability of seats from Australia with low taxes and reasonable points costs.
So in order to make the flight to Helsinki I’ve selected SQ232 which gives me a 4 hour layover in Singapore to change flights. Although most airports don’t have this, Singapore has a transit desk which means you can check in to your new flight and get your bags transferred to a different airline by airport staff at the transit desk even if you’re flying a different airline! So your total cost for this flight comes to 55,000 Krisflyer Points, 45,000 Qantas points and $189.16 in taxes.
Let’s now say you only have Qantas points and no Krisflyer points. Another option is to do a second search on the Qantas website for Reward flights from Sydney to Singapore. You’ll see that now there are options available that weren’t given to you before such as this one.
Yes, the flight from Melbourne to Singapore is on Jetstar but the tax and points cost here is somewhat reasonable and gives you an option where there may not have been one before.

What if I don't have enough points?

The option of booking 2 separate flights is always an option but in some cases you might not have enough points to do 2 separate points flights. In this case you can look at booking a flight partially with cash. So let’s say you’ve decided to book the Singapore to London flight via Helsinki but you don’t have quite the required number of points to get your Sydney to Singapore leg on points alone. At the time of writing a cash fare from Sydney to Singapore can be had for $220 on Scoot (a budget airline) or $640 on Singapore Airlines. Please note, I am only comparing one-way fares to illustrate the example.

This would give you a total cost of 45,000 Qantas points and $317. The same Sydney to London flight paid for in cash would cost you $1000-$1500 one-way.

Valuing a Point

frequent flyer points worth it? if you can get 50% off this seat then yes
Points are all well and good but how much are they worth? I think having a valuation in your head so you know if using your points is a good idea or not helps you plan your journeys better. Obviously a point doesn’t hold the same value in all cases and some redemptions will mean your points are worth more than others. In order to help you judge whether spending your points is worth it, I think a rough value of 1 cent per point is appropriate. This makes calculations easy in your head and gives a quick idea of what is and isn’t good value. Giving a point value of 1 cent per point will immediately tell you something like this represents very poor value:
And something like this is very good value:

This valuation can also come in handy when acquiring points. For example, is it worth paying that 1% surcharge to use your credit card? If you’re getting 2 points per $1 spent then probably, if you’re only getting 0.5 points per $1 then maybe re-evaluate. You can extend this to bonus point offers as well. Is 100,000 points worth paying  $400 annual fee for a credit card. At 1 cent per point you’d value to the 100,000 points at approximately $1,000 so it would be worth taking up that offer. Again, this is a very rough estimate to represent whether a purchase is good value or not, not an absolute value of the points. I’ve written an article to take you through my reasoning for points valuations.

Take advantage of partnerships and alliances

All frequent flyer programs come with the benefit of redeeming flights with multiple airlines. A few of these airlines present very good value in terms of charging little in the way of taxes on top of the points. A common complaint with redeeming Qantas points is the very high taxes both in Economy and Business class fares. But Qantas has a number of partners which don’t charge these exorbitant “Carrier Charges” as they’re called. Here are a few airline partners I find particularly good value (I am only including international flights in this):
Program Partner
Qantas Frequent Flyer
Finnair, Japan Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Westjet, Indigo
Singapore Airlines
Singapore Airlines, United Airlines, Air India
Velocity Frequent Flyer
United Airlines
Keep this list in mind as you can consider each airline’s route network when planning which destination you want to go to. Also note that Qantas has quite a very diverse and good value partner network.

I only fly First Class

One reason people have asked me about points is they want to fly business or first class but the asking price (especially after COVID) can be eye-wateringly high. This can be a bit more difficult than redeeming economy class tickets because airlines typically make fewer of these seats available and they are understandably more popular. Hopefully with some of the tricks I’ve shown you above you can find your own first and business class redemptions as well.
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