How to Use Avios Points to Maximize Rewards from Australia

how to use avios points on qatar airways and more
 Avios are an extremely popular points currency worldwide but perhaps lesser known in Australia. This is because, until recently, being able to collect and use Avios has been extremely limited. This was until Qatar Airways adopted Avios as their rewards currency of choice and allowed the seamless transfer of points between other airlines that use Avios, i.e., British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus.  While not as easy to collect as Qantas or Velocity points and essentially impossible to get directly through credit card reward programs here, there are some roundabout ways to get your hands on them. Here is a full guide on how to use Avios points as an Australian.
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    Why Collect Avios?

    Avios is the points currency of many major airlines such as Qatar Airways, British Airways, Aer Lingus and Iberia. The most applicable redemption to many of us is Qatar Airways. Don’t forget that these airlines are also part of the Oneworld alliance, meaning you can redeem flights on all of Oneworld’s partners. This includes Qantas, Cathay Pacific and Finnair, all of which I have highlighted the value of previously. As of 2024 Finnair also plans on converting their loyalty program to Avios, opening up other redemption possibilities. We will have to find out more about how this works when the new program launches as currently details are quite scant. I am a big fan of redeeming Finnair flights especially for their ease of securing business class upgrades even with award tickets and I hope this benefit continues on with the program revamp.
    Qatar Airways redemptions do suffer from issues such as high rates for business and first-class tickets and taxes on the higher end of the scale, but all things considered, the redemptions are comparable. A one-way Sydney to London fare would cost you 45,000 Avios and $250 in taxes in economy or 180,000 + $375 for business class. The business class redemption to me is pretty pricey but if you have the points, Qatar’s QSuite is well worth the experience. Something that I enjoyed is that Qatar makes it easy to book different classes for different legs of the flight. For example, Sydney to London is a two-leg flight meaning you can book economy for both, business for one leg, economy for another or even a mix of business and first class. This level of convenience is a great addition.

    Transferring points opens up many possibilities

    Transferring points is a key advantage here. In some ways, this benefit exceeds Velocity’s deal with Singapore Airlines, as miles can be transferred seamlessly between partners. While all the airlines are part of Oneworld, meaning there is a significant overlap in partners, some useful possibilities open up. Qatar lets you redeem both Qantas and Virgin Australia flights with Avios. Aer Lingus partners with JetBlue, United Airlines and Air Canada. The most significant advantage here is that the transfers are 1:1 as they are the same currency so regardless of where you move them to, you don’t lose value as you would transferring between Velocity and Krisflyer.

    Collecting Avios points without flying

    This is where the main struggle lies in Australia. Other than flights with airlines that allow you to collect Avios, it requires some thought on finding other ways to collect them. But, there are some ways of earning Avios points that are relatively easy.

    Direct earn through credit cards

    First, most people would rely on credit card churning to increase their points balance quickly. Until recently, in Australia, this strategy is slightly limited by the number of credit card partners available. Your only options were Commonwealth Bank Awards which gives you a pretty poor 0.29 Avios per $1 spent plus whatever bonus points on offer, and Citi Prestige which provides you with 0.33 Avios per $1 spent on a card that costs a staggering $700 per year for no further benefit. In case you didn’t get it, These are not options that you should consider if you want Avios points. However, as of August 2023 American Express has added the ability to transfer Membership Reward points to Qatar at a rate of 2:1, meaning you can earn up to 1.125 Avios per $1 spent! Avios earnt can then be converted to British Airways, Iberia and other partners as well. This also opens up more possibilities for sign-up bonuses meaning churning becomes a much more viable option.

    Use hotel loyalty programs to your advantage

    A more roundabout way of transferring points from your credit card is using hotel loyalty programs. All the major hotel loyalty programs – Marriott, Hilton, IHG and ALL will allow you to transfer your points to most major airlines, including to Avios airlines. These hotel programs often also offer bonus points regularly, so you need to watch out for this. Now this can be slightly convoluted, but to simplify this I will use the example of American Express Membership Rewards and Marriott to transfer to British Airways (to get Avios points).
    1. Earn approximately 2 American Express Points per $1 spent so on $1,000, you earn 2,000 points
    2. Convert these to Marriott points at a rate of 3:2 which yields 1,333 Marriott points
    3. Look for bonus offers such as the recently run 50% bonus which would now give you 2,000 Mariott points
    4. These convert to British Airways Avios at a rate of 3:1 giving you 666 Avios (if you convert 60,000 Marriott points, you also get a further 5,000 Avios points bonus)
    Using the above method, you now get Avios points at 0.66 points per $1 spent (far better than the 0.33 you get from Citi or 0.29 from Commonwealth Bank). This only gets better if you transfer in 60,000 point increments. A big caveat is that while this is decent value if you have a redemption in mind, hotel points are often better for redeeming hotel rooms. So if you have a holiday in mind, before transferring those points, make sure there isn’t a better value redemption you’re missing out on.

    Take advantage of bonus offers to buy points

    One of the easiest but slightly more costly ways to acquire points is buying them. The great thing about Avios is that they frequently have bonus offers to buy points and get 50% more than you otherwise would. This presents an exciting value proposition, especially regarding premium economy and business class flights. I would only go down this route if there is a specific seat you want to redeem. I would not advocate buying points to use at some point in the unknown future as there is some risk involved in reward seats not being available or routes changing, leaving you stuck with the points. The cost of the points also only makes sense in premium classes. Once you start travelling in economy, the price is too close to a regular fare to make any sense unless you want specific points benefits such as cancellation flexibility.
    Let’s say you wanted to book a return London to New York flight in Business Class. This flight would routinely cost you over $10,000 in cash, and with the post-COVID price increases, it could be even more. The alternative is to buy 125,000 Avios points at a cost of about $4,000 and receive 62,500 points as a bonus, so you get a total of 180,000 Avios. In addition, you pay $600 in taxes meaning your total ticket costs $4,600, or a saving of 50%. While this is pricey, you can explore this avenue for those wanting to fly business class. One condition you need to be aware of is that you can only buy Avios if you have earned at least 1 point in the past, so you cannot create an account and buy points immediately. As I’ve discussed above, transferring some points from a hotel program is an easy way to achieve this. Have a look at my full guide on how to buy Avios points and why you might want to do it.

    Redeeming Avios Points


    There are some great deals to be had using Avios for European flights. The biggest plus is that taxes are only £1, and a return journey comes at a reasonable 18,500 points. This can be a great way to pay for a short flight, especially when a budget airline might not fly or during a public holiday or otherwise popular time of year. This deal can only be used when booking through British Airways’ website, but of course, it’s straightforward to link all your Avios accounts and transfer between them at the click of a button.

    Domestic USA

    Booking short-haul flights within the US can also be great value given the extremely low taxes. A flight from New York to Denver is only 18,000 points and £4.50 in taxes. Another opportunity is flying a widebody business class product on a domestic flight. American Airlines will fly 777 and 787 aircraft on popular domestic routes, so keep your eyes peeled for these as it’s a great chance to fly in a lie-flat business class seat for not very much money!

    Domestic Australia

    Using Avios on East-West flights in Australia is a bargain. 13,000 Avios will get you from Sydney to Perth (less than half the cost of Qantas points). If you frequently fly this route, this is a no-brainer to consider. Also, remember that Qantas does fly A330 aircraft to Perth from the East Coast, meaning you can redeem a lie-flat seat for much less than you would with a Classic Reward seat.

    Sweet Spots and Upgrades

    While I’ve covered a lot of shorter redemptions which is where Avios’ advantages lie, there are many other options for redeeming Avios with the partners on their roster. Note that British Airways has peak and off-peak pricing for redemptions. If you happen to be redeeming during an off-peak period then there are some real bargains to be had. For instance, a flight from Sydney to Singapore on BA is only 13,000 points, while some of British Airways’ transatlantic flights, such as London to New York, will set you back 25,000 points and only £50 in taxes.

    The last thing I would like to touch on is upgrading your seat with Avios. This is a surprisingly straightforward process and something I think more carriers should implement. You can upgrade either a reward flight or a cash flight (as long as it’s a fare class that can be upgraded) provided there is award seat availability. If the seat is available, you can immediately book the seat for the difference in points between your existing class of booking and the one you are upgrading to. For instance, if you buy an economy ticket from London to New York and want to upgrade your flight to business, you pay 55,000 points (the difference between the two fare types). In addition, the upgrade is instantly confirmed and does not depend on your status with the airline unlike Qantas. This is a huge draw card for those keen on upgrades who don’t care about airline loyalty.

    Oneworld redemptions are similar to Qantas, but the costs and availability vary, especially with Qatar Airways flights. It’s worth looking into all the options available, and despite the difficulty, this is a rewards program worth looking into and dedicating some time to collecting points for.

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