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What can you learn from Qatar Privilege Club’s shock 40% devaluation?

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Last week Qatar Airways announced some changes to Qatar Privilege Club to take effect from 27th May.  There was a downside – the addition of booking fees on redemptions, and what looked like it could be an upside – more status points for premium tickets.  It was nothing that I felt needed covering on HFP, given that most Qatar Airways flyers in the UK credit to British Airways Executive Club.

Midnight on the 26th May came, the Qatar Airways website went down for a short period and then it came back.  And the changes were stunning.

Virtually all Qatar Privilege Club redemptions on Qatar Airways have increased in price by roughly 60%, more in some cases.  With no notice at all.

To quote an ex-UK example from Flyertalk, a one-way Economy ticket from London to Bangkok has gone up from 37,500 miles to 62,750 miles!  British Airways would require 19,500 Avios off-peak and 30,000 Avios peak.

And you need to pay the new booking fee too ($25 per sector in Economy, $50 per sector in Business).

This is a stunning devaluation.  Even with advance notice it would have been shocking, given that it impacts both Economy and Business.  To devalue your stack of miles by 40%+ with absolutely no warning though …..

Qatar Privilege Club devaluation

What can you do?

Not much, unfortunately.  If you had a stash of Qatar Privilege Club miles and were hoping to use them for Qatar Airways tickets, you are in trouble.

The only upsides are:

partner airline redemptions are unchanged – these were never great value but now look good.  This is a distance based award chart (click to see it) and in some cases you should find that redemptions on oneworld airlines such as BA, Cathay Pacific, Qantas etc are cheaper than redeeming on Qatar Airways.

regional redemptions are reportedly unchanged, eg Doha to Oman, Iran

you can still transfer Qatar Airways miles to Le Club AccorHotels at the rate of 4,500 miles = 1,000 Accor points (=1,000 Avios or a €20 Accor voucher) although there is an annual calendar year cap of 100,000 miles.  If your Qatar Privilege Club miles now seem useless, this is a way out.

upgrade prices seem to have come down on some routes (although the number of QCredits required to upgrade has generally gone up)

If you have any Qatar Airways flights booked which you were planning to credit to Qatar Privilege Club – although I admit that is unlikely for most HFP readers who would be crediting to British Airways Executive Club – I would recommend looking for another oneworld frequent flyer programme.

Qatar Privilege Club devaluation

How can you protect yourself from a situation like this?

Devaluations like this, with no notice, are unbelievably rare.  If something on this scale does happen, it is usually linked to something niche such as the transfer rate from the main scheme into a partner scheme.  (Accor and Radisson Rewards are both guilty of slashing their airline transfer rates with no notice.)

Massive devaluations WITH notice are NOT unbelievably rare.  Avios increased peak-date Club World tickets on many long-haul routes by 50% back in 2015, remember.  The only ‘upsides’ were that off-peak dates only went up by 20% and that World Traveller (economy) redemptions got cheaper in some cases – but remained bad value in most cases.

I think Hilton Honors moved its top category from 50,000 points to 90,000 points in one move too, a few years ago.

There is no easy way to avoid being hit by this.  Two ways of minimising risks are:

Spend as you earn.  You may think that saving up your miles for retirement is a good idea, but it isn’t.  Whilst I am critical of schemes with harsh mileage expiry rules, such as Etihad Guest and Miles & More, they do at least force you to spend them before they are devalued.

Focus on convertible currencies where you can.  This means primarily American Express Membership Rewards points but also Starwood Preferred Guest hotel points (convertible to 30 airlines, which should still be OK post the August merger with Marriott Rewards) and HSBC Premier credit card points (convertible to four airlines).  None of these three schemes has ever devalued its conversion ratios although Amex has stopped doing transfer bonuses to airline partners.  The Tesco Clubcard credit card, which currently has a 1000 point (2400 Avios) sign-up bonus, also gives you the option of using points for Avios or Virgin miles or Uber credit or many non-travel items.

The benefit of ‘convertible currencies’ is that you don’t need to move your points until you are ready to spend them.  You won’t get caught out by building up a stack of points in one airline or hotel scheme to see the rug pulled out from under you.

On the downside, cards with convertible currencies are often less generous than dedicated airline or hotel cards.  There are exceptions though – the Amex Rewards Credit Card is free and earns 1 point per £1 which can be transferred to BA but also many other partners.  The free British Airways American Express just earns 1 Avios per £1.  Unless you are churning other Membership Rewards cards, ARCC is clearly better.  It is also worth noting that the Tesco Clubcard Mastercard is more generous than the Mastercard element of the Lloyds Avios Rewards credit card.

None of this will help if you were sitting on a six-figure Qatar Privilege Club account balance on Saturday night and woke up yesterday to find it worth 40% less.  Although, as Qatar Privilege Club has not actually told its members about the devaluation, it is more likely that you were still in total ignorance until you read this ……

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Comments

  1. It does reveal the dilemma involved in this game though. Rob – rightly – advocates storing points in convertible currencies… but many (most?) of us are reliant on sign-up churns to earn the points in the first place, so have to empty and close our MR pots every few months. Which builds piles of points that could be hit at any time. How many of us are willing to ‘pay’ the insurance premium of not churning to keep a MR stash? Not me, that’s for sure – but my Avios pot is still rising and I’m not sure whether I’ll use them before it explodes……

  2. david says:

    quick unrelated question – when should a Marriott rewards platinum chase be finished by – I guess August 1st – but should it be sooner ?

    • My personal view is that I want the account definitely Plat on 1st which means finishing a good 7-10 days earlier for the last stay to post and the upgrade to process (and for any necessary chase-up to be done).

      A big of jiggling means I will actually manage mine on 6 weeks so it should be Plat by mid June. This will also let me match to SPG Plat for a 2-night stay in July.

      • DAVID says:

        I think mine will be done by mid July – I want to book the very cheapest nights at the Leeds Marriott (£62 a night)- I park in car park opposite on the way home with 30 mins free parking while I check in!
        Its not just the cost of the hotel – ideally it shouldnt cost you anything to get there and not inconvenience your life in anyway.
        The sad thing is that so far the room I haven’t stayed in has been upgraded to a suite everytime- part of me wants to pop in for the free breakfast on the way to work ! It just goes to show how worthwhile the current gold level is.
        The check out function on the app makes me feel much happier – always felt wrong not checking out !

        • Crafty says:

          Why aren’t you having the breakfast? It’s on the way!

        • I went back to the Hilton Park Lane for breakfast last week on the way to the HFP office 🙂

  3. HAMBA says:

    i had been expecting a big devaluation… based on the generally tightening of upgrades and decent offers.

    i continue to expect a devaluation for ihg – i know there were minor changes made but if they devalue it according to the hilton model it could be damaging. i prefer not to say why i expect this..

    • guesswho2000 says:

      I’m not convinced you could devalue IHG much further, there’s not really much to enhance away.

      • David says:

        Indeed, I remember 30k a night for ICs!
        Sadly I also remember thinking I’d rather stay at the CP and save 10k.

  4. tominoz says:

    Has any other Qatar Privilege Gold/Plat members noticed that all the award upgrade rates have been increased when using Q credits as well?..eg MAN – BKK very recently was 40 Q credits to upgrade econ to biz, but now its gone up to 46. As there is no other way to earn Q credits apart from getting them at Tier renewal (40 and 60 respectively for Gold and Plat), then the 40 Q credits for Gold now becomes hugely devalued……upgrade now only poss MAN – DOH for 28 Q credits, leaving you with a useless 12 Q credits. Its not just miles that have been hit…..they are even hitting their top tier members full on. Time to switch loyalties I think.

  5. OT how long does it to take for the 5000 MR points to post from companion gold credit card? I’ve called already and they said it should take 10 days but nothing showing up yet? Is there a better time to call for them to post the points manually during the call?
    Thanks

    • James M says:

      I called to chase and they added them manually; a couple of months later they were added again.

      You have nothing to lose by calling them and if you get lucky, you get them twice.

      • Roberto says:

        As did I….
        Waited 60 days for the points and like London Busses two came at once.. I moved the points and cancelled the card the following day.

        • Just called now for the third time and been told to wait again 10 days or that it takes 3 months after the end of the initial 3 months to make the spend. This is really annoying because i want to cancel it soon to be able to then do the plat upgrade

    • Graeme says:

      I’ve recently had to wait around two months, and had to have the same argument multiple times – they were adamant I wasn’t entitled to the points as I already had an MR account, which is obviously stupid. I sent them the link to the application page, but they clearly never read it.

      Really annoying given how quick things are normally.

  6. Ammar says:

    Ot- whats the point/benefit of changing the card currency in the curve app. I have a visa card issued by mbna, wondering if any advantage of changing currency when purchasing in usd?

    • James M says:

      I’d leave it as GBP – unless you have a 0% deal you’ll be hit with fees for the currency conversion; curve charges 1%.

    • Alex W says:

      If your underlying card has 0% FX, eg Lloyd’s Avios MasterCard, then you set it to the local currency and Curve does not charge you its 1% FX fee.

      The only real use is for cash withdrawals, which via Curve are charged as a purchase rather than a cash advance. For purchases obviously you could just use your 0% FX card directly.

  7. Catherine Downie says:

    Hey all, OT, I just wanted to check – if I book a Raffles or Fairmont hotel now for a date after the July merge date, the stay will earn points on Accor won’t it?
    Thanks!

  8. Talay says:

    OT but is there any current (or known future) way to retain Miles & More balances given the credit card means has gone away ?

  9. RichW says:

    As cash cannot even get ticket from Cardiff next April, has this been dropped already?

  10. Eddie says:

    Can I park my AMEX reward points with Eurostar then churn my gold/platinum card to build up another 30000 points heededvto buy two premium first tickets sometime in future?

  11. Polly says:

    Not if you are aiming for avios BA amex 241 in F to Asia . Then avios might be the better currency.

    • Heran says:

      Agree but you do not always have lots of Avios to use the 241 voucher, especially in first class to Asia (business class to Shanghai I remember costs 150k Avios which can take years to obtain).

  12. simon says:

    Qatar are offering very good prices from Jakarta if anyone is SE Asia Based

    CGK-DOH-BCN-DOH-CGK 20.2 Juta IDR or approx £1050 ,also available to MXP and Geneva

    Cheapest i have seen in years to Europe

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