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 …..
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.
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 ……
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (January 2021)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
There are two official British Airways American Express cards:
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points, such as:
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.
If you have a small business, we especially recommend Capital On Cap’s Visa card which comes with a generous bonus worth 10,500 Avios:
(Want to earn more Avios? Click here to visit our home page for our latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios this month from offers and promotions.)