Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

What can you learn from Qatar Privilege Club’s shock 40% mileage 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.

Qatar Privilege Club devaluation

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.

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 (71)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Charlie T. says:

    Somewhat amused that the ad at the top of the email version of this article was for none other than Qatar Airways!

    • Rob says:

      …. which they are paying for at full rate. Qatar remains an excellent airline, it just now has a weak frequent flyer scheme attached.

  • Mikeact says:

    Not forgetting Cathy’s recent significant devaluation……I guess this again, will be the on going trend.
    It’s been 3 years since Avios made changes….time for another update ?

    • guesswho2000 says:

      Asia miles deval hasn’t happened yet, there’s still nearly a month to use any miles at the old rate, and that deval isn’t quite as devastating. QR gave nobody any notice at all, and is epic, though their loyalty programme was always pretty weak in my opinion. You’re spot on though, devaluations will keep happening, it’s just a matter of who and when.

      I’ll keep burning miles until I can’t earn them quickly enough to continue, though. The way they get handed out like candy with credit card signups does make you wonder though.

  • Michael C says:

    PS Sure many people know, but thanks to advice here, I turned what was left in my Qatar account into a couple of Accor hotel nights! (all v straightforward to do).

  • filipino_chino says:

    Just at Christmas i booked my trip for next year (December 2018) with QR using all my miles (minus 8k) from Manchester to Chiang Mai (had about 200k) for 3 of us. I was a little short, so i raided my mothers account to get me home – kind of good timing really.

    I was looking just yesterday at Doha to Goa (GOI) as this used to be a really small amount of miles and i noticed the change, it did not really click until now.

  • Will says:

    Looks like the gloriously free state of Qatar’s airline can no longer run on handouts and over expansion! One wonders if they’ll be talking about the state airline in such glowing terms in 5 years time.

  • JPV says:

    Small typo – “the additional of booking fees on redemptions” in second sentence

  • Louie says:

    “…….HSBC Premier credit card points (convertible to four airlines). None of these three schemes has ever devalued its conversion ratios”

    HSBC have – https://headforpoints.com/2015/11/24/hsbc-premier-mastercard-halves-earning-rate/.

    • Rob says:

      That’s not what we’re talking about. The card halved its earning rate going forward but your existing points did not lose value.

      • Louie says:

        I may be wrong, but my recollection is that the rate changed so that unless you moved your points before the date it changed (which rather defeated the object of it being a convertible “currency”), you lost out. Say you had 40,000 points accumulated – before the change you could convert to 40,000 miles/Avios but after only to 20,000 points.

        • N says:

          No.

          On the rate change date they doubled the HSBC points value of all balances.

  • Worzel says:

    Slightly OT:

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

    I adopted Genghis’ Theorem of “Earn and Burn” and blew 55k Avios on Avis car hire last week.

    What to do with the rest…..Mmmm! 🙂 .

    • Doug M says:

      Do you know what that valued them at. I mentally value all rewards at zero, but like to get the best I can. I think I have around 500K Avios. I almost never buy SH tickets always doing RFS which mostly gets you well over 1p often more like 2p. Even a 50% devaluation without warning would typically make Avis a bad deal when I’ve checked.

      • Worzel says:

        Return was about 0.56p- which is about where I value them.

        Doing LHR-SIN/ KUL-LHR next year- with more value.

        Still quite a few left though…..

        • Genghis says:

          It all depends on how many points you have and earn. They only have value once redeemed for something

        • Polly says:

          We have a LHR HKG. KUL LHR F 241, so that definitely works out at good value…

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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