Travel SOS: using your frequent flyer points for upgrades

Esme wants to know if it’s worth using her frequent flyer points for an upgrade.

Travel SOS: using your frequent flyer points for upgrades

Esme wonders if it’s worth using her frequent flyer points for business class, or if there’s a better way to get a seat near the pointy end of the plane. So, in Travel SOS, Leon offers his take on points for upgrades.

Q. Esme
I’ve been saving my Qantas frequent flyer points for years and I’m wondering if it’s best to use them to buy an economy flight or if I should buy my economy seat then use my points to upgrade to business class. I don’t want to waste them, so, is this the best use of my points?

A. It’s a great question, Esme. There are many ways to use your points, but if you ask me (which you have done), I’d say that using them for upgrades will give you the best value.

You can use your points to buy economy flights, but by the time you pay for taxes and other charges, often the cost of the flight will exceed what you’d pay in cash.

My tip is to pay for an economy seat, then either use your points outright on an upgrade. Say you were going with Qantas to Los Angeles from Melbourne, if you bought an economy ticket you would get a business class upgrade for around 45,000 points. You’d get a premium economy upgrade for around 18,000 points.

Qantas actually has an upgrade calculator to help you work out how many points you’ll need for an upgrade.

Qantas also has a program called Bid Now Upgrades that allows you to use a mixture of cash and points to ‘bid’ on an upgrade. This may be a way you can get your upgrade without ‘spending’ all your points. Sometimes you can pick up an international upgrade for as little as 5000 points.

I hope that helps, Esme!

Do you have any experience using your points to upgrade? Was it worth it?



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    25th Nov 2017
    Esme be careful when you pay for an economy flight, I did that once, thinking I would upgrade using points- but I bought a qantas flight that wasn't eligible!!!!- the rules are quite complicated and I can't figure out why i wasn't allowed an upgrade - even rang them - and they wouldn't upgrade me. maybe someone else is more knowledgeable. I think using qantas point for an economy fare is still worth it for overseas travel.I was able to circumvent the taxes somewhat when redeeming flights on the Qantas website by using different one-world carriers like Cathay and getting where you want to go but avoiding heavy taxing airports like Heathrow and get to your European destination via Helsinki for example. have fun using the Qantas frequent flyer website- it takes a bit of work
    25th Nov 2017
    The reason you were not eligible for an upgrade is because of the class of fare you bought. There is not ONE economy fare on QF, there are many, X, E, N, O, Q, G, K, L, M, S, V, B, H, and Y.

    B, H, or Y, are the ones you need, as they are Flexible economy tickets. As you have probably now realised, each of those fare buckets represents how much you paid for your ticket. It goes without saying that B, H, and Y tickets are the most expensive, as you can change them, cancel them etc. Once upon a time, there was only one Economy ticket class and that was Y.

    So you need to make sure that the ticket you plan to buy is upgradable BEFORE you purchase. Secondly, upgrades are hard to get, and often depend on what tier you are on in the FF program. If you are only QF Bronze like me, pretty much forget it unless the plane is flying almost empty, in which case you can stretch out on a block of 4 empty Y seats anyway.

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