Do Qantas points still have currency?

It's often said that Qantas Frequent Flyer points are Australia's de facto currency. But while the Aussie dollar continues to ride high, some travellers are finding the "exchange rate" for their points is slowly heading south.

It's all to do with the value that some of Qantas's partner airlines place on Qantas points.

To extend the foreign exchange metaphor, when you're flying on an airline other than Qantas you're in a foreign country with a different currency.

The "earn rate" for Qantas points can be considerably less than on a jaunt in one of the Red Roo's own jets.

This applies even to airlines which are part of the same Oneworld airline alliance family.

No points-boosters on BA

A case in point: the latest fallout from the new Qantas-Emirates alliance and subsequent winding down of the Qantas-British Airways joint venture.

From March 31, Qantas will remove the "status bonus" offered to its frequent flyers when they travel with BA.

This prized perk delivers a second helping of points based on your status in the Qantas Frequent Flyer scheme.

The status bonus lets Platinum card-holders double their points haul, even if they're sitting down the back in economy – which makes for a serious boost when you're going all the way to London.

Gold gets you a 50 per cent bonus, while for Silvers it's a 25 per cent pick-me-up.

Also for the chop: the standard "one point per mile" on the cheapest discount economy tickets on BA flights from Australia to Singapore, London and Frankfurt. This wil be trimmed to a mere 0.25 points per mile.

Fewer miles with Malaysia Airlines

BA isn't the only airline where we're seeing a downgrade in the value of the Qantas Frequent Flyer point.

Malaysia Airlines, the newest a new member of the Oneworld tribe, lets you earn Qantas Frequent Flyer points on MAS flights from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth to Kuala Lumpur and beyond (including a double-daily A380 to London).

However, the rate at which MAS miles are magicked into Qantas points delivers only 0.75 Qantas points per mile in business class for flights between Australia and Malaysia, as well as through to London.

You also forego the cabin bonus, a common perk on other partner airlines through which you earn extra points for flying in business class or first class.

Let's be clear: Qantas isn't to blame for this.

Malaysia Airlines effectively buys Qantas Frequent Flyer points from Qantas and sets its own exchange rate for how these are handed out to the traveller.

But it shows why canny Australian travellers are become clued-in on maximising the value of their frequent flyer currency.

Earning with Emirates

The new Qantas-Emirates alliance comes with a few traps for unwary travellers.

While you'll be able to earn Qantas Frequent Flyer points on Emirates flights, you'll get a better exchange rate if those Emirates flights are booked through a Qantas agent under their corresponding Qantas flight code, which treats the trip as if you were on one of Qantas' own aircraft.

Take the evening Emirates flight EK413 from Sydney to Dubai, which dovetails neatly into Emirates' morning flights from Dubai to Europe - so you've got a much shorter layover at the airport than if you arrived on Qantas's own QF1.

Book this as the Emirates EK413 flight and you'll earn Qantas points at a lower "partner rate" and with no status credits.

Book the same flight as Qantas QF8413 (Qantas adds an 8 in front of the three-digit Emirates flight number) and you'll pick up your full complement of Qantas points and status credits.

There's also a status bonus of 50 per cent to 100 per cent for points, and a further cabin bonus of 50 per cent if you're in business class, compared to a 25 per cent business class bonus under the EK413 ticket.

That's a substantially larger haul for flying on the exact same plane.

Loyalty bonus

There's another gotcha coming down the track that will make it harder to earn points with any Qantas partner.

From July 1, the 8000 point "loyalty bonus" - which comes with every 500 status credits you rack up travelling with Qantas or a partner airline - will apply only to flights carrying a QF flight number.

It's another example of why frequent flyers need to carefully plot their travel plans to shore up the earning potential of their points.

David Flynn is a business travel expert and editor of Australian Business Traveller.

Twitter: @AusBT