How does Virgin Velocity points scheme work?
The Qantas Frequent Flyer program may be a household name in Australia, but Virgin’s Velocity program gives it a serious run for its money.
Qantas has been established longer, has about 12 million members and has a one-off fee of about $100 to join. Virgin has around nine million members and is free to join.
In both programs, one reward point is valued at about one cent, but each method of earning points has a different rate of return.
There are three primary ways that you can earn points on your Velocity account.
Firstly, you can earn them by flying on any Virgin Australia or Atlantic flight, or with a partner airline (a list that includes Tigerair, Delta Air lines, Singapore Airlines, Silk Air, Hong Kong Airlines, Etihad Airlines, South African Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, Capital Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Tianjin Airlines, Alitalia and FlyPelican).
You can also accumulate points with your credit card. The American Express Velocity Platinum card is linked to Virgin’s rewards program.
And finally, shopping at Coles and using your Flybuys card will also accumulate Velocity points.
On top of those, you can also earn points ordering food online through Menulog, going to the gym at Jetts Fitness, paying bills using Australia Post’s MyPost Digital Mailbox, buying a gift through RedBalloon and fuelling up at BP.
There are three tiers to Velocity accounts, Platinum Status, Gold Status and Silver Status which offer different levels of rewards.
When it comes to using your reward points, there is a wide range of options available including reduced and even free travel with Virgin and its partner airlines.
There is also an online shop where points can be redeemed for a range of rewards including electronics, leisure items, fashion items, gift cards, entertainment and much more.
And depending on the tier of your Velocity account, you can access different levels of rewards in the Virgin Lounge while you are waiting at the airport.
Comparisons between Velocity and Qantas’ Frequent Flyer programs
The most enticing difference is that the Virgin network will fly you to over 200 destinations around the world, compared to just over 70 on the Qantas network.
The drawback is that you will earn fewer points by travelling on a partner airline than you would on a Virgin flight.
That difference is also set to change in the near future, with Qantas announcing plans to offer seats on selected flights with Air New Zealand, Air France, KLM and Bangkok Airways.
Qantas has also recently expanded its Frequent Flyer program with a $25 million investment to offer more seats and lower fees on flights.
Qantas will also allow you to use points to upgrade a seat you have already purchased with rewards points, while Virgin Australia does not offer this option.
Virgin offers a high rate of rewards points for domestic travel, set at five points per $1 spend. But as domestic flights are much cheaper than international travel, this is not a great way to rack up the points.
International flights return rewards based on distance in miles, starting from 0.01 points/cents per mile.
Qantas has a minimum points guarantee of 800 points per eligible economy flight, although some of the cheapest Jetstar flights are exempt from this.
Beware of hidden ‘Carrier Charges’
The Virgin Velocity program is attractive because it promises lower taxes and fees on redeemed flights than the Qantas Frequent Flyer program.
For example, for a trip from Sydney to Melbourne, you will be charged $35.83 to use your points with Qantas and $23.39 to use your points with Velocity.
But in the fine print, that is not always the case.
If you want to redeem your points for a Hong Kong trip, you will notice additional ‘Carrier Charges’ of $35 for economy class and $50 for business class through the Velocity program.
This leaps up to charges of $60 for economy class, $145 for premium economy and $230 for business class for flights between Australia and Los Angeles.
The potential sale of Velocity could mean changes to the program in the future
It has been reported that Virgin Australia could be poised to sell off its rewards program in the near future.
The company previously sold a 35 per cent stake in the program to Hong Kong-based private equity firm Affinity Equity Partners for $336 million in 2014.
Now, it has been reported that Virgin Australia plans to float the remaining 65 per cent on the Australian Stock Exchange in a move that could generate billions in revenue.
This was a move previously considered by Qantas in 2014, but they elected to retain their loyalty program and find other ways to cover losses.
Should Virgin Australia proceed with the sale of its Velocity program, that idea could be revisited by Qantas.
Any potential sale would likely mean changes to the rewards program, although it is unclear what they will be at this point.
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