How to travel to Australia with points and miles for 2024


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What comes to mind when you think of Australia? For me, it’s watching the surfers at Bondi Beach, that first glimpse of the Twelve Apostles along the Great Ocean Road and visiting Steve Irwin’s beloved Australia Zoo.

For those with limited vacation time, a trip to Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane is a terrific introduction to Australia. Each city is a fabulous base for day trips to national parks, nearby beaches and other popular attractions within the region by car via guided tour.

If you’ve got a flexible schedule — or the ability to spend a year doing the Working Holiday Visa (for 18 to 30-year-olds, or up to age 35 if you’re from certain countries) like I did — catch a short flight to remote locales such as Darwin, Perth, Adelaide, Hobart, Canberra, Alice Springs or Uluru–Kata Tjuta National Park to experience everything Australia has to offer.

Worried this might be an expensive endeavor? There are plenty of ways to bring costs down, from sticking to your budget to using points and miles to pay for your flights, hotels, car rentals and tours. 

Here’s everything you need to know about traveling to Australia with points and miles.

How to get started with travel points and airline miles

People swimming in the freshwater swimming pools built in to the sea with waves rolling in to Bondi and breaking against the edge of the pool
The freshwater swimming pools in Sydney’s Bondi Beach neighborhood © JulieanneBirch / Getty

The cheapest award flights to Australia

If the idea of spending an entire day on an airplane makes you sweat – 15.5 hours from Los Angeles or San Francisco and roughly 17.5 hours from Dallas or Houston – I don’t blame you. But I promise you it’s worth it.

While jet lag likely won’t spare you, I find it helps to get as much sleep as I can on the way there so I’m ready to hit the ground running when I land. On the way back to the US, try and stay awake as long as possible (movie marathon!) so you can go to bed close to a normal time when you land.

Also keep in mind that you’ll need to apply for an ETA (Electronic Travel Authority) visa for about 20 AUD (US$12), which lets you visit Australia for up to three months each time you enter the country within a 12-month period. For peace of mind, apply early, as processing times vary.

As for booking flights with points and miles, you’ll find the best deals from airport hubs in cities with nonstop flights to Sydney (SYD), Melbourne (MEL) or Brisbane (BNE). That means Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), Dallas (DFW), Houston (IAH), Honolulu (HNL) or Vancouver (YVR). 

If you’re planning to venture out to other Australian cities, check Google Flights to see what prices are like on domestic carriers like Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin Australia, Rex and Bonza. 

You might also be able to use points and miles to cover short hops, as Jetstar is connected to Qantas (and partners), and Virgin Australia is partners with United Airlines. Signing up for travel credit cards so you can maximize welcome bonuses and booking with airline partners are the key ways to grow your pile of points and miles and save money on a trip to Australia.

  • Cheapest economy class ticket to Australia: 75,000 ANA Mileage Club miles round-trip
  • Cheapest business-class ticket to Australia: 110,000 Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles round-trip (to fly on Qantas)
  • Cheapest first-class ticket to Australia: 140,000 Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles round-trip (to fly on Qantas)
     

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Aerial views over the Whitsunday Island chain. Hamilton Island is the most populated island in the group.
Flying over the Whitsunday Island chain © Matthew Micah Wright / Getty

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

While Alaska Airlines doesn’t operate flights to Australia, you can still use Mileage Plan miles to book trips on its Oneworld partners, Qantas and American Airlines. Here’s how many you’ll need to fly on American Airlines:

  • Economy Class: 80,000 miles round-trip
  • Business Class: 160,000 miles round-trip
  • First Class: 220,000 miles round-trip

Here’s how many Mileage Plan miles you’ll need to redeem flights on Qantas:

  • Economy Class: 85,000 miles round-trip
  • Business Class: 110,000 miles round-trip
  • First Class: 140,000 miles round-trip

When it comes to award availability, it’s going to be tougher to book a flight redemption with Qantas than American Airlines, so look early and often.

To earn Mileage Plan miles quickly, sign up for one of two cobranded credit cards to make the most of the welcome bonus. Thanks to a new partnership, Bilt Rewards can be transferred to American Airlines, while you can also sign up for a cobranded credit card to build up your AAdvantage miles stash.

Alternatively, you can transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to Mileage Plan and AAdvantage at a 3:1 ratio.

  • Alaska Airlines Visa® card: Earn 60,000 bonus miles once you spend $3,000 within the first 90 days of account opening — and earn Alaska’s $99 Companion Fare (plus taxes and fees from $23) each year after you spend $6,000.
  • Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles, plus Alaska’s $99 Companion Fare, after spending $3,000 within the first 90 days of opening your account.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card: Earn 30,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on eligible purchases within the first six months from account opening. Plus, Earn up to 14X total points for every $1 spent at thousands of hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card: Earn 3 Free Night Awards (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bevy® American Express® Card: Earn 155,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card: Earn 185,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after making your first purchase and paying the $99 annual fee within the first 90 days of account opening.
  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,500 within the first three months of opening your account.
  • CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®: Earn 65,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 within the first four months of account opening.
  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive Mastercard®: Earn 70,000 bonus miles after spending $7,000 within the first three months of opening your account.
  • The Bilt Mastercard®: No welcome bonus, but you can earn points on rent and transfer to a number of airline and hotel partners.

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Qantas Frequent Flyer

Qantas Frequent Flyer opens its availability options 353 days ahead of time, giving the first choice to its members when it comes to redeeming points for business- and first-class seats (compared to those redeeming via partners). 

While you might find a better deal by booking Qantas award tickets with other Oneworld partners like American Airlines or Alaska Airlines, it’s still worth checking the Qantas points calculator on its website, as it usually depends on the distance you’ll be flying. 

Here’s an idea of what you’ll find for a sample flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Sydney (SYD):

  • Economy Class: 83,800 miles round-trip
  • Business Class: 216,800 miles round-trip
  • First Class: 325,600 miles-round-trip

For comparison, here’s a search for a flight from Dallas (DFW) to SYD): 

  • Economy Class: 102,400 miles round-trip
  • Business Class: 253,000 miles round-trip
  • First Class: 379,600 miles-round-trip

Qantas points can also be redeemed for flights on Jetstar and American Airlines, among other Oneworld airline partners.

Several flexible rewards programs, such as American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Capital One Rewards, let you transfer points to Qantas at a 1:1 ratio, while Marriott Bonvoy points can be transferred at a ratio of 3:1.

  • American Express® Green Card: Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 within the first six months of opening your account.
  • American Express® Gold Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $6,000 within the first six months of account opening
  • American Express® Business Gold Card: Earn 70,000 bonus points after spending $10,000 within the first three months of opening your account.
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $8,000 within the first six months of opening your account.
  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 120,000 bonus points after spending $15,000 within the first three months of account opening.
  • Citi Premier® Card: Earn 60,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 within the first three months of opening your account.
  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Earn 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 within the first three months of opening your account.
  • Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: Earn 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 within the first three months of opening your account.

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ANA fleet at Tokyo Narita Airport
ANA fleet at Tokyo Narita Airport © TUNGCHEUNG / Shutterstock

All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club

While All Nippon Airways (ANA) is the flag carrier of Japan, you can still use ANA Mileage Club miles to book flights through its Star Alliance partners, such as United Airlines and Air Canada. 

There is one catch: you’ll need to book a round-trip award redemption, as one-ways aren’t allowed. Here’s how many ANA Mileage Club miles you’ll need to redeem a round-trip flight on either partner airline:

  • Economy Class: 75,000 miles round-trip
  • Business Class: 120,000 miles round-trip

The easiest ways to earn ANA Mileage Club miles are by using the 1:1 transfer ratio from American Express Membership Rewards or by maximizing the welcome bonus of either The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum Card from American Express, which would each provide enough points to cover your round-trip flight.

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Avianca LifeMiles

Using Avianca LifeMiles to book flights on Star Alliance partners United Airlines and Air Canada is one of the best points and miles sweet spots, especially after United devalued its MileagePlus program this summer.

  • Economy Class: 80,000 miles round-trip
  • Business Class: 160,000 miles round-trip

To rack up Avianca LifeMiles in a hurry, transfer points at a 1:1 ratio from Citi ThankYou Rewards, Capital One Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards, or from Marriott Bonvoy at a ratio of 3:1.

  • Citi Premier® Card: Earn 60,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 within the first three months of opening your account.
  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Earn 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 within the first three months of opening your account.
  • Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: Earn 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 within the first three months of opening your account.
  • American Express® Green Card: Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 within the first six months of opening your account.
  • American Express® Gold Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $6,000 within the first six months of account opening.
  • American Express® Business Gold Card: Earn 70,000 bonus points after spending $10,000 within the first three months of opening your account.
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $8,000 within the first six months of opening your account.
  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 120,000 bonus points after spending $15,000 within the first three months of account opening.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card: Earn 30,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on eligible purchases within the first six months from account opening. Plus, Earn up to 14X total points for every $1 spent at thousands of hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit CardEarn 3 Free Night Awards (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bevy® American Express® Card: Earn 155,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card: Earn 185,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

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United Airlines MileagePlus

While admittedly, this isn’t your best redemption option, I’m including it because it’s still a good one for those who rely on transferring points from Chase Ultimate Rewards to United and its many Star Alliance partners.

  • Economy Class: 110,000 miles round-trip
  • Business Class: 200,000 miles round-trip

Several cobranded United credit cards offer lucrative welcome bonuses, as do the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve®, to help you get started on your United MileagePlus miles-building journey. United is also a partner of Bilt Rewards (1:1) and Marriott Bonvoy (3:1).

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • United Gateway℠ Card: Earn 20,000 miles after spending $1,000 within the first three months of account opening.
  • United℠ Explorer Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.
  • United Quest℠ Card: Earn 60,000 bonus miles and 500 Premier qualifying points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.
  • United Club℠ Infinite Card: Earn 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • United℠ Business Card: Earn 100,000 United MileagePlus Miles after you spend $5,000 on qualifying purchases in the first three months of opening an account. Offer ends April 3, 2024.
  • United Club℠ Business Card: Earn 75,000 United MileagePlus Miles and 1,000 PQP after you spend $5,000 on qualifying purchases in the first three months of opening an account. Offer ends April 3, 2024.

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Australia hotels you can book with points

Some of the best points hotels on earth can be found in Australia, no matter which part of the country you’re in. With options from most chains available in every major city, plus a few Accor properties outside Uluru–Kata Tjuta National Park, there’s no need to go without the usual creature comforts, even in the middle of the Australian Outback.

You’ll encounter hotel and resort options from Marriott Bonvoy, IHG One Rewards, World of Hyatt, Hilton Honors, Choice Privileges, Wyndham Rewards and Accor Live Limitless. It’s free to sign up for all of these, and if you happen to have your preferred brand’s hotel rewards credit card, you’ll be able to rack up a ton of points in no time, thanks to their respective welcome bonuses.

Several travel credit cards really go the extra mile to help you cut costs. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® includes a $300 annual travel credit. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card offers an included benefit of $200 in statement credits, which can be put toward resort fees and other purchases made at Hilton hotels two times a year.

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Park-Hyatt-Sydney
Views of Sydney Harbour from the rooftop pool at The Park Hyatt Sydney © Park Hyatt Sydney

Stop 1: Sydney

Most travelers will start their big Aussie adventure in Sydney, New South Wales, home to the famous Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Once you’ve checked out the oldest part of the city, a neighborhood known as “The Rocks,” unwind with a relaxing stroll through Royal Botanic Garden Sydney.

If time allows, head to Bondi Beach, where you can have a swim and see the surfers do their thing. For a real treat, plan a day trip (by train or car) to Blue Mountains National Park and hike out to the Three Sisters viewing area in Katoomba for incredible views of the rock formation and the valley below.

The Park Hyatt Sydney, a category 8 World of Hyatt property located right in the heart of all the action in Dawes Point, has room rates from 35,000 per night. With 155 rooms and suites (many of which offer views of Sydney Harbour), a swanky rooftop pool and a luxurious spa, it’s a terrific place to lay your head after a long flight — or a big day of sightseeing.

The welcome bonus from the World of Hyatt Credit Card, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve® would be enough to cover one night (or two nights if you sign up for both – just make sure you aren’t violating Chase’s 5:24 rule, which won’t let you add a new Chase credit card if you’ve already signed up for five cards in the last 24 months).

If you’re still short, you can always transfer Ultimate Rewards points to World of Hyatt, as it’s one of Chase’s hotel partners. 

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Young couple walking through Birrarung Marr in Melbourne, Australia
Strolling through Birrarung Marr in Melbourne, Australia © SolStock / Gett Images

Stop 2: Melbourne

Located in Victoria, Melbourne is home to lively coffee and foodie scenes, world-class museums and incredible nightlife throughout the Central Business District and just a tram ride away by the beach in St Kilda. 

Keep your eyes peeled for colorful murals and street art as you wind your way through the city’s many laneways. Don’t leave without doing the 90-minute Aboriginal Heritage Walk at the Royal Botanic Garden, which offers a chance to learn more about local flora as well as the history, culture and modern-day experience of Australia’s Indigenous people.

Five-star hotel Le Méridien Melbourne came onto the scene in March 2023, offering room rates from 31,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night. With 235 guestrooms, a chic pool deck and a location within walking distance of the Melbourne Museum, Fitzroy Gardens and Melbourne’s busy central business district, it makes a great base for exploring the rest of the city.

Since Marriot Bonvoy is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards, you can switch points over from either loyalty program to bump up your balance. 

The welcome bonus alone from the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card would take care of a free night (up to 95,000 points). Members earn 95,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after using their new card to make $6,000 in purchases within the first six months of card membership. Card members also receive up to $300 annually ($25 per month) in credits for dining at restaurants and a free night on their anniversary.

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The Newfarm Riverwalk in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. A scenic place to walk along or ride your bike with views of the Story Bridge and Brisbane City.
Walk along or ride your bike along The Newfarm Riverwalk in Brisbane, Australia © Rob D / Shutterstock

Stop 3: Brisbane

Located in Queensland, Brisbane is best known for its farmers’ markets, public art museums, zig-zagging Riverwalk and vibrant live music scene. 

It’s also a great base for making day trips to Mount Coot-Tha, the Glass House Mountains, Crocodile Steve Irwin’s beloved Australia Zoo in Beerwah or one of Australia’s many theme parks – Dreamworld, Warner Bros. Movie World, WhiteWater World, Wet’N’Wild or Sea World – near the Gold Coast.

Hotel X Brisbane Fortitude Valley, part of the IHG One Rewards Vignette Collection, has room rates from 26,000 points per night, putting you within walking distance of the scenic Story Bridge, the Wilson Outlook Reserve, and all the shopping and nightlife the Fortitude Valley neighborhood has to offer.

The welcome bonus from the IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card offers enough points to cover a whopping five nights at this hotel, while the IHG One Rewards Traveler Credit Card’s would cover three. Alternatively, the welcome bonus from either the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve® could cover two nights.

To top up your IHG Rewards One points balance, you can transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards or Bilt Rewards at a 1:1 ratio.

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Silhouette of adult woman looking from a car window at Glass House Mountains, a popular tourist destination in the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia
Road-tripping to the Glass House Mountains in Queensland, Australia © chameleonseye / Getty

Activities and ground transportation

If you’re planning to rent a car, be aware that you’ll need to drive on the left side of the road and from the right side of the car.

Whether you decide to go for it or rely on public transportation or ridesharing apps like Uber to get around, you’ll be able to “wipe” those transportation charges if you have certain travel credit cards.

The Capital One Venture and the Capital One Venture X allow cardholders to redeem points to cover travel expenses, typically at a value of one cent per point. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® also offers a $300 annual credit, so you’ll receive statement credits meant to cover certain travel charges. 

To help lower the cost of car rentals, guided tours and other activities, Chase Sapphire Preferred® and Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders can redeem Ultimate Rewards points to cover them at a rate of 1.25 cents per point or 1.5 cents per point, respectively, through the Chase travel portal.

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Bottom line

There’s no reason a dream trip to Australia has to break the bank. By being aware of airline alliances and the many ways to save on points and miles redemptions through booking with transfer partners, you’ll be able to cover your flights and hotel stays in no time.

Signing up for travel credit cards with generous welcome bonuses and focusing on flexible rewards programs with transferable points will help boost your balance in a hurry, freeing up more of your hard-earned dollars for fun activities like a night out on the town or dinner at a fancy restaurant.

*Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions, and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by Amex Assurance Company.

Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.



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