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For the past few years, it’s been easy to write off the Qatar Privilege Club program. Between high award costs and out-of-pocket fees, there was little value to be found — especially for travelers based in the U.S.
Then, an unexpected thing happened. In November 2020, Qatar Airways lowered award redemption rates by up to 49%. Between this and reduced award fees, suddenly awards through the Qatar Privilege Club cost much less than before.
So, let’s take a look at the sweet spots of Qatar’s newly re-valued Qmiles program — including cheap Qsuite (business class) awards that will cost you less than $20 out of pocket.
How to get Qmiles
Before we get to the sweet spots, we need to address the elephant in the room: How is a U.S.-based traveler supposed to get Qatar Qmiles? Thankfully, you don’t have to fly Qatar or even credit partner flights to Qatar’s Privilege Club.
Why not? Qatar’s Privilege Club partners with two major transferable points programs: Citi ThankYou and Marriott Bonvoy. U.S.-based travelers can use either — or a combination of both — to get enough Qmiles for the newly cheap Qsuite awards.
Citi cardholders can transfer ThankYou points to Qatar Qmiles at a 1:1 transfer ratio. Thanks to this transfer rate, you can essentially earn 5 Qmiles per dollar spent on restaurant and airfare purchases using the Citi Prestige® Card, or effectively earn 3x Qmiles at supermarkets, gas stations and hotels using the Citi Premier® Card.
Marriott members can transfer Bonvoy points to Qmiles at a rate of 3 Bonvoy points to 1 Qmile. Plus, you’ll get a 5,000-mile bonus for every increment of 60,000 Bonvoy points you transfer at a time. That means you can transfer 180,000 Bonvoy points to get 75,000 Qmiles.
Transfers from both Citi ThankYou and Marriott Bonvoy to Qatar Privilege Club may take a few days, so make sure to factor this into your award booking timing.
Best redemptions for Qatar's Qmiles program
As part of this “revaluation,” Qatar Airways lowered award redemption rates by up to 49% across its entire route network. However, Qatar doesn’t publish an award chart. So, you’ll need to use its Qcalculator to find the mileage cost for an award flight. That makes it harder to uncover great options. But we did some digging for you. Here are the best redemptions for U.S.-based travelers in the recently updated Qmiles program:
1. Qatar in business class for 70,000 Qmiles one way
Qatar Airways has an extensive network, but virtually all flights connect through Doha, Qatar. If you’re looking to go no further than Qatar, Qmiles is now a competitive option.
Award flights between Doha and anywhere in the U.S. cost just 70,000 Qmiles each way in business class. That’s an excellent rate for up to 15.5 hours in an excellent business class product.
You can book Qatar business class award flights through American Airlines AAdvantage at the same 70,000-mile rate. However, AAdvantage isn’t a transfer partner of any major bank point program. So it may be easier to get Qmiles and redeem an award through Qatar Privilege Club.
2. The Maldives in business class for 85,000 Qmiles one-way
Whether it’s for a honeymoon or another special occasion, the Maldives is a spectacular destination on many bucket lists. What better way to get there than by flying in Qatar’s Qsuite? You can book business class award flights from the U.S. to the Maldives for just 85,000 Qmiles each way, plus $15.71 in taxes and fees.
Male, the capital of the Maldives, is a reasonable five-hour flight from Doha, but Qatar still uses some of its finest business class products on this route. So you’ll get to fly to your Maldives getaway in comfort every leg of the journey.
3. India in business class for 80,000 Qmiles one way
Likewise, you can fly from anywhere in the U.S. in a business class Qsuite to India or Pakistan for only a few more Qmiles than it costs to fly to Doha. The trip will cost you 80,000 Qmiles each way and $15.71 in taxes and fees, and includes destinations throughout India and Pakistan like:
4. New Zealand in business class for 120,000 Qmiles one way
Anyone that’s flown from the U.S. to New Zealand can attest that it’s a long way between the countries. But Qsuite lovers can stretch this flight even longer by flying through Qatar. Flying Qatar business class on this route costs “just” 120,000 Qmiles.
While that’s more than many other mileage programs, this routing lets you enjoy Qsuite for a whopping 32 hours. This route of a combined 17,000+ miles lets you fly Qatar’s two longest flights back to back for just over $40 out of pocket.
5. Short-haul first class awards
In Doha, Qatar operates one of the best lounges in the world: the Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge. However, flying Qsuite business class or holding Oneworld elite status isn’t going to get you into this lounge. Instead, you must be a Qatar first class passenger, a Privilege Club Platinum elite flying in Qatar business class or pay a hefty upgrade fee as a business class passenger to enter.
But Qatar doesn’t sell first class tickets to many destinations. For example, Qatar doesn’t operate an aircraft with first class to any U.S. destination. While you could find first class on Qatar’s Airbus A380s, Qatar doesn’t expect to fly its A380s again until at least 2022.
So, to check out Qatar’s Al Safwa First Class Lounge, you’ll need to fly first class on short-haul routes. And thanks to Qatar’s distance-based award chart, these flights won’t break the mileage bank.
For example, you can tack on a first class flight to a business class award flight from the U.S. for as few as 75,000 Qmiles, plus under $16 in taxes and fees. That’s just 5,000 more Qmiles than booking a business class award from New York-JFK to Doha.
Alternatively, you can book an award flight from Doha to Kuwait or Muscat, Oman, for just 21,000 Qmiles each way in first class. Although these are short flights, paying just 21,000 miles to experience the Al Safwa First Class Lounge is quite a bargain.
How to find Qatar Privilege Club awards
Before transferring your Citi ThankYou or Marriott Bonvoy points to Qatar, check to see if there’s award availability on the flight that you want.
The airline makes this a little hard to do if you don't have enough Qmiles in your account, displaying an error message that doesn't let you move forward. This can be frustrating if you're still deciding whether to transfer any points into your Qatar Privilege Club account.
We've found a workaround.
You can still search for award availability before you transfer points to Qatar. Instead of using the award search tool, start on the Qatar homepage and search for a cash ticket on the route you want. Once the search results come up, click the “book an award ticket” button at the top right corner.
You’ll be prompted to log in to your Privilege Club account, if you haven't already. After logging in, you should be able to see award availability on this date and route. Select the option that you want to see the final mileage and out-of-pocket price.
The bottom line
If you haven’t paid attention to the Qatar Privilege Club recently, you haven’t missed out on much. Awards through the Qatar Privilege Club used to cost too many miles and had too many fees. But after recent changes, it’s worth considering the program once again for booking cheap Qsuite awards to Doha and beyond.
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