Thai Airways’ Royal Orchid Plus (ROP) scheme isn’t the most popular frequent flyer program in Australia, but with Thai having no Aussie airline partners and running its own flights from Bangkok to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, it’s not hard for travellers Down Under to build up a bounty of ROP miles.
That’s especially true when credit card points from American Express, Citibank and Diners Club can be converted across to Thai Airways, and with the airline belonging to the Star Alliance network, those points can unlock flights and upgrades across the globe.
But why Royal Orchid Plus instead of Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, you ask? Well, in some cases, the number of miles needed to book a flight or snag an upgrade can be lower via ROP – and for Thai Airways passengers in particular, ROP miles can be used to upgrade to business class from a greater range of economy fares than using other Star Alliance miles from programs like KrisFlyer.
If your Royal Orchid Plus balance is in need of a boost, or you’re looking for a credit card that can convert points into both ROP miles and KrisFlyer miles for maximum flexibility, take a look at these top five cards.
1. American Express Explorer, Business Explorer credit cards
For the highest uncapped Royal Orchid Plus earning rate on your everyday purchases, slip an American Express Explorer or Business Explorer card into your wallet to earn the equivalent of 1.5 ROP miles per dollar spent, via the Membership Rewards Gateway program.
It’s done by earning two Gateway points per $1 spent, uncapped, which convert to Thai Airways at a 4:3 rate. Government transactions are the only exception (such as ATO payments), which earn a reduced 0.5 Gateway points per dollar spent, equal to 0.375 ROP miles.
New AMEX customers could also earn 50,000 bonus Gateway points (37,500 ROP miles) via the personal Explorer card when spending $1,500 in the first three months, or 100,000 Gateway points (75,000 ROP miles) via the Business Explorer card when spending $3,000 in the same period.
Both cards carry a $395 annual fee, although the personal Explorer card offsets this with a $400 travel credit each year which can be spent towards flights or hotels, while the Business Explorer offers an extra 50,000 Gateway points (37,500 ROP miles) every year to cardholders that spend $100,000 or more.
2. American Express Business Accelerator Card
For owners of smaller businesses, the American Express Business Accelerator Card could actually prove more rewarding on smaller spends, serving up two Membership Rewards Ascent points per $1 on most purchases, equal to two ROP miles via a 1:1 conversion (different to Gateway).
However, that’s only true for the first 100,000 Ascent points you earn each year (achieved from $50,000 of everyday spend) – hit that threshold and your ‘everyday’ earn rate is halved to one Ascent point per dollar spent thereafter, equal to one ROP mile.
There’s a lower annual fee to pay than with Business Explorer - $160 versus $395 – although payments to utility providers and insurers, in addition to government providers, earn a reduced 0.5 ROP miles per dollar spent at all times.
3. American Express Platinum, Business Platinum cards
Spend lots on travel and dining? The American Express Platinum charge card plates up a respectable 3 ROP miles per dollar spent at most Australian restaurants, and two ROP miles per dollar spent with airlines, hotels and on all overseas purchases.
Business owners could also be earning two ROP miles per dollar spent on advertising, courier expenses, computer equipment purchases and at restaurants, airlines and hotels via the AMEX Business Platinum card, although both cards provide a reduced 0.5 ROP miles per dollar spent with utilities, insurers and government bodies.
You’ll pay $1,200 per year for the personal Platinum card – but can earn 80,000 Ascent Premium points (80,000 ROP miles) when you apply and spend $1,500 in the first three months – or $1,500 for the Business Platinum card, aside 120,000 Ascent Premium points (120,000 ROP miles) when applying by January 31 2018 and spending $5,000 within the first two months.
4. American Express Platinum Edge credit card
For big spenders on groceries and fuel, the American Express Platinum Edge credit card tempts with a low $195 annual fee – which is more than offset by a $200 travel credit every year – and an earning rate of up to three Ascent points per dollar spent, uncapped, equal to three ROP miles.
You’ll earn points at the highest rate at major supermarkets, giving you 600 ROP miles from a $200 shop at Coles or Woolworths, while at major petrol stations, you’ll earn the equivalent of two ROP miles per $1 spent.
Transactions made with insurers, utility providers and government bodies offer a lower 0.5 ROP miles per dollar spent, while on everything else, you’ll earn the equivalent of one ROP mile per dollar spent.
5. Diners Club Card + World Mastercard combo
Certainly, Diners Club isn’t as widely accepted as American Express, but if you shop where Diners is welcome, you could be earning two Diners Club Rewards points per dollar spent via its personal charge card, equal to one ROP mile via a 2:1 conversion.
Everywhere else, you can use the companion World Mastercard to earn 0.375 ROP miles per dollar spent (converted from 0.75 Diners Club rewards points), although government transactions made using either card don’t award points.
Note that having the World Mastercard attached to your account actually gives you more points on your Diners Club card spend than without it, so even if you don’t plan on using the Mastercard, merely having it on your account doubles your Diners points!
The only other ROP-earning alternative for your ‘non-AMEX and Diners’ spend is the Citi Prestige Visa Infinite card, offering the equivalent of 0.33 ROP miles per dollar spent on everyday Australian purchases; 0.66 ROP miles per dollar spent at major petrol stations, supermarkets and national retailers; and one ROP mile per dollar spent overseas, and with airlines, hotels and restaurants in Australia.