Qantas Offers Frequent Flyers 9 Different Currencies in Newly Launched Pre-paid Card

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By Vittorio Hernandez | February 21, 2013 10:16 AM EST

In a bid to rise from its financial quagmire, Australian flag carrier Qantas will issue in the third quarter of 2013 a pre-paid credit card which will load 9 different currencies.

However, Qantas reported on Wednesday a bit of financial relief when it logged almost a triple first-half profit of $111 million.

The credit card, which could also be used as a travel card in 35 million locations around the world that would earn holders points on eligible purchases, would be issued to 9 million members of Qantas's Frequent Flyers Club.

It could also be used for withdrawing cash from over 2.1 million ATMs in and out of Australia. The card will also serve as check-ins and boarding pass at airports.

Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce described the card as the Swiss Army knife of cards because of its several uses outside traditional card functions.

To guide users, Qantas will roll out a Qantas Cash Web site and release an app to go along with the chip-enabled card. Qantas has an existing Frequent Flyer app for iPhone and Android users.

"The Qantas Cash feature will tap into the rapidly expanding area of electronic payments as people shift from cash to cards, and let members earn points from these transactions . . . The new-generation card will open the door to a lot of other uses through smart-chip technology and the ability to integrate it with mobiles, meaning the sky really is the limit," said Qantas Loyalty Chief Executive Lesly Grant.

Qantas said the new card is not intended to replace bank credit cards or co-branded bank/Qantas cards.

Blogger Ben Sandilands wrote in Crikey.com that given the banks' poor standing in relation to fees, the financially challenge airlines could score some points with air passengers who have been avoiding Qantas because of its frequent strikes.

The announcement follows release last week by Qantas of changes to its baggage weight limit and Platinum Card benefits in line with the air carrier's new alliance with Middle Eastern carrier Emirates, which Qantas unions are still questioning.

The one-time rise in Qantas's profit is due to the cancellation of 787 Dreamliners from Boeing and the sale of a StarTrack. The one-time pretax profit of $140 million refund from Boeing and $30 million more from the sale of the Qantas unit boosted the air carrier's bottom line. For the same period in 2012, Qantas registered a first-half profit of $42 million.

However, the flag carrier's international operations continue to be a losing proposition and registered a loss of $91 million for the same first half, which covers July to December 2012. The losses were significantly lower than the previous year's $262 million loss.

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