Frequent Flyer Credit Cards
Is a frequent flyer credit card right for me?
If your lifestyle involves plenty of travel, catching flights and purchasing travel-related products and services such as hotels and rentals, a frequent flyer credit card could be a great choice. These cards work best if you spend often; you get the most out of your membership by making purchases and earning points. Membership also opens doors to other benefits such as concierge services, access to airport lounges, priority airport check-in, complimentary upgrades along with a rolling program of special offers and discounts. Credit cards for frequent flyers usually feature insurance policies including travel insurance and purchase protection.
If you are likely to overspend, don’t always clear the balance in full and have an ongoing debt on your credit card account, the cost of using your credit card outweighs the benefits of the program. And since these cards usually have an annual fee, if you don’t travel often or use your card infrequently, another type of card would be better. Note that cash advances, buying foreign currency, balance transfers, gambling payments and other types of transaction are usually exempt from the rewards scheme and earn no points.
What features should I consider when comparing cards?
You re looking for the best value frequent flyer card that s going to give you the most in return for your loyalty. You should examine all the credit card features, the rates & fees and the details of the frequent flyer program when comparing and selecting a new card.
Program partners: The program should involve airlines, hotels, retailers and other companies that you regularly spend with using your credit card and offer the opportunity to redeem the points for rewards you want to use.
Earn rate (points per dollar spent): The value of the points you earn is very important. You should take the time to see how points are earned and the number of points needed for rewards to judge how much value for money the program really provides. For example, a card may offer 3 points per dollar, but the real value of each point may be lower than a card that offers 1 point per dollar, depending on amount needed to redeem a ticket, restrictions and blackout dates, and so on.
Introductory offers and sign up bonuses: Banks regularly offer bonus points during an introductory period, which can be a great opportunity to quickly earn rewards, but you should always examine how the program changes once the offer ends. Many cards also often run award sign-up bonuses.
Extra benefits: Frequent flyer points credit cards usually feature other benefits alongside the rewards program, including travel insurance and purchase protection. In terms of travel insurance, the level of cover can be dramatically different from one card to another, with some offering cover you and your family internationally and domestically, while others only offer cover for you while overseas.
Interest rates: As with any credit card, one of the most essential features to look at is the interest on the account, including purchase and cash advance rates. You want to use your credit card for everyday purchases, not just during travel, so it should feature a competitively low interest rate. Assuming you travel regularly, you should also research foreign exchange fees and foreign transaction fees.
Annual fees: Many of these cards feature a significantly higher annual fee than standard credit cards. You should calculate how this balances with the credit card’s other features to make sure that the cost of using your card doesn’t negate the benefits.
What kinds of restrictions do frequent flyer credit cards have?
Each frequent flyer program has its own set of rules and regulations regarding points capping and expiration. Some cards operate with a tiered points system, where you earn more when you spend at places connected to the program. Entry level frequent flyer cards for low spenders tend to place the most restrictive points capping in place which is okay if you re not intending to spend more than a few $1,000 s each month.
How can I spend my points?
Points can be redeemed for flights with affiliated airlines: you can redeem Qantas Frequent Flyer points, for example, for flights with Qantas, British Airways and American Airlines, among others. You can also use your points for hotel accommodation, resorts and holiday packages, car rentals, entertainment and leisure services, retail products and many other options. Frequent flyer programs usually allow you to pay partly in points and partly with money. The credit card’s frequent flyer program usually gives you access to an online account where you can check your balance, browse for products and services and learn about special offers.
How much are frequent flyer points worth?
Sadly, 1 frequent flyer point is not worth $1 dollar. That would be amazing. You’ve got to think of the points you earn as a separate currency to the Aussie dollar. What you spend your points on will determine the value you are able to yield from those points. Redeeming your points for a $100 gift card is easy and convenient but will not be the best value. Redeeming your frequent flyer points for a premium economy seat or business class seat on an international flight with most airlines will yield a much higher points-to-dollar value.
Are all frequent flyer points worth the same across different points programs?
The short answer is no. Why? Because there are so many variables at play. Here are some examples.
- Transferring from one rewards program to another: You may be earning points with a rewards program run by a bank. In this case, you typically have the option to transfer points to a frequent flyer program such as Qantas Frequent Flyer or Velocity Frequent Flyer. However, one rewards point does not necessarily equate to one frequent flyer point.
- Different programs, different value: For example, Program A may require 100,000 points for a flight worth $1,000 if booked with cash, making one point worth 1 cent. Program B may offer flights in the same cabin on the same route and require 125,000 points for a flight worth $1,000, which would value one point worth less than 1 cent. However, Program B may also have flights to a different destination that is still attractive to you but only require 100,000 points for a flight worth $1,500 if booked in cash, valuing each point at 1.5 cents.
For more insight, check out this infographic we created which illustrates the varying value of frequent flyer points across a number of airlines.
Will I have the flexibility to redeem my frequent flyer points with any airline?
No, but there’s a lot of flexibility with each frequent flyer program. Qantas is a member of the OneWorld alliance so points can be used for flights with Qantas and 14 other OneWorld airlines. The Velocity program in Australia is partnered with Virgin Australia and 7 other airlines in the Star Alliance group. Another great option is to earn Membership Rewards points with American Express credit cards because your points can be redeemed or transferred over to about 9 airlines.
Still need help? Ask us a question
We welcome your questions but we cannot help if you need personal financial advice or if have lost your card or need to resolve a dispute with your bank.
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