Apply for a frequent flyer card to earn points as you spend and redeem them for flights and upgrades with your favourite airline.
Frequent flyers have many credit cards geared specifically toward them: in return for their business, banks offer many benefits, the most popular of which is frequent flyer points redeemable for flights on specific airlines. But some reward programs allow points to be redeemed on more than one airline, or offer other benefits such as seat upgrades to premium, business or first class, free lounge access, complimentary travel insurance, priority check-in or extra baggage. The requirements for these cards vary – our site’s Smart Search tool can help identify the cards you are eligible for.
Because of the added benefits, frequent flyer cards normally have higher purchase rates and annual fees. Many cards, however, come with introductory bonus points, waived fees, or promotional interest rates.
The frequent flyer cards listed here include programs with most of the major Australian aviation players; most of these programs are free to join, but not all. Depending on your travel, you should also consider your other needs before applying. Some cards, for example, come without any foreign transaction fees, which can certainly add up if you are constantly on the road.
Jack rarely used his credit card. But then he realised a frequent flyer card could rack up serious points, so he compared and switched.
Now he runs everything—from groceries, fuel, household bills and even his tax—through his card and earns points on every dollar spent.
In just 12 months he earned more than 150,000 points. That’s enough to upgrade to first class for no extra effort or money.
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.
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.
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.
You need to enrol to become a member of a program. Most programs are free, or free with a sign-up, with the exception of Qantas Frequent Flyer, which charges a one-time fee of $89.50 to join, although the fee is occasionally waved during promotions. Depending on the program, you must earn or spend points at least once during a set period to keep your membership current and not lose your points. For Qantas, it’s once every 18 months; for Velocity, it’s at least once every 36 months, for example.
The criteria and the process is the same as all other credit cards, but because these cards are premium products the bar is higher. Banks look at your credit rating, verify who you are and verify your income. That being said, not all frequent flyer credit cards require high earnings. Just make sure you have no bad credit history and you should be okay.
The way you earn air miles varies between different frequent flyer membership programs, but they generally function in the same way as other types of rewards scheme: you earn points each time you use your card. Typically, there is a flat rate of earning for every dollar spent on you credit card and a bonus rate for purchases with the program’s partners such as affiliated airlines, hotels, retail outlets and other partners. Different credit cards earn points at different rates within the same program – gold and platinum cards often earn more points than standard cards – and you maybe able to earn bonus points during introductory offers. It’s common for a bank to issue two cards for your account, an American Express and Visa / MasterCard, with the AmEx having the higher earn rate of the two.
There are many ways to racket up your points total but you shouldn’t go out of your way to spend more in order earn more points. To get the most earning potential out of your card you need to be spending often and earning plenty of points on those purchases. Depending on your circumstances it might be a good idea to see what regular payments you can move to your credit card – things such as weekly groceries, fuel payments and direct debits for bills – so that you can earn points on your normal payments. Also, some of the frequent flyer credit cards will earn up to 5 points for every dollar spent when you spend at a restaurant or store which participates in that rewards program. That’s an idea to get you thinking.
Yes. It all comes down to the maths and everyone is equal in that regard. If you spend the money on the right cards, your points will add up and the reward can be redeemed. It might take a little longer if you are a low spender, but it will all still work out. The bonus points that you get at signup or upon first spend will also help get you going. Low spenders should probably aim for a frequent flyer card with the lowest annual fee so that they can faster reach the break even point where the reward benefit equals the cost of holding the card. Again it’ll come down to how and when you redeem your points.
No, sadly they do not earn points. You should also be aware that frequent flyer cards have higher interest rates than normal low rate credit cards because it is a premium product.
Yes, if you fly frequently enough, spend within your means, repay your monthly credit card in full, and need more flexibility to fly with various airlines, then it is an idea worth considering. Mind you, managing your multiple credit cards and airline program balances could become complex. One way round this would be to apply for a card from American Express that has Membership Rewards. The benefits of earning Membership Rewards points is that your points balance can be transferred to a number of airline frequent flyer programs, so you aren’t tied to one specific airline or alliance.
Yes, people who chase the extra points do this. There’s nothing to stop you from getting a card (subject to approval), pocketing the signup bonus points and then closing the card down later on. Mind you, it would need to make sense financially to do so because almost all frequent flyer rewards cards have annual fees.
No, that won’t be a problem. The points that you earn in a frequent flyer program are separate to your credit card. So if you’re cutting up a card or just switching to another card your points won’t be affected.
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.
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.
The short answer is no. Why? Because there are so many variables at play. Here are some examples.
For more insight, check out this infographic we created which illustrates the varying value of frequent flyer points across a number of airlines.
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.