CREDIT CARDS

Five great freebies for the family

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We all feel like we're winning if we land a free airfare or a bit of merchandise in return for swiping our credit cards. But recent Reserve Bank research reveals that you have to spend an average $18,400 on your credit card to get a $100 shopping voucher from your credit card rewards program.

That's $6000 more than you had to spend in 2003. Surely that leads to the question – are credit card rewards worth it? Probably, not, says RateCity, which estimates that fewer than 5 percent of credit card holders would benefit from using a rewards program, as annual fees and interest rates outweigh the value for most cardholders, who spend an average $17,000 per year.

Damian Smith, chief executive of RateCity, said: "You really have to be an absolute high-flyer, spending over $60,000 on your credit card per year and paying it off in full each month to get any value from rewards cards".

For the rest of us, there are lots of great freebies and discounts to be found; from haircuts to travel, saving cash is all about knowing where to look.

Retailers reward recycling

The environmental benefits of recycling are well documented, but more of us are now reaping the financial benefits that recycling offers. For instance, big retailers such as Apple and M.A.C. Cosmetics encourage environmentally-friendly disposal of used goods and containers in return for discounts on future purchases.

Roadside assistance cover

Most of us will take out roadside assistance cover for peace of mind on the roads, but few of us will actually make the most of the discounts that membership affords. For instance, some providers will offer discounts on goods and services ranging from travel and music concerts to sporting goods and technology, to name a few.

Cut price hair cut

If you hate splashing out on a haircut, then consider slashing costs by opting for a trainee stylist. Hairdressing academies offer discounted rates, potentially saving you hundreds of dollars each year. Similar discounts can be found in other industries, so shop around for training academies in your area.

Perks of the workplace

Many Australian workplaces offer discounts and reduced premiums on products and services ranging from internet service to gym memberships, so it pays to talk to your employer to determine what you're entitled to. Some Australians will be eligible for discounted rates on financial products such as their home loan too, simply because they, or a partner, are employed within a certain industry.

Freebies for kids

From travel and restaurants to entertainment; freebies and discounts abound for children.

But before taking on any deal, it pays to do some research to ensure a product is suitable for your circumstances, particularly when it comes to shopping for financial products.

When it comes to credit card rewards, Smith said nine times out of 10 you're better off paying for it yourself and pocketing the difference with a low-rate credit card.

"Don't get sucked into rewards, sit down and do the sums because it won't take long and you could be hundreds of dollars better off," he said.