Treat yourself: Choosing between rewards credit cards

Treat yourself: Choosing between rewards credit cards

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t enjoy something for free, particularly when they are being rewarded for loyalty.

If used wisely, a rewards credit card can offer just that – from a free flight or kitchen appliance to even getting cold hard cash back from the provider.

Used in the wrong way or choosing the wrong card, however, and a rewards program can be a costly option.

So, with the glut of various rewards credit cards out on the market, how do you decide which is the one for you, or whether this option is for you at all? There is a relatively simple method to choosing between them. 

Make sure the reward is something you want

Perhaps above all else, you need to choose a reward program that rewards you with something you actually want. There are all kinds of reward cards out there, netting you points for everything from clothing and electronics stores to restaurants and airlines. You could be one of the 12.7 million Australians that Roy Morgan reports went on holiday in the year to September 2014. If so, you’re probably more interested in flights and accommodation than grocery discounts. 

When you compare reward credit cards, your first question should be whether the reward offered is actually something you want. You don’t want to find yourself spending just to earn points you won’t ever use — or enjoy. You might also ask yourself if you wouldn’t rather have cash back as a reward, giving you the flexibility to spend your points on whatever you deem fit. 

Match the card to your spending habits

Most reward cards give out points based on spending at particular, affiliated stores and brands. The idea is that, by dangling this carrot in front of the card user, they’ll have an incentive to spend, or spend more, on a company they might otherwise give short thrift to. 

A smart card-holder will pick an option that matches their existing spending behaviour. Instead of being gently pushed into spending on a brand you wouldn’t normally go to, your card should slot in neatly with the stores and products you would otherwise spend on.

Look at the whole of the card

All of this is not to say that the reward on offer is the only thing that matters. Just as with any regular regular credit card comparison, you should look at all of the card’s rates, fees, terms and conditions in order to decide whether it’s worth signing up. For instance, one card might have slightly more appealing rewards, but it might also have a much higher interest rate that could make you think twice about choosing it.

Similarly, many reward credit cards have high annual fees that can offset the potential freebies they offer. And unless your rewards outweight the annual fee you could be better off looking at a low-rate credit card with little or no annual fee. According to a Reserve Bank of Australia bulletin from 2012, reward points on cards have become less generous since the early 2000s, while annual fees have increased. Finally, claiming rewards is not always a straightforward process — rather than taking card providers at their word, read the fine print and know exactly what you’re getting into. 

Ask how far the points go

As a consumer, you want to get value for money. With reward credit cards, this means making sure that you’re not having to spend more than you would with another card to get the same or similar reward. 

Most people logically assume this means looking at how many points each spent dollar earns you. The real test of a rewards credit card’s value, however, is in how many points it takes to receive a reward. After all, two cards might both accrue one reward point per dollar, but if one requires 7000 points to redeem for a flight and another requires 5000, then one is a substantially better deal. Using a site like RateCity you can now compare rewards credit cards and how they stack up, point for point.

Of course, you might decide that you don’t want a credit card after all and would rather put the money you’re paying for it into your savings account. Perhaps you don’t spend enough to justify the expense, or maybe you spend too much and need to eliminate the temptation. Whatever the case, be sure the reward credit card makes sense for you.

To find out which rewards credit cards are available and which would suit your needs, click to compare here.

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Learn more about credit cards

What's the best credit card for rewards?

There is no one-size-fits-all best rewards credit card. It's best you research what type of rewards program you'd like, as well as the fees, interest rate and conditions associated with those types of cards before making a choice. 

Rewards credit cards can also come with high annual fees that may end up nullifying the rewards, so think how often you use the card to decide whether the benefits outweigh the extra cost for you. A card with a lower annual fee might require a lot of spending to get any useful rewards, while another card with a higher annual fee might need fewer purchases to get a reward. 

Can a pensioner get a credit card?

It is possible to get a credit card as a pensioner. There are some factors to keep in mind, including:

  • Annual income. Look for credit cards with minimum annual income requirements you can meet. 
  • Annual fees. If high fees are a concern for you, opt for a card with a low or $0 annual fee. 
  • Interest rate. Make sure you won’t have any nasty surprises on your credit card bill. Compare cards with a low interest rates to minimise risk.

How do you cancel a credit card?

It’s important to cancel your old cards to avoid any additional fees. Unless you’re doing a balance transfer, you’ll need to pay the outstanding balance before you cancel your credit card. If you’ve opted for a card with reward points, make sure you redeem or transfer the points before you close your account. To avoid any bounced payments and save yourself an admin headache, redirect all your direct debits to a new card or account. Once you’ve done all the preparation, call your bank or credit card provider to get the cancellation underway. Once you receive a confirmation letter, destroy your card and make sure the numbers aren’t legible.

How easy is it to get a credit card?

For most Australians, there are no great barriers to applying for and getting approved for a credit card. Here are some points that a lender will consider when assessing your credit card application.

Credit score: A bad credit score is not the be all and end all of your application, but it may stop you being approved for a higher credit limit. If your credit score is less than perfect, apply for the credit limit that you need, rather than the one you want.

Annual income: Most credit cards have minimum annual income requirements. Make sure you’re applying for a card where you meet the minimum.

Age & residency: You need to be at least 18 years old to apply for a credit card in Australia, and most require that you are an Australian citizen or permanent resident. However, there are some credit cards available to temporary residents.

Where can I get a credit card?

Looking to get your first credit card? You might be confused as to exactly where to go to apply for one. Here’s where to go when you are ready to put in that application.

The bank: Your bank is a great place to start, provided that you have a good banking history. Since you already have a financial history, you have more chance of your application being approved.

Credit card provider: Another option is to apply for a credit card directly from the issuer, such as Visa, Mastercard or Amex. This will most likely be an online application, so do your research and apply for a suitable card for your circumstances.

Major retailers: Coles, Woolworths, Myer and David Jones all have credit cards available. But watch out for the interest rate and annual fees – these cards are designed to help you spend more in store.

Does ING increase credit card limits?

You may want to increase your credit card limit for many reasons, such as having access to more spending money. However, if you are using the Orange One credit card issued by ING, you may not be able to do so. 

ING customers can choose a credit limit of their preference when applying for the Orange One credit card. Depending on your financial situation, this limit can be anywhere between $1,000 and $30,000. If you qualify for a Rewards Platinum card, the minimum credit card limit will likely be $6,000. 

Ideally, you should set your credit card limit knowing how much you can afford to repay each month and keep your expenses lower than this level. With most credit cards, you should have the option of requesting a credit card limit increase at a later time, although you will need to qualify for any increase. With an ING credit card, limit increases are out of the question (at the time this was published), which means you may want to apply for a higher credit card limit from the beginning. Remember that you have the option of decreasing your ING credit card limit at a later time.

How to increase my Commonwealth credit card limit?

Commonwealth Bank credit cards are extremely popular in Australia for everyday purchases and big ticket items alikers. A number of the card’s functions can be customised, depending on your needs and desires. If you wish to increase your Commonwealth credit card limit using the CommBank, you can usually do so on the app or via NetBank.

In the CommBank app, tap on the ‘Cards’ icon and choose your credit card. Then, click on ‘Credit Limit’ and select the ‘Increasing your limit’ option. If you don’t have the CommBank app, you can also increase your Commonwealth Bank credit card limit through NetBank. Simply log on and go to Settings, then click on ‘Product Requests’ and then choose ‘Credit Card Limit Changes’. 

Once the bank has received your application, they will review your account and payment history. Based on this assessment, your application will either be approved or denied. If approved, your new limit will be applied to your card instantly. 

While increasing your credit card limit may be an easy process, it’s important to remember that you should only request limits that you can manage. A high limit increases the risk of having a larger debt, even with cards that provide low-interest rate options. So, it’s important to think carefully and seek advice from people you trust before increasing your Commonwealth Bank credit card limit.

Does St. George Bank offer any credit card insurance?

Depending on the type of card they hold St. George Bank credit cardholders can benefit from a host of various credit card insurance offerings including:

Complimentary overseas travel insurance, covering:

  • Medical and hospital expenses incurred while travelling overseas, with the exclusion of pre-existing conditions
  • Loss or damage to personal property
  • Legal liabilities
  • Loss or damage to rental vehicles
  • Unexpected cancellation of travel arrangements or any other unforeseen expenses

Complimentary purchase security insurance may be available to level 1 cardholders for four months and three months of complimentary insurance accessed by level 2 cardholders. This type of insurance covers loss, theft, and damage costs to eligible products purchased anywhere around the world, provided that the product was purchased using the St. George Bank credit card. 

Extended warranty insurance may be available to St. George Bank credit cardholders, which extends the manufacturer’s Australian warranty on certain products purchased. For example, if you purchase a pair of headphones that comes with 11 months of warranty, St. George Bank will provide an extended warranty of 11 months, provided the entire purchase is charged to the St. George Bank credit card. 

Select cardholders may be able to take advantage of St. George Bank’s rental vehicle excess insurance, which covers up to $5,500 for any excess or deductible which the cardholder is legally liable to pay during the rental period. 

How to increase your Qantas Premier credit card limit

When your income or spending habits change, you might wish to increase your credit card limit. The Qantas Premier credit card allows you to do this over the phone. You can contact Qantas Premier Card Support by calling on 1300 992 700. Unlike some other credit providers, Qantas doesn’t give you the option to increase your limit online.

Qantas will only accept your application if you have a good history of repayment and have not increased your credit or bought another credit product from Qantas in the past six months.

Before approving your Qantas Premier credit card limit increase, Qantas will perform a credit assessment on your current financial circumstances and ask why you would like to increase your credit limit.

To ensure that there are no bumps in your application process, you must provide accurate and recent information about your financial situation. You should also account for any future changes you’re anticipating which could hinder your ability to repay the loan.

Once the assessment is complete, Qantas will either approve or deny your application. If they approve it, you will need to sign a credit limit increase agreement - and you can request a written copy of the credit assessment. However, if your application is rejected, Qantas can opt not to provide a copy of the assessment.

How to apply for an HSBC credit card instalment plan?

HSBC provides a host of different features and benefits to its customers, including interest-free finance options for purchases made at select retailers.

Using this feature, you can make a purchase in-store or online through your credit card, and spread your repayments for up to 60 months. Opting for a credit card instalment plan may be an ideal option as you can make big purchases without worrying about making immediate payments. 

The interest-free instalment plan is valid for all HSBC credit cards, so you shouldn't need to fill out separate forms or apply for a particular plan. Rather, all you should need to do is use your HSBC credit card at any of the participating retailers and inform the vendor that you want to pay using HSBC interest-free. 

As HSBC has partnered with over 1,000 retailers for its interest-free credit card instalment plan, you get the flexibility to purchase a host of different products. Some of the popular retailers that HSBC allows instalments for are: 

  • Webjet 
  • King Furniture 
  • Betta Home Living
  • Stratco 
  • Video Pro 
  • Bing Lee

Once you have provided approval to the vendor, HSBC will send you an SMS asking you to confirm the purchase, following which the payment will go through, and you can select your preferred instalment plan. 

While you may be inclined to choose the most prolonged duration for repayment considering there are no interest charges, it’s important to know that minimum monthly repayments will still apply (3%, or $30, whichever is higher), making it important to choose the right HSBC credit card instalment plan that suits your requirements. 

What coverage does Coles credit card insurance offer?

Most customers who own a Coles credit card may be eligible for complimentary purchase protection insurance, but low rate card owners won’t receive this benefit. 

Some premium credit cards issued by Coles include transit accident insurance and extended warranty cover in addition to purchase protection insurance. Covered items paid for at least partially with your Coles credit card usually qualify for purchase protection insurance.

However, you may only be eligible for transit accident and extended warranty coverage if the entire travel cost or purchase price is billed to the eligible card. Additionally, the extended warranty coverage matches the manufacturer’s warranty up to a maximum of five years. If your credit card offers extended warranty, but the covered item comes with a six-year warranty, you're unlikely to receive the benefit.

What does Westpac credit card insurance cover?

If you own a Westpac credit card, one of the perks may be  free travel insurance. If you’re eligible, you may be covered if you get sick while travelling, have lost your luggage, have to cancel a trip or have an accident while you’re on the move.

Besides these standard inclusions, the Westpac credit card insurance policy may also cover you for hospital essentials, emergency dental treatment and alternative transport if your original plans go awry. It may also cover loss of income when you get back home after being sick  overseas and your pets’ boarding costs too.

If you have any queries, the Westpac credit card insurance contact number is 1800 091 710. You can submit a claim online.

 

Can I transfer money from my American Express credit card to my bank account?

If you’re an American Express credit card customer, you may not be able to transfer money from your credit card to your bank account. However, you may be eligible for cash advances, which involves withdrawing money through an ATM. 

To qualify for a cash advance, you’ll likely have to enrol for American Express Membership Rewards. Consider checking your online credit card account to see if you can withdraw a cash advance and, if so, the fees and charges you’ll incur for this transaction. 

You should remember that cash advances are different from balance transfers, which were available with some American Express credit cards earlier. Balance transfers allow customers to consolidate debt from high-interest credit cards to a credit card offering a lower interest rate. If you only recently applied for an American Express credit card, balance transfers may not be available irrespective of the card you own. 

Should I get a credit card?

Once you've compared credit card interest rates and deals and found the right card for you, the actual process of getting a credit card is quite straightforward. You can apply for a credit card online, over the phone or in person at a bank branch.