There are all sorts of credit card reward programs available. These programs are meant to attract new customers, and perhaps encourage cardholders to spend a little more than they normally might. Some of the most well-known reward cards are frequent flyer rewards, which offer a host of travel-related freebies.
Smart shoppers should make a thorough comparison of frequent flyer rewards cards to make sure they choose one that will suit their needs. This can help you enjoy more benefits from frequent flyer rewards, and also get a credit card that suits the way you shop.
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What are frequent flyer rewards credit cards?
Rewards cards let you collect points every time you spend with your credit card. These points can then be exchanged for various bonuses.
Frequent flyer programs let you build up 'miles' when using airlines, which you can use to get free or discounted tickets.
A frequent flyer rewards credit card combines these two ideas. By using your frequent flyer credit card, you can build up points without having to set foot on a plane until you're ready to fly. In many cases, you can even earn extra points by spending money with partner companies.
Some of the benefits you may be able to trade your points for include:
- Discounted flights
- Hotel bookings
- Flight upgrades
- Baggage upgrades and priority delivery
- Extended warranty
- Travel and medical insurance
You may be able to earn these frequent flyer reward points by:
- Flying with the airline your card is linked to and their partner airlines
- Using your frequent flyer rewards credit card for your everyday spending
- Spending money at partner supermarkets and stores
What are the benefits of frequent flyer rewards credit cards?
The main benefit of frequent flyer rewards credit cards is the chance to get discounts on flights and related products and services. This could potentially save you a lot of money if you're a globetrotter.
This type of card often benefits big spenders who use the frequent flyer program to reward their normal spending behaviour. The more you spend, the more rewards you could earn.
It’s also important to be careful not to spend too much money while you’re chasing reward points. For those rewards to remain valuable, you should always aim to pay your card off on time, so you’re not ‘buying’ rewards with high interest charges. It’s important to maintain personal financial discipline, just as you would with a regular credit card – perhaps even more so.
What sort of credit card do you need?
Check RateCity's Credit Card guide to get the lowdown on credit cards.
What should I know about frequent flyer rewards credit cards?
Before you sign up for a frequent flyer rewards credit card, there are a few points to keep in mind:
- Frequent flyer rewards credit cards tend to have higher interest rates and fees than more basic credit cards. Try to work out if the value of the rewards you may earn will be worth more than these extra costs, so the card can effectively “pay for itself”.
- Read the terms and conditions so you know if there are restrictions on how you can use your points.
- Check your credit history, as applicants with bad credit are less likely to be approved.
- Ask yourself if you're the kind of person who would truly make the most of a frequent flyer rewards program.
Now you're ready to compare frequent flyer cards.
How do I carry out a frequent flyer rewards comparison?
To compare frequent flyer rewards credit cards, try to look at the following:
- The offers themselves – what kind of rewards do you get with each card?
- How efficient is the point system? Is it more difficult to earn rewards with some cards than it is with others?
- Do any cards offer generous introductory rates?
- What are the caps and expiration dates on the points?
- Do you shop at the card’s partner stores?
- What are the rates, fees and other features and benefits of the card like?
The credit card market changes all the time, so the credit card with the highest annual percentage rate is also liable to change.
One thing to remember is that credit card interest rates are expressed as a yearly rate, or annual percentage rate (APR). A low APR is generally good but also consider:
- There can be different APRs for each feature of the card (e.g. purchases may have an APR of 14 per cent, while cash advances on same card could have an APR of 17 per cent
- Credit cards with a variable rate can change throughout the year, affecting your APR, so check the full details
- If you pay your balance in full every month, having the lowest APR is not as important as the other fees associated with the card. However, if you carry a balance from month to month, then you want the lowest APR possible
Credit cards offering rewards can be great if you know you’ll use the card enough to get significant rewards points, and use the rewards you earn.
They 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.
Also, think about the types of benefits you’d like. There’s no point in getting a card with rewards for retailers you never visit, or travel you don’t have time to use.
As a rule of thumb, this tends to be around 2-3 per cent of the outstanding balance on your credit card. You can choose how much you want to repay each billing period as long as it is higher than this minimum required amount.
A property and personal finance writer, Nick Bendel covers property, loans, credit cards, superannuation, and other bank products. Nick has previously written for The Adviser, Mortgage Business, Lifehacker, Business Insider, Yahoo Finance, and InvestorDaily, and loves getting elbow-deep in the latest ABS, APRA and RBA data.