Frequent flyer rewards cards

Are you a frequent flyer who would jump at the chance to access swish airport lounges, flight upgrades, free airline tickets and more? Perhaps it’s time you carried a proper rewards card in your wallet and started collecting points on your everyday spending. Before you sign up or switch to a more rewarding program, take a moment to read all about them here, so your frequent flyer points really take off. Let’s get started!

Types of frequent flyer programs

There are a few frequent flyer programs to choose from in the world of rewards cards, each offering different perks. Here are some market highlights:

  • Qantas Frequent Flyer: It’s the household name with a kangaroo for a logo. Qantas -  the instantly recognisable airline - has over 400 partners, and its frequent flyer program could just be the most covetable. After signing up with Qantas Frequent Flyer via the card of your choice and potentially paying a club fee for the privilege, you could start racking up points to later redeem on flights and more. Take a closer look at the Qantas Frequent Flyer program here.
  • Velocity Frequent Flyer: As a fierce competitor to Qantas, Virgin’s program dubbed the Velocity Frequent Flyer can provide ample room for you to earn rewards if you use your card right. Just like the program mentioned above, Virgin has plenty of partners including international airlines too. While joining the Velocity club is free, some issuers can charge higher than average annual fees. Learn more about the program in this guide.

But wait, there’s more...

Even though the two programs we’ve run you through are by far the most popular among Aussie jetsetters, you still have airline programs like Jetstar Frequent Flyer, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Emirates Skywards and Etihad Guest to consider.

Note: Now you have an idea of which airlines offer programs, it’s time to decide whether you want the points you earn through your rewards credit card funnelled into one program (otherwise known as a “direct earn” card) or would like a credit card that allows you to choose between redeeming your points with multiple airline programs. For instance, if we compare two frequent flyer cards currently available in our database, one will only let you redeem points via Velocity, whereas the other gives you the option to choose between Velocity, Air New Zealand or KrisFlyer.

Neither type is better than the other, it all comes down to personal preference and the level of flexibility you’re looking for.

Who are frequent flyer cards designed for?

Frequent flyer cardholders include thousands of Aussies with a common interest in travelling or spending big, but ideally both! If you want to join the frequent flyer crew, make sure it will reward you for the things you already do. Take Jane’s story for example…

Jane always flies with Qantas to travel interstate and overseas for work. She takes out a card connected to its Frequent Flyer program and earns 1.5 points for every dollar she spends on Qantas products.

Jane’s card gives her free travel insurance and complimentary access to the Qantas Club lounge twice a year. Even though she pays a few hundred dollars in annual fees, the perks for Jane have a higher dollar value. Overall, she’s happy with her card choice.

Frequent flyer rewards cards can be less rewarding if you...

  • Are unlikely to pay your card bills in full and on time. Have you seen the interest rates on frequent flyer cards? They are generally far higher than the average credit card that does the job. Not to mention, if you’re behind on your payments, you’ll be hit up with a late payment fee. So if you’re the type to ignore a late payment notice, a frequent flyer rewards card may not be for you.
  • You’re a low income earner. You don’t need to be a high roller to enjoy a frequent flyer rewards card, but some cards do rule out low income applicants. For instance, at the time of writing, 4 cards in our database require you earn at least $75k each year, and another has a minimum income requirement of $150k.
  • You don’t spend enough. Are you frugal? Hate shopping? Even if you like to travel, you may not spend enough for a frequent flyer card to make it worth the annual fee.

Here’s a story about the frequent flyer card that couldn’t…

What are the best ways to redeem frequent flyer points?

If you decide that a frequent flyer card is, in fact the right match for you, you might be wondering what the best ways to redeem your precious points are. Lucky for you, we’ve done a little research on the subject and found these 3 top value redemption options:

  • Flight upgrades: Ever asked for a business class seat when you checked in for a flight? Chances are, you were told it would cost a few hundred bucks. We found out, that if you used your points to redeem the extra leg room instead, it had the highest value per rewards point used.
  • Domestic flights: If you regularly fly around the country for work, the good news is that redeeming your points on a domestic flight is the second best value redemption option.
  • International flights: Need an airline ticket for an overseas adventure? In terms of rewards points redemption, this is the third best option you have. But if you’re a regular overseas jet-setter it might just be the most priceless option for you!

What should I look for in a frequent flyer card?

So those are the best and worst ways to redeem your points, but what should you look for in a frequent flyer card in the first place, to ensure you plump up those points fast? Well, we recommend putting these features on your shopping list:

  • Bonus points when you sign up. These offers can really help to kick start your frequent flyer points count. Make sure you calculate what the bonus is worth before opting in.
  • High earn rates. The number of points you earn per dollar spent matters, as each card issuer will offer different rates. For instance, one rewards card on our database offers 0.4 of a point per $1 spent - while on the other end of the scale - another offers 3 points per dollar spent.
  • High earn rates overseas. Globetrotters, be sure to pick a card that gives you a competitive earn rate when you shop abroad.
  • Additional points when you spend with partners. Depending on the frequent flyer program you’re with, you may be able to earn extra points using your card at retailers affiliated with the airline. For instance, at the time of writing, Flybuys is connected to the Velocity Frequent Flyer program, meaning your grocery shop at Coles can earn you points. Same goes for Woolies shoppers, who can link their Everyday Rewards card to Qantas. Now that’s a big plus!
  • Complimentary features. Keep your eyes peeled for cards offering free travel insurance policies that tick all the boxes, and complimentary concierge.
  • Free flights. Need we say more?
  • Airline program membership fee wiped. As mentioned earlier, airline programs can charge fees that are separate to the annual cost of keeping your card account open. Find a provider who’ll waive it instead.
  • Airport lounge access. There’s nothing better than kicking back in a recliner chair when your long haul flight gets delayed, or perhaps partaking in an epic buffet at the Qantas or Velocity lounge!
  • Generous interest free days. A good chunk of interest free days will give you more time to pay off your debt, and at the time of writing, most providers are offering between 44 to 55.
  • Additional cardholders. Some providers allow family members living in the same residential address to pool their points together. This can help with holiday planning.

What should I watch out for?

  • Point expiry dates. Pay attention to expiry dates and redeem them on time.
  • Caps on the points you can earn. Some card issuers have points caps in place, so you cannot earn an endless amount. If you’re a big spender, you may want to avoid a card with such restrictions.
  • High annual fees. Sometimes, high annual fees don’t matter when the rewards you’re entitled to far outweigh them. Do your research so you’re not paying too much for what it’s worth.
  • High interest rates. Again, it isn’t too big a deal if you pay your dues in full and on time.
  • Withdrawing cash. Avoid using your card at an ATM, as some issuers will charge a staggering 20% in interest for the amount you withdrew.

Picking a card that is right for you

Now you’ve done your due diligence by reading this guide, it’s time to pick a card out of the pack that suits your needs. To help you out, we’ve created this nifty rewards revealer tool that creates a personalised list based on your annual spend and other info you type in. But if you’d rather compare the lot in the one place, start your frequent flyer journey here.