Frequent flyer credit cards allow you to accrue points that can be used to reduce the cost of air travel, next time you use a particular airline.
If you often travel by aeroplane, a credit card with a frequent flyer program might be a worthy addition to your wallet.
While using a credit card’s frequent flyer program to get free travel requires strategy and self-awareness, it can be very lucrative. Frequent flyer cards certainly aren’t for everyone but if you can work it so you don’t pay interest, you can build valuable points just from your daily spending.
How to use a credit card with frequent flyer points
“One point for every dollar you spend” is a pretty common rewards arrangement for frequent flyer credit cards in Australia. You may also be able to earn sign-up points and bonus points for shopping with affiliated brands.
Frequent flyer credit cards are similar to cashback cards and other rewards credit cards: When you spend using the card you earn points. These points are automatically credited to your account and visible via an online dashboard, so you don’t need to do anything extra to claim them. The difference is that instead of redeeming them for cash or for other travel perks, when you have enough frequent flyer points, you can redeem them for a free or discounted flight with the airline.
Even if you’re using a third-party website such as Google Flights, you’ll be directed to complete the booking on the airline’s website where you can input your frequent flyer program number.
Frequent flyer programs in Australia
The two most well-known frequent flyer programs are Qantas and Virgin, but there are plenty of other options from popular airlines. Which one will be right for you all depends on where and how you prefer to travel.
Qantas Frequent Flyer is Australia’s most iconic airline program. Qantas is part of the Oneworld alliance, a group of premier airlines delivering a world-class flying experience. The Qantas loyalty program includes partnerships with airlines such as Jetstar, Emirates, American Airlines and British Airways – meaning you’ll earn points when you fly with these brands.
Qantas credit cards are serviced by American Express, ANZ, Bank of Melbourne, Bank SA, Bankwest, Bendigo Bank, CommBank, HSBC, NAB, and Westpac, among others. There are specific Qantas Money cards, such as the Premier Platinum, where you can earn up to 1.5 points per dollar. However, the annual fee is $299.
Virgin Australia’s Velocity
Given Virgin is a popular airline to fly, the Velocity frequent flyer program is a great option. Virgin’s partners include United Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Qatar, Etihad Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, and more.
Virgin Australia has two branded credit cards: The Flyer Card and High Flyer Card. You can receive up to 25,000 points for the first four months, if you reach the spending limit. There are also additional perks like the annual gift voucher.
Virgin Velocity points are also available through partner credit cards with Westpac, AMEX, and BOQ Specialist. If you’re a Flybuys member, you can transfer your rewards into Velocity points.
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
For people who prefer to fly Singapore Airlines, credit cards like the ANZ Rewards Black, where you can choose KrisFlyer points, is a good option. You can also earn KrisFlyer points with specific cards from HSBC, NAB, St.George, Bank SA, and AMEX.
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
Cathay Pacific is also part of the Oneworld network. ANZ and NAB are two partner banks where you can earn Asia Miles.
Emirates is another favourite airline for Australians, given their service and expansive flight routes. As part of the Emirates Skywards frequent flyer program, you can earn rewards through partners such as Qantas and Japan Airlines. CommBank customers, for example, can transfer their rewards into Skywards points.
Other programs available to Australians include:
- Air New Zealand Airpoints
- Etihad Guest
- Malaysia Airlines Enrich
- British Airways Avios
- American Airlines Advantage
- Thai Airways Royal Orchid
- Japan Airlines JAL Mileage Bank
- Korean Air Skypass.
How to choose a frequent flyer card
When deciding which is the best frequent flyer program for you, think about what’s important to you when you travel. Which airlines fly out of your city, and do they operate regular flights? Do you want to use the rewards credits just for flights or other travel perks?
Because many of the frequent flyer programs have partner airlines, you won’t need to only fly with Qantas, for example. You’ll also earn rewards on an interstate Jetstar flight or flying American Airlines internationally.
Aside from your travels, look into how else you’ll build up points. Can you make changes to the way you shop or pay for expenses? Just like your savings, you want to see your frequent flyer points incrementally go up, month-after-month.
You can build up your points faster if you pay for big purchases on your credit card but be wary of the repayment dates, so you don’t cancel out any benefits by paying interest.
Are frequent flyer credit cards worth it?
If you’re using the credit card, accruing points, and paying it off at the end of the month, it’ll add value to your financial life. Whether you use the points to save paying to check-in a bag, make the most of a luxury lounge during a long layover or get a few nights free in a hotel, they’re savings you wouldn’t have otherwise had.
Check the annual fees for the credit cards. Look at the fine print and make sure you understand how the points work. Shortlist two options and call both the airlines and partner banks to chat about your best option. There might be sales offers and campaigns that you might not know about.
Exploring the different frequent flyer credit cards is the fun part of your personal finances.
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