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Frequent Flyer Credit Cards

Want to earn points for flights, accommodation and other rewards? Compare frequent flyer credit cards and get to your next destination faster.

Frequent flyer credit cards offer you points for every $1 spent, which you can then redeem flights, upgrades and other rewards. You can also enjoy a range of additional features including complimentary travel insurance, bonus points offers, airline lounge access and promotional interest rates. Use this guide to compare frequent flyer credit cards and learn more about them, including how these cards work, tips for earning and using points, features to compare when you’re looking at frequent flyer credit cards and insights to help you choose the right card for you.

How do frequent flyer credit cards work?

cf-ff-250x250Frequent flyer credit cards, as the name suggests, earn you points when you use them for eligible purchases. These cards earn a set number of points for every dollar spent (e.g. 1 point per $1), which is known as the earn rate. This means the more you pay using your plastic, the more points you earn. Depending on the type of rewards credit card you use, there are different ways to earn and redeem air miles. Some cards credit points are linked directly to your air miles account and others allow you to transfer points to a variety of eligible air miles accounts.

Is a frequent flyer credit card right for me?

If you are interested in a frequent flyer credit card, make sure you weigh up these pros and cons. Please keep in mind these factors may vary depending on the card.

Benefits of choosing a frequent flyer credit card
  • Allows you to redeem flights and travel upgrades faster. Earning points on your everyday spending means you can reach your rewards goals faster.
  • Providers often include sign-up bonus points. Some credit cards offer introductory bonus points as an incentive for new customers. These offers boost your points balance so you can redeem them for rewards such as flights and holidays faster.
  • They offer a large range of rewards. You can use your points to redeem for rewards including flights, hotels, online shopping and other lifestyle benefits.
  • Travel perks. Travel comfortably with perks such as flight vouchers, access to airline lounges and complimentary travel insurance.
Risks when choosing a frequent flyer credit card
  • High interest rates. Frequent flyer credit cards often come with less competitive interest rates than other cards. They are mainly suited to cardholders who pay their balance off each month so that the accumulated interest doesn’t outweigh the value of the rewards.
  • Higher annual fees. As well as high interest rates, frequent flyer cards often come with higher annual fees than no frills options.
  • Temptation to spend. If you struggle to repay your credit card on time, a rewards card might tempt you to spend for the sake of points, when you should be reigning in your purchases.
  • Offer requirements. Frequent flyer credit cards that come with introductory offers may have specific spending requirements you need to meet to enjoy these benefits. For example, you may need to spend $750 on your Card within your first 3 months you have a card to get bonus points.

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How can I compare and find the best air miles credit card for my needs?

The frequent flyer credit cards on the market give you a chance to compare options and find one that suits your individual goals and circumstances. Go through the checklist below to find out which factors you should consider when looking at credit cards that earn air points.

  1. The frequent flyer programme. Choosing the right credit card that earns points will help you to maximise your rewards.
  2. Points earning rate. Check the standard rate of points you will earn for each $1 spent on the card. Be aware that a different earn rate could apply for certain types of spending (i.e. overseas purchases) or during promotional periods. There are usually some transactions that won’t earn points, such as cash advances, so make sure you check restrictions for the cards you are comparing.
  3. Reward values. Consider the types of rewards you want to claim, the amount of points you will need and how much spending that requires. Check how these values measure up, so you can apply for the card that offers the greatest value based on your spending and reward goals.
  4. Annual fee. Ideally, the annual fee should cost less than the rewards and any complimentary extras on the card that you intend to use.
  5. Promotional rates and features. Frequent flyer credit cards sometimes have promotions for new customers, such as accelerated points earning rates during the first few months. These benefits can add value to the card that you choose, but make sure you read the terms and conditions for details of the requirements and honeymoon period so that they work for you (and not the other way around).
  6. Complimentary extras. Reward and frequent flyer credit cards often come with a selection of complimentary extras such as hotel discounts, airport services and business lounge access. The value of these perks can be used to offset the cost of the annual fee – as long as you know you will actually use them. They can also be handy to have available just in case you ever need them.

How to earn and redeem air points with a credit card

Earning Points

Points or miles are a key factor when choosing and using an frequent flyer credit card, and there are two main options to consider:

1. Direct earn cards. These credit cards are partnered with an airline rewards programme, earning points that are credited directly to your associated air miles account. For example, the American Express Airpoints Platinum Card earns 1 Airpoints Dollar for every $59, while with the ANZ Airpoints Visa Platinum Card you earn 1 Airpoints dollar with every $75 dollars spent.
2. Indirect earn cards. These reward credit cards earn points that can be transferred to a wide range of air miles programmes. For instance, American Express Platinum Card earns 2 points for every dollar spent, which can then be exchanged for flights with 7 different airline reward programmes including Cathay Pacific Asia Miles. Unlike direct earn air miles credit cards, the point values of these cards may differ when transferred to an air miles account.


Using your points

Once you have earned enough points, you can redeem them for a variety of rewards. Here are some of the great redemptions you could make through your air miles programme. There are two main categories for rewards: 1) Airport/ flight benefits and 2) retail/ lifestyle rewards.

  • Airport/ flight benefits. Points can be used for reward flights, flight upgrades, lounge access and other loyalty scheme membership benefits. Flight rewards with the air miles programme’s associated airline usually provide a higher point value when compared to other rewards.
  • Retail/ lifestyle rewards. These rewards can benefit you at home or abroad. You can use points to book hotels, car rental or other travel experiences, as well as more general retail and lifestyle benefits including gift cards, food and wine, jewellery and other merchandise.

How to choose a frequent flyer program

There are many frequent flyer programmes based around the world. However, there are only a handful of providers to choose from if you are interested in getting a New Zealand credit card that earns air points for airlines such as, Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia. Here, you can compare frequent flyer programs based on credit card points earnings to help you one to suit your needs.


Frequent flyer alliances

Frequent flyer programs have networks of alliance airlines that allow you to earn and redeem points worldwide. Air New Zealand has “Strategic Alliance” agreements, which gives their members the ability to earn and redeem points on selected flights. You may also be able to make use of frequent flyer benefits on these carriers. However, certain circumstances may apply, so make sure you check their terms and conditions closely.

Air New Zealand’s strategic partners are:

  • Cathay Pacific – on flights between New Zealand and Hong Kong
  • Virgin Australia – for flights between New Zealand and Australia
  • Air China – on flights between New Zealand and Beijing
  • United – on flights between New Zealand and San Francisco
  • Singapore Airlines – for flights between New Zealand and Singapore

In addition, as a frequent flyer member you can also earn/redeem Frequent Flyer Dollars on all Star Alliance member airlines. This is the world’s largest airline association, with 28 different members, including Air New Zealand Air China, Singapore Airlines, Air Canada, Thai Airways, Lufthansa, SWISS and United. You can gain access to the Star Alliance network by becoming a member of one of these airlines’ loyalty programmes, and can boost your points with an indirect earning air miles credit card.

These alliances and partnerships give you more options for redeeming flights and flight upgrades. So even if you choose an air miles credit card that is linked to one airline programme, you may be able to use your points for flights with another airline through these partnerships. Credit cards have become one of the most popular ways to earn air miles, with both direct and indirect methods boosting your point balance.

Pictures: Shutterstock

Frequent flyer credit card questions from our users

Since frequent flyer credit cards provide many benefits and features, choosing one can prove difficult. Here, we answer the most popular questions from our users about frequent flyer credit cards and how to earn/redeem points.

The most popular questions about earning frequent flyer points

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