Rewards credit cards offer you points for your everyday spending, which can be redeemed for a variety of travel and lifestyle rewards. Depending on your goals, you could enjoy free flights and upgrades with a frequent flyer credit card, get rewarded when you shop at your favorite supermarket or choose a card that’s linked to a credit card rewards program and enjoy the flexibility of travel rewards, merchandise, and cash back on your account.
As well as these benefits, rewards credit cards often come with higher annual fees and interest rates. This makes it important to compare your options to make sure the benefits outweigh the costs. Use this guide to learn how rewards credit cards work, the different programs available and how you can compare them to get the most out of your rewards.
American Express Airpoints Card
American Express Airpoints Card
Purchase interest rate
Eligibility criteria, terms and conditions, fees and charges apply
American Express Airpoints Card
0% on purchases for 6 months.
The American Express Airpoints Card offers a low interest rate on purchases. Earn 50 Membership Rewards bonus points when you apply online and spend $750 in the first 3 months of Card membership, available to new Card Members only.
Rewards credit cards usually earn you points for every $1 spent on eligible transactions. When you have earned enough points, you can redeem them for rewards such as travel, flight upgrades, gift cards, cash back and merchandise.
Most rewards credit cards also have higher standard interest rates and annual fees than other options, because it costs lenders money to offer a rewards program. This makes it important to compare the potential costs against the value of a rewards card so you can decide if the benefits are worth it.
The definition of an “eligible transaction” can vary depending on the credit card and rewards program, but it may cover most of your everyday purchases, including spending at retail stores, supermarkets, and petrol stations. Common exclusions are government payments, BPAY transactions, cash advances, balance transfers , and account fees and charges. Check the rewards program terms and conditions for a full list of exclusions so you know when you will and won’t earn rewards.
What rewards do credit cards offer?
The rewards you can get with a credit card depending on the card you choose and the rewards program. Some of the most popular reward categories include:
Instant shopping discounts
Tickets to concerts and other events
How can I use my credit card rewards?
The steps required to use your points to redeem rewards varies depending on the credit card and the rewards program. But there are a few key factors to remember:
Account login. You must log in to your credit card account or rewards program account to make redemptions. Once you’re logged in, it’s usually a simple process of going to the “Rewards” section, then selecting “Use points” and following the prompts.
Required points. Every reward option available for redemption has a specific point value (e.g. 12,000 points for a $50 gift card). This means you need to have at least that amount of points in your account to redeem your chosen reward.
Points-plus-pay. Some programs allow you to use a combination of points and money to redeem your chosen rewards. This gives you more flexibility if you haven’t earned enough points when you want to make redemptions.
Types of credit card rewards programs in New Zealand
There are a variety of different rewards credit cards you can compare and choose from based on the benefits you want. These can be separated into four types of reward programs, which we’ve outlined below.
Frequent flyer programs
Frequent flyer programs are designed to earn you points and other benefits when you travel with a particular airline, such as Qantas or Air New Zealand. There are two main ways you can earn frequent flyer points with a rewards credit card in New Zealand:
Direct earn frequent flyer credit cards. These cards are linked with a specific frequent flyer program and rewards are added directly to your airline loyalty account.
Indirect earn frequent flyer credit cards. These rewards credit cards let you transfer the points you earn to many different frequent flyer programs from all around the world, giving you more flexibility if you fly with a range of airlines.
Credit card rewards programs
Many credit card companies in New Zealand have their own branded rewards programs for customers. These options allow you to redeem points for a variety of rewards, including frequent flyer points travel, merchandise, gift cards and credit on your account.
Many of these rewards programs also offer auto-redemption for specific rewards, such as cashback, gift cards or frequent flyer points. Other credit card companies offer instant redemptions with certain retailers.
Cashback credit cards
These types of rewards cards add credit or “cash” to your account when you meet certain spending requirements. Most cashback credit cards offer a percentage of your total spend as cashback or provide a one-time cashback sum as an introductory offer when you apply and are approved for a specific credit card.
You may also be able to get cash back through most of the frequent flyer, credit card and supermarket or retail rewards programs outlined above. Just choose the “cash” or “gift cards” category of your rewards program to see what options are available.
How to compare reward credit cards in New Zealand
Comparing credit cards helps you find the features that suit your lifestyle while also keeping costs affordable. Below, you’ll find a checklist of things to consider when you are comparing reward credit cards.
Points per dollar. The more points you earn per dollar spent, the greater the potential value.
Point expiry and caps. Some credit card reward points expire after a certain amount of time, and some accounts have a limit on how many points you can earn in a month or year.
Bonus point offers. Reward credit cards often have sign up deals that give you hundreds or thousands of bonus points. Usually, these offers require you to spend a certain amount of money on the card in the first few months you have it. As these offers only last for a limited time, they should only be considered after you have a clear idea of the type of card you want so that you can get the most value out of the deal and the rewards card you choose.
Point values. To work out the value of your rewards, consider how many points it would take to redeem. For example, if you need 12,000 points to get a $50 gift card and your credit card has an earn rate of 1 point per $1 spent, you would have to spend $12,000 make a redemption. Breaking down the rewards like this can help you determine whether it’s worth your time and money.
Rewards partners. Rewards programs often partner with retailers and businesses to provide you with a wider range of redemption options. You may also have the opportunity to earn bonus points when you shop with partner stores. Choose a credit card rewards program that has partnerships with your favourite brands and products so you can take advantage of these options.
Redemption limitations. Some reward programs have blackout periods when you may not be able to make redemptions. Check the fine print for this information and consider the impact it could have on you.
Rates and fees
Annual fees. Most rewards credit cards charge an annual fee. The value of the rewards you earn should be equal to or more than the annual fee of a credit card.
Foreign transaction fees. Most credit cards apply a charge for transactions made overseas or with an international retailer online, usually 2% to 3.5% of the total transaction. Make sure you consider this fee before choosing a card – especially for any rewards card that offers more points for foreign transactions.
Purchase rates. Rewards credit cards often have high standard interest rates. If you think you’ll carry a balance, consider how much interest your purchases will accrue and whether the rewards will outweigh the cost of your repayments.
Balance transfer rates. Some balance transfer credit cards might also come with rewards. These cards allow you to move an existing debt to the new card and pay a low introductory interest rate on the balance. Usually, you won’t earn points for the balance that you transfer, and any new purchases will be charged interest at the purchase rate from the time the transaction is made. If you have credit card debt, it may be better to focus on paying it off completely before considering a rewards card.
Cash advance rates. If you use a rewards credit card for a cash advance transaction, such as getting money from an ATM, you will be charged interest at the cash advance rate. Cash advances usually don’t earn reward points either.
Other fees. Rewards credit cards may come with a range of other fees, such as late payment and overlimit charges. Make sure you check these costs and factor them into your comparison so that you can choose a card that is affordable for you.
Rewards credit cards often come with a variety of additional features that can add value to the account you choose. Popular perks include:
International travel insurance
Airport lounge access
Purchase protection insurance
Extended warranty coverage
Price match guarantees
Will a rewards credit card work for me?
The value of a rewards credit card depends as much on the cardholder as the actual card you choose. So rather than making a definitive statement about whether or not reward credit cards are valuable, let’s take a look at the key factors that make them likely or unlikely to work for you.
A rewards credit card could be worth it if you:
Pay off your credit card balance in full every month
Currently, use or plan to use a credit card on a regular basis
Have a clear idea of the type of points you want to earn
Are part of or want to join an existing reward program that could be complemented by a credit card (i.e. a frequent flyer program or shopping reward program)
Earn enough to pay a higher annual fee
Can regularly make use of the rewards or complimentary extras on the card, such as insurance
A reward credit card might not be right if you:
Have a lot of credit card debt
Often carry a balance on your credit card
Rarely use a credit card
Won’t be able to regularly use complimentary extras on the card
Can’t afford a higher annual fee
Are tempted to overspend in order to earn rewards
It’s worth noting that there are some exceptions to the guidelines above. If you can’t afford a high annual fee, for example, you might still get a lot of value out of a rewards credit card with no annual fee. On the other hand, if you regularly use a credit card but also have a lot of debt, it might be better to switch to a balance transfer or low interest rate credit card so that you get value out of paying less interest.
While rewards credit cards can be a useful way to get something back for your purchases, it’s important to remember that you have to repay everything (plus interest). There are also annual fees and other costs to consider. But by factoring in both benefits and costs when you compare reward credit cards, you can find an option that suits your needs.
Frequently asked questions
Want to know more about rewards credit cards? Below, you’ll find answers to the most common questions we get about them. You can also leave your own question by filling out the form below.
This depends on your individual circumstances and goals. With such a wide range of reward credit cards available, there is no single “best” option for everyone. But you can find a card that’s right for you by considering factors including:
The amount of points per $1 offered
Whether or not there is a limit to how many points you can earn
The types of rewards available
The amount of points required for rewards
Point expiry conditions
Bonus point offers (including what you need to do to get the bonus points)
While all of these features relate specifically to earning points (and using them), remember to also consider the rates and fees of the card, as well as whether or not it offers complimentary extras. This will help you find a card that’s suited to your circumstances and your reward goals.
Most rewards programs allow you to view your points through an online account centre. Usually, you need a membership number or username and password to log in. Once you’ve logged in, you should be able to view your points and redeem them for the desired rewards.
Some credit card reward programs allow you to transfer points to frequent flyer programs, or redeem points with partner airlines. Read the terms and conditions or contact your rewards program provider directly to confirm where else you can earn and use your points.
The number of points you need depends on your credit card and the reward/s you want to redeem. For flights, most frequent flyer programs have a points calculator available on their website. If you enter your preferred route and ticket status, the calculator can determine how many points you’ll need to cover the flight.
In regards to other types of rewards, most programs have an online catalogue that allows you to browse the rewards on offer and see how many points you need to redeem them.
This will depend on the credit card, but generally, you can’t refund rewards or points once the transaction has been made.
As a financial comparison service, we don’t recommend any specific products. Instead, we provide you with the information you need to make an informed comparison and decision. When comparing rewards credit cards, consider your spending habits to determine whether the rewards you’ll receive will outweigh the costs of the card.
Alison is a New Zealand associate editor for finder. As an editor and proofreader, Alison has found an outlet for her love of the written word. As well as constantly reading, Alison can be found caring for her menagerie of animals in her spare time.
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