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Best rewards credit cards
With a rewards credit card you can earn bonus points and collect as you spend. Compare cards to find the right one for you.
Rewards credit cards are a great way to rack up provider rewards, Airpoints or cashback as you spend. If you choose a rewards card that best fits with how you spend money – and use it wisely – it can give you a way to get “something for nothing” on purchases you were going to make anyway.
This guide outlines how rewards credit cards work, the different programmes available in New Zealand and how you can compare them to get the most out of your rewards.
Compare rewards credit cards
When you get a new credit card, you can often take advantage of sign-up offers for bonus points when you spend a certain amount. These can give you a huge head start on building your rewards balance. Don’t forget to check that when comparing cards.
Rewards credit cards usually earn you points for every $1 spent on eligible transactions, which are then credited to your account or a linked loyalty programme. When you have earned enough points, you can redeem them for rewards such as travel, flight upgrades, gift cards, cashback and merchandise.
These rewards can help you get more value from your spending. However, 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 programme. This makes it important to compare the potential costs against a rewards card’s value to decide if the benefits are worth it. Also, you get more bang for your buck if you pay your balance in full each statement period (to avoid interest) and if you can earn enough points to outweigh the annual fee.
What is an “eligible transaction”?
The definition of an “eligible transaction” can vary depending on the credit card and rewards programme. Still, it may cover most of your everyday purchases, including spending at retail stores, supermarkets and petrol stations. Common exclusions are government payments, cash advances, balance transfers and account fees and charges. Check the rewards programme terms and conditions for a full list of exclusions so you know how you can and can’t earn rewards.
What rewards do credit cards offer?
The rewards you can get with a credit card depends on the card you choose and the rewards programme. Some of the most popular reward categories include:
- Flight upgrades
- Gift cards
- Fuel vouchers
- Instant shopping discounts
- Fashion items
- Tickets to concerts and other events
Types of credit card rewards programmes in New Zealand
There are various rewards credit cards you can compare and choose from based on the benefits you want. These can be separated into 4 types of reward programmes, which we’ve outlined below:
1. Airpoints credit cards
Airpoints credit cards are designed to earn you Airpoints Dollars and other benefits when you travel on a particular airline, such as Air New Zealand or Qantas. There are two main ways you can earn Airpoints Dollars with an Airpoints credit card in New Zealand:
- Direct earn Airpoints Dollars. Airpoints credit cards are linked with the Airpoints Programme, and Airpoints Dollars are added directly to your airline loyalty account.
- Indirect earn Airpoints. You can earn Airpoints Dollars with an Airpoints credit card when you use it at retail partners, such as Liquorland, Caltex, Harvey Norman and Spark.
Available Airpoints credit cards include:
- American Express Airpoints Platinum Card
- ANZ Airpoints Visa
- Kiwibank Air New Zealand Airpoints Low Fee Visa
A look at the American Express Airpoints Platinum card
If you’re a frequent traveller, the American Express Airpoints Platinum Card rewards you with various benefits and perks.
- Every $59 spent earns 1 Airpoints Dollar
- New cardholders can earn 200 bonus Airpoints Dollars when they sign up
- Complimentary travel insurance
- 4 x free lounge passes each year
- Annual Koru lounge fee discount
- Annual fee $195
- No balance transfer offer
2. Bank and credit card rewards programmes
Many banks and credit card companies in New Zealand have their own branded rewards programmes for customers. These options allow you to redeem points for various rewards, including Airpoints, merchandise, gift cards or redemptions with certain retailers.
Available bank and credit card rewards include:
A look at the BNZ Advantage Classic credit card
If you’re a BNZ account holder, you can choose cash back rewards or Flybuys when using the BNZ Advantage Classic Credit Card for everyday purchases.
- Earn a $1 Cash Reward for every $150 you spend
- Earn 1 Flybuys point for every $40 you spend
- A sign-up bonus of either $75 cashback or 500 Flybuys points. if you spend $1,500 in the first 3 months
- An interest rate of 20.95% on purchases
- Cash advance rate of 22.95%
3. 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 cashback through most of the Airpoints, credit card, supermarket or retail rewards programmes outlined in this article. Just choose the “cash” or “gift cards” category of your rewards programme to see what options are available.
A look at the ANZ Cashback Visa credit card
The ANZ Cashback Visa Credit Card is one card that gives you cashback for spending money. In each calendar year you can get 0.5% cashback for spending between $5,000 to $9,999, and 1% cashback if you spend between $10,000 and $30,000.
- No annual card fee for first year
- Minimum spend of $5,000 for cashback
- Use for everyday purchases
- Connect to Google Pay and Apple Pay
- Annual card fee $60 after first year
4. Retail rewards credit cards
Retail rewards credit cards, or store credit cards, are linked to specific retail brands, such as The Warehouse or Farmers. These provide exclusive benefits when you shop with the brand, and most store cards also offer points for your everyday spending outside of these brands.
Available retail rewards credit cards include:
A look at the Farmers Mastercard
If you frequently shop at Farmers, then applying for a Farmers Mastercard makes good sense. You can earn Farmers Club Points anywhere Mastercard is accepted and enjoy double club points for any Farmers purchase.
- $10 spend earns 1 Farmers Club Point
- Earn double points when you also use your Farmers Club Card
- Access to exclusive offers
- Account fee of $50
- An interest rate of 25.95%
- Cash advance rate of 27.5%
How to compare rewards credit cards in New Zealand
Comparing credit cards helps you find the features that suit your lifestyle while also keeping costs affordable. Remember the golden rule when comparing rewards credit cards: the value of the rewards you earn should be equal to or more than the credit card’s annual fee.
We’ve put together a handy checklist of further things to consider when comparing rewards credit cards.
- Points per dollar. Also known as the earn rate, this is how many points you earn for your spending. 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. Make sure these restrictions don’t limit you by looking for cards that have an expiry that fits with your goals and a points cap that is higher than what you usually spend.
- Bonus point offers. Rewards 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 last for a limited time, only consider them after having a clear idea of the type of card you want. This way, 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 to make a redemption. Breaking down the rewards like this can help you determine whether it’s worth your time and money.
- Rewards partners. Rewards programmes 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 programme that has partnerships with your favourite brands and products so you can take advantage of these options.
- Redemption limitations. Some reward programmes 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 a credit card’s annual fee. You can also compare rewards credit cards that offer no annual fee – remember to check if the annual fee is only waived in the first year or for life.
- 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 outweigh the cost of your repayments. If the interest ends up costing you more, you could check out low-rate credit cards instead.
- Balance transfer rates. Some balance transfer credit cards might also come with rewards. These cards allow you to move 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 are 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 are 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 over-limit charges. Ensure you check these costs and factor them into your comparison when choosing an affordable card for you.
Rewards credit cards often come with various additional features that can add value to the account you choose. Popular perks include:
- International travel insurance
- Airport lounge access
- Complimentary flights
- Hotel stays
- Purchase protection insurance
- Extended warranty coverage
- Price match guarantees
- Concierge services
Will a rewards credit card work for me?
Since rewards credit cards often come with higher annual fees and interest rates, it’s essential to weigh the benefits vs the costs. You need to spend a certain amount on a rewards credit card each year to earn enough points or rewards to make it worthwhile. For example, to cover a $40 annual fee, you may need to spend at least $6,000 on your rewards credit card each year.
However, if you use a credit card for all your purchases and expenses and pay it off at the end of the month, having a rewards credit card makes total sense. Points add up quickly, giving you hundreds of dollars worth of rewards each year.
A rewards credit card’s value depends as much on the cardholder as the actual card you choose. So rather than making a definitive statement about whether or not rewards 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 regularly
- Have a clear idea of the type of points you want to earn
- Are part of or want to join an existing reward programme that could be complemented by a credit card (i.e. the Airpoints Programme or a shopping reward programme)
- Earn enough to pay a higher annual fee
- Can regularly make use of the rewards or complimentary extras on the card, for example, insurance
A rewards 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 use complimentary extras on the card regularly
- Can’t afford a higher annual fee
- Are tempted to overspend to earn rewards
It’s worth noting that there are some exceptions to the guidelines above. For example, if you can’t afford a high annual fee, you might still get a lot of value from a rewards credit card with no annual fee. On the other hand, if you regularly use a credit card and have a lot of debt, it might be better to switch to a balance transfer or low-interest rate credit card to 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. However, by factoring in both benefits and costs when you compare rewards 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 receive.
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