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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.

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Rewards credit cards offer you points for your everyday spending, which can be redeemed for a variety of travel and lifestyle rewards. For example, with a frequent flyer credit card you can earn points each time you travel, and then use your points for free flights and upgrades. Credit card rewards programmes are also popular because they give you the flexibility of travel rewards, merchandise, and cash back on your account.

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.

How do credit card rewards programmes work?

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 programme. 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.

What is an “eligible transaction”?

The definition of an “eligible transaction” can vary depending on the credit card and rewards programme, 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 programme 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 depend on the card you choose and the rewards programme. Some of the most popular reward categories include:

  • Flights
  • Flight upgrades
  • Accommodation
  • Gift cards
  • Cashback
  • Fuel vouchers
  • Instant shopping discounts
  • Fashion items
  • Electronics
  • Tickets to concerts and other events

Types of credit card rewards programmes 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 3 types of reward programmes, which we’ve outlined below:

1. Airpoints credit cards

Airpoints credit cards 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 points with an Airpoints credit card in New Zealand:

  1. Direct earn Airpoints. Airpoints credit cards are linked with a specific frequent flyer programme and points are added directly to your airline loyalty account.
  2. Indirect earn Airpoints. You can earn points 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:

A look at the American Express Airpoints Platinum card

If you’re a frequent traveller the American Express Airpoints Platinum Card will reward you with a range of benefits and perks.

Pros
  • Every $59 spent earns 1 Airpoint Dollar
  • Complimentary travel insurance
  • 4 x free lounge passes each year
  • Annual Koru lounge fee waived
Cons
  • Annual fee $195
  • No balance transfer offer
Learn more about the American Express Airpoints Platinum card in our full review

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 a variety of 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 cashback rewards or Flybuys when you use the BNZ Advantage Classic Credit Card for everyday purchases.

Pros
  • Earn $1 Cash Reward for every $150 you spend
  • Earn 1 Fly Buys point for every $40 you spend
  • Sign up bonus if you spend $1,500 in the first 3 months
Cons
  • An interest rate of 20.95% on purchases
  • Cash advance rate of 22.95%

Learn more about the BNZ Advantage Classic card in our full review

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 cash back through most of the Airpoints, credit card and supermarket or retail rewards programmes outlined above. 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.

Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • Annual card fee $60 after first year
Learn more about the ANZ Cashback Visa in our full review

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 shop frequently 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.

Pros

  • $10 spend earns 1 Farmers Club Point
  • Earn double points on Farmers Club Card
  • Access to exclusive offers
Cons

  • Account fee of $50
  • Interest rate of 25.95%
  • Cash advance rate of 27.5%

Learn more about the Farmers Mastercard in our full review

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 annual fee of the credit card.

We’ve put together a handy checklist of further things to consider when comparing rewards credit cards.

Earning points:

  • 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. 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 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.

Redeeming points:

  • 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 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 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.

Complimentary extras

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
  • 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 important to weigh up the benefits vs the costs. You need to spend a certain amount on a rewards credit card each year so you can earn enough points or rewards to make it worth it. For example, to cover a $40 annual fee you 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, then getting a rewards credit card makes total sense. Points will add up quickly giving you hundreds of dollars worth of rewards each year.

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 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 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 programme that could be complemented by a credit card (i.e. a frequent flyer programme or shopping reward programme)
  • 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 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 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 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 get about them.

Compare rewards cards and apply securely
Pictures: Shutterstock

Compare rewards credit cards and apply securely

Name Product Purchase Rate Interest Free Period Annual Fee
American Express Airpoints Card
0% for 6 months (reverts to 19.95% APR)
Up to 55 days on purchases
$0 p.a.
Be rewarded with 50 bonus Airpoints Dollars. Simply apply, be approved, and spend $750 on your new Card in the first 3 months of membership. This offer is available to new Card Members only.
American Express Airpoints Platinum Card
19.95% APR
Up to 55 days on purchases
$195 p.a.
Be rewarded with 400 bonus Airpoints Dollars when you apply online by 2 November 2020, are approved, and spend $1,500 on your new Card within the first 3 months. This offer is available to new Card Members only. You will also earn 1 Airpoints Dollar for every $59 you spend on your card.
American Express Platinum Edge Credit Card
2.99% for 6 months (reverts to 19.95% APR)
Up to 55 days on purchases
$149 p.a.
Enjoy a low rate on purchases and earn 20,000 Membership Rewards Bonus Points if you apply, are approved and spend $750 in the first 3 months of Card membership. This offer is available to new Card Members only.
American Express Platinum Card
N/A
Up to 44 days on purchases
$1,250 p.a.
A charge card with premium travel benefits. Plus up to 80,000 Membership Rewards Bonus Points when you spend $1,500 on your card within the first 3 months, available to new Card Members only.
Farmers Mastercard
25.95% APR
Up to 55 days on purchases
$50 p.a.
ANZ CashBack Visa Credit Card
19.95% APR
Up to 55 days on purchases
$60 p.a.
Westpac hotpoints Mastercard
20.95% APR
Up to 55 days on purchases
$44 p.a.
Westpac Airpoints Platinum Mastercard
20.95% APR
Up to 44 days on purchases
$150 p.a.
Flight Centre Mastercard
22.95% APR
Up to 44 days on purchases
$50 p.a.
Westpac Airpoints World Mastercard
16.95% APR
Up to 44 days on purchases
$390 p.a.
ANZ CashBack Visa Platinum Credit Card
19.95% APR
Up to 55 days on purchases
$80 p.a.
Westpac BusinessPlus Mastercard
20.95% APR
Up to 55 days on purchases
$100 p.a.
Westpac hotpoints World Mastercard
16.95% APR
Up to 44 days on purchases
$390 p.a.
ANZ Airpoints Visa Platinum Credit Card
19.95% APR
Up to 44 days on purchases
$150 p.a.
Westpac Airpoints Business Mastercard
20.95% APR
Up to 44 days on purchases
$145 p.a.
Westpac hotpoints Platinum Mastercard
20.95% APR
Up to 55 days on purchases
$119 p.a.
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