Ask LH: Which Credit Card Gives The Best Frequent Flyer Deal?

I have been happily using my no-fee Citibank platinum credit card for quite a while, but now they have halved the earn on frequent flyer points. Any advice on credit cards that earn frequent flyer points with a low enough annual fee to justify it? Thanks, Pointed Question

Picture by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Dear PQ,

We’ll get to how to find some of the specific options that might appeal, but first we need to make an important point: regardless of the fee, there is no single credit card which I’d recommend for frequent flyers, because everybody’s needs and habits are different. To highlight the four most obvious factors;

  • Which local airline do you use? Presuming you want to use at least some of your points to fly, a card which maximises earnings for the airline you use most often makes more sense. Outside of capital cities, you’ll often be restricted to just one or two airlines. Most major domestic airlines have at least one co-branded credit card, which can offer bonuses ranging from extra points to reduced booking fees. There are certainly also cards which earn on multiple schemes or let you choose which program to credit them to, so it’s not a hard and fast rule, but there’s something you need to think about.
  • What’s the earning rate? All other things being equal, the more points you earn per dollar spent, the more useful the card will be. (Comparing points between airline schemes requires more thinking though: a single Qantas point isn’t equivalent to a single Virgin point.)
  • What’s your spending level? If you are using your credit card for everything and pouring tens of thousands of dollars through it, then you’ll probably be willing to pay a higher fee than if it’s only an occasional-use item. (Fees are usually higher on cards that let you earn points, but still vary a lot.)
  • What other features do you need? If you travel overseas a lot, a card with a good deal on exchange rates might trump everything else. Even if you’re paying off your card in full every month, the interest-free period will be important. If you’re not, the interest rate is a vital consideration.

The fact that there’s no absolute best solution is a point which we’ve made repeatedly here at Lifehacker, but it always bears repeating. Once you have a defined goal for your earning of points — whether that’s saving up for a special business-class trip, getting a bunch of petrol discounts, or having a bank of potential last-minute travel credit — you can start to assess which cards work for you. Without that kind of plan, and some knowledge of your spending habits, it’s hard to choose.

If you’re taking an airline-centric approach, Qantas has 16 different partners, all listed on with associated earn rates and annual fees. Virgin has lists of its 40 partners split into cobranded and points transfer partners, though its information for the latter group is less comprehensive. Jetstar has more limited options, reflecting its more limited participation in Qantas’ frequent flyer scheme, while Tiger doesn’t directly partner at all (though debit Mastercard uses can use the card to avoid booking fees).

For additional examples of what’s on the market and better comparison facilities, CreditCardFinder has a listing of cards with frequent flyer options, including cards that earn for Qantas and Virgin, and Mozo has a somewhat shorter list. As usual, if readers have particular recommendations for points-earning cards based on their experience, we’d love to hear them in the comments.


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