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.

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    I recently replaced my cards with a couple of Qantas Credit Cards, having previously been on the American Express Velocity card (earning Virgin points) and found them not coming in fast enough. I decided to consolidate all to Qantas cards as I fly Qantas for Overseas trips.

    I've now signed up with the Woolworths Qantas Frequent Flyer, as they are currently waiving the Annual Fee for the first year, and giving a handful of bonus points with sign up. Additionally, they were the best rate (1pt to the dollar) for a non-amex card.

    I've also signed up with the AMEX Qantas Discovery Card, which is also 1:1, and no annual fee. They have upgrades in ratio for a caot, but weren't worth it for me, even with using it as a company card and dumping 10's of thousands a year onto it.

    Adam - OzBargainer by any chance?

    We have exact same cards - Woolworths Qantas FF and Amex Qantas Discovery.

    Reward return rates are usually about 0.5% of your spending.

    We are using the Bankwest Breeze for 12 months which gives us 5% cashback on groceries, petrol and utilities. We are putting groceries, petrol and utilities on the Bankwest card and the Woolworths card for everything else. I think the Bankwest Breeze is now 10% cashback on department stores, grocery stores and eating out but it's only for 3 months.

    As with all credit cards, make sure you pay off the full balance every month to avoid the interest charges which will negate any rewards accumulated!

    For Lifehacker bargain travellers, the Jetstar platinum Mastercard with your cashback in Jetstar vouchers is about the best option (It sucks as much as all the others for Qantas FF points).
    It gives you 2% cashback in Jetstar vouchers, and you use them like cash (which means you can book flights when they're cheap). Most of the other FF schemes have defined points totals for particular legs, which means you're never getting the advantage of specials/discounts etc when you fly using points or points + pay. For Biz International travellers, the Citibank Emirates card is about the best (and Emirates Skyward miles program is quite generous considering Emirates new cheap pricing). The only downside of that card is having to deal with Citibank - who, it is generally agreed by all, are scum.

    Citibank CitiBusiness Gold is a good option. 1.25 points per dollar spend and you are not forced to direct earn for Qantas. So down the track you could transfer to another airline depending on who you fly with including Qantas. Appears to be marketed as business product but you can apply just like any other Citibank card. You don't need an ABN or anything like that. $125 annual fee. Keep in mind though Citibank service in general is poor.

    Hi everyone, this is Citibank Australia. Thanks for your interest in our products; I thought I might add some further information to the thread FYI.

    You can continue to earn 1 QFF pt per $1 spent until 31 March 2012 on your Citibank Platinum Card. However, from 1 April 2012, the earn rate will change to 1 QFF point for every $2 spent on your Platinum card. If you’re interested in other Citibank credit cards which earn QFF points, there are our Signature and Select Cards, where cardholders can earn 1 QFF point for every $1 spent and unlimited QFF points each year. Or you can earn 1.25 QFF points for every $1 spent on the Citibank CitiBusiness Gold Card.

    For more info visit www.citibank.com.au. And please feel free to talk to us directly via our Twitter site: @citibankaus, and find lots of up-to-date information on our Citibank Australia Facebook page, www.facebook.com/citibankaustralia

    Thanks, Citibank Australia

    Am with Earth via Westpac with Qantas f/flyer points. Used to be great but now giving less points per dollar.
    Still it's now 1:$1 Amex and 0.5:$1 Mastercard. You get additional point when purchasing Qantas products.
    Westpac also have Singapore Airlines rewards program card if anyone's looking at that. I've been told Singapore rewards is great deal if travelling international a lot as you can get to just about anywhere with them and often cheaper than Qantas or Virgin.

    American Express Platinum and Black cards both have enormous savings on (business class) flights with some of the major airlines - something like 35% and 45%. Take your regular frequent flyer points + Amex ff points + Amex rewards points + almost 1/2 price flights ($11K to fly first class to Europe, instead of nearly $20K). Best card in the world.

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