You may have heard that frequent flyer credit cards are not worth it. At Finty, we disagree. But how would we know? We’ve only earned and redeemed millions of frequent flyer points to fly ourselves, family, friends, and co-workers around the world.
Here’s why we are firmly in the camp that sees value in frequent flyer credit cards.
13 reasons why frequent flyer credit cards are worth it
If you aren't convinced about the value you can get from a frequent flyer credit card, scroll down.
1) Premium seats are not just for the wealthy
Last time I checked, I was neither rich nor famous. But thanks to earning frequent flyer points, I’ve travelled in business and first class so many times that it feels normal.
My personal preference — having tried most of them — is Singapore Airlines Business on their A350. For me, they have just the right combination of style and substance across their lounges, cabins, food, and crew.
2) They make travelling much cheaper (maybe even free)
Not only are premium cabins accessible, but they are also cheap to fly in when you book with points. Keep in mind that to buy one of these example flights would cost several thousand dollars.
|Flight (one way business)||Airline||Points required||Taxes and fees|
|Brisbane - Singapore||Singapore Airlines||90,000 (Krisflyer)||AU $117|
|Sydney - Hong Kong||Qantas||60,000 (QFF)||AU $93|
|Sydney - Los Angeles||American Airlines||80,000 (AAdvantage)||AU $81|
What’s better than cheap? Free! For example, if you have enough Qantas points, you can use them to pay for the taxes and fees on a reward booking, meaning you can fly in business or first class without having to pay a single cent for the privilege.
3) Turn everyday expenses into a reward
Expenses that you would have incurred anyway can earn something of tangible benefit when you pay with a frequent flyer credit card. Everyone needs to buy groceries, fuel, and pay their bills, etc. You might as well get something for it.
4) Get higher airline status
Some frequent flyer credit cards come with status credits. So, whilst you will not earn points when flying on a ticket redeemed with points, you will earn more points when flying on a cash ticket (plus enjoy other benefits if your credits take you into a higher status tier).
5) Use of dedicated check-in desks
Depending on the density of an aircraft’s seating plan, widebodies like the Airbus A380 or Boeing 777 could have as many as 450 economy seats onboard.
If you redeem your frequent flyer points for a business or first class flight, you can avoid the long queues and sail through check-in with ease at the dedicated business counter.
6) Get through security faster (on both departure and arrival)
This benefit is not particularly useful at Australia’s small regional airports, but you’ll appreciate it when flying internationally.
If you book a business or first class seat with your points, you can get fast tracked through security for departure and arrival.
Anyone who has arrived into a hub airport like Dubai on a busy day knows how much stress that Fast Track card makes — especially if you have a tight connection.
7) Lounge access
So you’ve sailed through check-in and security. Now what? If you redeemed your points for a business or first class ticket, you can go straight to the airline’s lounge where free food, drinks, comfortable seating and device charging stations awaits.
8) Basic travel insurance comes included
Most frequent flyer credit cards come with some level of travel insurance included. Would I travel on that alone? Probably not. But it can come in handy if you lose something, miss a flight, or are involved in an accident.
9) Helps to build your credit score
Responsible use and repayment of any type of credit card — including a frequent flyer points card — demonstrates good credit worthiness. This also goes for businesses using a credit or charge card.
10) One bill for all your transactions
This is less of an issue these days due to better accounting software. However, you could choose to put all your household bills through a card account as a way to manage bills. Small businesses can also use additional cardholders to manage expenses across trusted employees.
11) Improves household or business cash flow
Most rewards cards have up to 55 days interest free. This feature is especially useful for businesses who have to manage their cash flow between paying suppliers and receivables.
12) Capital gains tax doesn’t apply to frequent flyer points
Thankfully, unlike many other stores of value, the ATO doesn’t tax individuals or business owners on their frequent flyer points.
13) You don’t pay fringe benefit tax on frequent flyer points either
This is another one for business owners and employees. Reward yourself — directors or employees — without incurring fringe benefit tax.
7 problems to be aware of
Like any other product, there are well-known problems with frequent flyer credit cards. Or, more accurately, there are well known-known problems using the points earned with a frequent flyer credit card.
1) Booking flights can be tricky (under certain circumstances)
Finding seats bookable on points, on the dates you want, on a non-stop flight, at short notice, can be difficult.
This can be mitigated by booking in advance. Having said that, I’ve been able to book long haul business and first class flights the night before leaving on several occasions.
2) Airlines can devalue points (abruptly and without warning)
Just as the government devalues the currency by printing more dollars, airlines can devalue their rewards program. This does not happen regularly. Typically they do this by requiring more points for the same redemption, using dynamic pricing, or making it harder to accumulate a large number of points.
3) Points can expire (for some programs)
Airlines want customers to fly with them frequently. If there has been no activity in your account for more than 18 months (Qantas), your points will expire.
Thankfully they’ve also made it incredibly easy to keep your points from expiring. For example, spend one dollar on your frequent flyer credit card.
4) Paying with cash or bank transfer is generally cheaper
If a shop or business supplier charges a surcharge to accept a credit card or Amex payment, it will be cheaper to simply pay via bank transfer.
5) Frequent flyer credit cards have higher annual fees (compared to other cards)
Whilst true, they come with a stack of benefits that offset the fee. Plus, it’s possible to get a basic frequent flyer credit card with no annual fee.
6) Standard purchase rates are higher for frequent flyer credit cards
Like any credit card or charge card, you could let a balance accrue, fail to pay it off in full, and incur with interest.
7) If you don’t want to fly, the value of your points is very low
Redeeming your points for flights is the most valuable way to use them. If you would rather redeem your points for a toaster, you probably shouldn’t be using a frequent flyer credit card in the first place.