Credit cards can do a lot more than simply paying for things we don’t technically have the money for right now.
They’re also a powerhouse player in the frequent flyer points game, supercharging people’s arsenals of points and letting them fly, upgrade or secure swanky accommodation for free.
In their pursuit to recruit more credit card holders, banks and other providers woo us with plenty of sweet offers, from low annual fees to even complimentary insurance.
Bonus points on sign-up is a common one, and if you’re into earning points, it can land you a goldmine.
And according to points hacker Maxwell Nee, Australians have it better than anyone when it comes to those lucrative sign-up points.
“Credit card sign-up offers (in Australia) are the best in the world,” he told news.com.au.
“I’ve lived in Canada, Europe and visit Asia frequently, but Australia’s credit cards, in general, are the cheapest to get.
“For example, in Australia, credit cards can offer around 100,000 points or miles on sign-up. In the States or Asia, you would get around 20,000 to 30,000 points, which is hardly enough to fly anywhere one way.”
With 100,000 you could fly to Hong Kong and back in Qantas premium economy, Qantas first class to Singapore, Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane to Los Angeles business class with Virgin Australia, and London or Paris to Abu Dhabi in Etihad’s “Apartment” first class suite, according to the Point Hacks website — for just signing on the dotted line for a new credit card.
Mr Nee, 26, first started getting serious about earning flight points three years ago and came into a points fortune with his first points-earning credit card, Velocity American Express.
“I got really lucky,” he said. “I received referral bonus points from three friends when I applied for this card, which was 60,000 points from each friend.
“With the bonus points alone, I flew business class for the first time to Canada using Air Canada and Virgin Australia.”
He started learning more about points hacking, signing up with the Point Hacks website and enrolling in its email courses to gain as much expert knowledge as he could.
Mr Nee said he earned just over 500,000 frequent flyer points at the end of last year and earned about half of that, on average, each year since he got into point hacking.
As well as earning points through his Velocity American Express credit card, he said he focused on accumulating Qantas Points.
“The lounges are better,” he said.
“It’s also easy to earn Qantas Points through the Qantas Wellness app. I’ve recently become a business owner, and I’ve signed up to Qantas Business Rewards, which allows me to earn points through paying business expenses.”
Mr Nee, who owns the business growth site MoreCommittedClients.com, said he mostly redeemed his points on flights and hotels.
“The biggest flight I redeemed would probably be business class from Brisbane to Copenhagen, which was around 130,000 Qantas Points on Emirates,” he said.
“I will also be redeeming a flight to Japan this year.”
He said a mistake people tended to make with redeeming points was simply not taking the plunge.
“I notice that people often hesitate despite having planned the flight they want and knowing exactly when to go,” he said.
“This is probably because they want to be 100 per cent sure they are redeeming the flight they want. However, if you hesitate, you make a conscious decision to procrastinate booking an award flight, and you may end up paying for more with cash.”
TIPS WITH POINTS-EARNING CREDIT CARDS
• Some great sign-up offers may require you to spend a minimum amount over a certain term — and if you don’t meet those requirements, you won’t get the points. Others cap the amount of points you can earn on the card. Check the terms and conditions carefully before you agree, as it may not be worth your while.
• Have a good think about the fees attached to the card — there’s no point saving money on flights only to pay more in fees. And never take out a credit card if you’re not confident you can meet the repayments.
• If you do come into a big bounty of points, Point Hacks is a good resource for finding out what to redeem them on. They’ve got lists on the best things to buy with 100,000 Virgin Velocity Points and 100,000 Qantas Points, if you need some inspiration.
• Remember that points expire — and that’s caught out many of us. Qantas Points expire if you don’t earn or use them through your Frequent Flyer account at least once every 18 months, and Virgin Velocity points expire with no activity after 24 months.