Credit card rewards program members are being urged to check if they’re getting value for money as more changes loom for consumers who love collecting points.
Many reward cards have scaled back their earning potential in the past two years, with American Express joining them in April, but bonus offers are booming.
Free flights remain the most popular way to redeem reward points, and generally offer the biggest bang for every buck spent, but there’s a good chance that your card has changed the way it rewards you.
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RateCity director of research director Sally Tindall said rewards card programs weakened throughout 2018.
“Sometimes they tinker with the earn rate, sometimes they tinker with the burn rate, and sometimes they tinker with both,” she said.
“Now is a great time to review reward card programs.” People should visit card websites to find out how much they needed to spend to offset the annual fee charged by their rewards cards, Ms Tindall said.
Many cards now offer different levels of earn rates, so you might get three points for spending at airlines but just one point at supermarkets.
“It is unnecessarily complex and a common theme across a lot of cards,” Ms Tindall said.
Pointhacks.com.au spokesman Daniel Sciberras said there had been a “dramatic increase in sign-on bonus offers” in the past two or three years.
“Around 10 years ago during the height of the GFC, any offer above 40,000 frequent flyer points was considered exceptional,” he said.
“Today, offers of 100,000 points or more are not unheard of, with both ANZ and Westpac currently offering up to 120,000 bonus Qantas points on some of their credit cards.”
Mr Sciberras said people could maximise their points by paying for everything on rewards cards, including morning coffees.
“This all adds up. Just make sure to pay your credit card off in full to avoid being charged interest, which can negate the benefit of any reward points received,” he said.
“Be aware of the airline and non-airline partners of your chosen frequent flyer program and always remember to provide your frequent flyer details when transacting with these partners.”
Popular rewards card provider American Express announced in November that it would be scaling back rewards points earned by its cards from April. The move has been criticised by some customers but card researchers say Amex products are still among the most generous on the market.
“We’re actively encouraging customers to review the changes across all of our products,” said Will Thorne, American Express’s director of airline co-brand partnerships and loyalty.
“For any customers who have raised concerns, we’ve discussed options with them.”
HARNESS POINTS POWER
• Get bang for your buck. Make sure you are getting enough back from your rewards program than what you shell out in annual fees. If you’re not, look for a lower fee card that still offers rewards.
• Pick the right rewards credit card that suits your spending patterns and habits.
• Don’t go chasing points. If you catch yourself buying something just because it offers extra rewards points, then your card is probably getting the better of you.