Credit cards come with a lot of different perks – and three of the most popular areas for extras are flights, travel insurance and concierge services. There is content on creditcard.com.au designed to help you find which cards have these perks, and what they offer. That includes understanding the terms and conditions around them, and what to look out for when comparing.
Free or cheap flights are highly preferred by most credit cardholders in Australia. The only proof you really need to see is the massive push that the rewards programs make by offering thousands of bonus points for new applicants each year, and Virgin now even lets your pet earn you points when they fly with you. The new ‘points for pets’ scheme was introduced by Virgin Australia as part of the Velocity program on Monday, July 1. It’s just one of the ways that the credit card companies are competing hard for the frequent flyer market.
Both Virgin and Qantas currently offer reduced fares on flights – either a return domestic flight or discount off a second person’s seat. How it works will depend what co-branded credit card you get. Virgin will have new rules around this from December too, and the usual discount will no longer apply to taxes and other charges, and the fare type will be further restricted. That’s covered in the page on our favourite frequent flyer credit cards.
AMEX co-branded cards offer a domestic return flight, while the Velocity Flyer cards offer what’s called ‘reduced flights’ for cardholders and one travel companion on Virgin Domestic Saver flights.
If you’re not already a member of the frequent flyer program that comes with a card, you’ll need to join to earn points with your credit card. Some will include the cost of membership within the annual fee, and for others you can join for free online at the same time as you apply. Our post comparing credit cards according to frequent flyer points per $1 spent also shows you which ones include membership to the program and details of how to join some of the major ones below.
Aside from the credit cards already listed, a number of rewards credit cards (whether they are for frequent flyers or not) also come with complimentary travel insurance. We’ve already covered the policies attached to these cards, and what’s covered as well as what the limits are in our table on complimentary travel insurance. This includes overseas medical expenses and in some cases transit accident cover or car rental cover as well
It’s important to understand what exclusions might apply, and whether pre-existing medical conditions are covered or will need extra cover when looking at insurance too. This benefit can end up saving you money on a separate travel insurance policy though, which makes an annual fee of up to $250 or so look cheap when you consider all the relevant factors.
There are other types of insurance that come with credit cards too – and some have as many as seven separate types of insurance available.
Some are quite happy to accept an automatic gift voucher every couple of months, or entry into an airport lounge every so often, but for those who really want something back from their credit card (and not just ‘Visa Entertainment’ newsletter offers) it has to be a card with a concierge service. These services are mostly reserved for the platinum, or ‘top tier’ credit cards with the higher annual fees, but there are plenty of tips and tricks around telling you how to make the most out of them.
Your credit card concierge can do everything from booking standard restaurants and hotels, arranging deliveries and transport to recommending local places to visit, or telling you where your favourite brand of peanut butter is available when it’s 2am and you’re jet-lagged and hungry. They are skilled with local knowledge and negotiating skills, however there are times when only the credit cardholder themselves can complete the transaction.
Through our research we’ve discovered that there is a limit to what a concierge with a credit card can do for you, and that mainly comes down to services that can be provided online or over the phone. The concierge service does not know or keep your credit card information, because they are not part of the bank, and often times your booking might involve a conference call. When you want to book a restaurant which only accepts online bookings, like for example Sydney’s Momofuku Siebo, you’ll actually save yourself time and trouble when you jump on the internet and complete the booking yourself.
When it comes to credit cards with concierge services, the major banks including the ‘Big 4’ outsource this service to one company, so the difference in the service you’ll receive should be minimal. The same call centres service the major banks’ cardholder needs.
When you’ve paid for the privilege it makes sense that you would want to use a concierge service as much as possible – and indeed for discovering the hottest eating spots and where to get your hands on what you want, they fit the bill. What happens when you can’t do the transaction online yourself though, and you actually need someone to be there to pick up your kids form school in an emergency? Meet you at the airport or mind your house and let the tradesman in so that you can get to work for that 9am pitch meeting? Well, that’s when a personal concierge comes in handy.
Credit card concierge services are not the favourite perk of Concierge Connections owner Layla Roberts. In fact, she was so frustrated by the limitations she faced working for the outsourcing company of the major banks, that within three years of working there she had quit and started her own personal concierge service. When considering which type of concierge service will help, her advice to cardholders is this: “A bad concierge (often someone who works in a call centre) will more often than not just use Google to find your answers. And therefore usually isn’t really doing anything which the client could not do themselves. However, a good concierge is so much more than that. They will have the knowledge and experience to find out what you need without resulting to Google all the time.”
When you consider that a personal concierge service will do everything from waiting at the Apple store to get you the latest iPad to walking your dog, the ‘virtual service’ of the usual credit card concierge is probably best reserved for local tasks you’d rather not do yourself, and discovering new places to go in cities where you are unfamiliar.
So it stands to reason that when you use a concierge service with an understanding of how they work, you’re going to be a happier customer, and we think that’s worth the credit card’s annual fee alone.
When it comes to getting the best freebies out of your credit card, it will always take a little research and maybe a little bit of planning, but there are plenty of happy rewards card and frequent flyer card customers out there who see the benefits every year.