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How To Maximise The Value Of Your Travel Rewards
Smart Money

How To Maximise The Value Of Your Travel Rewards

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So, you have a credit card that earns travel rewards. Qantas Points, perhaps, or Velocity Points, now that they’re a thing again. Your card may also provide some solid travel perks, giving you access to airport lounges when you travel, or perhaps travel insurance on overseas trips.

But, how many overseas trips have you been on lately? How many airport lounges have you had the opportunity to visit? And just how many times have you dipped into your points balance to book travel?Apart from the occasional lockdown, life is almost back to normal here in Australia. With the exception of travel, that is. Yes, we can now travel to New Zealand, but the rest of the world is still off limits – and may remain that way well into 2022. Interstate travel has opened up, however, many remain cautious about booking travel, and are unwilling to make plans in case borders slam shut and they lose their money.

With those restrictions lingering on – and reservations about booking travel playing on your mind – you may now be wondering whether your travel rewards card is actually worth keeping. If you can’t redeem your points for the rewards you want – and you can’t make use of your perks – how much value is your card really offering?

Breaking Down Value

If you’ve been harbouring doubts about your rewards card, it seems you’re not alone.

According to research released in April by Citi Australia, 70% of Australian credit cardholders think credit card companies need to adapt their rewards programs as a result of the changes ushered in by COVID. Not only that, one third of cardholders think their card offers less value today than it did pre-pandemic. (1)

Well then, what can you, as a cardholder, do about it? Before you reach for the scissors to cut up your cards, it would be wise to take a step back to assess the situation. Find out if your card is indeed less than valuable than it once was. If it is, consider whether you can change the way you use it to make it more valuable to you now.

In this post, we’re going to get into how you can do just that. Starting out, we’ll break down where a travel card’s value truly lies, to then look at how you can calculate the dollar value of the points you earn and the perks you use. From there, we’ll discuss the various ways you can maximise your card’s value, looking both at what you should do – and what you should avoid. 

Value vs. Annual Fees

If you pay an annual fee on your credit card, you expect something of equal or greater value in return. Otherwise, it’s really not worth your while keeping the card. So, where does that value come from? Aside from granting you access to credit, credit cards typically create value in the four following ways.

  • Rewards: For many cardholders, rewards provide the most tangible source of value.

How does it work? When you use your card, you earn points on your spending. After you’ve built up a sufficient number of points, you can redeem them for rewards valuable to you.
Valuable or not valuable? For rewards to be valuable, the rewards you receive must have a higher dollar value than the annual fees you pay out. This relies heavily on whether you earn enough points each year, and what you choose to redeem your points on. Both factors may be affected by the travel restrictions put in place over the past year.

  • Intro offers: Designed to entice new cardholders to sign up, introductory offers can seriously boost a card’s value. 

How does it work? An intro offer may provide you with bonus rewards points, a reduced annual fee, or the opportunity to save on interest via a balance transfer or reduced purchase rate over an introductory period.
Valuable or not valuable? Whether an intro offer provides value depends on how you use it. With bonus points, you need to be able to afford the minimum spend requirements to validate the offer, and then pay that spending off before it accrues interest. As long as you manage that, bonus points can be very valuable indeed. With a reduced annual fee, the card’s overall value is greater, for the first year at least. With balance transfer and purchase offers, you can save on interest as long as you pay off your balance within the intro period.

  • Travel credit: Travel credit is often offered on higher end cards to balance out their high annual fee. 

How does it work? Travel credit provides cardholders with a dollar amount that can be used to reduce the cost of booking travel. As an example, a Velocity card may offer $250 travel credit each year to cardholders, which can be used to book travel with Virgin.
Valuable or not valuable? Travel credit is another tangible source of value. But, it does require you to travel to benefit from it. If you’re not able to travel, you will forfeit your travel credit, reducing the value on your card.

  • Extras: Credit card extras come in many forms, with the range – and value – of extras on offer depending on the tier of the card. 

How does it work? As a cardholder, you may have access to a range of extras, such as airport lounge passes, hotel upgrades, airport transfers and insurance covers.
Valuable or not valuable? Again, the value each extra can offer depends on whether you use it. If your card provides you with travel extras you cannot use, then its value drops significantly. On the other hand, your card may create value by providing you with non-travel extras, such as access to streaming services and online gym memberships.

How to Calculate Dollar Value on Rewards, Intro Offers and Extras

Now you know where to look for value on your card, let’s get into how you can determine the precise dollar value on offer.

Rewards
When it comes to working out your card’s value with regards to the rewards you earn, there are two important factors to consider. Firstly, how many you points you can earn on your spending, and secondly, what those points equate to when you redeem them.

To put a value on your earn, you will have to take into consideration your card’s earn rate, and whether you are limited by points caps or points shaping. Look at how much you spent on your card last year, and how many points you earned. It may also be helpful to look at your spend and points earn for the previous year to see how it compares.

Now, work out what value those points provide when redeemed. In the table that follows, you can find info provided by Points Hacks detailing what each point or mile is ‘worth’ in cents. The table also provides crucial factors that may affect the value of points earned within each program, with regards to their availability and how they can be used.

Airline Programs

Program Name Valuations (in Cents) Pros Cons
Qantas Frequent Flyer 1.9 Easy to earn points. Huge range of domestic and international redemption destinations (via OneWorld and Emirates). Difficult to find premium cabin availability. Carrier charges are high on redemption bookings.
Velocity Frequent Flyer 1.7 Good range of domestic destinations. Can convert to high value KrisFlyer points for international travel. Uncertainty surrounding award availability through Alliance airlines and international partners.
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer 1.7 Good seat availability and range of international destinations. Low carrier charges on redemption bookings. 3-year hard expiry on points. Uncertainty surrounding award availability.
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles 1.6 Can redeem for OneWorld flights including Qantas Domestic. Points expiration policy changed from hard to soft expiry. Reward availability can be hard to find. Uncertainty surrounding award availability.
Emirates Skywards 1.4 Large international network. Ability to redeem or upgrade to one of the best First Class in the market. Points requirements can be quite high. Ability to directly earn Skywards miles in Australia is limited. Uncertainty surrounding award availability.
Etihad Guest 1.2 Relatively easy access to Etihad premium cabins. Ability to book Virgin Australia flights with lower carrier charges than Velocity. Points requirements can be quite high. Ability to directly earn Etihad Guest miles in Australia is limited.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan 1.7 Frequent offers in market to buy discounted points that can be used on OneWorld partner airlines including Qantas. Many routes out of Australia cannot be redeemed with miles. Uncertainty surrounding award availability.
Delta Skymiles 1.4 Miles never expire. Dynamic Pricing makes it hard to determine redemption cost. Uncertainty surrounding award availability.
Air Canada Aeroplan 1.8 Excellent redemptions to Asia and Europe in First and Business Class using minimal points and low out of pocket costs. Most reward flights on Air Canada use dynamic pricing, so most reward seats to North America are very expensive. Hard to acquire points outside of buying them.

 

Hotel Programs

Program Valuation (in cents) Pros Cons
Hilton Honors 0.6 Can be used across a wide range of hotels in the Hilton Group. Good availability for redemption. Points expire after 12 months if no account activity.
IHG Rewards 0.6 Can be used across a wide range of hotels in the IHG Group. Good availability for redemption. Points expire after 12 months if no account activity.
Marriott Bonvoy 1.2 Can be used across a wide range of hotels in the Marriott Group. Good availability for redemption. Devaluation has made the program less appealing in terms of the number of points required for a redemption
World of Hyatt 1.7 Fewer points required for a redemption than most programs. Much smaller range of hotels available than other similar programs. Redemption availability can be limited.
Radisson Rewards 0.5 Good transfer rate from Citibank Prestige card. Can gain Gold status with Amex Platinum. Smaller range of hotels available than other similar programs. Redemption availability can be limited
Accor Live Limitless 3.0 Easily redeemed via a discount off your hotel charges. Points expire after 12 months if no account activity.

 

Other

Program Valuation (in cents) Pros Cons
American Express Membership Rewards (Ascent) 1.0 Highly flexible with no expiry on points. Ability to transfer to a large range of airline and hotel programs Can’t transfer points to Qantas Frequent Flyer program. Ability to earn points limited to places where Amex is accepted.
American Express Membership Rewards (Ascent Premium) 1.2 Highly flexible with no expiry on points. Ability to transfer to a large range of airline and hotel programs. Ability to earn points limited to places where Amex is accepted.
Amplify Rewards 0.8 Ability to transfer points to the Velocity and KrisFlyer programs. Transfer rates to airline partner programs is low.
ANZ Rewards 0.8 Ability to transfer to Velocity, KrisFlyer and Asia Miles. Transfer rates to airline partner programs are low, especially on international carriers.
NAB Rewards 0.8 Ability to transfer to Velocity, KrisFlyer, Asia Miles and NZ Airpoints. Transfer rates to airline partner programs are low, especially on international carriers.
Westpac Altitude Rewards 0.5 Ability to transfer to Velocity, KrisFlyer, Asia Miles, NZ Airpoints and Enrich. Transfer rates to airline partner programs are very low across all partners.
flybuys 0.7 Easy to earn on everyday spend. Can be transferred to Velocity points. Transfer rate improved from 1 flybuys point to 0.5 Velocity Points, up from 0.435. Can take a while to earn sufficient points for a Velocity reward.
Everyday Rewards 0.7 Easy to earn on everyday spend. Can be transferred to Qantas points. Can take a while to earn sufficient points for a Qantas reward.
Citi Rewards (Prestige) 1.0 Huge range of airline and hotel programs to convert points to, including both major domestic carriers. Transfer rates to airline partner programs are low, especially on international carriers.
Citi Rewards (Premier) 0.8 Huge range of airline and hotel programs to convert points to. Transfer rates to airline partner programs are low, especially on international carriers.
CommBank Awards 0.8 Strong list of airline partners (plus 1 hotel partner) to transfer points to, including both major domestic carriers. Transfer rates to airline partner programs are very low.

source: https://www.pointhacks.com.au/rewards-points-valuations/

Calculating Rewards Value: DIY Style

Want to do it yourself? You can work out the value of the points you use on each redemption with this simple calculation.

Step 1. Find out the dollar value of the reward.
Step 2. Divide the cost of the reward by the number of points required to redeem it.
Step 3. Multiply that point value by 1,000.

Let’s see how that works with an example.

Jordie wants to redeem his points for a flight to New Zealand. He finds out that a flight from Melbourne to Christchurch would cost him $410 in July. Alternatively, he could redeem 18,000 Qantas Points.
To calculate the value of that reward, he divides $410 by 18,000 to get a per-point value of $0.0227. As this is not a number that’s easy to read, he multiplies it by 1,000.

This tells him that for this reward, he would get $22.70 for every 1,000 points he redeems. While this is a pretty good return, the value of the reward is lowered by the fact that he has to pay out $188 in fees and charges for the flight.

Comparing his reward options, Jordie decides to look at coffee makers in the Qantas Store. He finds the Morphy Richards Rose Gold Filtered Coffee Maker available for 17,380 Qantas Points.

Checking online, he sees that this coffee maker retails at $99. Dividing the cost of the reward by the number of points required to redeem it, Jordie calculates the value of each point at $0.0056. This means he would receive $5.60 in rewards value for every 1,000 points he redeems.

Alternatively, opting for a gift card, Jordie could hand over 26,250 Qantas Points for a $100 eftpos gift card. With this option, the value of each point would be $0.0038, which would equate to $3.80 in rewards value for every 1,000 points he redeems.

 

Intro Offers
Want to work out how much an introductory offer is worth? The way you do this will depend on the type of intro offer.

  • Bonus Points Offer: Find out what the bonus points on offer equate to in a reward. You can use the above calculation to find the reward with the highest value. Consider the dollar value of the reward you’d choose, and weigh that against factors such as the card’s annual fee, its ability to earn points, and the various other extras on offer.
  • Annual Fee Offer: With this offer, you can easily see how much value you are getting. If the card’s standard annual fee is $300, and the offer reduces it to $150 for the first year, you benefit from $150 in value. Bear in mind, this not only helps you save, it can also create value elsewhere in the card, making each point you earn more valuable in the first year.
  • Balance Transfer Offer: To work out the value of this type of offer, start by calculating how much you’d pay out in interest if you didn’t transfer your balance. Let’s say you have a balance of $5,000 on your card, accumulating interest at a rate of 20% p.a. Paying it off over 18 months at $320 per month, you’d pay $729 in interest. By switching to a card with a 18-month 0% balance transfer offer, you’d pay $42 less per month, to save $729 overall.
  • Purchase Offer: Again, the value of this offer would depend on how much you spend over the intro period. As an example, let’s say you used your card with a 19% p.a. purchase rate to buy a sofa set for $8,000. You could pay that purchase off over a year, paying back $750 per month, with an interest cost of $681. Alternatively, putting that purchase on a card with a 12-month 0% purchase offer, you’d pay off $667 each month, to save $681 overall.

Extras

Calculating the value of the extras provided on your card can be tricky, as the extras on offer may not be available to buy, or they may not have an exact dollar value. A good example of this would be the concierge service often offered on higher end cards. This concierge service is not something you can buy, so how do you know how much it’s actually worth?

Where you can, find out the dollar value of each extra offered on your card. If your card provides overseas travel insurance, check out similar policies to find out how much you’d pay for standalone cover. If your card offers Priority Pass membership, check out the dollar value for that membership tier online. 

Some cards advertise the dollar value of their extras, making the job of calculating their extras that much easier. The American Express Cashback Credit Card, for example, promotes extras such as a BINGE Basic subscription, valued at $10 per month, and a 12-month Centr membership, valued at $120. In terms of insurance covers, the card offers smartphone screen insurance, which covers up to $500 for each repair.

How to Boost your Card’s Value

Okay, so now we know how to work out the value your card offers, let’s check out some of the ways you can create even more value as you use it day to day.

  • Channel your spend

As we always say, rewards cards reward spending. To get more from your rewards card, you need to channel every dollar you can through it. Yes, spend within your means, but no, don’t spend simply to earn rewards. Adding an additional cardholder to your account could boost your points earn, but remember, you still have to pay back that additional cardholder spending.

  • Know where to use your card

Sometimes it’s not just about how much you spend on your card, but where you choose to use it. When you use your card with partner retailers and service providers, you can double dip on the points you earn. Take time to find out which partners you can earn a bonus earn rate with, and keep an eye out for any changes within the program. 

Knowing that their members wouldn’t be earning as many points on travel during the pandemic, Qantas Frequent Flyer launched its ‘Points Club’ in 2020 to allow members to earn more points on the ground.

Qantas Loyalty CEO Olivia Wirth said in a statement that around two thirds of Qantas Points were earned on non-flying activity, so the “potential to build large points balances on the ground is huge”.

“Last year, one member earned close to three million points on the ground alone,” she said. “That’s enough points for 25 Sydney to Auckland return Classic Flights in Business, or a month’s stay at The Langham hotel in Melbourne.”

In a similar move, Velocity recently expanded its on-the-ground points earning opportunities. With its new partnership with 7-Eleven in place, Velocity now provides members up to 2 Velocity Points per dollar spent on fuel and snacks, and a bonus 711 Velocity Points on their first purchase at a 7-Eleven store.

  • Create a buying strategy

Getting more value from your card means understanding how it works and what it has to offer. If you have a rewards card, that means knowing where you can get bonus points with partner retailers, and how to get the most value from your spending and your points. As we’ve covered all that in the sections above, you can put it into practise by creating a buying strategy.

Let’s say you have a trip to the Gold Coast planned for an upcoming bucks or hens. 

  • You have a nice collection of Qantas Points saved up, so you use them to cover the cost of your flight with Jetstar. 
  • You’ve been collecting Expedia points for a while, so you decide to use them to save on your accommodation. 
  • You know the cost of car rental has gone up since COVID, so you use your Qantas card to book with a program partner to benefit from an upgrade and double points. 
  • The remaining costs will come in the form of food and entertainment, which you decide to pay for with your new American Express Cashback Credit Card, as you’ll get 6% cashback on all your spending as part of its bonus cashback intro offer. 

  • Climb the status ladder

If you spend more on your card, you can earn more points. Obviously, this gives you more points to play with when it comes time to choose your rewards. But, it can have other benefits too. As you earn more points, you can climb the ladder to earn a higher status.

Qantas and Virgin both offer tiered status to their members, with some awesome benefits to be had. As a higher tier member, you can benefit from a higher earn rate, giving you even more points to play with. You could also benefit from perks as you travel, such as priority check-in and boarding, additional checked bags, lounge access, seat upgrades and more.

  • Take advantage of incentives

Another way to boost your balance is by taking advantage of incentive offers. Back in January, Virgin announced it was giving away 20 million Velocity Points. All members needed to do to benefit from a share in the pot was register their details on the Velocity app by a certain date.

In April, Qantas Frequent Flyer offered members the chance to win a share of up to 5 million Qantas Points, simply by making a lunch order on Uber Eats. 

Also in April, Qantas made every seat on every flight between Australia to New Zealand available with frequent flyer points. Usually, there’s only a limited number of Classic Flight Reward seats set aside on any flight, so this made it much easier for members to use their points for travel.

Upcoming, Qantas could offer Qantas Points and other incentives such as travel vouchers and credits to Aussies who get the coronavirus vaccine.

“As a large company that relies on travel to put our people and planes back to work, we’re obviously motivated to help with the national vaccine effort,” Qantas customer officer Stephanie Tully said.

“We’re still thinking through how this would work, but the incentive could be Qantas Points, Qantas or Jetstar flight vouchers, or status credits for frequent flyers.”

  • Opt for high value rewards

We covered how to calculate the value of rewards in the previous section. Now it’s time to put that into action. If you want to get more value from your rewards card, you need to choose the rewards with the highest possible value. 

Within the example of Jordie’s points redemption, it simply wouldn’t make sense for him to redeem his points for a gift card or coffee maker. The return on points would be just too low compared to what he could get by redeeming his points on a flight.

  • Take advantage of loopholes

Again, this comes down to knowing your card and paying attention to any changes that come into effect. Let’s look at Velocity as an example.

Velocity Gold and Platinum frequent flyers who booked one Virgin Australia flight between December 7, 2020 and March 28, 2021 were granted an extension of their status until September 30, 2022.

Right now, the accounts of those members will show a status expiry in late March 2022. However, in late September 2021, a quirk in the system will reset their accounts with a new expiry in September 2022. 

This essentially allows Velocity to reset eligible accounts to start a new membership year come September, to represent the remaining 12 months of their 18-month extension.

However, that reset means there’s really no need to earn status points between now and September. That means members are free to redeem their points on points-based travel bookings, on which status credits aren’t earned.

Why does this matter? With Velocity redemptions put on hold for much of last year, many of its members are now sitting on large stacks of points. Reward bookings on Velocity’s partner airlines remain suspended, while Virgin flights to New Zealand are also on hold, so the best way to redeem those points is on domestic travel.

Members can offload some of their points on travel, getting good value on their redemptions, without having to worry about booking flights and paying in cash money to earn status. See, loophole.

  • Transfer points to more valuable programs

As you can see from the table above, some frequent flyer programs offer more value than others. With the right transfer deal, you may be able to transfer the points you’ve earned on one program to a more valuable partner program, to get more from that chunk of points when you redeem.

6 Definitive Ways to Reduce Value

Want to know what not to do? Here are the highlights.

  • Paying a surcharge on your purchase. When you pay a surcharge for using your card, that instantly reduces the value of the points you receive on the transaction. This is something to be especially aware of with travel bookings and government payments.
  • Choosing a card that caps your points. While points caps in themselves aren’t bad, they can limit the points you earn if you always spend over your capped limit. They same applies for points shaping, where you earn a lower number of points per dollar after reaching a certain threshold.
  • Paying for points. Unless you are just a few points short of the number required for your chosen reward, it’s generally not a good idea to purchase points. Purchasing points rarely provides good value, although special deals may help to even that out somewhat.
  • Spending with a bonus points partner just to earn points. If you buy something from a bonus partner but could buy it much cheaper elsewhere, you’ll find the points you earn on the transaction are not as valuable as they seem on paper.
  • Paying out in interest. Rewards cards have high interest rates. If you carry a balance, it will significantly reduce the value of the points you earn.
  • Letting points expire. You worked hard for those points, you don’t want to let them go to waste. Keep a close eye on your points balance and redeem your points before they expire. Even if you can’t redeem them for higher value travel rewards, you can at least get something for them, even if it means donating them to charity.

 

1. https://www.citigroup.com/australia/news/2021/210414a.htm

Photo source: Getty Images
Founder - Roland B Bleyer

Roland Bleyer

Founder of Creditcard.com.au. Roland has extensive knowledge about credit cards in Australia. Known as a credit card expert, he has been featured on tv and in various publications. Some popular offers on our site right now include the ANZ Low Rate. This special offer has no annual fee first year, a low purchase rate and long 0% balance transfer. Have a look also at the huge 0% for 30 months balance transfer from Citi with no balance transfer fees.

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