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Banks ramp up credit card rewards in time for Christmas

Looking for a new credit card before Christmas? Discover how you can take your rewards further with a signup bonus.

In anticipation of December’s seasonal cheer, feasting and gifting, credit card providers typically roll out attractive card promotions to catch the inevitable wave of swipe-happy shoppers. So if you’re scouting for a new credit card to use for Christmas expenses, this is probably the best time of year to look. Read on to learn what bonus perks you can enjoy, as well as the key features to look out for.

How do bonus point offers work?

Introductory bonus point offers are designed to entice new customers into signing up for a credit card by providing short-term perks when you apply for a new card and meet the offer requirements. A typical bonus points offer usually promises a sizeable amount of rewards points if you sign up before a certain date. Here are some common terms and conditions to be aware of:

  • New customers. These offers are only available to new customers. This is more strictly enforced by some card issuers than others. For example, American Express states that you will not be eligible for bonus points if you have been a cardmember in the previous 18 months.
  • Offer period. These promotions run for a limited time, which means you must apply and be approved for the card before the offer expires.
  • Spending requirements. Other conditions may apply. For instance, there is a common caveat that states you will only receive your bonus points after spending a specified amount on your card, such as $2,000 on eligible purchases in your first 3 months of membership.
  • Eligible purchases. This is a common credit card term that you should be familiar with. Not all purchases count towards your minimum spend requirements for these offers, with cash advances, balance transfers, interest fees, government payments and gambling transactions generally not considered to be eligible transactions. Please refer to your provider’s terms and conditions as this definition can differ between cards.

Which credit cards offer bonus rewards this Christmas?  

A wide range of credit cards offer promotions around Christmas time, so it may be useful to separate them into the following key categories:

  • Rewards credit cards. Rewards credit cards let you earn rewards points as you spend, which can be later redeemed for products or services across a wide range of categories. Sometimes you can also transfer your rewards points to affiliated frequent flyer programs of your choosing. Rewards cards often come with higher annual fees and interest rates, but you may be able to find some fairly good offers this season for extra deal-sweeteners like bonus points, annual fee waivers and promotional interest rate periods. 
  • Frequent flyer credit cards. Frequent flyer credit cards are similar to rewards credit cards in that you can accumulate loyalty points for everyday expenditures. The difference is that you earn frequent flyer points for the designated frequent flyer program that you’ve signed up with and you redeem your rewards through that program. Similar to rewards credit cards, there are many frequent flyer cards that offer signup bonuses at this time of year.
    Compare frequent flyer credit cards here

Compare credit cards with bonus points on signup

Rates last updated May 29th, 2017
Rewards Points per $ spent (VISA/MC) Rewards Points per $ spent (AMEX) Bonus Points Annual fee
St.George Vertigo Platinum
Save with 12.74% p.a. on purchases. Also enjoy Visa Platinum Concierge service.
0 0 $99 p.a. Go to site More info
Citi Rewards Platinum Credit Card
Take advantage of 0% p.a. for 24 months on balance transfers with a 1.5% BT fee. Plus, earn Reward Points as part of the Citi Rewards Program.
1 0 $49 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($149 p.a. thereafter) Go to site More info
St.George Vertigo Visa
Save with 13.24% p.a. on purchases. Also enjoy up to 55 days interest-free.
0 0 $0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($55 p.a. thereafter) Go to site More info
ANZ Platinum Credit Card - Exclusive Offer
Receive a low introductory offer of 0% p.a. on purchases for 3 months and 0% p.a. on balance transfers for 12 months. Also, enjoy an annual fee waiver in the first year.
0 0 $0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($87 p.a. thereafter) Go to site More info
HSBC Platinum Credit Card
Earn 1 Reward Point per $1 spent and receive an annual fee refund with minimum spend.
1 0 $99 p.a. Go to site More info
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - Exclusive Offer
Earn 2 Velocity Points on top of the standard earn rate per $1 spent within the first 3 months, plus a $129 Virgin Australia Gift Voucher each year.
0.66 0 $64 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter) Go to site More info
HSBC Low Rate Credit Card
Save with 13.25% p.a. on purchases. Also enjoy exclusive offers with the home&Away Privilege Program.
0 0 $55 p.a. Go to site More info
ANZ Frequent Flyer Black
Receive 75,000 bonus Qantas Points when you spend $2,500 on eligible purchases within the first 3 months, plus earn up to 1 point for every dollar spent on eligible purchases. Also, earn 75 Bonus Status Credits when you apply by 30 June 2017, buy and fly return with Qantas by 30 September 2017.
1 75,000 bonus points $0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($425 p.a. thereafter) Go to site More info
HSBC Platinum Qantas Credit Card
Fly faster with up to 1 Qantas Point per $1 spent and receive bonus Qantas Points on selected Qantas products, services and partners.
1 0 60,000 bonus points $199 p.a. Go to site More info
NAB Premium Card
A low annual fee Platinum card with seven complimentary insurances.
0 0 $90 p.a. Go to site More info
Westpac Low Rate Card - Online Only Balance Transfer Offer
Take advantage of 0% p.a. for 24 months on balance transfers with a 2% BT fee. Plus, the convenience of the Westpac mobile banking app.
0 0 $59 p.a. Go to site More info
American Express Velocity Platinum Card
Take off sooner with up to 2.5 Velocity Points per $1 spent and receive a complimentary Virgin Australia return domestic flight every year.
0 1.5 100,000 bonus points $375 p.a. Go to site More info
NAB Low Rate Credit Card
Save with 13.99% p.a. on purchases. Also enjoy special offers from Visa Entertainment.
0 0 $59 p.a. Go to site More info
Bank of Melbourne Vertigo Platinum
Save with 12.74% p.a. on purchases. Also enjoy up to 55 days interest-free.
0 0 $99 p.a. Go to site More info
American Express Explorer® Credit Card
Earn up to 2 Membership Rewards Points per $1 spent and receive a $400 Travel Credit every year.
2 50,000 bonus points $395 p.a. Go to site More info
BankSA Vertigo Visa
Save with 13.24% p.a. on purchases. Also enjoy up to 55 days interest-free.
0 0 $0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($55 p.a. thereafter) Go to site More info
Bankwest Breeze Mastercard
Enjoy an introductory rate of 0% p.a. on balance transfers for 21 months (2% balance transfer fee applies). Limited time only.
0 0 $59 p.a. Go to site More info
Virgin Money Low Rate Credit Card
Save with 11.99% p.a. on purchases. Also enjoy the protection of Fraudshield.
0 0 $99 p.a. Go to site More info
American Express Essential®  Credit Card
A no annual fee card that collects up to 1 Membership Rewards point for every $1 spent.
1 $0 p.a. Go to site More info
ANZ Frequent Flyer Platinum
Receive 50,000 bonus Qantas Points when you spend $2,500 on eligible purchases for the first three months. Plus, earn additional points per $1 spent on purchases and enjoy a waived annual fee for the first year.
0.75 50,000 bonus points $0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($295 p.a. thereafter) Go to site More info

holding-a-stack-of-colorful-cards-shutterstock

How can I compare rewards credit card offers in the leadup to Christmas? 

With so many attractive offers to choose from, it pays to remember that not all of them will be equally suitable for you. Consider the following factors when comparing offers in your search for a new credit card:

  • Bonus points. Make sure you consider the amount of points on offer, as well as the spending requirements you must meet to unlock these points. If you need to spend a lot more than usual to access your bonus points, another offer may prove more worthwhile for you.
  • Value of bonus points. You can thoroughly and objectively compare the bonus offers by calculating their monetary worth. This may require a little research and effort on your part, but it’s not difficult. To illustrate, if a card offers 20,000 bonus Qantas Points, that’s enough for a one-way economy flight from Sydney to Bali (20,000 points) or Brisbane to Auckland (18,000 points). Those points could also get you a $100 Myer gift card (17,500 points), which gives you a fairly concrete indication of what your bonus points are worth. Since most rewards programs have online catalogues, it’s easy to check how much each offer is worth when comparing them.
  • Rewards program. It’s important to understand the rewards program you’re signing up to when you get a new credit card. Go to the relevant card’s website and familiarise yourself with the program to decide if it’s one that you like. Also, if you already regularly fly with a particular airline or you shop at a preferred store such as Coles, Woolworths or David Jones, getting a card partnered with that airline or store will prove much more rewarding for you in the long run.
  • Rewards points earn rate. When considering your new credit card, factor in the card’s earn rate and how that will affect your points-earning capabilities in the future. Earn rates typically range from 0.5 points per $1 spent to 3 points per $1 spent, which can make a big difference to how fast you earn your rewards.
  • Introductory purchase rate. This is especially relevant around Christmas time when you’ll be doing a lot of shopping and spending. A card with a 0% introductory interest period can save you a lot of money as it allows you to reduce or avoid interest charges for a certain amount of time.
  • Annual fee. This is important, since you want to make sure that the rewards outweigh the cost of your card. A high annual fee can offset the possible benefits of your credit card, especially if you don’t usually use it much.
  • Standard interest rates. These are the interest rates that apply once any promotional interest rates expire. They are particularly important if you tend to carry a balance on your credit card, as they will add to the debt owed. Keep in mind that even a 1% difference in the standard variable rate could have a huge impact on the total interest charged for a balance, so it’s important to look closely at this feature during your comparison.
  • Additional perks. Consider other relevant perks that may add to your enjoyment of the card, such as complimentary insurance, airport lounge access and concierge services. These perks can be a valuable addition to your card, but if you don’t use them then you may be paying extra for nothing.

Compare rewards credit cards here

What do I need to be wary of?

Before you get carried away in a frenzy of offers, here are some other factors to note:

  • Overspending. A record Christmas spending of almost $10 billion has been predicted for this year, and that’s just the amount that Australians will be spending on gifts. That’s an increase of 28%, or $119 dollars per adult, from last year, which means you wouldn’t be alone if you did overspend a little. Still, credit cards tend to have the effect of “helping” people spend more than they can afford and the spend requirements of bonus point offers can increase this incentive. Ideally, aim to have a budget and stick to it to help keep your plastic purchases in check.
  • Introductory periods. If you get a card that offers an introductory bonus, you may want to set a reminder for when this period ends. For example, if you have to spend $2,000 in 3 months to get bonus points, setting a reminder a couple of weeks before the 3 month mark will give you time to check that you’re meeting the requirements to earn these points, or to make a few extra purchases to get you there.
  • Application time. Note that while it’s fast and easy these days to apply for a credit card online, it may take 1-2 weeks to receive your physical card once approved. If you plan on using it for holiday or sale shopping, you’ll need to get onto this quick.

Christmas is a good time to be shopping for credit cards, with many providers pulling out all the stops with their offers. Just remember to research all the deals you look at and compare your options before deciding which card will work best for you. Also consider your budget to decide if getting a new rewards credit card will be worthwhile this Christmas, bonus points or not, so that you can enjoy the season in a way that works for you.

Back to topPicture: Shutterstock

Amy Bradney-George

Amy is a Senior Writer at finder.com.au with more than 10 years experience covering credit cards, personal finance and various lifestyle topics. When she’s not sharing her knowledge on money matters, Amy spends her time as an actress.

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