How we picked 2019’s best frequent flyer credit cards
Which card scored the gong at the Finder Awards 2019?
Last month, the 2019 Finder Awards unveiled the best products in Australia in 49 categories at a glittering event hosted by celebrity, author and recent The Unmasked Singer contestant Gretel Killeen. One of the most keenly-contested categories was frequent flyer credit cards. Which card got the top slot, and how did we pick the winner?
For every product category in the Finder Awards, we have a carefully developed methodology that weights all the different features and their relative importance. Those weightings are based on our own expert knowledge, market research and insights, and they're hotly debated within Finder before we settle on the final formula. (You can read more about the full methodology if you're curious.)
For frequent flyer cards, this was the weighting we used. It reflects the reality that with frequent flyer cards, how many points you earn is easily the top consideration.
- Basic earn rate: 27.5%
- Sign-up and minimum-spend bonus points: 25%
- Annual fee: 25% (10% if a discounted first-year fee is offered)
- Discounted first-year annual fee: 15% (if applicable)
- Lounge passes offered: 10%
- Points earn cap: 5%
- International transaction fee: 5%
- Purchase interest rate: 2.5%
With the weighting developed, we then compile data on every eligible card in the market and assign a score for each feature. The top 10% of products in the category receive a 10, the next 10% a 9 and so on. That means the scores reflect what's actually available, rather than us making an arbitrary decision like "100,000 points is worth a 10". Then we weight those scores to get a total score for each card. That process is repeated across the four quarters of the 2018-2019 financial year, which ensures that we're recognising ongoing value ahead of limited-time offers.
For frequent flyer credit cards, we ranked a total of 54 cards available in Australia. To ensure we're comparing apples with apples, we only looked at consumer cards (not business credit cards) that could be individually applied for (not tied to other products like mortgages or savings accounts), which directly earned either Qantas or Virgin Points and which were consistently available across the assessment period.
With that ranking applied, we had a Finder Award winner: the American Express Westpac Altitude Black Bundle - Qantas. It offers consistently high bonus points and an excellent uncapped earn rate. While its annual fee is at the high end of the scale ($499 as I write this), you can score much more value than that in points if you use the card intelligently.
That's not to say that everyone should rush out and apply for those cards. The right card for you is not automatically the right card for everyone else. But they're worth considering as you build your shortlist.
One other thing to note: when ranking cards, we treated Qantas Points and Velocity Points as equivalent. It just turned out that the top-scoring cards this year all offered Qantas Points. If you're looking to earn Velocity Points, there are plenty of solid card options available.
Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears regularly on Finder.
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- When do frequent flyer reward seats become available?
Picture: Getty Images