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Frequent flyer credit cards vs. debit cards

Want to earn more frequent flyer points? Compare credit cards and debit cards that reward you for your everyday spending.

There is a wide range of credit cards that earn frequent flyer points per $1 spent and offer other benefits such as introductory bonus points, airport lounge access and complimentary travel insurance. But credit cards are not the only way to earn more points, with a small selection of debit cards also offering frequent flyer points for transactions and account activity.

Here, you can compare both frequent flyer credit cards and debit cards to learn more about how each type of account works. We’ve also included a comparison of key features to help you decide which type of card will work best for you when it comes to earning rewards for your purchases.

What you'll find in this guide

Key differences between frequent flyer credit cards and debit cards

While the features of frequent flyer cards vary, here are the key details to keep in mind when you’re comparing credit card and debit card options:

Credit cardsDebit cards
  • Earn points per $1 spent on eligible purchases
  • Allow you to spend up to a set limit and then pay off purchases over time (with minimum payments)
  • Charge interest when you carry a balance
  • Usually have high annual fees
  • Often include thousands of bonus points on sign-up
  • May offer extra perks such as airport lounge access, travel insurance and flight vouchers
  • Require a credit check and lender approval
  • Earn points per $1 spent on eligible purchases or on account activity
  • Allow you to spend your own money
  • No interest charges
  • Don’t charge annual fees, although some may have monthly account fees
  • May allow you to spend in foreign currencies
  • Can be linked to your everyday banking account or preloaded with funds
  • Don’t have an impact on your credit score

This is just a snapshot of the features of frequent flyer credit cards and debit cards. We’ve gone into more detail for each type of card below so that you can choose options that work for you.

Frequent flyer credit cards

ccf-frequent-flyer-cards-250x250Frequent flyer credit cards earn points per $1 spent on eligible purchases. If you have a direct-earn card, such as the Qantas American Express Ultimate or Velocity High Flyer, the points you earn will be credited directly to your frequent flyer account.

Other credit cards let you transfer points into an eligible frequent flyer account, such as those linked to American Express Membership Rewards or Amplify Rewards. Often you’ll need a minimum number of points for the transfer or be required to opt-in to earn frequent flyer points instead of credit card reward points.

As well as the way you earn points, you’ll need to consider the following features when you’re comparing frequent flyer credit cards:

  • Earn rates. This is the number of points you earn per $1 spent. Some cards offer different earn rates depending on how you use them. For example, the NAB Velocity Rewards offers 0.5 points per $1 spent on a Visa card and 0.75 points per $1 spent on an American Express card.
  • Eligible purchases. This covers spending at the shops, restaurants or on other types of everyday purchases. However, you usually won’t earn points on cash advances, balance transfers, account fees, government charges or BPAY payments.
  • Annual fees. Frequent flyer credit card annual fees range from just under $100 to more than $400. There is currently only a handful of cards that have no annual fee for life, such as the Qantas Discovery and Velocity Escape cards issued by American Express.
  • Interest rates. Frequent flyer credit card interest rates are typically around 19–22% p.a. (variable) for purchases. This means you could end up paying for the points you earn if you carry a balance.
  • Foreign transaction fees. Most credit cards charge a fee between 2% and 4% for any transaction made in a foreign currency or online with an overseas retailer. Some cards also offer more points for international transactions, so make sure you weigh up the costs as well as the rewards to decide if it’s worth it.
  • Complimentary extras. The more premium frequent flyer credit cards come with other travel perks, which can include airport lounge passes, flight vouchers, travel insurance and luxury airport transfer services. Some of these cards also offer shopping benefits such as purchase protection insurance.

Compare frequent flyer credit cards

Rates last updated October 21st, 2017
Name Product Bonus Points Rewards Points per $ spent (VISA/MC) Rewards Points per $ spent (AMEX) Purchase rate (p.a.) Annual fee Product Description
Westpac Altitude Black - Altitude Qantas 100k Bonus Points
100,000 bonus points
0.625
1.25
20.24% p.a.
$195 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($395 p.a. thereafter)
Earn 20,000 points on approval and an additional 80,000 bonus Qantas Points when you meet the spend requirement. Ends 26 October 2017.
Citi Platinum Credit Card - 100k Bonus Points
100,000 bonus points
1
20.99% p.a.
$49 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($149 p.a. thereafter)
Earn 100,000 reward Points, take advantage of a long-term balance transfer offer and receive complimentary travel insurance.
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - Bonus Points Offer
60,000 bonus points
0.66
20.74% p.a.
$64 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter)
Earn up to 60,000 bonus Velocity Points in the first 3 months on eligible spend and enjoy a discounted annual fee of $64 for the first year.
Citi Rewards Platinum Credit Card
1
20.99% p.a.
$49 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($149 p.a. thereafter)
Earn Reward Points per $1 spent as part of the Citi Rewards Program, plus receive complimentary international travel insurance.
Westpac Altitude Black - 100k Bonus Points
100,000 bonus points
1.25
2.5
20.24% p.a.
$195 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($395 p.a. thereafter)
Earn 20,000 points on approval and an additional 80,000 bonus Altitude Points when you meet the spend requirement. Ends 26 October 2017.
HSBC Platinum Qantas Credit Card
60,000 bonus points
1
19.99% p.a.
$199 p.a.
Receive a complimentary Qantas Frequent Flyer membership and take advantage of complimentary international travel insurance.
ANZ Frequent Flyer Platinum
50,000 bonus points
0.75
19.99% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($295 p.a. thereafter)
Earn Qantas Points and take advantage of complimentary international travel insurance and a 24/7 concierge service.
ANZ Frequent Flyer Black
75,000 bonus points
1
19.99% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($425 p.a. thereafter)
Collect 75 bonus Status Credits when you meet the spend requirements. Plus, enjoy two complimentary Qantas Club Lounge invitations each year.
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - Balance Transfer Offer
0.66
20.74% p.a.
$129 p.a.
Earn 3 bonus Velocity Points per $1 for the first 3 months, a first year annual fee refund and a yearly $129 Virgin Australia Gift Voucher.
St.George Amplify Platinum
40,000 bonus points
1
0
19.49% p.a.
$99 p.a.
Earn up to 1 Amplify Rewards Point per $1 spent and receive complimentary overseas travel insurance.

Compare up to 4 providers

Rates last updated October 21st, 2017
Name Product Bonus Points Rewards Points per $ spent (VISA/MC) Rewards Points per $ spent (AMEX) Purchase rate (p.a.) Annual fee Product Description
Westpac Altitude Black - Altitude Qantas 100k Bonus Points
100,000 bonus points
0.625
1.25
20.24% p.a.
$195 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($395 p.a. thereafter)
Earn 20,000 points on approval and an additional 80,000 bonus Qantas Points when you meet the spend requirement. Ends 26 October 2017.
HSBC Platinum Qantas Credit Card
60,000 bonus points
1
19.99% p.a.
$199 p.a.
Receive complimentary Qantas Frequent Flyer membership and take advantage of complimentary international travel insurance.
Qantas American Express Discovery Card
1
20.74% p.a.
$0 p.a.
Earn Qantas points that can be redeemed for a one way, return or multi-destination Classic Flight Reward on over 50 partner airlines.
ANZ Frequent Flyer Platinum
50,000 bonus points
0.75
19.99% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($295 p.a. thereafter)
Earn Qantas Points and take advantage of complimentary international travel insurance and a 24/7 concierge service.
NAB Qantas Rewards Signature Card
90,000 bonus points
1
19.99% p.a.
$395 p.a.
Earn Qantas Points and take advantage of complimentary travel insurance and a 24/7 concierge service.
ANZ Frequent Flyer Black
75,000 bonus points
1
19.99% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($425 p.a. thereafter)
Collect 75 bonus Status Credits when you apply by 31 October 2017 and meet the spend requirements.
Bank of Melbourne Amplify Platinum - Qantas Rewards
40,000 bonus points
0.5
19.49% p.a.
$99 p.a.
Fly faster with 0.5 Qantas Points per $1 spent and receive complimentary overseas travel insurance.
Qantas American Express Ultimate Card
55,000 bonus points
1.5
20.74% p.a.
$450 p.a.
Take advantage of a high Qantas Points earn rate and 2 American Express Airport Lounge entries each calendar year.
NAB Qantas Rewards Premium Card
25,000 bonus points
0.5
1
19.99% p.a.
$250 p.a.
A dual Amex and Visa card that comes with a 24/7 personal concierge and complimentary travel insurance.
American Express Qantas Business Rewards Card
100,000 bonus points
1.25
$450 p.a.
Earn up to 2 Qantas Points per $1 spent on eligible purchases and enjoy up to 51 days interest-free on purchases.

Compare up to 4 providers

Rates last updated October 21st, 2017
Name Product Bonus Points Rewards Points per $ spent (VISA/MC) Rewards Points per $ spent (AMEX) Purchase rate (p.a.) Annual fee Product Description
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - Bonus Points Offer
60,000 bonus points
0.66
20.74% p.a.
$64 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter)
Earn up to 60,000 bonus Velocity Points in the first 3 months on eligible spend and enjoy a discounted annual fee of $64 for the first year.
NAB Velocity Rewards Card
0.5
0.75
19.99% p.a.
$95 p.a.
This dual AMEX and Visa card offers up to 0.75 Velocity Points per $1 spent on eligible purchases and special Visa Entertainment offers.
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - Balance Transfer Offer
0.66
20.74% p.a.
$129 p.a.
Earn 3 bonus Velocity Points per $1 for the first 3 months, a first year annual fee refund and a yearly $129 Virgin Australia Gift Voucher.
ANZ Rewards Travel Adventures card
40,000 bonus points
1.5
20.24% p.a.
$225 p.a.
Receive complimentary travel insurance and two complimentary Virgin Australia domestic airport lounge passes each year.
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - 0% Interest Offer
0.66
0% p.a. for 12 months (reverts to 20.74% p.a.)
$129 p.a.
Save with 0 p.a. on purchases for 12 months, complimentary travel insurance and a $129 Virgin Australia gift voucher each year.
American Express Velocity Platinum Card
50,000 bonus points
1.5
20.74% p.a.
$375 p.a.
Receive a complimentary Virgin Australia return Economy domestic flight each anniversary year and complimentary travel insurance.
Virgin Australia Velocity High Flyer Card - 80k Bonus Points offer
80,000 bonus points
1
20.74% p.a.
$289 p.a.
Save on travel costs with a $129 Virgin Australia gift voucher each year and complimentary travel insurance.
NAB Velocity Rewards Premium Card
0.5
1
19.99% p.a.
$150 p.a.
Offers up to 1 Velocity point per $1 on purchases, combined with complimentary insurance covers and a concierge service.
American Express Velocity Business Card
1
$249 p.a.
Take advantage of no pre-set spending limit, data that feeds to MYOB accounting software and up to 51 days interest-free on purchases.
American Express Velocity Escape Card
1
20.74% p.a.
$0 p.a.
Earn uncapped Velocity points on purchases and redeem for a range of rewards including flights, accommodation, car hire and gift cards.

Compare up to 4 providers

Rates last updated October 21st, 2017
Name Product Bonus Points Rewards Points per $ spent (VISA/MC) Rewards Points per $ spent (AMEX) Purchase rate (p.a.) Annual fee Product Description
Westpac Altitude Black - Altitude Qantas 100k Bonus Points
100,000 bonus points
0.625
1.25
20.24% p.a.
$195 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($395 p.a. thereafter)
Earn 20,000 points on approval and an additional 80,000 bonus Qantas Points when you meet the spend requirement. Ends 26 October 2017.
Citi Platinum Credit Card - 100k Bonus Points
100,000 bonus points
1
20.99% p.a.
$49 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($149 p.a. thereafter)
Earn 100,000 reward Points, take advantage of a long-term balance transfer offer and receive complimentary travel insurance.
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - Bonus Points Offer
60,000 bonus points
0.66
20.74% p.a.
$64 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter)
Earn up to 60,000 bonus Velocity Points in the first 3 months on eligible spend and enjoy a discounted annual fee of $64 for the first year.
HSBC Platinum Qantas Credit Card
60,000 bonus points
1
19.99% p.a.
$199 p.a.
Offers complimentary membership to the Qantas Frequent Flyer Program and international travel insurance included.
ANZ Frequent Flyer Black
75,000 bonus points
1
19.99% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($425 p.a. thereafter)
Receive 75,000 bonus Qantas Points when you apply online, are approved and spend $2,500 on eligible purchases in the first 3 months.
ANZ Frequent Flyer Platinum
50,000 bonus points
0.75
19.99% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($295 p.a. thereafter)
Get 50,000 bonus Qantas Points when you apply online, are approved and spend $2,500 on eligible purchases within the first 3 months.
Westpac Altitude Black - 100k Bonus Points
100,000 bonus points
1.25
2.5
20.24% p.a.
$195 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($395 p.a. thereafter)
Earn 20,000 points on approval and an additional 80,000 bonus Altitude Points when you meet the spend requirement. Ends 26 October 2017.
Citi Rewards Platinum Credit Card
1
20.99% p.a.
$49 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($149 p.a. thereafter)
Consolidate your debt with a low balance transfer offer of 0% p.a. for 24 months and get a host of platinum privileges.
Qantas American Express Discovery Card
1
20.74% p.a.
$0 p.a.
Earn Qantas points that can be redeemed for a one way, return or multi-destination Classic Flight Reward on over 50 partner airlines.
ANZ Rewards Black Credit Card
75,000 bonus points
2
18.79% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($375 p.a. thereafter)
Offers unlimited access to participating Véloce airport lounges outside of Australia and a personal 24/7 concierge service.

Compare up to 4 providers

Which debit cards earn frequent flyer rewards?

ccf-frequent-flyer-cards2-250x250Unlike credit cards, frequent flyer debit cards don’t attract interest charges or annual fees worth hundreds of dollars. They’re basically like normal debit card or transaction accounts, allowing you to spend your own money and earn points in the process. This makes them an appealing alternative if you don’t want to use a credit card for purchases but still want to earn frequent flyer rewards through everyday transactions.

There are currently three debit cards in Australia that offer you frequent flyer points for account activity: the Bankwest Qantas Transaction Mastercard, the Qantas Cash card and the Velocity Global Wallet. While the Bankwest option is linked to an everyday banking account, the Qantas Cash and Velocity Global Wallet are prepaid debit cards that you can load with funds and use to spend in Australian dollars or up to 10 other currencies.

Compare frequent flyer debit cards

You can use this table to compare the points and fees of frequent flyer debit cards:

CardEarn ratesFeesOther features
Bankwest Qantas Transaction Mastercard5 Qantas Points per eligible purchase

5 Qantas Points per overseas ATM withdrawal

12 Qantas Points per month for every $100 in your account

Monthly account fee: A fee of $6 per month applies unless you deposit at least $2,000 per month in your account.

Foreign transaction fee: A fee worth 2.95% applies for each transaction made in a foreign currency.Please note that overseas ATM operators may apply charges for withdrawals.

  • Everyday banking account features
  • Complimentary Qantas Frequent Flyer membership for new customers
  • Earn interest on your account balance at a variable rate of 0.01% p.a.
Qantas Cash card1 Qantas Point per $4 spent on eligible purchases in Australia

1.5 Qantas Points per $1 spent on eligible purchases overseas

International ATM withdrawal fees: AUD1.95; USD1.95; GBP1.25; EUR1.50; THB70; NZD2.50; SGD2.50; HKD15.00; CAD2.00; JPY160; AED6.50

Debit card loading fee: A fee worth 1% of the total amount applies if you load money onto this card using a debit card.

  • Prepaid, reloadable travel money card
  • Load and spend in up to 11 currencies (including Australian dollars)
  • Complimentary Qantas Frequent Flyer membership for new customers
Velocity Global Wallet1 Velocity Point per $3 spent on eligible purchases in Australia

2 Velocity Points per $1 spent overseas

ATM withdrawal fee: AUD$1.95

Foreign currency conversion fee: A fee of 2.25% applies for transactions made in a currency other than those you’ve loaded on the card.

Inactivity fee: A fee of $1.95 per month is charged if you don’t use your card within a 12-month period.

  • Prepaid, reloadable travel money card
  • Load and spend in up to 11 currencies (including Australian dollars)

ccf-frequent-flyer-comparison-895x299

Frequent flyer credit cards vs debit cards: Which is better?

If you want to choose between a credit card or debit card that earns frequent flyer points, here are three key features you can easily compare:

Standard earn rate

This is the number of points per $1 you’re most likely to earn for everyday spending in Australia. For credit cards, the earn rate can range from around 0.25 to 1.5 frequent flyer points per $1 spent. For debit cards, you earn between 0.25 and 0.33 points per $1 spent in Australia, except on the Bankwest Qantas Transaction Mastercard, which offers a flat rate of 5 Qantas Points per transaction.

  • Winner: Credit cards are the clear winner, with up to 1.5 points per $1 as a standard. However, it does still depend on which specific cards you compare.

Other earn rate/s

Some frequent flyer credit cards offer higher earn rates for certain transactions, such as those made overseas or with a partner airline (e.g. Qantas or Virgin Australia). When that’s the case, you can get up to 2.5 points for each $1 spent.

In comparison, both the Qantas Cash and Velocity Global Wallet offer higher earn rates for spending overseas, with 1.5 Qantas Points per $1 and 2 Velocity Points per $1 respectively. The Bankwest Qantas Transaction, on the other hand, offers 5 Qantas Points for overseas ATM withdrawals and 12 Qantas Points per month for every $100 of your account balance.

  • Winner: Once again, credit cards win in terms of the highest earn rates. But it is worth noting that both the Qantas Cash and Velocity Global Wallet international earn rates are higher than those of many other cards – and offer you a way to avoid currency conversion charges if you have preloaded foreign currency onto them.

Account fees

Frequent flyer credit card annual fees can be over $400, especially for the cards with higher earn rates. Most cards also charge foreign transaction fees when you use them overseas or for online shopping with international retailers, as well as interest if you carry a balance.

Both the Qantas Cash and Velocity Global Wallet don’t charge monthly or annual account fees (although you will pay an inactivity fee if you don’t use the Velocity Global Wallet at least once in 12 months). The Bankwest Qantas Transaction has a monthly account fee of $6 but waives it if you deposit at least $2,000 per month (such as your wages). As travel money cards, the Qantas Cash and Velocity Global Wallet give you a way to avoid foreign transaction fees in many different locations. Even when you do have to pay one, it’s still less than the average 3% charged by most credit cards.

  • Winner: The three frequent flyer debit cards have fewer fees and more ways to avoid them, making them the clear winner.

Based on these three features, credit cards generally come out on top. They also offer bonus points and complimentary extras that you can’t get with a debit card. But the trade-off is a credit account and typically higher fees and charges than those you’d get with one of these frequent flyer debit cards. So choosing a frequent flyer card really comes down to how it will be used and what your own priorities are.

For example, if you regularly use a credit card for purchases already, you may find that a frequent flyer credit card is ideal for earning more points without really changing your current spending habits. But if you’re not a frequent credit card user or don’t want to pay the higher costs, a debit card could be a more suitable way to earn points as you spend.

Now that you know more about the similarities and differences between frequent flyer credit cards and debit cards, you can weigh up credit card and debit card frequent flyer options to determine which one offers you the greatest rewards.

Pictures: Shutterstock

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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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