How to get your honeymoon flights for free with points

Graham Cooke 1 November 2018 NEWS

And possibly your hotel room too, if you pick your cards right.

There comes a time in your life when you feel like all you’re doing is attending weddings. That time in my life is now. All those hours spent nabbing canapes from passing trays and discussing the increasing cost of Australian weddings over red wine got me wondering whether it would be possible to sign up for a rewards credit card, use it to pay for your wedding, and earn sufficient points to cover the cost of your honeymoon flights.

The first key piece of information here is the average cost of a wedding in Australia in 2018. A little bit of research resulted in three very different figures ranging from $31,368 to $82,060, with the average being $54,891.

Wedding Wonderland $51,245
Easy Weddings $31,368
My Wedding $82,060
Average $54,891

Even the cheapest option has the potential to earn a lot of points. But is it possible to earn enough to cover the flights (and perhaps a little more)?

The main cards you need to consider are those with large bonus point offers. These points are unlocked once you spend a specific amount in a certain period. That's easily done if you're paying for a wedding.

That said, the bonus points will generally be far more than you'd ever earn just through spending.
At the moment, there are two cards in the market at the top of their game in this regard: the ANZ Frequent Flyer Black and the American Express Westpac Altitude Black Card bundle. So we'll plan to use one of those.

With that established, we'll make the following assumptions to calculate how to score our free honeymoon:

  • Accumulated points, flights and hotel bookings will be with Qantas. Alternatives are available for those who prefer Virgin Australia.
  • Flight bookings are via the Qantas Classic Reward system. Hotel bookings are via Qantas Hotels.
  • The full cost of the wedding will be paid over three months to ensure any bonus point spending requirements will be met.
  • Points will be earned at the maximum earn rate for the card, up to the earn cap per period.
  • The couple will pay off their balance in full at the end of each statement period.

Here's how many points you'll earn on those two cards from a $54,891 spend:

ANZ Frequent Flyer Black American Express Westpac Altitude Black Card bundle
Annual fee (first year) $275 ($425 with $150 refunded in the first year when you spend $7,500, $425 thereafter) $300 ($250 + $50 Qantas Rewards fee in the first year with no spend requirements, $499 thereafter)
Maximum earn rate 1 point per dollar 1.25 points per dollar (for spending on the American Express card)
Earn cap $7,500 per month (earn rate drops to 0.5 points per dollar thereafter) None
Interest rate 19.99% 20.24%
Sign up bonus 120,000 points (awarded when you spend $7,500 in the first three months) Up to 120,000 points (awarded when you spend $3,000 on both the AmEx and Mastercard within the first three months)
Total points earned 158,696 188,641

Here's a brief explanation of the fees and charges discussed above:

  • Annual fee: Annual fees for rewards cards tend to be higher than other cards. Often, lenders will offer a discounted fee or partial refund in the first year. Of course, you can pay off your balance and cancel your card before the second year's fees kick in.
  • Earn rate: The earn rate describes how many reward points you will receive per $1 spent. This is the essential factor in how much long-term value you will get out of your card.
  • Earn cap: Some cards will limit the number of points awarded per statement period, with the earn rate dropping for any higher spends. For example, you may earn 1 point per $1 up to $7,500 per statement period and 0.5 points per $1 after that. If you're planning to spend more than the set amount each statement period, you might want to look for an uncapped card or one with a higher spend threshold.
  • Interest rate: While the average credit card interest rate is around 17% p.a., rewards cards tend to have rates of 20% p.a. or more. If you're not clearing your balance in full each statement period, the interest costs can quickly outweigh the benefit of the reward points.
  • Sign-up bonus: Most rewards cards will offer bonus points once you sign up and spend a certain amount on the card within a certain period of time.

So, how far do these points go? Below is a table of the minimum points required for a return flight for a couple to several popular honeymoon destinations:

Destination Class Points required (two people return) Points remaining - ANZ Black Points remaining - Westpac Black Hotel - approx. starting cost per night
Nadi, Fiji Economy 72,000 86,696 116,614 21,383
Bali, Indonesia Economy 90,000 68,696 98,614 5,957
Phuket, Thailand Economy 112,000 46,696 76,614 6,874
Honolulu, Hawaii Economy 140,000 18,696 48,614 32,626
Nadi, Fiji Business 144,000 14,696 44,614 21,383
San Francisco Economy 180,000 0 8,614 47,385

So it turns out it’s easily possible to cover the full cost of your honeymoon flights and then some by paying for your wedding with a rewards card. Couples channelling all of their wedding costs through a new Westpac Black American Express card and travelling to Fiji would be able to cover both their flights and over a week of their hotel stay. Even travelling business, there would still be sufficient points remaining to cover some of the hotel cost. Those opting for a more premium Hawaiian honeymoon could cover their flight and have sufficient points left over to cover the first night's hotel stay.

There are some important caveats here. First, the above point costs are for Qantas Classic Rewards flights; however, you’ll usually need to book early to get these seats as they often sell out. Once these seats are sold, paying for flights directly with points will be much more expensive.

Second, the Westpac deal is a bundle containing both a Mastercard and an American Express card. While the calculation above assumes the full cost of the wedding is applied to the Amex, you’ll also need to spend $3,000 on the Mastercard to unlock the bonus points. Moving $3,000 of your wedding spending across to the Mastercard would result in earning 1,500 fewer points. Also, some wedding vendors may not accept credit card payment, so make sure to ask about this up front.

Finally, be sure to pay off your balance in full every month. Otherwise, you could end up in serious debt, which you really don’t want to be worrying about when chilling by the pool.

Graham Cooke's Insights Blog examines issues affecting the Australian consumer. It appears regularly on finder.com.au.

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