couple using credit card

How to avoid credit card booking fees on flights

What you’ll pay when booking a flight with your credit card and how you can avoid excessive surcharge fees.

In May 2016, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) announced that it would be banning excessive flat-rate surcharges on credit card payments as of 1 September. While a number of institutions were guilty of charging exorbitant credit card surcharges, airlines such as Qantas and Virgin were especially targeted by the RBA.

Now that the surcharge ban has come in place, we now know exactly what you’ll have to pay if you’re using your credit card to book your next flight. Better yet, we’ve highlighted the different ways you can avoid surcharges altogether. (All figures are in Australian dollars.)

qantas logo

Before 1 Sep 2016

Booking type Debit/prepaid cards Credit/charge cards
Australian Domestic $2.50 $7
Australian Trans-Tasman $2.50 $7
Australian international $10 $30

After 1 Sep 2016

Booking type Debit/prepaid cards Credit/charge cards Fee cap
Australian Domestic 0.6% 1.3% $11
Australian Trans-Tasman 0.6% 1.3% $11
Australian international 0.6% 1.3% $70

How you can avoid card payment fees with Qantas

  • POLi
  • Debit/prepaid including Qantas Travel Money
  • BPAY for bookings made at least 7 days before departure
  • Qantas UATP
  • Credit voucher

Before the surcharge ban, some of Qantas' surcharges were 383% larger than the cost it took to process a credit card payment. Compare how you'll save (or not) with the new credit card surcharges in contrast to Qantas' old booking fees.

virgin australia logo

Before 1 Sep 2016

Booking type Credit, debit and PayPal
Domestic $7.70
Trans-Tasman $11.00
International $30.00

After 1 Sep 2016

Flight type Credit Debit PayPal Fee cap
Domestic and trans-Tasman 1.3% per booking 0.6% per booking $5 per booking $11.00
International short haul 1.3% per booking 0.6% $5 per booking $70.00
International long haul 1.3% per booking 0.6% $5 per booking $70.00

How you can avoid credit card payment fees when booking with Virgin Australia

  • POLi
  • Gift voucher

You can compare how Virgin Australia's booking fees have changed and what you'll pay for specific routes here.

jetstar logo

Before 1 Sep 2016

Booking type Booking fee (debit and credit)
International $8.50
Domestic $8.50 to $12.50

After 1 Sep 2016

Card type % charge
Mastercard Credit 1.06%
Mastercard Debit 1.06%
Visa Credit 0.48%
Visa Debit 0.48%
PayPal 0.75%

How to avoid credit card surcharges with Jetstar

Out of the four major Australian airlines, it's clear that Jetstar has the most competitive surcharge rates on the market following the 1 September reforms, but you can use the following strategies to avoid the surcharges.

Avoid surcharges with bookings made in Australian dollars using:

  • Direct deposit
  • POLi
  • Voucher
  • Jetstar Mastercard or Jetstar Platinum Mastercard

Are you booking a flight with Jetstar? See our full rundown of what you'll pay when booking your next flight.

tiger air logo

Before 1 Sep 2016

Booking type Credit and debit booking fee PayPal booking fee Latitude interest free booking fee
Domestic $8.50 $4.00 $10.00
International $12.50 $6.00 $10.00

After 1 Sep 2016

Card type % charge
Mastercard Credit 1.25%
Mastercard Debit 0.86%
Visa Credit 1.33%
Visa Debit 0.88%

Previously, you could use an Australian-issued Mastercard debit card to avoid the surcharges. As of 1 September 2016, this is no longer the case. You can compare the current ways you can avoid surcharges with Tiger Air below.

How to avoid booking surcharges with Tiger Air

  • Book your Tigerair flight through the official mobile app using an Australian-issued debit Mastercard
  • Velocity Points
  • POLi

Find out how the new Tiger Air booking fees will work.

While the RBA's credit card surcharge ban was designed to stop airlines and other institutions from charging exorbitant surcharge fees, some of the fee caps mean you'll be spending more than when the flat-rate booking fee was applied. If don't want to pay any surcharges, make sure you understand the different options available (aside from credit card, debit card and PayPal) that don't charge a booking fee.

How much less will you pay on new airline credit card surcharges?

Compare frequent flyer credit cards

Rates last updated January 21st, 2019
Name Product Bonus Points Rewards Program Rewards Points per $ spent Purchase rate (p.a.) Annual fee Product Description
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - Bonus Points Offer
60,000 bonus points
Velocity Frequent Flyer
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 points in the first 3 months and save with a $64 first year annual fee. Plus, a long-term balance transfer offer.
Westpac Altitude Platinum Card - Qantas
60,000 bonus points
Qantas Frequent Flyer
0.5
20.24% p.a.
$50 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($200 p.a. thereafter)
Earn 60,000 bonus Qantas Points when you spend $3,000 within 90 days of card approval. Plus, a $50 first year annual fee.
NAB Qantas Rewards Signature Card
90,000 bonus points
Qantas Frequent Flyer
1
19.99% p.a.
$295 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($395 p.a. thereafter)
Earn Qantas Points on your everyday spending, take advantage of complimentary overseas travel insurance and a 24/7 concierge service.
St.George Amplify Signature - Qantas
80,000 bonus points
Qantas Frequent Flyer
0.75
19.49% p.a.
$179 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($279 p.a. thereafter)
Enjoy 80,000 bonus Qantas Points when you spend $4,000 within 90 days and 2 complimentary Qantas Club lounge invitations per year.
HSBC Platinum Qantas Credit Card
Qantas Frequent Flyer
1
19.99% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($79 p.a. thereafter)
Save with a $0 first year annual fee and a long-term balance transfer offer. Plus, complimentary travel insurance.
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - Exclusive Offer
Velocity Frequent Flyer
0.66
0% p.a. for 14 months (reverts to 20.74% p.a.)
$64 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter)
finder Exclusive: Save on credit card costs with half the annual fee for the first year and a 0% p.a. interest rate on purchases for 14 months.
St.George Amplify Signature - Online Offer
100,000 bonus points
Amplify Rewards
1.5
19.49% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($279 p.a. thereafter)
Enjoy a $0 first year annual fee, 100,000 bonus Amplify Points and 2 complimentary lounge passes per year. Ends 23 January 2019.
St.George Amplify Platinum - Qantas
50,000 bonus points
Qantas Frequent Flyer
0.5
19.49% p.a.
$99 p.a.
Earn 50,000 bonus Qantas Points when you spend $2,000 within 90 days and earn 0.5 Qantas points per $1 spent. Ends 23 January 2019.
Bank of Melbourne Amplify Signature - Qantas
80,000 bonus points
Qantas Frequent Flyer
0.75
19.49% p.a.
$179 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($279 p.a. thereafter)
Offers 80,000 bonus Qantas Points when you spend $4,000 in 90 days, plus, 2 Qantas lounge passes per year. Ends 23 January 2019.
American Express Westpac Altitude Platinum Bundle - Qantas
75,000 bonus points
Qantas Frequent Flyer
1
0.5
20.24% p.a.
$99 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($249 p.a. thereafter)
Up to 75,000 bonus Qantas Points when you meet the criteria with this dual Visa (issued & serviced by Westpac) & Amex (issued & serviced by Amex).
BankSA Amplify Signature - Qantas
80,000 bonus points
Qantas Frequent Flyer
0.75
19.49% p.a.
$179 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($279 p.a. thereafter)
Receive 80,000 bonus Qantas Points when you spend $4,000 within 90 days. Plus, complimentary lounge passes. Ends 23 January 2019.
Bendigo Bank Qantas Platinum Mastercard
Qantas Frequent Flyer
0.6
19.99% p.a.
$149 p.a.
Earn Qantas Points on eligible spend, plus enjoy 180 days of comprehensive travel insurance and extended warranty on purchases.
Westpac Altitude Black - Qantas
80,000 bonus points
Qantas Frequent Flyer
0.75
20.24% p.a.
$300 p.a.
Earn 80,000 bonus Qantas Points when you meet the spend requirement. Plus, 2 yearly Qantas Club lounge invitations.
American Express Westpac Altitude Platinum Bundle
75,000 bonus points
Westpac Altitude Rewards
2
1
20.24% p.a.
$49 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($199 p.a. thereafter)
$49 first year annual fee & up to 75,000 bonus Altitude Pts when you meet T&C with Visa (issued by Westpac) & Amex (issued & serviced by Amex).
Qantas American Express Discovery Card
Qantas Frequent Flyer
0.75
20.74% p.a.
$0 p.a.
Earn uncapped Qantas Points on purchases, pay $0 annual fee for life and take advantage of a 0% p.a. for 12 months balance transfer offer.
Suncorp Clear Options Platinum Credit Card - Online Offer
60,000 bonus points
Suncorp Bank Rewards Program
1.25
20.74% p.a.
$49 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter)
Save with a 0% balance transfer offer and earn up to 60,000 Bonus Reward Points. Plus, a discounted first year annual fee when you apply online.
American Express Velocity Escape Card
Velocity Frequent Flyer
0.75
20.74% p.a.
$0 p.a.
Earn uncapped Velocity Points on purchases, pay $0 annual fee for life and take advantage of a 0% p.a. for 12 months balance transfer offer.
American Express Velocity Platinum Card
50,000 bonus points
Velocity Frequent Flyer
1.25
20.74% p.a.
$375 p.a.
Receive 50,000 bonus Velocity Points and enjoy complimentary lounge passes, a domestic return flight and insurance covers.
American Express Westpac Altitude Black Bundle - Qantas
120,000 bonus points
Qantas Frequent Flyer
1.25
0.75
20.24% p.a.
$499 p.a.
Up to 120,000 bonus Qantas Points with Mastercard (issued by Westpac) & Amex (issued & serviced by Amex). T&Cs apply.

Compare up to 4 providers

Pictures: Shutterstock

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Sally McMullen

Sally McMullen is an editor at finder.com.au who is a credit cards and frequent flyer expert by day and music maven by night.

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