Mistakes to avoid with a frequent flyer credit card

5 pitfalls to avoid to get the most out of your frequent flyer credit card.

Frequent flyer credit cards can be a great way to reward every dollar you spend on plastic. However, there are some traps that you should avoid if you want to get the most out of your frequent flyer rewards. So you know what to look out for, here are five of the major mistakes to watch out for when you’re using your rewards credit card.

1. Ignoring the points caps and reduced earn rates

How many points you can earn with your frequent flyer credit card will depend on the earn rate. For example, 1 point per $1 spent is considered a relatively competitive earn rate. But you may earn a different number of points per $1 spent depending on the type of purchase you're making. For example, you could earn 1 point per $1 spent on eligible everyday purchases but 1.5 points per $1 spent on international expenses.

Some cards also cap or reduce your points potential when you hit a specific spend threshold every statement period. For example, you may earn 1 point per $1 spent up to $3,000 per statement period and then 0.5 points per $1 spent beyond that for the rest of the statement period. However, some other cards may cap your points spending altogether once you reach the spend threshold each statement period.

If you regularly spend more than the points cap amount, this could significantly reduce your points potential. When you’re comparing frequent flyer credit cards, consider how much you’re likely to spend in an average statement period. If it’s more than when the points cap kicks in, you might want to look for another card with no points cap or a higher spend threshold.

2. Using your card to make ineligible purchases

You can only earn points on eligible purchases with your frequent flyer credit card. What constitutes as an eligible transaction can vary between cards, but will generally include supermarket and retail spend, travel costs and other everyday expenses. Ineligible purchases that won't earn points usually include cash advances, balance transfers, transactions for gambling purposes and sometimes government transactions.

You can usually find a complete list of the eligible and ineligible purchases in the product disclosure statement, so make sure to check this out before you apply for a frequent flyer card to ensure it lines up with your spending behaviour.

3. Overspending to earn points

Frequent flyer credit cards are designed to tempt you to spend with the promise of rewards. This can be a great way to reward your spending if you’re a big spender who regularly pays your balance in full. Otherwise, the temptation to spend could lead you to spend more than you can afford. If you start collecting interest on your balance, the debt you’ll accrue will quickly outweigh the value of the rewards you’d earn from your hard-earned points.

If you regularly struggle to pay your balance in full, a frequent flyer card probably isn’t suited to you. Instead, you might want to opt for a card with 0% on purchases for a promotional period or a low, standard purchase rate.

4. Skipping the fine print for bonus points offers

These cards regularly boast thousands of bonus points to entice new sign ups. Although these bonus points offers can give your points balance a massive boost, you usually have to meet a spend requirement to get them.

Some bonus points spend requirements are also simpler than others. For example, some cards require you to spend $3,000 in the first 60 days to get the bonus points. Meanwhile, others will require you to spend a certain amount each month for the first three months to earn the points. For example, you may have to spend $2,000 each month for the first two months (which would equal to $4,000 altogether) to score the bonus points.

100,000 bonus points may sound great, but it’s really important to consider the spend requirement and how many bonus points you’re getting per $1 to meet that spend requirement before you apply. You should also make sure that the spend requirement aligns with your budget to ensure you can pay it off in full before you start collecting interest. Check out our guide to meeting the minimum spend to score your bonus points for more information.

5. Redeeming your points for invaluable rewards

How you want to spend your points is up to you, but some rewards offer better value for your money. For example, redeeming your points for flights generally offers better value than spending them at the rewards store.

At the time of writing in July 2018, you can redeem a $250 David Jones gift card from the Qantas Store for 41,250 Qantas Points. Currently, you could redeem an economy flight from Sydney to Johannesburg (40,000 points) or Shanghai (35,000 points) for fewer points. Just from this example, you can see that redeeming your points for a flight offers better value than spending it on gift cards. To get more value out of your points, make sure to compare a few options before you decide how you’re spending them.

Frequent flyers can be a rewarding way to spend on plastic when used properly. From researching your options before you apply for a card to redeeming your points for the most valuable rewards, make sure to do your research and compare your options to get the most out of your frequent flyer credit card.

Images: Shutterstock

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