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Rewards credit cards

Written by

Shaun McGowan

Rewards credit cards are a type of credit card that allows cardholders to earn rewards points on eligible purchases made with the card. Points can be redeemed through the card’s rewards program, and may include vouchers, cosmetics, or even flights and accommodation.

How do rewards credit cards work?

Rewards credit cards work by awarding ‘points’ - these are usually matched to a certain spending value. A common example of this is a card which rewards 1 point for each $1 spent. You can only earn points on purchases made with your card, and you can only redeem your points through the reward program relative to your card.

Types of rewards you can get

Depending on the reward program you join, you may be able to choose from thousands of individual rewards. Some of the most common examples of rewards include:

  • Gift vouchers
  • Cosmetics
  • Homewares
  • Kitchenwares
  • Outdoor & sporting equipment
  • Electronics
  • Cashback offers
  • Entertainment tickets for sports, events, or movies
  • Flights and accommodation
  • Rental cars
  • Charitable donations
  • Carbon off-setting

Other ways to earn rewards points

You may not earn points on every purchase. However, there are some reward programs which offer additional ways to earn points:

  • Some rewards programs will allow you to earn points by paying bills. Generally, you will need to set up a direct debit to pay the bill directly from your credit card account.
  • Some rewards programs are tailored to frequent flyers, and will allow you to maximise the points you earn through frequent travel. If you are only looking for a card to use for travel purchases, you may consider comparing frequent flyer cards instead.

Who can qualify for a rewards credit card?

Before you apply for a rewards credit card, you must meet the following qualifying criteria:

  • Over 18 years of age
  • Australian citizen or permanent resident
  • Have a good credit rating
  • Not bankrupt

Some card issuers may also have specific eligibility requirements you will need to meet, such as:

  • Having an existing account with the lender (such as a bank account)
  • Minimum income (varies between lenders)

Qualifying criteria will vary between lenders and cards, so it’s important to compare credit cards before applying to ensure you are eligible.

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Different rewards cards have different minimum income requirements. You may need an annual income of up to $100,000 to qualify for some premium credit cards.

How to apply for a rewards credit card

You can apply for a rewards credit card online, over the phone, or at your bank. When applying, you will need to provide supporting documentation so the card issuer can accurately assess both your application and your ability to meet repayments, which may include:

  • Personal details
  • Valid identification - such as a driver licence or passport
  • Employment details - including your employment status, employer contact details, salary information, and payslips to verify your income.
  • Your tax file number
  • Details of your assets - such as your home and motor vehicle
  • Details of your current expenses and other loans you may have
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If you are self-employed, you will need to provide previous tax assessments instead of payslips. You may also need to provide information about your accountant.

How to choose a rewards credit card

Choosing a rewards credit card can offer many benefits in the right circumstances. Rewards credit cards are often available in various tiers, based on the amount you are likely to spend on the card each year. Finding the rewards card that suits you will depend entirely on how you plan to use the card.

Things to consider when choosing a rewards credit card include:

  • Your income and spending habits - How much you earn each year will affect how much you are able to spend on your card, and the value of the rewards you may receive in comparison to the card’s fees.
  • Annual fees - Annual fees are an important factor when choosing a card. If your rewards card includes perks that are of less value than the fees you are paying, you may wish to consider another card.
  • Balance transfer - Some rewards cards will include a balance transfer offer. However, keep in mind that any new purchases made on the card will need to be repaid alongside your transfer amount.
  • Points eligibility - Some cards may offer more points for purchases made for specific items, while some bills or purchases may not be eligible for points at all.
  • Point caps - Some cards include a cap for earning points on purchases - e.g. You may earn 1 point for every dollar spent up to $10,000.
  • Point shaping - Similar to point caps, point shaping or limiting adjusts the points you earn beyond a certain limit. For example, you may earn 1 point for every dollar spent up to $10,000, then 0.75 points for every dollar up to $25,000, and 0.5 points for every dollar above $25,000.
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Some cards have point caps, and some cards shape points. Make sure you understand which purchases will be eligible for earning rewards points and the limits on these.

How much does a rewards credit card cost?

Rewards credit cards can be beneficial for the right person, and this will largely depend on whether you are getting value from the card. If you are spending more in fees than you are earning in points, you may want to consider another card.

The easiest way to determine whether a rewards card may be suitable for you is to:

  • Calculate how much you spend each year
  • Calculate how many points you will earn
  • Calculate the associated value of these points
  • Compare the value of your points with the fees included with the card

To calculate the associated value of your points, simply divide the number of points required to redeem a reward by its recommended retail price (RRP). The result will be the number of points needed to claim $1 of a specific reward amount.

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What is the maximum credit limit?

Rewards credit cards have a minimum credit amount of $500, and a maximum credit limit of $100,000. The amount of credit that you can access from a lender is determined by your:

  • Income
  • Credit score
  • Overall financial health

The minimum and maximum limits for a rewards card will vary between card issuers and cards. Standard cards will generally have lower limits, while premium cards - such as diamond or platinum cards - may have a much higher minimum limit and stricter qualifying criteria.

Minimum LimitMaximum Limit

$500

$100,000

Summary

Rewards credit cards allow cardholders to earn points on eligible purchases made with the card. These points can be redeemed for flights, upgrades, gifts, or other rewards, and each card will differ in both how points can be earned, and how they can be spent.

In summary, rewards credit cards:

  • Reward spending with points
  • Are only beneficial if you can make regular payments and avoid interest charges
  • May include certain restrictions on how points are earned or can be spent

Rewards credit card FAQ

How do I use a rewards credit card?

You use a rewards credit card the same way you would with a normal credit card. Keep in mind to verify your eligibility for earning points on your purchases before using your card, and always repay your balance in full to avoid interest charges.

Why do rewards cards come with high annual fees?

Rewards credit cards often include higher annual fees than other cards. This is relative to the number of features and benefits they offer - certain cards are designed to reward high-income, high-spending customers - and you should always compare cards to ensure you are choosing a card that will work for you.

Can I do a balance transfer on a rewards credit card?

Although it’s not common, some rewards credit cards may include a balance transfer offer. Keep in mind that a balance transfer does not wipe out your existing debt, it simply transfers it. You will still need to repay your balance transfer amount, and ensure the interest-free period is sufficient for you to make repayments without incurring interest charges.

Which rewards programs can I join?

The rewards program you join will largely depend on the card issuer you choose to apply with. Banks will often have a range of rewards from their partner companies - this may include airlines or retailers. You can also find store-branded rewards cards, though these are only specific to a certain number of stores - such as Woolworths, Myer or David Jones.

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About the Author

Shaun McGowan from money.com.au

Shaun

McGowan

Shaun McGowan

Shaun is the founder of Money.com.au and is determined to help people pay as little as possible for financial products. Through education and building world class technology. Previously Shaun co-founded CarLoans.com.au and Lend.

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