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Published May 10, 2023

What Is a Travel Credit Card?

Using a travel rewards credit card can help you get your next flight on a discount, hotel upgrades, or even cover the full cost of a trip.

As Australians, we pay a lot to travel. Not only because we’re so far away from the rest of the world, but also because travel is so ingrained in our lifestyle. From a quick trip to Bali to escaping the winter for the European summer, travel is a rite of passage for Aussies.

Using a travel rewards credit card can be one way to embrace your wanderlust for less.

Credit cards offering travel perks enable you to earn rewards that translate into savings on flights, accommodation, insurance, airport lounges, and attraction tickets. The less you spend booking the trip, the more you’ll have to enjoy while abroad. 

Whether you just want to get your next flight on a discount or save up rewards to cover the full cost of a trip, here’s how a travel rewards credit card can help you do it.

How travel rewards credit cards work

A travel credit card works similarly to a general rewards credit card — you accumulate points as you spend, with the potential for earning extra points on certain types of purchases.

Unlike a general rewards credit card, which may allow you to trade points for cashback or discounts at certain retailers, points earned via travel rewards credit card can be redeemed for free or discounted flights, travel upgrades, hotel bookings and more.

Travel credit cardholders may also get access to additional benefits, like travel insurance, airport lounge access, or concierge services, depending on the card’s network, issuer and tier.

Airline-specific travel rewards cards 

Many travellers are loyal to a specific airline and enjoy the exclusive benefits of being a member. The Qantas Premier Titanium credit card, for example, offers additional perks, such as savings on selected domestic flights for up to eight companions and international flights for two travellers. 

Bank-issued travel rewards cards

If you don’t tend to fly the same airline wherever you go – such as Qantas – you’re probably better off choosing a travel credit card from a bank. This way, you’ll have more options. As with the Westpac Altitude cards, you can accrue points with both Qantas and Virgin Australia. 

Business travel rewards cards

The travel credit card that’s right for you might be different if you travel for work or fun. The frequent flyer program, partner hotel chains, and airport lounge access may be more important to business owners who must travel for work. But if you’re someone who goes on a big trip once every year or two, consider a card where you can slowly accrue points for your daily spending.

Get travel perks on your credit purchases 

The most common travel rewards you can earn include: 

  • Airline points. 
  • Hotel discounts. 
  • Airport lounge access, with the card’s partner airline. 
  • Travel insurance. 
  • Car hire. 
  • Discounts off the tickets for travel companions. 
  • Annual travel credit to use on eligible flights.
  • Discounts or free travel and retail gear.
  • Priority check-in and boarding. 
  • Additional checked baggage allowance. 
  • Preferential access to seats. 

With travel credit card rewards, you can either save money on the cost of your trip or make the experience smoother and faster (with benefits on your journey). By accruing points for purchases you’d be making anyway, this is a strategic way to save money on your future travels. 

How to earn and redeem travel rewards  

You build up travel points in one of three ways: 

  • Sign-up bonus or welcome offer points. 
  • For every dollar you spend on the credit card. 
  • Bonus points for shopping at partner brands. 

For example, the NAB Qantas Rewards Signature Card offers 90,000 Qantas points if you spend $3,000 within the first 90 days, followed by 30,000 additional points if you keep the card for more than 12 months. That’s a total of 120,000 points. 

Then, every time you spend $1 on the card (up to $5,000), you’ll earn one point. For purchases beyond $5,000, you’ll receive 0.5 points. Bonus points can be accrued (one point per $1) on eligible Qantas services, as that’s the partner airline. You can earn one point per $1 spent. 

With this travel rewards credit card, because Qantas is the partner airline, NAB waives the joining fee to become a Qantas Frequent Flyer member. The points earned through your card will be connected to the membership. 

Always check the specifics of the credit card because there will be opportunities to earn more points, depending on which bank you choose. For example, with Westpac’s Altitude Rewards Premium, you can access more points at a higher rate when you use your card with select partners like Uber and Airbnb. 

You can also get cashback when you shop in the Westpac Lounge on ShopBack. If you frequent stores like Big W, do your shopping in Westpac Lounge to gain points. 

Credit cards for travel: A savings strategy

The only thing better than travel is free travel. Flight and seat upgrades, luxury airport lounges and skipping the lines make all the difference. Create a plan to pay for your regular purchases on your travel rewards credit card, so long as you settle the balance within the interest-free period. 

Make changes to where and how you shop to maximise your points. Look for all the direct and adjacent ways to save money using your rewards card. If you’re going to have a credit card, it might as well be one that will make your travel all the more magical.

About the Author

Amanda Smith

Amanda Smith is a freelance reporter, journalist, and cultural commentator. She covers culture + society, travel, LGBTQ+, human interest, and business. Her work has appeared in outlets such as The…

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