The Benefits of Flexible Credit Card RewardsThere are two types of rewards credit cards. With co-branded credit cards, such as Qantas Frequent Flyer cards, your points will go straight into your airline’s frequent flyer account. Alternatively, flexible rewards programs give you the option of transferring your points to a selection of different airlines as you wish to use them.

Many Australian banks give you the option to earn Qantas points with a co-branded Qantas card, or to earn points in the bank’s own rewards program. (There are also a variety of Virgin Velocity and co-branded hotel credit cards, such as the Hilton Honors Macquarie Platinum card.) It may seem like a good idea to stick with a Qantas Frequent Flyer credit card. And for some people, this works really well. But that can actually limit your options when it comes to redeeming the points!

A key benefit of flexible rewards programs is the ability to transfer points as you need them.  You’ll be able to redeem your points with any of the frequent flyer programs linked to your credit card’s rewards program. This is useful for two reasons. Firstly, you can choose to redeem your points with the program that gives you the best value for each specific type of redemption. Secondly, it means you have more airlines to choose from. If you just use Qantas Frequent Flyer, are there are no award flights available using Qantas points, then you’re stuck. But if there are available flights using Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, and you’re using a flexible rewards program, you’ll be able to book the flights.

Amex Membership Rewards is arguably the best flexible rewards program in Australia as it partners with around 7 different airlines and 2 hotel loyalty programs (the exact number depends on your credit card). Plus, by transferring Amex points to SPG, you can indirectly earn points with more than 20 other airlines! The earn and burn rates are also favourable, and Amex points do not expire as long as your card is active.

Amex membership rewards would be considered a flexible points program. One I find exceptional value. Points transfer to most airline partners at a 1:1 ratio and the flexible nature of the program means I’m not locked in to a particular airline or hotel redemption partner until I actually want to redeem my points.Flexible points programs have a lot going for them in my opinion!

Here’s a summary of how Amex Membership Rewards Ascent points can be spent…

The process of redeeming Amex points
The process of redeeming Amex points

At a minimum, look for a flexible rewards program that allows you to transfer points to Virgin Australia Velocity, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles. All three of these programs are valuable, and they give you access to reward flights across Oneworld (via Asia Miles), Star Alliance (via KrisFlyer) and all of Virgin Australia’s partner airlines.

When comparing flexible rewards programs, it’s important to check both the earn and burn rates of points. Many credit cards will tell you that you’re earning 2 or even 3 points per dollar. But these points may only transfer to an airline program at a rate of 2 credit card points to 1 airline mile, for example.

You need to look at the overall end to end earn and burn rates. So, while numerically the transfer may be 2:1, not all points are the same value.As an example, you may find more value in 1 Velocity point than you find in 2 Citibank Points

Another great benefit of flexible credit card rewards is that points generally don’t expire. So, you can hold on to them until you actually need to spend them. Some exceptions are ANZ Rewards, NAB Rewards, HSBC Rewards Plus and Bankwest More Rewards points, which expire after 3 years.

Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Why do people like flexible rewards programs?

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]