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Ultimate Guide To Flexible Rewards Programs

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Tom Goward | 16/12/2020

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At Flight Hacks it’s no secret we love points-earning credit cards. They consistently remain one of the most effective ways to rack up hundreds of thousands of frequent flyer points, but at the same time can be confusing for many.

This article will give you some insight into why flexible rewards programs are often considered one of the best options when it comes to credit card points and reveal why they are vital to the points game.

What are flexible reward programs?

When you go to sign up for a rewards credit card, you’ll find two varieties: co-branded airline frequent flyer cards and flexible rewards cards.

Co-branded cards are simple enough, with every dollar you spend transferring straight into the specified airline frequent flyer program (eg. 1 Velocity point per $1 spent). On the other hand, the flexible rewards system allows you to earn points in a separate currency and then transfer these points elsewhere, such as an airline frequent flyer program. You can also use flexible rewards points for other redemptions such as gift cards and reward store products.

For example, American Express flexible rewards cards collect Membership Rewards points, which can then be transferred to several frequent flyer programs. Funnily enough, the biggest advantage here is flexibility. Flexible reward programs allow you to accumulate points and make a decision on how to use them later.

Advantages of the flexible reward system

  • Earn points without being locked into a specific airline
  • Ability to research the best airline for redemption while looking at the actual award availability for a specific route and date
  • Protection from frequent flyer program devaluations
  • Transfer bonus promotions
  • Non-travel related redemptions – anything from iPhones to chainsaws!

Disadvantages of the flexible reward system

  • Slightly lower earn rate after points transfer compared to co-branded cards
  • It can be time-consuming to keep on top of the best ways to use your points (eg. which airline redemption offers the best value and availability)
  • Points transfers take time, which can be nerve-wracking when you have a specific redemption in mind as there is always the possibility that your preferred redemption flight may be booked before the points arrive in your frequent flyer account
  • Harder to accrue points through sign up bonuses.

Australia’s flexible points programs

Many of the big banks offer flexible points programs, with a fairly diverse card range to choose from.

American Express Membership Rewards

Brand New: New Logo And Identity For Ame #628499 - PNG Images - PNGio

Card range:

Airline frequent flyer partners:

  • Air New Zealand Airpoints
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Etihad Guest
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Virgin Australia Velocity
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Hotel partners:

  • Hilton Honors
  • Marriott Bonvoy

Westpac Altitude Rewards

Westpac-Logo-CMYK transparent | Langports

Card range:

Airline frequent flyer partners:

  • Air New Zealand Airpoints
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Virgin Australia Velocity

ANZ Rewards

Card range:

Airline frequent flyer partners:

  • Air New Zealand Airpoints
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Virgin Australia Velocity

Citi Rewards

Card range:

Airline frequent flyer partners:

  • Emirates Skywards
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Virgin Australia Velocity

CommBank Awards

Commonwealth Bank

Card range:

Airline frequent flyer partners:

  • AirAsia BIG
  • Air France-KLM Flying Blue
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • China Eastern Eastern Miles
  • Etihad Guest
  • EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
  • JAL Mileage Bank
  • Lufthansa Miles & More
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Airways Privilege Club
  • United MileagePlus
  • Virgin Australia Velocity

Hotel partners:

  • IHG Rewards Club

NAB Rewards

National Australia Bank - Wikipedia

Card range:

Airline frequent flyer partners:

  • Air New Zealand Airpoints
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Virgin Australia Velocity

Amplify Rewards (St. George/Bank of Melbourne/BankSA)

Card range:

Airline frequent flyer partners:

  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Virgin Australia Velocity

Frequent Flyer Transfers

When selecting the best card for you, it is important to also consider the transfer rate of competing programs. For example, you would receive more Velocity points when transferring from Westpac as opposed to American Express.

While this information can be helpful, it is equally important to realise the earn rate of the card itself. In the previous example, the American Express card may earn 3 points per $1 spent, while Westpac may earn 1 point per $1 spent. This means American Express is the better option, despite the lower transfer rate. (I did mention it can get complicated!)

Below you will find a transfer rate comparison for Australia’s top banks. Note that only comparable airlines have been included.

 AMEXWestpacANZCitiCommBankNABAmplify
Air New Zealand200:1180:1200:1200:1
Cathay Pacific3:13:13:13:1
Emirates2:13:1
Etihad2:13.5:1
Malaysia Airlines2:13:13.5:12:1
Singapore Airlines2:13:13:13:13:12:1
Virgin Australia2:13:12:12.5:12 - 2.5:12:12:1

Non-travel redemptions

While most Flight Hacks readers would be more interested in frequent flyer points, flexible rewards programs also offer non-travel related redemptions. It is important to do your homework here, as these redemptions can often represent poor value, especially retail products.

Non-travel redemption options can be split into three main categories:

  • Gift cards – Redeem your points for gift cards to a collection of retail stores
  • Entertainment – Redeem your points for experiences such as movie and theme park tickets
  • Retail products – Redeem your points for a variety of products from the latest iPhone to chainsaws!

Best Flexible Rewards Cards

American Express Platinum Edge

Signup Bonus: 50,000 Membership Rewards points when you are approved and spend $1,500 on your new card within the first 3 months

Travel Credit: $200 to spend on eligible domestic and international flights, hotels, car hire or unique experiences with American Express Travel

Annual Fee: $195

Earn Rate:

  • 3 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent at major supermarkets and petrol stations
  • 2 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent in a foreign currency, overseas and online
  • 1 Membership Rewards Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Click here to learn more…

Amex Platinum Edge

American Express Explorer

Signup Bonus: Up to 150,000 Membership Rewards points. 120k points after you spend $3,000 on your new card and an additional 30k points after 2nd year annual fee charged

Travel Credit: $400 to spend on eligible domestic and international flights, hotels, car hire or unique experiences with American Express Travel

Lounge Access: Two annual entries to the AMEX Lounge at Sydney or Melbourne

Annual Fee: $395

Earn Rate:

  • 2 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent
  • 1 Membership Rewards point per $1 spent at government bodies in Australia

Click here to learn more…

American Express Business Explorer Credit Card

ANZ Rewards Platinum

Signup Bonus: 100,000 Reward points and $50 back when you spend $1,500 on eligible purchases in the first 3 months from approval

Annual Fee: $99

Earn Rate:

  • 1.5 Reward points per $1 spent on eligible purchases up to and including $2,000 per statement period
  • 0.5 Reward points per $1 spent on eligible purchases above $2,000 per statement period

Click here to learn more…

Westpac Altitude Black

Signup Bonus: 150,000 Altitude points when you spend $4,000 or more on eligible purchases within 90 days of approval

Annual Fee: $250

Earn Rate:

  • 6 Altitude points per $1 spent on flights purchased in Australia directly with Qantas, Jetstar, Singapore Airlines and Emirates
  • 2 Altitude points per $1 spent with Uber, Uber Eats, David Jones, Myer, THE ICONIC, Spotify Premium and Airbnb
  • 1.25 Altitude points per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases

Click here to learn more…

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Tom Goward

Flight Hacks editor with a passion for aviation and travel

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    • Hey Tyler, I am glad you enjoyed the article. The latest we have heard is that CommBank transfers to Velocity at 2:1 for Diamond & Platinum cards and 2.5:1 for other cards.

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