Rewards points are commonly one of the biggest reasons people choose a credit card, and the keenest rewards card users can earn hundreds of thousands of points in a single year.
Frequent Flyer website Points Hacks surveyed more than 1,700 credit card users on how they earn their rewards points and manage to maintain control of their spending as well as their credit rating.
Based on the results, Point Hacks spokesperson and frequent flyer expert Daniel Sciberras said it's all about working smarter, not harder, to maximise your rewards program's value.
"You can incorporate point earnings into your daily routine by leveraging credit card spending," he said.
"However, it’s important that you pay off credit card bills on time so you aren’t incurring interest at the expense of earning points – a habit that the majority of our community do."
According to Points Hacks, the eight habits of Australia’s most successful point hackers are:
- Spend with credit cards to boost point earnings
- Be a member of at least two rewards programs
- Use flybuys and airline partner programs
- Have a credit card strategy to reduce interest and maximise points
- Research new credit card offers
- Pay for an annual fee
- Earn at least 0.75 points per dollar spent
- Aim for at least 1c per point when converting points
1. Spend with credit cards to boost point earnings
According to Points Hacks, nearly three-quarters (74%) of points hacks users have at least two point-earning credit cards on them at any time, and these cards are one of the most lucrative ways to earn points.
More than three-fifths (61%) said they earned more than half their points through everyday credit card spend, with 33% of them earning over 75% of their points through their spending.
2. Be a member of at least two rewards programs
Just one isn't enough, with 86% of respondents saying they belong to at least two rewards programs, while 61% said they belong to at least three.
These rewards programs could include the likes of American Express, Qantas, Virgin Velocity or individual bank rewards programs.
3. Also use flybuys and airline partner programs
Although credit cards might be where the big bucks are, they aren't the only way to earn points, as 76% of respondents using other rewards programs like flybuys or Woolworths Rewards to increase their points hauls.
Sixty percent said they buy their groceries and alcohol at linked partner stores while 56% do the same at partnered fuel outlets.
In general, 34% of rewards card users shop at selected brands to top up their earnings, and 44% use selected accommodation booking sites when travelling.
4. Have a credit card strategy to reduce their interest and maximise points
Credit card interest rates are generally much higher than interest rates on other household products such as home loans, and rewards cards tend to have the highest rates among credit cards.
Interest payments can be very high if the balance isn't paid off in full, completely negating any points earned.
Paying interest isn't something successful rewards card users do, with 82% saying they fully pay off all credit card debt at the end of every month, and 64% having a general strategy for how to do so.
Balances accruing interest fell by 10% from December 2018 to December 2019, with a 1.5% drop in just one month alone. indicating that more Australians are saying no to paying credit card interest.
5. Research new credit card offers
Points hackers are regularly keeping an eye on the market, looking for lucrative new signup deals to help them turbo-charge their points total.
Special signup deals like the 120,000 points offered by American Express last year are extremely popular among points chasers, offering extremely high numbers of points in exchange for meeting certain criteria, like spending $X in the first three months.
More than one third (36%) research the market at least weekly, two-thirds (68%) do their research every month, and 80% research every three months to find some new deals.
This ties into point 2, where respondents say they're members of at least two or three programs.
Loyalty means nothing in the chase for more points.
6. Be willing to pay fees
Rewards points aren't always a charity, and the most 'rewarding' ones often come with higher annual fees, which can be in excess of $700.
Three-quarters (74%) of respondents said they're happy to pay at least $200 in total credit card fees every year, while one third are happy to pay at least $500.
The higher the annual fee, the more the rewards points need to be worth in order to gain value from that card.
7. Earn at least 0.75 points per dollar spent
The amount of points earned per dollar spent is important, as not every $1 spent will return 1 rewards point. Some will return multiple points on select transactions, while others might only give as little as 0.5 or even 0.25 points.
Almost all respondents (96%) aim for at least 0.75 points earned per $1 spent on credit cards, 87% aim for 1 or more point per dollar spent, and 35% look for 1.25 or more points.
On AMEX cards, 71% of users aim for at least 1.5 points per dollar spent, while 43% look for 2 or more points, which is quite a high number.
8. Aim for at least 1c per point when converting points
The final tip for points chaser is to also do the maths when redeeming points to make sure your purchase represents good value.
More than half (57%) calculate the redemption value when converting points into purchases, and 39% aim for at least two cents per point.
Previous Points Hacks analysis found in-store products like toasters or phones represent much worse value than flights, with flights being up to six times better value.
Mr Sciberras generally doesn't recommend redeeming hard-earned points for products, but there are some exceptions.
"If you aren’t planning any trips but have points that are about to expire, my suggestion is to look for products on ‘points sales’ that are discounted by 35% in points on the airline rewards stores," he said.
The best value for points is generally long-haul, international flights, with premium flights giving the best return on points.