The allure of Airpoints Credit Cards

In the movie Up in the Air, George Clooney plays a compulsive corporate traveller, obsessed with earning status points with American Airlines, Hilton Hotels and Herz.

My own interest in retaining my Silver Air New Zealand Airpoints Status from year to year, aspirations to hit Gold Status and the challenges of doing so without an Airpoints linked credit card was documented in a post I had in draft for some time but I was not happy with to the point of hitting publish.

My reason for not having such a credit card – I’m entitled to a Platinum card with no fees as a previous bank employee. Paying a large amount in annual fees with another bank didn’t stack up.

Last Thursday it was announced BNZ’s GlobalPlus Airpoints relationship with Air New Zealand will come to an end on 30th April 2015 after 16 years. Westpac will offer Airpoints Credit Cards from the following day and I’m hoping the right launch offer will finally enable me to get my hands on one.

So why is this the loss/gain of an airline rewards scheme such a big deal for consumers? And what are the benefits of being a card holder?

Perceived rewards value

Whatever the reason for the conclusion of the relationship, it’s no doubt a massive loss to BNZ (though their PR of course says otherwise) and they will likely lose numerous high value customers to Westpac and other banks despite offering cash back at the same rate Airpoints were previously dished out at as a sweetener.

Though to some markets, such as if you’re earning Airpoints on your mortgage payments and can’t afford to travel much, cash back may actually be preferable.

With Westpac’s hotpoints scheme on the other hand it is confusing to realise the value of a hotpoint (earned at x hotpoints per $1 spend depending on the card and redemeed at different rates depending on an items value in the hotpoints store). Offering Airpoints rewards where one Airpoints dollar earned = $1NZ when redeemed will be a clearer rewards scheme option for customers and I suspect customers in certain brackets will find this enticing.

Earn Rates

Eligble card holders with ANZ, Kiwibank, American Express, BNZ /Westpac receive 1 Airpoints dollar per NZ $65 – $160 depending on the card. Platinum Cards and certain others also receive 1 status point per $200-$250 spent which will help you inch your way to the next membership tier quicker.

As a frequent flyer, this is the feature which makes me want one of these cards.

Discounted Koru Memberships and joining fee waivers

Unless your work is paying for your Koru Membership, these exclusive memberships are crazy expensive at full price (joining fee of $255 plus $580 for a 12 month membership). Certain cards waive the Koru Club joining fee and give you $145-$166 off the standard 12 month membership rate, which amounts to a large proportion of the annual card fee.

My love of Air New Zealand’s Koru Lounges is no secret. My boyfriend kindly transferred a couple of Lounge Passes earnt through his credit card spend to me as my Christmas present, plus I received two complementary passes of my own for the year as a silver airpoints member. You can also buy your way in for $35 (for up to 4 hours in domestic lounges) which is a very fair deal for the amount I fly.

You can experience a little Koru hospitality when you fly domestically with Air New Zealand between 4.30 and 7pm Monday to Friday with Koru hour, where cheese and crackers are served along with New Zealand wines, beer and L&P. It will make you wish you were a member if you don’t already!

Other benefits

Depending on the card you may receive Airpoints advances, non-expiry of Airpoints dollars, free flights, Koru passes, gifting ability or valet parking vouchers. Loyalty pays dividends. This comparison table may be of interest.

Do you have a credit card linked to an airline rewards scheme? Does it change your spending habits?

Please note content on this page is provided for information purpose only, without taking your particular financial situation or goals into account.


What I’d do differently if I could go back


Ever thought over a trip and wished you could go back and do something differently? Here are some of the things which have crossed my mind at some time, whether in discussions with friends seeking advice for their own trips or the bigger ones which come back to haunt me and keep me awake at night.

But I would hesitate to categorise them as ‘regrets’ as in most cases I’ve either moved on, learnt something for the future or determined I will realistically go back and try again.


Taking the longest (cheapest) flight path or mode of transport to save money

Call me a grown up but I no longer believe it should take 50 hours to get anywhere, regardless of the savings or airline points. This happened when I flew from Rome to Wellington via London, Abu Dhabi, Sydney and Auckland.  The 26 hours of flying wasn’t the problem (that was expected)- it was the average of 5 hours wait between each flight.

I’m just grateful to have never experienced an overnight train or ferry (yet), though taking the bus between Wellington and Gisborne was up there.

Abandoning my OE after 9 months

At 26 I felt like I’d really failed when I couldn’t get a job in London. But when you have limited work experience in an industry which is not hiring due to a recession and installed values which say you must have a good job, chances of winning aren’t exactly high.

I’m now watching my younger brother head off to do something I feel I never did properly. As a UK passport holder I thought I’d have another chance later, so far that hasn’t eventuated (nor has the opportunity to live overseas somewhere else in the world) and I know that the longer I leave it the more life will get in the way.

Not wanting to spend money

This includes skipping several adventure sports in Austria (though I have done similar activities in other parts of the world), not going to Octoberfest, and not paying entrance fees for various museums and attractions.

Trips get expensive quickly and that’s often in the back of my mind. But realistically whatever it was would  have been unlikely to amount to more than a few hours/days pay when I returned to work had I just put it on the credit card and got on with it.

Not travelling when I was at Uni

Fitting with the ‘not wanting to spend money’ theme, I wish I had taken a semester abroad or moved away from home for University. On the flip side I got rid of my student loan much faster than any of my friends.

Being put off by queues/ waiting times

The reason I did not get to the highest Eiffel tower deck (granted my visit was at night so how much more would I have seen?), the top of Saint Peters in Rome or in the elevator at La Sagrada Familia.

Would they have been worth it? I don’t know, but I will probably keep wondering until I go back and find out.

Not dressing correctly

Another inhibitor to entering sites of tourist interest is being dressed in typical tourist garb – jandals, shorts or skirts above the knee and bare shoulders. The number of times I’ve unexpectedly happened upon an amazing cathedral (including Milan’s) and not had a scarf or cardigan to cover up with is unbelievable.

I am often relying on the photographs of others to see the interiors and stained glass windows of such places.

Not speaking up when I really wanted to do something

I really wanted to go to Wimbledon, and effectively had a whole week in which I could have done it. But between a job interview (for a job I didn’t get), a spot of rain and friends and flatmates having jobs and set days they could go, it didn’t happen.  I figured I would still be there a year later and could go then.

I don’t even remember where I was a year later. By dates it was in a job I didn’t like on the opposite side of the world (which should be a lesson in itself).

Ever regretted not spending your money on the right things when you’re travelling?