Qantas begins rolling out its ‘next generation’ Qantas Frequent Flyer cards this week, with the new Qantas Cash prepaid travel money feature built into every card.
Similar to other travel money cards, Qantas Cash lets you store and spend money in nine currencies: Australian, US, Canadian, NZ, Singapore and Hong Kong dollars, British pounds, Euros and Japanese Yen.
Here’s a quick dive into Qantas Cash to get you up to speed.
Everybody gets a card
From the VIPs of the Chairman's Lounge to the lowliest Bronze, every member of the Qantas Frequent Flyer program will receive their new card by the end of this year.
Qantas says that frequent flyers who registered their interest and “members with tier status” will receive the shiny new plastic by the end of October, while “all other eligible members will receive their Qantas Card between October – December 2013.”
This includes travellers with Bronze status – which also means that for the first time they’ll be able to take advantage of Qantas' streamlined Faster Smarter Checkin system through which travellers can check in for domestic and selected international flights with a tap of the smartchipped card.
(The smartchipped version of the Qantas Frequent Flyer card was previously available only to Silver, Gold and Platinum members.)
However, you won’t be able to use Qantas Cash until you’ve activated the Qantas Cash facility online – and you’ll need to be resident of Australia and over 16 years of age.
That’s one point of difference to Virgin Australia’s Global Wallet, where members of the Velocity Frequent Flyer program need to specially request a Global Wallet card.
If you don’t want to use Qantas Cash, simply don’t activate the card.
Grab the app
This lets you manage your card and transfer money between each of the card’s 10 currency wallets, although at the moment you can’t load money onto the card itself (however, Qantas says this is coming).
Loading money onto your Qantas Cash card
The Qantas Cash card is a prepaid or debit card, not a credit card – so you need to load money onto the card before you start shopping.
The good news is that it’s easy: you can transfer money into your Qantas Cash account using BPAY or POLI.
The bad news is that it’s slow: you have to allow “up to 2 - 3 Australian business days for the transfer to be processed to your card”, Qantas warns.
Loading up your Qantas Cash card isn’t something to leave until the day before you fly, and if you run short of money while overseas there’s no fast way to top up your card.
You can load money directly into any currency via the qantascash.com website, and into a default currency (initially set to Aussie dollars, but this can be changed to any of the eight foreign currencies) using your bank’s BPAY facility.
Transferring money between the nine ‘virtual wallets’ is instant and free, and can be done on the mobile app. That's handy if, for example. you've got £1,000 sitting on the card but find yourself on a quick trip to Germany and short of Euros.
The bottom line: if you expect to be using your Qantas Cash card frequently, and especially if you’ll be making several trips into several countries, whack a stash of cash into the card’s Australian Dollar account and keep it topped up.
So what about those fees?
All travel money cards hit you up for range of fees, and Qantas Cash is no exception.
Where it beats a few of the competing travel money cards is that there’s no fee to load money onto the card, although withdrawing cash at an overseas ATM will cost around A$2.
The exchange rates are of course a few points under what you’d get buying cash at good over-the-counter rates.
Here are the Qantas Cash exchange rates at the time of writing (Wednesday 28 August, 2013):
Click here to see the current rates .
Earning Qantas points
There are no surprises here: Qantas has adopted the same earning rate as Virgin Australia’s Global Wallet card.
You’ll pick up one Qantas Point for every $2 you spend in Australia (because the card doesn’t have to be used overseas – it works as a MasterCard debit card complete with tap-and-go PayPass functionality, making it good for everyday use in Australia).
Using Qantas Cash overseas will earn you one point for the equivalent of every Australian dollar spent in foreign currency – so it’s not one point per Euro, per Pound or per-anything else.
(The Aussie dollar equivalency rate is based on MasterCard’s foreign exchange rates at the time of your purchase.)
You can check out the Qantas Cash FAQ for plenty more details...
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About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.