While plenty of American Express cards include 'travel credits' to offset the cost of their annual fees, most Australian spenders need more than an AMEX card in their wallet to pay everywhere they shop, given Visa and Mastercard are accepted much more widely.
However, that doesn't mean you have to pay an annual fee for what could be your 'backup card' while getting nothing in return: several Australian Visa credit cards get you flying every year with a free return flight or an airline gift voucher to put towards the same.
Depending on how much you spend, the earning rate on the Visa card could even be enough to make it your 'primary' card: such as the Virgin Australia Velocity High Flyer Card, which gives 1 Velocity point per $1 spent up to $8,000 per month (halved thereafter).
Here are the three Visa cards you should know about as you take to the skies.
1. ANZ Rewards Travel Adventures Card
ANZ’s $225/year Rewards Travel Adventures Card gets you off to a flying start with a complimentary return Virgin Australia domestic economy class flight – not just in the first year, but every year until the card is cancelled – which more than offsets the cost of the card.
You’re not limited to short routes either like Sydney-Melbourne: you can use that free flight for the longest of non-stop flights including to Perth or Darwin from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane… but of course, if you’d rather use it for a quick Sydney-Melbourne hop, that’s fine too!
The only ‘catch’ is that your trip has to be booked at least 60 days before departure – but on long flights like Sydney-Perth, for example, return airfares that far in advance generally sit around $530, yet you’re only paying $225 for the card and can book the very same journey.
ANZ also includes two complimentary Virgin Australia lounge passes every year until the card is cancelled, valued at $65 each, and like the free return flight, these are yours in the first year after spending $500 on purchases within the first three months, and can be requested from ANZ.
Beyond that, the card has no international transaction fees on purchases, saving you $30 for every A$1,000 spent abroad compared to the typical 3% fee levied on most other cards, representing a $150 saving for travellers spending A$5,000 overseas every year.
Finally, you can take home 40,000 bonus Velocity points when you apply and spend $500 on eligible purchases in the first three months: enough for five one-way flights from Sydney to Melbourne (around $700 in value), or a one-way business class flight from Sydney to Perth ($1,280 value), and you can earn up to 0.75 Velocity points per $1 spent via the ANZ Rewards program (0.25 Velocity points above $2,000/month).
Combined with the card’s other perks, there’s over $2,000 of value to be had in the first year if you play your cards right – going beyond the cost of the annual fee almost tenfold. The minimum income to apply is $35,000/year, with a $6,000 minimum credit limit.
2. Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card
Another card that gets you up in the air is Virgin Money’s Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card, which costs only $64 in the first year and $129 thereafter – but provides a $129 Virgin Australia gift voucher every year to spend on flights, covering the cost of the annual fee.
Beyond that, an earn rate of up to 0.66 Velocity points per $1 spent (0.5/$1 after spending $1,500 each month), joined by up to 60,000 bonus Velocity points for eligible new customers who apply by January 31 2019 and meet the spend criteria.
Those points are awarded in three parcels, being 20,000 points in each of the first three months where at least $1,500 has been spent on purchases in each of those months, for up to 60,000 bonus points at the end of month three following a minimum spend of at least $4,500 (min. $1,500 per month).
Take home the full bonus and you’d have enough points to book a return economy class Virgin Australia flight from Sydney or Melbourne to Hong Kong – or, two return economy class trips on routes like Brisbane to Port Vila (Vanuatu) or Melbourne-Brisbane, plus an additional one-way flight on the same routes.
Assuming you fly return to Hong Kong, that’s around $500 of value – being what you’d otherwise pay for an airfare during sale periods, less the amounts payable in taxes, fees and charges when using your points – joined by the $129 flight voucher, for up to $629 of value in exchange for the $64/$129 annual fee.
As with ANZ, the minimum income to apply is $35,000, to qualify for a credit limit of at least $6,000.
3. Virgin Australia Velocity High Flyer Card
Being the Black-level version of the regular Velocity Flyer Card above, the Virgin Australia Velocity High Flyer Card attracts a higher $289 annual fee, providing the same $129 Virgin Australia flight voucher every year as the standard Velocity Flyer Card, but with extra perks in exchange for the higher fee.
Those begin with two complimentary Virgin Australia lounge passes every year – again valued at $65 each compared to the airline’s walk-up rates – and for eligible new customers, up to 90,000 bonus Velocity points when you apply by January 31 2019 and meet the spend criteria.
These come as 30,000 bonus points per month in each of the first three months where at least $3,000 is spent every month, providing up to 90,000 bonus points at the end of month three, following a total card spend of at least $9,000 (min. $3,000 per month).
With more bonus points to spend than on these other cards, you can be a little more creative in where and how you travel – such as taking a return business class trip from Sydney to Perth, Darwin, Auckland or Nadi, or a return economy class flight to Singapore with Singapore Airlines, all with points to spare.
If your travels are already taking you to Hong Kong, you could also book a return economy class journey from Hong Kong to London with Virgin Australia’s sister airline, Virgin Atlantic, or within Australia, could enjoy up to 16 business class upgrades from domestic Freedom fares on short routes.
Finally, spend on the card also generates one Velocity point per $1 spent up to $8,000 per month, and 0.5 Velocity points per $1 spent thereafter. There’s a minimum income of $75,000 to apply, with a minimum credit limit of $15,000.