Five ways to avoid the Qantas credit card booking surcharge

By Chris C., July 12 2016
Five ways to avoid the Qantas credit card booking surcharge

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The information provided on this page is purely factual and general in nature. You should seek independent advice and consider your own personal circumstances before applying for any financial product.

With Qantas set to replace fixed-price credit card surcharges with a variable 1.3% fee, travellers on the more expensive tickets – including international business class and premium economy – will be faced with up to a $70 fee for paying with their credit card, up from the current $30 fee.

Read: Qantas to change credit card booking fees from September 1

But clued-in flyers can beat the hike and in many cases avoid paying credit card surcharges entirely. Here's how.

1. Buy Qantas gift vouchers, even for yourself

Qantas sells 'gift vouchers' from $50 to $2,000 which can be redeemed on travel with the Red Roo – and when you use a Qantas voucher to pay for even part of your booking there's no credit card surcharge.

Of course, these needn’t be given as a gift: you can buy these for yourself and use them to book your flights without that plastic penalty.

Booking that $8,000 business class return airfare to Los Angeles? Pay with a $50 Qantas gift voucher plus $7,950 from your credit card and there's no booking fee.

Just keep in mind that gift vouchers can only be used to book one-way and return journeys which begin in Australia and can’t be used to book multi-city, round-the-world or other Oneworld alliance fares.

Read more: Should you buy Qantas flight vouchers?

2. Book via an online travel agent

Some online travel agencies including Expedia Australia and American Express Travel allow you to book Qantas flights without paying the Qantas credit card surcharges, and the fare is often the same price as booking directly with the airline.

However, be aware that any changes or cancellations to your journey attract extra fees from the travel agency in addition to those normally charged by the airline.

For instance, Expedia Australia levies a $50 fee for some flight changes atop Qantas’ own fees where changes are permitted.

In the same way, AMEX Travel charges a $33 fee per change and has its own $55 cancellation charge, in addition to whatever fees are charged by Qantas.

In short, you’ll save money on bookings that don’t need to be altered or cancelled – but when your plans change, the added costs significant outweigh the otherwise-smaller credit card surcharge you’d have paid by booking direct.

3. Use Qantas Cash or other pre-paid/debit cards

Whip out your Qantas Cash card or other pre-paid or debit cards when making a booking and you’ll pay a surcharge of just 0.6% from September 1 2016, as opposed to the higher 1.3% charged to credit card users.

Although this means a smaller fee, there are still the same caps of $11 for domestic and trans-Tasman bookings and $70 for international bookings, as apply to credit cards.

For instance, using a credit card attracts the maximum $11 fee on domestic/trans-Tasman fares of $846 and above, but use a debit card instead with the lower 0.6% surcharge and you'd not reach $11 in fees until your ticket exceeds $1,833.

On international flights, all fares above $5,385 reach the $70 ceiling when paying by credit card, but use a debit card and you'd pay less than $70 unless the price of your ticket is $11,666 or more.

Fares above those markers will be charged at the same $11/$70 cap, so if you're paying the same fee you may as well pull out your higher-earning credit card to earn more frequent flyer points.

Also read: How the RBA's interchange cap will affect credit card points

4. Pay with BPAY

You can also use BPAY for fee-free online bookings, but Qantas will only accept this if your date of travel is at least seven or more days out.

That's not an issue for most travellers, although of course some business trips are made on very short notice – and that's when you want to flip to the final option.

5. Pay with POLi

Another online payment option, and one that's often overlooked, is POLi.

This is an Australia/New Zealand payment system which makes a direct connection with your bank and offers immediate transfer of funds to the airline (POLi is also supported by Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand).

There's no booking fee and you can use POLi to buy a ticket the same day you fly. 

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT


Executive Traveller may receive a commission when you apply for these credit cards via our links.

The information provided on this page is purely factual and general in nature. You should seek independent advice and consider your own personal circumstances before applying for any financial product.

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

When booking with Expedia Australia on previous occasions, the airline credit card fee has always been applied. I was charged $7 per pax for domestic flights at the end of the booking process, at the point of payment with a credit card. Had I used a debit card, the fee would not be applied by Expedia, in line with the Qantas policy.

Chris, are you suggesting that Expedia Australia has now changed its policy, with respect to credit card bookings for Qantas flights? 

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2437

Hi TRB, we ran a 'dummy booking' yesterday and found that although the first screen on Expedia search says an additional payment fee may apply, when you get to the actual payment screen, it's waived for all debit and credit card types including AMEX and Diners:

[Click here for a closer look at that image.]

We also punched in an AMEX number to test and the credit card fee came up as $0. This may be different for other airlines of course, but at least for Qantas, the fees are currently being waived.

Interesting. Thanks for the update. I'll report any inconsistency with the application of this supposed new policy.

QF gift card seems the best option I think.

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1242

Now that this article has been published let's hope Qantas doesn't close off the fee-free benefit of option 1.

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2437

Buying Qantas vouchers to save on credit card fees is something we've covered a number of times before, yet these still remain available for purchase fee-free and are specifically excluded from Qantas' new (and old) credit card surcharge, so we'd not fret.

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1242

In an age of "enhancements" let's hope that stays that way.


19 Sep 2013

Total posts 203

Why worry about using a CC to pay for flights? Purchasing a $7k flight with a CC charge of only $70 means that it's cost you 1c/point, whereas you can obtain J award flights for around 2-3c/FF point. It's a win situation anyway - more points towards that next OS trip!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Sep 2011

Total posts 77

Don't forget, if you're paying by credit card so as to qualify for (free) travel insurance none of these methods will help you

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1242

That's an excellent point you raise.

13 Jul 2016

Total posts 2

It depends actually. Some credit card insurance policies require that the whole trip be paid for using that card, but others don't. For example, with Westpac you only have to spend at least $A500 on your prepaid travel costs using the relevant card. So you could certainly use a QF voucher for $50 and pay the rest on your card without losing the free insurance cover. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 May 2015

Total posts 8

There are many travel insurance variaitons with different credit cards. With CommBank Gold, Platinum or Diamond credit cards, you dont need to pay for the trip with this card to get the insurance cover, just need to pre-register your trip to get a reasonable level of cover

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1025

I mentioned this on the other thread, but no one replied...

Using points as part payment for a ticket (ie, points + pay bookings) have not, to date, charged any fees for using the credit network to pay the balance. Is this now changing?

Also, are cards which use the credit payment network, but are not credit cards (eg, Visa/Mastercard Debit) considered credit cards or debit cards?

21 Apr 2016

Total posts 21

Before going with Option 2, travellers should check if their QFF point earning cards receive a bonus for bookings directly with Qantas. My two cards both earn an extra point per $1 from memory. Not sure if it applies to gift vouchers or not.

21 Apr 2016

Total posts 21

^ was intended to be a new comment rather than reply to Himeno.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Jul 2016

Total posts 1

Booked a flight on line a few days ago with Emirates and surprise, surprise, I got slugged with a 1.5% credit card fee. I do not recall seeing any media on this and I certainly did not get an email from them to warn me that it was coming.Poor show Emirates!

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