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Why you need to max out your credit card rewards before July 1

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Rewards credit cards might be on a path to extinction but there's still time to clock up a few extra points before any changes kick in.

CBA, Westpac, NAB and ANZ have all made major changes to their credit card offerings, while smaller banks such as Citi, Suncorp, St.George, Bank of Melbourne and Bank SA are all giving their rewards offering a haircut.

NAB is one of the biggest movers. It is reducing the number of points customers can earn in any month by up to 85% and reducing the earn rate on its Amex cards by up to 33%.

rewards credit cards cba amex anx nab westpac diamond platinum

Similarly, CBA is reducing the number of points you can earn on your bank-issued Amex with a twist. From July 1 you'll earn 0.5 points per dollar, except when shopping at "higher points merchants" where you'll earn a reasonable rate of 2.5 points per dollar.

Confused? You're definitely not alone.

Big four credit card changes

Bank Which cards What When
ANZ Rewards, Rewards Platinum, Rewards Black, Rewards Travel Adventures Ending relationship with Amex. Increasing the earn rate on its Visa cards up to a certain spend each month, with reduced points after this amount Aug 5
CBA Diamond, Platinum, Gold, Awards Reduced points on the bank-issued Amex cards at some outlets; reduced cap on the number of points you can earn a year for both Visa and Amex. No overseas transaction fees on Diamond and Platinum cards. Jul 1
NAB Qantas Rewards, Qantas Rewards Premium, Velocity Rewards, Velocity Premium, Qantas Business Reduced points on the bank-issued Amex cards; reduced caps on points earned per month for both Visa and Amex. Jul 1
Westpac Altitude Platinum Plus, Altitude Black, Altitude Platinum (minor change) Reduced points on the bank-issued Amex cards for the Platinum Plus and Black cards. No points for payments made to ATO on all rewards cards. Jul 1

ANZ customers will be the most miffed after their bank told them to take the scissors to their bank-issued Amex cards by August 5, but the edict comes with a peace offering. Its customers will soon enjoy an increase in earn rates on some of its Visa cards.

The moral of this story is that bank-issued Amex cards will soon reap fewer benefits at the checkout. However, there are a couple of weeks left to flash your Amex plastic with some confidence that you'll earn a relatively decent rate of rewards.

If there are any unpaid bills in your in-tray, now might be the time to clear the decks, provided you're not getting stung by an excessive surcharge, which can often be the case with Amex. A few measly rewards points are not, however, a good enough excuse to go shopping for things you don't need.

Ultimately, if one of these cards is in your wallet, now might be the time to go shopping for a card that rewards you better.

Better yet, let go of the idea of collecting rewards and opt for a low-rate, no-annual-fee card where you're less likely to get stung.

RateCity research shows that the average credit card holder is likely to end up in the red by opting for a rewards card that gives out points with one hand and uses the other to sting you with high annual fees.

Rewards cards - RateCity picks

Card Annual Fee Cap on points Perks
Coles Rewards MasterCard $89 No cap Earn 2 flybuys rewards points per $1 spend, free delivery when shopping with Coles online, 62 days interest-free, no international transaction fees, $100 Coles voucher on signing up
Amex Essential $0 No cap Earn Amex rewards points, which can be transferred to a range of frequent flyer programs, no annual fee, moderate interest rate, smartphone screen insurance, $50 bonus on sign-up
Coles No Annual Fee MasterCard $0 No cap Earn 1 flybuys rewards points per $2 spend, free delivery when shopping with Coles online, no annual fee, 62 days interest-free, $100 Coles voucher on signing up

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Sally Tindall is the director of research and spokesperson for RateCity.
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