American Express has unveiled major changes to the points earn and redemption rates across its card range: the latest big move by a card issuer in Australia’s rapidly evolving credit card market.

The most significant changes are to Amex’s own-brand cards, which earn the popular Membership Rewards points.

In most cases, customers will have to make more purchases to enjoy the same redemptions as today. Fortunately other Amex perks are unaffected and, on the whole, Amex cards will continue to be very rewarding.

Amex says this move is necessary so it can continue to invest in products, benefits, digital capabilities and the size of its merchant network in Australia, especially in light of new regulations that have forced merchant fees down across the industry. These fees partially fund reward schemes.

The changes to Amex’s earn and redemption rates will come into effect on 15 April 2019, so card members have six months to prepare. Amex will begin notifying customers shortly.

Here’s an overview of the changes.

Changes to Qantas and Velocity consumer cards

The changes to Qantas and Velocity consumer cards are quite simple: points earn rates will fall by 0.25 points per $1 spent for all purchases except with government.

Here’s how each card is affected.

CardCurrent earn rates
(points per dollar)
New earn rates
(points per dollar)
Qantas Amex Ultimate Card2.5 - Qantas purchases
1.5 - All other
0.5 - Government
2.25 - Qantas purchases
1.25 - All other
0.5 - Government
Qantas Amex Premium Card2.25 - Qantas purchases
1.25 - All other
0.5 - Government
2 - Qantas purchases
1 - All other
0.5 - Government
Qantas Amex Discovery Card2 - Qantas purchases
1 - All other
0.5 - Government
1.75 - Qantas purchases
0.75 - All other
0.5 - Government
Amex Velocity Platinum Card2.5 - Virgin Australia purchases
1.5 - All other
0.5 - Government
2.25 - Virgin Australia purchases
1.25 - All other
0.5 - Government
Amex Velocity Escape Card2 - Virgin Australia purchases
1 - All other
0.5 - Government
1.75 - Virgin Australia purchases
0.75 - All other
0.5 - Government

Changes to Amex’s own-brand cards

The changes to Amex’s own-brand cards, which earn Membership Rewards points, are more complicated, because both the earn and redemptions rates will be adjusted.

The easiest way to outline these changes is to look at each card separately.

Note that we are yet to hear if there will be changes to David Jones credit cards.

Amex Explorer Credit Card

The popular Amex Explorer Credit Card currently earns 2 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent, except with government, where the earn rate is 0.5 points per $1.

From 15 April 2019, the earn rate on general spend will remain the same, at 2 points per $1, but with government it will go up to 1 point per $1.

The biggest shake-up is actually with the points burn rates.

RedemptionCurrent burn rateNew burn rate
Transfer to airlines4 MR points = 3 frequent flyer points2 MR points = 1 frequent flyer point
Hotel transfer partners1 MR point = 1 Hilton Honors point

3 MR points = 2 Marriot points
2 MR points = 1 Hilton Honors point

No change to Marriott
(this was devalued a few months ago)
Travel agency spend /
Pay with points /
Credit on account.
13,500 MR points = $10013,500 MR points = $67.50
Gift card purchase$100 gift card = 13,500 MR points$100 gift card = 20,000 MR points

Amex Platinum Card

Right now, Amex’s flagship card has a tiered earn structure: for each $1 spent, you earn 3 points at restaurants (capped), 2 points on travel and foreign currency spend (capped), and 1 point everywhere else, except 0.5 with government, utilities and insurance.

From 15 April 2019, the earn rate will be simpler and uncapped: 2.25 points per $1 spent everywhere except with government, where it will be 1 point per $1 spent.

Here are the new burn rates.

RedemptionCurrent burn rateNew burn rate
Transfer to airlines1 MR point = 1 frequent flyer point2 MR points = 1 frequent flyer point
Hotel transfer partners1 MR point = 1 Hilton Honors point

3 MR points = 2 Marriot points
2 MR points = 1 Hilton Honors point

No change to Marriott
(this was devalued a few months ago).
Travel agency spend
10,000 MR points = $10010,000 MR points = $50
Pay with points
10,000 MR points = $7010,000 MR points = $50
Credit on account
10,000 MR points = $62.5010,000 MR points = $50
Gift card purchase$100 gift card = 13,500 MR points$100 gift card = 20,000 MR points

As you can see, cardholders will be more rewarded on everyday spend (which is uncapped), but that comes with the loss of lucrative bonus earn categories.

Amex Platinum Edge Credit Card

This card also has a tiered earn structure: right now, for each $1 spent, you earn 3 points at supermarkets, 2 points at petrol stations, and 1 point everywhere else, except 0.5 points with government, utilities and insurance.

From 15 April 2019, the earn rate per $1 spent will be 3 points at supermarkets and petrol stations, 2 points on foreign currency spend and 1 point everywhere else.

Here are the new burn rates.

RedemptionCurrent burn rateNew burn rate
Transfer to airlines1 MR point = 1 frequent flyer point
(Emirates is 4:3)
2 MR points = 1 frequent flyer point
Hotel transfer partners1 MR point = 1 Hilton Honors point

3 MR points = 2 Marriot points
2 MR points = 1 Hilton Honors point

No change to Marriott
(this was devalued a few months ago).
Travel agency spend
10,000 MR points = $10010,000 MR points = $50
Pay with points
10,000 MR points = $7010,000 MR points = $50
Credit on account
10,000 MR points = $62.5010,000 MR points = $50
Gift card purchase$100 gift card = 13,500 MR points$100 gift card = 20,000 MR points

This card will continue to be the most rewarding in Amex’s range for supermarket and petrol station spend.

Amex Essential Credit Card

Amex’s no-annual-fee card currently earns 1 point per $1 spent everywhere except with government, utilities and insurance, where it’s 0.5 points per $1 spent.

From 15 April 2019, the earn rate will be 1.25 points per $1 spent everywhere except with government, where it will be 1 point per $1 spent.

Here are the new burn rates.

RedemptionCurrent burn rateNew burn rate
Transfer to airlines4 MR points = 3 frequent flyer points2 MR points = 1 frequent flyer point
Hotel transfer partners1 MR point = 1 Hilton Honors point

3 MR points = 2 Marriot points
2 MR points = 1 Hilton Honors point

No change to Marriott
(this was devalued a few months ago).
Travel agency spend;
Pay with points;
Credit on account.
13,500 MR points = $10013,500 MR points = $67.50
Gift card purchase$100 gift card = 13,500 MR points$100 gift card = 20,000 MR points

Changes to Amex business cards

I’ll only mention the two business cards I’ve written about in the past.

From 15 April 2019, the Amex Business Explorer Card will have the same earn and burn rates as the consumer-oriented Explorer card above.

There will be no changes to the Amex Qantas Business Rewards Card.

Why Amex is making these changes

The card payments landscape has changed substantially in the last two years, with increased regulation altering the economics for card providers, most of whom have responded by making major changes to their rewards programs.

To ensure it’s able to compete effectively, Amex says it’s had to close the gap between the merchant fees it charges and those of its competitors. These fees partially fund rewards programs, so while greater merchant acceptance of Amex means card members have more opportunities to earn points, sadly those points will soon deliver fewer benefits.

While this is disappointing, it’s important to keep in mind that Amex’s products continue to provide excellent value. Points earn rates will remain market leading, and there are so many other perks to enjoy with Amex cards, like lounge passes, travel credits, complimentary insurances and discount offers.

You can read more about the changes to Amex cards on its site here.

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