This article is sponsored by American Express. We may receive a commission if you apply for a card via a link in this article.
With so many card loyalty programs operating in Australia, it can be hard to decide which one will help you get the most from your everyday spend. Each program has its own benefits and limitations, and few people have the time to consider the options in depth.
But ultimately what it comes down to is getting a card that is actually rewarding – a card with excellent points earn and spend rates, and lots of flexibility with using your points.
For me and many points pros I know, the loyalty program that delivers the best value and flexibility is Membership Rewards® by American Express.
Amex has a range of cards that earn Membership Rewards points, which are different to cards that automatically earn Qantas or Velocity points.
Membership Rewards points are easy to accumulate thanks to Amex’s wide acceptance and strong points earn rates. Those points can then be redeemed for a variety of rewards, from shopping to gift cards, travel and more.
As regular readers know, I tend to use Membership Rewards points for travel by transferring them to an airline or hotel partner. But even if you prefer redeeming points for shopping or other uses, Membership Rewards also delivers compelling value.
Consider Amex’s flagship card (and my personal favourite), the American Express® Platinum Card.
It currently comes with a massive 250,000 Bonus Membership Rewards Points and a $500 credit for new Card Members who apply by 28 February 2022, are approved and spend $5,000 within the first 3 months.
Those 250,000 points could be worth $1,250 in shopping or gift cards or 125,000 frequent flyer points with multiple airlines including Qantas. With those frequent flyer points, you could fly to the USA in economy return or in business class one way with Qantas, or to Europe in economy return or one way in business class with Singapore Airlines (plus taxes and fees). Find out more about this offer here.
Platinum Card Members enjoy a very strong earn rate of 2.25 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent on everyday purchases (1 point per $1 spent with government bodies). There’s no limit on how many points you can earn.
There are also regular opportunities to earn bonus points with Amex, like with the current Shop Small promotion, where you can earn an extra 3 points per $1 spent with participating small businesses until 31 March 2022, up to 40,000 extra points. Simply save the offer to your card first.
The Amex Offers program also provides frequent opportunities for bonus points or money back with top brands.
When it comes time to use your points, the Membership Rewards program gives you a lot of options.
With the Platinum Card®, you can manually transfer points to a number of airline and hotel partners. The big advantage here is that you’re not locked into a single airline or hotel loyalty program, rather you accumulate points with Amex until you’re ready to transfer them to a partner. These partners include:
- Qantas Frequent Flyer
- Virgin Australia Velocity Frequent Flyer
- Etihad Guest
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
- Malaysia Airlines Enrich
- Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus
- Air New Zealand Airpoints
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
- Hilton Honors
- Marriott Bonvoy.
You can transfer points to Qantas and all other airlines (except Air New Zealand) at a 2:1 ratio, which means you effectively earn up to 1.125 airline frequent flyer points per $1 spent on your Platinum Card. That’s very impressive. (For Air New Zealand, 200 Membership Rewards points convert to 1 Airpoints Dollar.)
Qantas and Velocity also run regular promotions offering bonus points for transfers from Membership Rewards. I recently took advantage of 20% bonus offers from both Qantas and Velocity.
If transferring points to airlines or hotels isn’t for you, then you can use Membership Rewards points to pay for eligible purchases on your card, shop with David Jones, buy a range of gift cards, or pay for travel with American Express Travel. With these redemptions, you get $50 of value per 10,000 points used (i.e. you can redeem 10,000 points to pay for an eligible $50 purchase on your card or to buy a $50 gift voucher) – which again is excellent value.
Membership Rewards points don’t expire and your points are held safely by Amex until you’re ready to use them, as long as your account remains active and in good standing. This avoids the risk of storing your points with a specific airline or merchant – something that’s been a concern to many of us over the past 18 months.
It’s also important to mention the Platinum Card is a charge card, which means it must be paid in full each month.
With a $1,450 annual fee, the Platinum Card is targeted at higher income earners ($100,000+ p.a.) who enjoy elevated experiences and benefits. These include:
- access to Amex’s Fine Hotels + Resorts program, which provides complimentary benefits at top hotels like daily breakfast for two people, late checkout and a room upgrade (subject to availability)
- elite status with the major hotel groups Hilton, Marriott and Radisson
- complimentary Accor Plus membership valued at $399 p.a., which grants access to the most expansive hotel, dining and lifestyle membership program in Asia Pacific
- a $450 Travel Credit each year which can be used for flights, hotels, car hire or experiences
- airport lounge access in Australia and overseas
- dining benefits at an array of stylish restaurants
- complimentary digital subscription to The Australian Premium
- invites to specially curated experiences that are not open to the general public – from sporting to fashion and dining
- access to sought-after events like music, theatre and film, including via pre-sale tickets, and exclusive lounges at selected events
- comprehensive travel insurance cover when you use your card to pay for your return trip
- smartphone screen insurance when you purchase your phone outright or pay your monthly phone bills with your card, and more.
I get so much value from these Platinum Card benefits and have described them in my card review here. I’ve also written separate articles about the card’s excellent travel and lifestyle benefits.
All benefits mentioned are subject to Terms, Conditions and Exclusions. To find out more, click here.
Cards are offered, issued, and administered by American Express Australia Limited ABN 92 108 952 085. American Express income and credit approval criteria applies. Subject to Terms and Conditions. All information, including fees and charges are correct as at 13 July 2021 and are subject to change. Applicants must be 18 years of age or over, and earn a minimum income of $100,000 per annum to apply for the American Express Platinum Card. They must be an Australian Citizen or permanent resident or hold a long term visa. Long term means 12 months or more and does not include a student visa.