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American Express is revamping its suite of Qantas-affiliated credit cards with higher earning rates and sign-up bonuses for the top-tier Qantas American Express Premium Card and Qantas American Express Ultimate Card.
New to the mix: the ability to earn a side-serve of Qantas status credits with the Qantas American Express Ultimate Card.
The changes see American Express move to a flat rate of 1 to 1.5 Qantas Points per dollar for most purchases with a one-point-per-dollar bonus for "selected Qantas products and services" and an allowance of 0.5 Qantas Points "for Government charges" such as GST, HECS and annual tax return payments.
However, the US card colossus will retain uncapped Qantas Points earning across all three cards, and there are no changes slated for the American Express Platinum charge card or the invitation-only Centurion Card, with Membership Rewards Ascent Premium points still convertible into Qantas Points on a 1:1 basis.
The revised system applies to all new card applicants from today, while existing cardholders will transition to the new earning rates from July 1, 2017.
Here's how the new cards line up.
Qantas American Express Ultimate Card
AMEX’s top-of-the-line Qantas Ultimate Card swaps its complex roster of earning rates in favour of a baseline 1.5 Qantas Points per dollar on most charges – including utilities, telecommunications and insurance – and 2.5 Qantas Points on selected Qantas products and services.
While this is down from the previous 3 Qantas Points per dollar on dining and Qantas travel, your points haul is boosted by 50% on all other spends and triples when paying your next insurance, utility or telephone bill.
Government charges continue to attract 0.5 Qantas Points per dollar.
New applicants can pick-up 75,000 Qantas Points (to May 1, 2017) after spending at least $1,500 on the card within the first three months, plus 75 bonus Qantas status credits after booking a Qantas return flight wih the card and taking that flight between 6 March and 30 September, 2017.
There's a $65,000/year pre-tax income requirement to qualify, and the $450 annual fee includes a free domestic return flight with Qantas (not counted as the obligatory return trip to nab those bonus status credits), two free visits to the AMEX Sydney Airport lounge, travel insurance and more.
Qantas American Express Premium Card
Qantas American Express Premium cardholders currently earn two Qantas Points per dollar at supermarkets, petrol stations and with Qantas, but only one Qantas Point per dollar on all other everyday purchases - and just 0.5 Qantas Points on things like insurance and phone bill payments.
Under the new scheme, customers will pocket a higher 2.25 Qantas Points per dollar on Qantas flights and lounge memberships and an increased 1.25 Qantas Points per dollar on most everyday spends.
In short, you'll earn slightly fewer points at the checkout and petrol pump but slightly more points almost anywhere else that you swipe your card (and over twice as many points on your telecoms, electricity, water and gas bills, which were previously pegged at 0.5 points per dollar).
Government transactions continue to earn 0.5 Qantas Points per dollar.
The Qantas American Express Premium Card has an achievable $40,000/year pre-tax household income requirement, and its $249 annual fee includes travel insurance, two yearly Qantas Club lounge visits and until May 1 2017, 60,000 bonus Qantas Points for new cardholders (provided there's a minimum $1,500 spend in three months).
Qantas American Express Discovery Card
The entry-level Qantas American Express Discovery Card continues to serve up one Qantas Point per dollar on your everyday spend, and two Qantas Points per dollar when using the card to pay for Qantas flights or Qantas Club lounge membership in Australian dollars.
As before, purchases made with utilities, telcos, insurance providers and online streaming services such as Netflix and Stan will also continue earning one Qantas Point per dollar spent, although government transactions dip to 0.5 Qantas Points per dollar spent.
That covers payments to the Australian Taxation Office, Australia Post and other government entities – but with no annual fee to pay and a minimum household income requirement of just $35,000 before tax, this card is an easy addition to your wallet.
The great Australian card reshuffle
American Express will pitch its traveller-friendly card trio at people who want to supercharge their Qantas Points haul beyond the non-Amex alternatives – including ANZ, which last week ditched its American Express line for a revamped ANZ Visa Frequent Flyer card suite.
ANZ's move was among the first shockwaves of looming Reserve Bank regulations on credit card 'interchange fees', which will be limited to 0.8% from July 1, 2017.
Other banks are said to be rethinking their current suite of credit card points and fees – and their relationship with American Express – ahead of the Reserve Bank reforms.
Those reforms will slash the revenue that banks can earn from each transaction, leaving them with less money for buying airline-issued frequent flyer points to dole out to customers.
However, cards issued directly by American Express are not subject to the Reserve Bank's clamp-down on interchange fees – making these 'premium' cards more attractive to high-earning frequent flyers with ability to scoop up more airline points per dollar than bank-issued MasterCard or Visa cards.
American Express says that its latest round of customer research once again shows that Australians' primary driver in choosing a rewards-based credit card is the number of points they can earn per dollar.
Qantas is also looking into launch its own credit card as a potent disruptor of the local cardscape, delivering more control – and greater profit – into the airline's own hands through its direct marketing pipeline to the 11.6 million members of its Qantas Frequent Flyer scheme.
Additional reporting by David Flynn