Reviews

Review: American Express Explorer credit card

By Chris Chamberlin, September 1 2017
American Express Explorer credit card
Notes
The Good
  • Earn up to 1.5 FF points per $1
  • Choice of 8 frequent flyer schemes
  • 50,000 bonus MRG points for new AMEX customers
The Bad
  • There's still a 3% international transaction fee
Added Value
  • Get a $400 travel credit each and every year

Introduction

Pairing 50,000 bonus Membership Rewards Gateway points with cool extras like a $400 travel voucher each year and access to American Express airport lounges, the American Express Explorer credit card certainly packs a punch.

You can also collect up to 1.5 airline frequent flyer points per dollar spent in your choice of eight airline loyalty schemes including Virgin Australia Velocity and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, and there's even insurance cover if you accidentally manage to shatter your smartphone screen.

American Express Explorer credit card: fast facts

  • Grade/tier: Black
  • Card type: American Express
  • Loyalty program: Membership Rewards Gateway (MRG)
  • MRG points earned per dollar (government providers): 0.5
  • MRG points earned per dollar (everywhere else): 2
  • 2 MRG points = 1.5 frequent flyer points with: Virgin Australia Velocity, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Emirates Skywards, Etihad Guest, Malaysia Airlines Enrich, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus
  • 2 MRG points = $0.015 Air New Zealand Airpoints Dollars
  • Points capping: Uncapped
  • Supported tech: Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Android Pay

Fees, charges and interest:

  • Annual fee: $395
  • Supplementary cardholder fee: $0
  • Interest rate on purchases: 20.74% p.a.
  • Interest-free days on purchases: Up to 55
  • Interest rate on cash advances: N/A
  • International transaction fee: 3.0%
  • Minimum income requirement: $65,000 p.a.
  • Minimum credit limit: $3,000

Earning points for free flights:

Regardless of how much you spend, cardholders receive a $400 travel credit each year which you can use towards flights, hotels or other travel-related bookings when those travel arrangements are made by American Express.

That practically makes the card 'free' for anybody who normally spends on travel, because although you're paying a $395 annual fee to hold the card, you're immediately getting that value back – and more – in your travel credit.

Further, new cardholders who apply, are approved and spend at least $3,000 on the card within the first three months will pocket 50,000 Membership Rewards Gateway points, equal to 37,500 frequent flyer points with Virgin Australia, Singapore Airlines and the others.

You'll also earn the equivalent of 1.5 airline frequent flyer points per dollar spent on the card at most merchants (uncapped), although payments to government bodies like the Australian Taxation Office and Australia Post earn a lower 0.375 airline frequent flyer points per dollar.

Airport lounge access:

You're invited to visit American Express airport lounges in Australia twice per year, with further visits available for purchase at $55. These can be found in the international departures area of Sydney and Melbourne airports.

Complimentary insurance coverage:

Cardholders are given a range of travel insurance options spanning medical, trip cancellation, baggage issues, flight delays and more, activated when purchasing a return trip on your card or using Membership Rewards points to directly book the same.

However, you may not be covered when booking trips using actual airline frequent flyer points, so read the PDS and make sure the cover suits your needs before relying on its protection.

Also thrown in is 'smartphone screen insurance' should you accidentally break the same and have paid for the phone or your monthly contract on your AMEX Explorer card.

For good measure, purchase and refund protection covers are also included.

American Express Explorer credit card: the verdict

All things considered, this is a very solid credit card for travellers and higher spenders, but even if you don't get away too often, the card still pays for itself through its $400 travel credit after you've paid a $395 annual fee.

In other words, what you're paying in annual fees, you're getting back in flights and hotel stays, and then some.

We're also happy to see a frequent flyer sign-on bonus and airport lounge options, but for such a travel-centric card, we'd hoped to find a lower international transaction fee than AMEX's standard 3% rate.

There's also no way to earn Qantas Frequent Flyer points on the American Express Explorer card, but with great partners like Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, you're certainly not short of options.

ChrisCh
ChrisCh

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!

elchriss0

elchriss0

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 578

yea that 3% international transaction charge is BS but when compared to my other cards which also have 3% the AMEX still provides better value by higher points earn.

Dale

Dale

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Dec 2011

Total posts 90

I had a ANZ Black amex card. This may be a good replacement.

iM

iM

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

27 Jul 2016

Total posts 49

Dale, the points can't be used on Qantas :(

iM

iM

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

27 Jul 2016

Total posts 49

Thanks Chris, I presumed Dale was a QF FF. I have transferred my Explorer points to Emirates, but avoid using the card now I have an Amex Ultimate card. Guess I'll just keep it as a back-up.

nathanjordan

nathanjordan

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

21 Aug 2013

Total posts 130

I have had the card for the last year & was about to cancel (due to my partner getting approved for the Platinum charge card, with me as a supplementary, so no need now) and they gave me 15,000 points not to cancel it then & there & to instead have a think about it for a few weeks. I'll do that! This on top of the original 100,000 bonus points when I originally got the card. 

                                                                                                     As Chris mentions, if you are going to spend $395 or more on travel expenses (and who the HELL reading this site doesn't annually spend at least several times THAT?), then you are well-advised, like me, to get the card for the bonus points if nothing else. We used the passes to get some excess guests with us into the Amex SYD lounge, used Apple Pay on any Watch, played Local Champion with several oft-used businesses, took up several of their bonus offers, fully utilized the $400 travel allowance, upgraded my family to business class with the bonus points alone after transferring to Starwood & getting the 5,000 bonuses per 20,000 Starwood points transferred across. Magic!

iM

iM

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

27 Jul 2016

Total posts 49

Nice! That's getting your money's worth!!

elchriss0

elchriss0

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 578

What exactly did you say to get those extra 15k bonus to not leave?  I've tried that previously and it didn't work.  I'm now in a position to try again with my current AMEX explorer

Rohit

Rohit

06 Jul 2017

Total posts 22

Great card, becomes even better if you have the Edge & you somehow persuade the rep to merge the two into the Ascent program. That way, you earn 2 MR points per dollar and then route it via the Ascent program 1:1 to your fav airline.

Demonoid

Demonoid

29 Apr 2014

Total posts 22

If you have the Edge or any other AMEX card on the Ascent program, does that not relegate you ineligible to pick up the 75,000 bonus points given you have not satisfied the 18 month exclusion period?

matt per

matt per

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

30 Sep 2017

Total posts 1

I got recommended to join by a friend of mine... I love my AMEX explorer card great perks and benefits

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