One year on from the RBA points apocalypse: the best cards of 2018

By Chris Chamberlin, June 27 2018
One year on from the RBA points apocalypse: the best cards of 2018
Disclaimer

Executive Traveller may receive a commission when you apply for these credit cards via our links.

You should seek independent advice and consider your own personal circumstances before applying for any financial product.

July 1 marks one year since the Reserve Bank of Australia introduced a cap on domestic credit card ‘interchange fees’, which prompted almost every Aussie bank and credit card issuer to rethink their points-earning plastic: hiking fees, cutting back those points or even a combination of both.

The changes also brought an end to bank-issued American Express cards from the likes of ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB and Westpac, which traditionally provided a higher number of points per dollar spent than Visa or Mastercard: heralding an all-out 'points apocalypse' for Australian banks, but not for cards directly issued by American Express or Diners Club, on which the fee cap doesn't apply.

So, if you’ve been using the same credit card for years – or you’ve been a little lazy, relying on your old ‘backup’ Big Four Visa or Mastercard long after the attached, higher-earning AMEX card was axed – now is a good a time as ever to make sure your credit card strategy is still a rewarding one.

Whether you’re chasing points or perks, take a look at these top cards and see how they compare to your existing frequent flyer strategy.

The best credit cards for earning points on everyday purchases

With a high earning rate of 1.5 frequent flyer points per $1 spent on most purchases, uncapped, the Qantas AMEX Ultimate Card, the AMEX Velocity Platinum Card and the AMEX Explorer Card continue serving up points in generous quantities, while also providing added extras to help take the sting off the annual fees.

On the Qantas Ultimate Card, AMEX includes a yearly $450 Qantas Travel Credit – which you can spend on Qantas flight bookings via the AMEX website – to offset the card’s $450 annual fee: so if you’d have spent $450/year on Qantas travel anyway, the card is practically ‘free’.

Read: How to spend your free American Express travel credit

The similar Velocity Platinum Card instead includes a free return flight with Virgin Australia, two Virgin Australia lounge visits and two visits to the American Express lounges in Sydney or Melbourne every year, to help negate the $375 annual charge: plus a bonus 100 Velocity status credits every year that you spend $50,000 or more on the card.

Operating a little differently, the AMEX Explorer Card kicks things off with a yearly $400 travel credit to more than offset its $395 annual fee, but earns points in the AMEX Gateway program which can be converted to numerous global programs including Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles (and Velocity too), again providing the equivalent of 1.5/$1 spent after conversion.

Another solid contender is the American Express Westpac Altitude Black Card, available when paired with a Westpac Altitude Black Mastercard. Converting your points to Velocity, the AMEX provides 2.5 Velocity points per A$1 spent abroad, and 1.5 Velocity points per $1 spent on most purchases in Australia: except for government transactions which provide 0.5 Velocity points per $1 spent.

We’ll also flag that the Diners Club personal charge card can provide a higher two Velocity points per $1 spent on everyday purchases via Diners Club Rewards, but only when a companion Mastercard is attached to the same account (even if you don’t use it), and of course, only in the places where Diners Club is accepted.

The best all-round card for perks: AMEX Platinum Charge Card

Although the cards above do provide more points per dollar spent on regular purchases, the AMEX Platinum Charge Card is unbeaten in Australia when it comes to perks, ranging from airport lounge access to complimentary elite status with airlines and hotels, and travel credits, too.

For starters, cardholders get access to Virgin Australia domestic lounges whenever flying with Virgin Australia, and to Delta Sky Club lounges whenever flying with Delta, joined by two complimentary (unlimited) Priority Pass lounge memberships, access to AMEX Centurion Lounges, and more.

Read: Five hidden lounge perks of the AMEX Platinum Card

There’s also a free boost to Hilton Honors Gold, Shangri-La Golden Circle Jade, SPG Gold, Radisson Rewards Gold Elite and Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Five Star statuses, plus a fast-track to Star Alliance Gold through Shangri-La’s separate partnership with Singapore Airlines after taking just three flights.

Also read: Secret benefits of the AMEX Platinum Charge Card, including Star Alliance Gold

Among the many other perks is a $300/year travel credit, partially offsetting the Charge’s $1,200 annual fee, and you can boost that to $700/year by requesting a complimentary Platinum Reserve card from AMEX, on which the annual fee is waived for Platinum Charge Card customers and features its own $400 travel credit, reducing the next cost of this card to $500/year for everything else.

You can also earn the equivalent of three frequent flyer points per $1 spent at most AMEX-accepting restaurants in Australia; two points per $1 spent with hotels, airlines, car hire companies and all overseas purchases; 0.5 points per $1 spent with utilities, insurers and government bodies, and 1 point per $1 spent on everything else.

Best Visas, Mastercards for earning Qantas Points

American Express is great where it’s accepted, but for those times when it’s not, a high-earning Visa or Mastercard is the next-best option to keep those points flowing in.

For Qantas Points in particular, it’s hard to overlook the Qantas Premier Platinum Mastercard, serving up one Qantas Point per $1 spent in Australia up to $10,000 per month and 0.5 Qantas Points per $1 spent thereafter, plus a higher earn of 1.5/A$1 spent overseas without limit, and bonus points on Qantas purchases.

Also ranking high is the ANZ Frequent Flyer Black Visa, offering one Qantas Point per $1 spent up to $7,500 per month and 0.5/$1 thereafter, with its $425 annual fee reduced to a net cost of $225 in year one by the promise of $200 back on your statement when you make an eligible purchase in the first three months.

That’s compared to a flat $299/year on the Premier Platinum card which applies from year one, with ANZ’s card also including discounts on paid Qantas Club membership of up to $497 in the first year, far outweighing the annual fee – a perk not offered on the Qantas Premier card.

Best Visas, Mastercards for earning Virgin Australia Velocity points

Over at Velocity, the best ‘non-AMEX’ cards for earning points both happen to be Visas, with Virgin Money’s Velocity High Flyer card dishing out one Velocity point per $1 spent on most purchases up to $8,000 per month, and 0.5/$1 thereafter, uncapped.

A $289 annual fee applies, but the card offers a $129 Virgin Australia flight voucher every year to reduce that ‘cost’, along with two complimentary Virgin Australia lounge passes every year, being Australia’s best Visa (or Mastercard) for earning Velocity points.

ANZ is also a contender here with its Rewards Black Visa providing the equivalent of one Velocity point per $1 spent up to $5,000/month via the ANZ Rewards program, and 0.5 Velocity points per $1 spent beyond that, uncapped, aside a $375 annual fee that’s reduced in the first year with $100 back on your statement when you make one eligible purchase in the first three months.

Best Visa/Mastercard for earning Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles

The Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program offers some attractive redemption rates: particularly for flights in business class and first class, making it another popular option for Aussie spenders, with the best ‘not-an-AMEX’ card for KrisFlyer miles being the St. George Amplify Signature Visa.

Through the Amplify Rewards program, you’ll first earn the equivalent of 0.75 KrisFlyer miles per $1 spent on the Visa, uncapped – boosted to a total of 0.825 KrisFlyer miles per $1 spent when the bank’s 10% ‘birthday bonus’ arrives in the month of your special day, giving you a 10% boost on all the Amplify points you’ve earned over the past year.

Of course, you could be earning a higher 1.5 KrisFlyer miles per $1 spent by using the AMEX Explorer credit card, but as far as Visas (and Mastercards) go, St. George’s card tops the charts.

Disclaimer

Executive Traveller may receive a commission when you apply for these credit cards via our links.

You should seek independent advice and consider your own personal circumstances before applying for any financial product.

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!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2012

Total posts 140

Chris, your comment here may be untrue "and you can boost that to $700/year by requesting a complimentary Platinum Reserve card from AMEX, on which the annual fee is waived for Platinum Charge Card customers and features its own $400 travel credit, reducing the next cost of this card to $500/year for everything else". I've contacted AMEX today and they replied the reserve card is no longer available to new applicants. Are you able to verify?

We've verified that the Reserve card is still available (and complimentary) for Platinum Charge and also Centurion cardholders – we wouldn't publish as much otherwise – you just can't apply for the Reserve unless you have the Platinum Charge (or a Centurion Card) as the Reserve is no longer available to the general public.

If you have the Plat Charge, we'd suggest calling back and asking again: get the right person and they'll email you an application form which you'll need to complete and return.

Alternatively, you can log into your Platinum Charge account on the AMEX website, browse to 'Benefits & Help', click 'Platinum Benefits', then 'Platinum Service', then expand the 'Additional Cards' section, and you'll see the following, which provides more information on the Platinum Reserve and a direct link to the application form (which you'll have to print out and return: there's no online application for this, as applications have to be manually approved after confirming you're a Plat Charge or Centurion cardholder):

[Click the image above to expand it.]

QFF

16 Nov 2014

Total posts 17

For Qantas Points I dumped the Westpac Amex / MasterCard option due to the removal of Amex (and also because Westpac took virtually 10 months from joining to pay me the bonus points!). Went with the Qantas Amex Ultimate which as you say is virtually free with the travel credit. For the Visa side of things I went with HSBC which is worth considering at $199 per year and $1 per point earn rate and a 60000 Qantas Points joining bonus when I did. In both cases of Amex and HSBC the joining credit was paid virtually within two or three weeks of the qualification criteria being satisfied. Westpac should be ashamed of themselves for their laggardly performance on payment of the joining bonus and I would not recommend them to anyone for exactly that reason.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Nov 2014

Total posts 343

Problem with HSBC is that 1:1 point earn is up to $2500 only then 0.5 until capped at 7500 per statement. Also it doesn't earn points for any government spent which is quite restricted.

QFF

16 Nov 2014

Total posts 17

Michael, I was aware of the restrictions on the HSBC card but ss the Amex is used for 70% of my spending or so the HSBC is the necessary second card when Amex is not accepted. Point caps therefore do not worry me in this case.

QFF

16 Nov 2014

Total posts 17

Obviously all of these card options are a juggling act between points earn, any points bonus and annual cost so every personal combination is different.

05 May 2016

Total posts 529

These changes have made it such that churning to different cards is the way to accumulate points fast is even more the case than before.

The banks don't reward loyalty. They reward changing to them from a competitor's product. It's unfortunate, but it's the way it is.


The QANTAS Amex Ultimate has had a 100,000 points sign up bonus at some points. In regular spend that's $100,000/1.5, so roughly $66,667 of spend. It would take me many, many years to put that much through credit cards. With other cards with lower regular earn rates the advantages of churning become even more apparent.

Sure there's an impact on the credit rating from churning but you just need to be sensible about how often you do it and have some spending in mind that you'd do anyway to meet the sign up bonus requirement.

24 Apr 2018

Total posts 14

Yes it's not even close for me. The only considerations for me are bonus points and the first year annual fee. Been doing 2 or 3 a year for 4 years now and no issues with approval. Also approved for a home loan (recently) and it never came up, just what cards I had open at that time and their aggregate limits. Anything that impacts your credit but doesn't impact your home loan eligibility isn't having much of an impact at all, in reality.

QFF

16 Nov 2014

Total posts 17

Totally agree that churning banks is the best way to pick up points bonuses. Have likely done three banks in 4 years for that reason. (Apart from the points bribes they do not do anything for me so I have no great loyalty to them). If however your card is paid automatically on the due date, as mine is, cannot see how your credit rating would be affected. Is there any actual evidence of this?

11 May 2018

Total posts 14

Credit rating is affected, when you apply too many cards in a short period of time.

27 Jun 2018

Total posts 1

Sad to see my Amex platinum with commbank going and losing the 0% international transaction fee. Does anyone have any suggestions for the next best card to earn point with no international transaction fee?

07 Jun 2018

Total posts 13

Drgmarshall: what Chris wrote is correct.

I got my platinum charge card in the mail last night.

The annual fee is $1,200.

The platinum charge card has $300 in travel credit/hotels/car hire.

Also as a ‘companion card’ is called the platinum reserve card where you get an addiction $400 a year.

The total is $700 a year in benefits.

So your paying $500 for the card.

Now I gotta work out how to make use of the $500?

Chris: you might have some suggestion?

Plus I rarely travel.

I only got this card because I wanted the reserve card so I’m gonna cancel it when I use the $300 on the platinum charge card and keep the reserve card

03 Nov 2014

Total posts 91

If you happen to be a CPA you get $250pa off the annual fee - so net cost becomes $250...an absolute bargain for the perks on offer!

Interested to know why you're chasing the reserve card?

QFF

16 Nov 2014

Total posts 17

Sorry Zapz but as a natural cynic I consider your comment would be, as Wikipedia would say, "citation needed". I only apply to change cards say once a year to get points bonuses, not multiples at once. unless you work for the Bankers Association or have been personally refused for this I might consider this an Urban Myth.

Frankly all banks seem to think they are the best at so called "service" so they think you will remain with them forever because they are so wonderful (ha!). I had the most trouble getting my Black card from Westpac, but that related more to my income (retired on a defined benefit CPI indexed NSW government superannuation pension). Also likely caused by the minimum $15, 000 credit limit neither wanted nor needed by me. Whereas Qantas approved me for the Utimate Amex in about 5 minutes on line with a $10K requested limit.

As a totally religious payer on date due I owe nothing to the bank. They would be better off pursuing bad credit risks as card holders, given the outrageous 21 percent interest rates on cards these days which have not reduced despite interest rates being at their lowest point in generations.

Should I ever be refused a card because of being a "switcher" I will be happy to let the list know.

19 May 2016

Total posts 14

Given that you're only allowed to have two Amex cards at any one time, if you have a Platinum Charge card and also a Platinum Edge (eg for supermarkets and fuel), is it possible to get the Reserve Card to as a Charge card customer? The only reason I'd want it is that $400 travel credit!
The 'two card' limit was changed some time ago: AMEX tells me that you can now have up to four credit cards issued directly by AMEX as a primary cardholder (all personal and business cards contribute to that tally, including the David Jones cards, Westpac cards and the Platinum Reserve), plus an unlimited number of charge cards - all subject to the usual credit lending criteria, etc.

07 Jun 2018

Total posts 13

The hound,

No you can’t. I agree the edge is good for petrol and supermarket.

The reserve card is good for dining out.

You can call Amex and ask them to average your points out.

In my circumstances, I spent heaps on dining so it worked out better (on average) to get the reserve card.

Also keep in mind that charge card has a $300 travel credit

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

16 Dec 2015

Total posts 41

And with the RBA introducing these changes, where are the benefits to consumers?

Surcharge rates haven't changed, competition has been reduced and MSF pricing has not materially improved. The complexity that merchants experience due to the associated surcharging mandates have also not been properly considered by those pushing this agenda.

This is another example of the RBA attempting to impose their idealogical idiocy onto a market they don't understand, failing to address actual payment issues (such as baseless dishonour fees for Direct Entry transactions) and conveniently forgetting about the conflict of interest their involvement in the NPP entails.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2012

Total posts 140

Thanks for verification Chris. I’ll try again.

drgmarshall: Check your PMs on the site - I've sent you a direct number to call at AMEX to get this fixed up.

Cathay Pacific - The Marco Polo Club

26 Jan 2015

Total posts 7

What card would be best for ASIA MILES
We plan to run an article on that very topic very soon, so stay tuned!
HSBC have 1:1 on a MasterCard on their Premier card, but requires qualification ($500k+ borrowing or investment) and a $35/month fee. Good card but HSBC have to be one of the worst banks to deal with. You can’t get the card without having the above invested with them. About to cut mine up as we’re refinancing our loans elsewhere.

QFF

19 Sep 2013

Total posts 152

Now that I've mostly retired and about to lose my CBA Amex card, I'm presuming there's no hope of obtaining another Amex card?

Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Mar 2015

Total posts 8

Pardon my ignorance but would Miles & More also be applicable to LX?

Qantas

15 Jun 2016

Total posts 14

Mr Mink, Zapz is on the right track regarding credit rating impacts with "when you apply too many cards in a short period of time".

Every credit application (loan, card) you make gets referred to a credit rating agency and that referral adjusts your credit score. So if you have a credit score of 800 and apply for a new credit card (regardless of approval) your credit score could be adjusted to 750. Unless your score goes below 500 you are unlikely to be refused, but if the credit rating agency reports that you have made 3 credit card applications in the past 3 months even with a score of 800 this can raise a red flag.

Repayments on time, full amount or credit card minimum amounts, don't affect your credit ratings, only delinquent situations reported by financial institutions to a credit card agency will impact your credit ratings.

You can subscribe to any credit card agency, such as Credit Savvy, for free and watch your credit rating movements.

So Mr Mink, your one credit card a year application ratio is hardly to raise an eyebrow (refusal), unless your other finances are messy.

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