The best American Express credit cards for frequent flyers

By Chris Chamberlin, September 29 2014

American Express cards and avid frequent flyers go hand-in-hand: you’ll generally earn more points on an AMEX than you would on a Visa or MasterCard, which means booking your next award flight or business class upgrade even sooner.

While American Express acceptance isn’t universal – and is often patchy with smaller businesses and in remote areas – it’s accepted surcharge-free by most large companies including Coles, Woolworths, Myer, David Jones, BP and Harvey Norman.

If a surcharge does apply, such as with Qantas, Virgin Australia and Hilton Hotels, it’s often no more than what you’d pay to use a Visa or MasterCard: yet you’re again earning points at a higher rate without paying more to use AMEX.

Whether you’re building a balance with Qantas, Virgin Australia Velocity or even Membership Rewards, here are three of the best American Express cards that you’ll want to slip into your wallet…

NAB Velocity Rewards Premium

If you’re after a solid American Express card for Velocity points, look no further than NAB Velocity Rewards Premium – yours for just $150/year.

Earning 1.5 Velocity points per dollar – up to 150,000 points per month or 1.8 million points per year – you’ll also pocket a bonus 40,000 Velocity points when you apply by October 19 2014 and spend once on the card within the first 90 days.

The 'free' travel insurances are also rather generous and include domestic hotel burglary insurance on top of the usual international travel and medical cover.

Better yet, you’ll only need to charge at least $500 of your pre-paid travel expenses for a particular trip – which can include flights, hotels, transfers, hire cars and activities – to be covered on that journey.

Read our review: NAB Velocity Rewards Premium cards

Westpac Earth Black

Westpac Earth Black is more than your typical American Express Card, paying out 1.5 Qantas Points per dollar spent with no annual points cap – although from November 9 2014, that earning rate does drop to 0.75 Qantas Points per dollar on payments to the Tax Office.

While the annual fee is a staggering $395, you’ll also grab two single-use Qantas lounge passes – redeemable in domestic Qantas Clubs, international Business Lounges and The Qantas Lounges in Singapore and Hong Kong.

After staying for just one night at hotels such as Sheraton, Westin and W, you’ll also be gifted Gold status in the Starwood Preferred Guest program when charging the stay to the companion Earth Black MasterCard.

While insurance cover is more standard and comes after holding a return ticket and charging $500 of pre-paid travel costs to the card, you’ll earn an extra point per dollar on Qantas spend – so a $3000 airfare nets 7,500 Qantas Points before you’ve left the ground.

Read our review: Westpac Earth Black cards

American Express Platinum Edge

If you’d like the flexibility to earn uncapped points not only with Virgin Australia, but also with airlines such as Emirates, Etihad, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Thai Airways, the American Express Platinum Edge card could be just what you’re looking for.

At just $195/year, you’ll earn three Membership Rewards points per dollar spent at supermarkets, two MR points at petrol stations, one point on most transactions, although just 0.5 points on payments to utilities, insurers and government bodies (including Australia Post and the ATO).

Each year, you’ll also get a free domestic return flight with Virgin Australia – more than offsetting the outlay on the annual fee, plus free travel insurance that covers domestic flights as well as international journeys.

Coverage is automatic when charging your full return airfare to the card, and if you apply by January 31 2015 and spend $500 on the card within the first two months, you’ll earn a neat little bonus of 10,000 Membership Rewards points to get you started.

Read our review: American Express Platinum Edge card

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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

29 Nov 2013

Total posts 457

Chris,

Did you just review co-branded credit cards? I'm surprised you didn't mention the Platinum charge card? 

Yes it has a steep annual fee but it does include a annual $200 travel credit plus a host of other included extras - plus a nice points earn multiplier...

As a heavy traveller, its definately my card of choice...

mark

Hi Mark,

No, not just co-branded cards but all Australian AMEX cards were considered (the AMEX Platinum Edge mentioned is issued directly by American Express, whereas the other two are NAB and Westpac).

At $1,200 per year, the Platinum Charge earns the same number of points per dollar on everyday spend as the $199/year Platinum Edge (above), and with a six-figure income requirement to apply for the Platinum Charge, it's not one that I could openly recommend as the best for frequent travellers without a thorough review on the cost/benefit – which would need to be in the form of a dedicated article rather than a brief summary.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

08 Jul 2014

Total posts 51

I agree that the Platinum Charge card is worth a mention (although it is technically not a credit card). The annual fee includes a 'free' Platinum Reserve credit card, which also comes with the complimentary flight or hotel stay.

The insurance that accompanies the Platinum Charge card seems to be the most comprehensive and flexible - for example, travel insurance coverage is extended to your immediate family for 180 days per year (even if you are not travelling with them), and car rental LDW is included for vehicles worth up to $125k. 

The range of lounge access options (including VA domestically) is an added bonus, especially for those not wedded to an alliance.

29 Apr 2014

Total posts 22

Platinum charge card was so so value back when it was $900 and had a general 1.5point/$1 earn rate. Once they upped the fee to $1200 and dropped down the earn rate to a pathetic $1 per point, I ditched it. Clearly this is a card purely to have for status/show, and many people use it as a stepping stone for the black card which is all about status and nothing to do with value.

As for the insurance, my understanding when I threw my charge card  in the bin was that you had to put the entire airfare on the card. Not a problem if you are paying cash, but a headache if you are paying by points. At only $500 of pre trip spend required, the nab card (for velocity flyers anyway) is a great choice.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

08 Jul 2014

Total posts 51

I agree that recent 'enhancements' to the annual fee and general points earn rate have attenuated this card's appeal somewhat, although some professional associations offer discounted annual fees, and the points earnt when dining (3 per $) and on foreign expenditure (2 per $) can be substantial depending on one's spending patterns. 

I suspect that whether one seeks to derive status from a charge card depends on the circles in which one moves. I hold one purely because it provides a suite of benefits (predominantly insurance) that is cost effective for my circumstances. AmEx have recently relaxed the insurance eligibility requirements when using points: those from any program can be used, as long as the card is used to pay for any associated taxes/charges. Cover is also provided if it can be proven that the vendor from whom a fare is purchased does not accept AmEx. 

AT
AT

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 264

Chris hi. Would be great if you could do a review of the Amex Platinum Charge card. I've recently just paid out the $1200 fee but I have to say I'm really stuggling to see the overall value. Sure I get a $200 travel credit but they just bumped up the annual fee from $900 so I've just paid that in advance plus some. 

The fee in USA is considerably less USD$450 and I think has great features like no foreign currency transaction fees and a $200 airline fee credit for things like checked bags, change fees etc. 

Regards Adam.

20 May 2015

Total posts 1

Hey all

I currently have the AMEX platinum charge card whilst it is very expensive I have had nothing but positive experiences with it whilst travelling. Complimentary elite status on car rental, use of the virgin lounge whilst travelling domestically and the in my opinion excellent AMEX lounge at sydney international, all adds to the value. The platinum concierge is also excellent and always happy to help with anything. If you travel alot it is well worth the money, they have a promotion on at the momment where you can get 90 000 bonus points through a referal. Please find the link below for the platinum charge card and also the Platinum edge card which has a 15 000 point offer.

If anyone has any questions about the perks please PM me.

Regards Govale


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