Despite recent changes to the Cathay Pacific Asia Miles scheme, the frequent flyer program remains a relatively attractive way to book Cathay Pacific business class and first class flights using miles, often for fewer points than through other Oneworld programs like Qantas Frequent Flyer.
Australian Business Traveller explores the top five Aussie credit cards for earning those Asia Miles on your everyday transactions. Use the right card in the right places and you’ll be flying high in no time!
1. American Express Explorer credit card
With an uncapped earning rate equal to 1.5 Asia Miles per $1 spent on most purchases, the American Express Explorer card is Australia's best credit card for collecting Asia Miles on everyday purchases, achieved via the Membership Rewards Gateway scheme through which you'll earn two Gateway points per $1 spent, convertible into Asia Miles at a 4:3 rate.
There's a $395 annual fee to pay, but it's more than offset by the inclusion of a $400 travel credit every year and two visits to the AMEX lounges in Sydney or Melbourne when flying internationally. A bonus 50,000 Gateway points (37,500 Asia Miles) is also up for grabs for new AMEX customers who apply and spend $3,000 on the card within the first three months.
2. American Express Westpac Altitude Black Card + Westpac Altitude Black World Mastercard
The new AMEX Westpac Altitude Black Card (issued and serviced by American Express) also earns Asia Miles at strong rates through the Altitude Rewards program where points earned convert into Asia Miles at a 2.5:1 rate: giving you two Asia Miles per $1 spent overseas (from five Altitude points), and 1.2 Asia Miles per $1 spent on most purchases in Australia (from 3 Altitude points).
This card comes paired with the Westpac Altitude Black World Mastercard (issued and serviced by Westpac), which also allows you to earn 0.5 Asia Miles per $1 spent in the places where AMEX isn't accepted, but note that unlike the bank-issued AMEX cards of yesteryear, the Mastercard and this new AMEX aren't combined on the one account: each card has its own credit limit, statement and annual fee.
Technicalities aside, you could also take home up to 48,000 bonus Asia Miles when applying for both cards by October 23 2018. Simply spend $3,000 on eligible purchases using the Mastercard within 90 days of card approval to earn 80,000 bonus Altitude points (32,000 Asia Miles), and separately, spend $3,000 on the AMEX card, also within 90 days of card approval, to earn 40,000 bonus Altitude points (16,000 Asia Miles).
3. American Express Platinum Charge Card
With 'everyday' earn rate on-par with one Asia Mile per $1 spent on most purchases, the American Express Platinum Charge Card takes out the Bronze medal, but with some generous points-earning opportunities for those who spend big on life's luxuries like dining out, flights, hotels and overseas travel, and who don't mind paying the card's $1,200 annual fee.
At most AMEX-accepting restaurants in Australia, this card provides the equivalent of three Asia Miles per $1 spent via the Membership Rewards Ascent Premium program, and two Asia Miles per $1 spent with airlines and hotels in Australia and on all overseas purchases as well. There's also a sign-up bonus equal to 80,000 Asia Miles for eligible new cardholders who apply and spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months.
4. American Express Platinum Edge credit card
Similarly, the American Express Platinum Edge credit card also churns out the equivalent of one Asia Mile per $1 spent on everyday charges, but with bonus categories better-tailored to families buying lots of groceries and those who drive far and wide, with a more affordable annual fee of $195 that's offset via a yearly $200 travel credit.
On this card, spending at major Australian supermarkets like Coles, Woolworths and others provides three Asia Miles per $1 spent, with transactions at major petrol stations churning out two Asia Miles per $1 spent instead. As with all AMEX cards mentioned in this article, payments to government bodies earn points at a lower rate, which applies to insurance and utility payments as well on this card and the Platinum Charge.
5. American Express Business Accelerator Card
This one's only an option for business owners – particularly of smaller businesses with limited work-related spends – but for ABN holders charging $50,000/year or less to their credit card, the American Express Business Accelerator Card gives the equivalent of two Asia Miles per $1 spent on those everyday purchases, except for utility, insurance and government payments where the earn rate is 0.5 Asia Miles per $1 spent.
After earning 100,000 Membership Rewards Ascent points each year (=100,000 Asia Miles, from $50,000 of everyday purchases), the earn rate drops to one Asia Mile per $1 spent (excluding government, utility and insurance payments, which always provide 0.5/$1), with the card carrying a modest $160 annual fee.
Highly commended: ANZ Rewards Black Visa
You might have noticed a trend from the list above – the best cards for earning Asia Miles in Australia are all American Express cards, but if you regularly shop in places where AMEX isn't accepted and want to potentially earn more points than you would from the Westpac Altitude Black Mastercard above, take a look at the ANZ Rewards Black Visa.
Spends on this card up to and including $5,000 per month earn two ANZ reward points per $1 spent, converting to Asia Miles on a 3:1 basis to give you around 0.66 Asia Miles per $1, while all further spend in the same month provides one ANZ reward point per $1 (0.33 Asia Miles) until your next statement begins.
(To compare, Westpac's card offers the equivalent of 0.5 Asia Miles per $1 spent, uncapped: so seriously heavy spenders could earn more points through Westpac, but most everyday shoppers could take home more Asia Miles with ANZ.)
ANZ is also offering 75,000 bonus ANZ reward points (25,000 Asia Miles) for eligible new customers who apply and make one eligible purchase within the first three months, plus $100 back on your statement to help reduce the sting of the card's $375 annual charge.