Review: Westpac Altitude Black AMEX + Mastercard combo

By Chris Chamberlin, May 15 2018
Westpac Altitude Black AMEX + Mastercard combo
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.

Notes
The Good
  • Integrated points earning between Mastercard and AMEX for Altitude Rewards members
The Bad
  • Two cards from two different issuers means two annual fees
Added Value
  • High earning rates on international AMEX spend

Introduction

Following the RBA's changes to credit card 'interchange fees' in 2017, most Australian banks have revamped their credit card line-ups, and Westpac is no exception.

As part of those changes, Westpac began offering its customers a Black-level American Express card directly issued by AMEX.

The American Express Westpac Altitude Black Card (issued and serviced by American Express) is paired with the Westpac Altitude Black Mastercard (issued and serviced by Westpac), giving Westpac customers the ability to earn more points in places where AMEX is accepted, while still earning some points everywhere else.

Westpac Altitude Black credit card combo: fast facts

  • Grade/tier: Black
  • Card type: Mastercard + American Express
  • Loyalty program: Choose between Altitude Qantas or Altitude Rewards
  • Points capping: Earn uncapped points without tiering via your chosen rewards option.
  • Qantas Points earned per $1 spent (Altitude Qantas, split as Mastercard / AMEX):
         Spend within Australia, excluding government spend: 0.75 / 1.25
       
      International transactions: 0.75 / 2.0
         Charges directly with Qantas: 1.75 / 2.25
         Government spend: No points / 0.5
  • Or, Altitude points earned per $1 spent (Altitude Rewards, split as Mastercard / AMEX):
         Spend within Australia, excluding government spend: 1.25 / 3.0
         International transactions: 2.0 / 5.0
         Government spend: No points / 1.0
         Selected airlines*: 6.0, up to $10,000 per calendar month
         Other selected merchants~: 2.0

* Applies to Mastercard only. Selected airlines include Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin Australia, Emirates and Singapore Airlines, on direct purchases made in Australia. Above $10,000 per month, these transactions earn points at the Mastercard's regular rate of 1.25 Altitude Points per $1 spent. This increased earning rate does not apply when using AMEX at these airlines.

~ Applies to Mastercard only. Other selected merchants include David Jones, Myer, The Iconic, Spotify Premium, Uber, Uber Eats and Airbnb. However, these businesses all accept AMEX without surcharge, so points-savvy spenders would earn more points by simply using their AMEX card for these transactions at its regular earn rate of 3 Altitude Points per $1 spent in Australia.

  • Altitude Rewards airline conversion partners: Virgin Australia (3:1), Air New Zealand (180:$1), Cathay Pacific (3:1), Malaysia Airlines (3:1) and Singapore Airlines (3:1)
  • 1.25 Altitude Rewards points ($1 spent on Mastercard on most everyday purchases) = 0.416 Virgin Australia Velocity points, 0.416 Malaysia Airlines Enrich miles, 0.416 Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, 0.416 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles, $0.00694 in Air New Zealand Airpoints Dollars
  • 3 Altitude Rewards points ($1 spent on AMEX in Australia) = 1 Virgin Australia Velocity point, 1 Malaysia Airlines Enrich mile, 1 Cathay Pacific Asia Mile, 1 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer mile, $0.0166 in Air New Zealand Airpoints Dollars

Note: Following Virgin Australia's entry into voluntary administration and the inability for Velocity Frequent Flyer members to redeem their points until at least May 19 2020, points conversions from Altitude Rewards to Velocity are currently suspended.

Fees, charges and interest:

  • Mastercard annual fee: $250
  • Separate AMEX annual fee: $199
  • Qantas Rewards fee: $50/year (when earning points via Altitude Qantas)
  • Additional cardholder fee: $0
  • Interest rate on purchases (Mastercard): 20.49% p.a.
  • Interest rate on purchases (AMEX): 20.24% p.a.
  • Interest-free days on purchases^: Up to 45
  • Interest rate on cash advances: 21.49% p.a. on Mastercard only (no cash advances on AMEX)
  • International transaction fee: 3.0%
  • Minimum required income: $75,000 p.a.

Earning points for free flights:

Choose Altitude Qantas as your rewards option and from everyday spend in Australia, you'd earn enough points to book a one-way flight from Sydney to Melbourne (plus taxes and fees) after charging $6,400 on the AMEX or $10,667 on the Mastercard.

The Altitude Rewards program provides a number of alternatives for those looking further afield, such as being able to convert credit card points into Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles and more.

Inclusive travel insurance:

You may be covered by complimentary travel insurance on journeys of six months or less after charging at least $500 of eligible travel costs to your Westpac Altitude Black Mastercard or your American Express Westpac Altitude Black Card before departing Australia.

This could give you the flexibility to book your flights using airline frequent flyer points while still being covered: instead using your credit to pre-pay other costs relating to your trip, such as accommodation charges - but as always, refer to the policy documents for full details on the coverage and any exclusions.

Included as well: transit accident insurance; interstate flight inconvenience insurance; purchase security, extended appliance warranty; 'price guarantee' cover; and even rental car excess cover of up to $5,500 when hiring in Australia.

Airport lounge access:

Altitude Black bundle cardholders holders are treated to four airport lounge visits each year, being two visits to American Express' own-brand airport lounges in Sydney or Melbourne, and two further visits to other lounges, which vary based on how you're earning your points.

If you've opted-in for Altitude Qantas, you're eligible for two Qantas Club lounge visits each year, while if you've chosen Altitude Rewards instead, you can take out a complimentary Priority Pass membership with two lounge visits included in the plan, which can be redeemed at over 1,000 lounges around the world, including several locations in Australia.

Westpac Altitude Black credit card combo: the verdict

With two or even three separate annual fees to pay, the Westpac Altitude Black card duo certainly isn't cheap, but nor is having a standalone American Express card in your wallet plus a premium Visa or Mastercard from a separate bank, when both cards carry annual fees.

For example, having a Qantas AMEX Ultimate Card instead would set you back $450, giving you 1.25 Qantas Points per $1 spent on everyday purchases, and if you paired an ANZ Frequent Flyer Platinum Visa alongside to earn the same 0.75 Qantas Points per $1 spent as the Westpac Mastercard (at least, on the first $3,000 of monthly charges), you'd be up for a further $295, or $745 all up.

That said, different cards have different features - that Ultimate Card includes a $450 Qantas Travel Credit every year to help offset the annual fee, for instance, but with no option of a linked backup card, which is where the Westpac Altitude Black Mastercard + AMEX combo has an advantage, even with both cards technically come from separate issuers.


Bank disclaimer: ^The interest free period is the maximum number of days during which interest is not charged on new purchases. If your account has an interest free period for purchases, to be entitled to that interest free period, you need to pay off the “monthly payment balance” listed on your statement of account (not the full closing balance) by the relevant payment due date.

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 not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Jul 2014

Total posts 9

That annual fee is absolutely ludicrous for the points earned on the card...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Mar 2013

Total posts 137

The Westpac MC fee (though not the Amex fee)
does get waived if you have a home loan package with them, which will make the bundle a better offer for some.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 593

1 free card is insufficient compensation for the exhorborant mortgage interest rates they charge

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Mar 2013

Total posts 137

Maybe for the rack rate, but who pays that these days?....

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Aug 2014

Total posts 3

have you ever tried getting those promised lounge passes? I do not botter to try and in fact i an in europe now just burning up all my points and will elsewhere when i get back home. The only real benefit i can se is the travel insurance


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