Reviews

Review: Westpac Altitude Black AMEX + Mastercard combo

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

There's also a deal of up to 120,000 bonus Qantas Points or 120,000 Altitude points, or up to 120,000 bonus Velocity Points, for new customers who apply by October 15 2019 and meet the spending criteria, detailed further below.

Westpac Altitude Black credit card combo: fast facts

  • Grade/tier: Black
  • Card type: Mastercard + American Express
  • Loyalty program: Choose between Altitude Qantas, Altitude Velocity 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, Velocity Points earned per $1 spent (Altitude Velocity, split as Mastercard / AMEX):
         Spend within Australia, excluding government spend: 0.75 / 1.25
         International transactions: 0.75 / 2.0
         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: 1.25 / 5.0
         Government spend: No points / 1.0
  • 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) = 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


Fees, charges and interest:

  • Mastercard annual fee: $250
  • Separate AMEX annual fee: $199
  • Qantas Rewards fee: $50/year (when earning points via Altitude Qantas)
  • Velocity Rewards fee: $50/year (when earning points via Altitude Velocity)
  • 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%
  • 'Recommended' income requirement to apply: $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.

Alternatively, selecting Altitude Rewards and converting your points to Velocity Frequent Flyer would provide enough points to book a Virgin Australia flight on that same route after a spend of $7,800 within Australia on the AMEX or $18,720 on the Mastercard, due to the way that Altitude points are earned and then converted at a 3:1 rate, meaning for every 3 Altitude points in your account, you get one Velocity point.

For those seeking Velocity Points, Westpac has also added a new Altitude Velocity option which effectively provides more Velocity Points per $1 spent than via Altitude Rewards, giving you that same Sydney-Melbourne flight after a reduced spend of $6,240 within Australia on the AMEX or $10,400 using the Mastercard.

Right now, you can also take home up to 120,000 bonus Qantas Points or up to 120,000 bonus Altitude Points, or up to 120,000 bonus Velocity Points, served up in two chunks: some from the Westpac-issued Mastercard, and some from the AMEX-issued AMEX.

You'll start with a bonus 80,000 points when applying by October 15 2019 and spending $4,000 on eligible purchases using the Altitude Black Mastercard within 90 days of card approval – plus, 40,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on eligible purchases using the American Express Westpac Altitude Black Card within the same time frames.

Those points will be delivered in your chosen loyalty program: Qantas Frequent Flyer for those opting-in for Altitude Qantas; Velocity Frequent Flyer for cardholders choosing Altitude Velocity; or Altitude Rewards, for those choosing to earn points with Westpac first, before converting them to their frequent flyer program of choice from the options above.

As an added bonus for those choosing Altitude Velocity, if you spend an additional $6,000 on the Mastercard in the first year (being $10,000 in total, including the $4,000 spent as part of the Mastercard's bonus points offer), you'll also get 50 Virgin Australia status credits: plus, 25 additional Velocity status credits when you qualify for your 40,000 bonus points on the AMEX card.

Altitude Velocity also provides two complimentary Virgin Australia Economy X seat upgrade vouchers each year to use on selected domestic flights, which become available when you spend with Virgin Australia using your Mastercard, the value of which should offset that extra $50/year charge.

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.

Otherwise, choosing the Altitude Velocity option unlocks two Virgin Australia lounge passes each anniversary year, which can be used for entry into Virgin Australia domestic lounges when flying Virgin Australia.

Westpac Altitude Black credit card combo: the verdict

With a total overall annual fee of $449, or $499 if earning Qantas Points or opting-in for Altitude Velocity, 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.

You can apply for the Westpac Altitude Black credit card combo here (Altitude Qantas or Altitude Rewards), or here (Altitude Velocity).

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!

twister999

twister999

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Jul 2014

Total posts 9

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

rowwdy

rowwdy

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Mar 2013

Total posts 135

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.

elchriss0

elchriss0

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 578

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

globalspark

globalspark

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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