Pairing 100,000 bonus Membership Rewards Gateway points with cool extras like a $400 travel voucher each year and access to American Express airport lounges, the new American Express Explorer credit card certainly packs a punch.
You can also collect up to 1.5 airline frequent flyer points per dollar spent in your choice of eight airline loyalty schemes including Virgin Australia Velocity and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, and there's even insurance cover if you accidentally manage to shatter your smartphone screen.
American Express Explorer credit card: fast facts
- Grade/tier: Above-Platinum
- Card type: American Express
- Loyalty program: Membership Rewards Gateway (MRG)
- MRG points earned per dollar (government providers): 0.5
- MRG points earned per dollar (everywhere else): 2
- 2 MRG points = 1.5 frequent flyer points with: Virgin Australia Velocity, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Emirates Skywards, Etihad Guest, Malaysia Airlines Enrich, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus
- 2 MRG points = $0.015 Air New Zealand Airpoints Dollars
- Points capping: Uncapped
- Supported tech: Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Android Pay
Fees, charges and interest: 4/5
- Annual fee: $395
- Supplementary cardholder fee: $0
- Interest rate on purchases: 20.74% p.a.
- Interest-free days on purchases: Up to 55
- Interest rate on cash advances: N/A
- International transaction fee: 3.0%
- Minimum income requirement: $65,000 p.a.
- Minimum credit limit: $3,000
Earning points for free flights: 4.9/5
Regardless of how much you spend, cardholders receive a $400 travel credit each year which you can use towards flights, hotels or other travel-related bookings when those travel arrangements are made by American Express.
That practically makes the card 'free' for anybody who normally spends on travel, because although you're paying a $395 annual fee to hold the card, you're immediately getting that value back – and more – in your travel credit.
Further, new cardholders who apply by May 15 2017, are approved and spend at least $1,500 on the card within the first three months will pocket 100,000 Membership Rewards Gateway points, equal to 75,000 frequent flyer points with Virgin Australia, Singapore Airlines and the others.
You'll also earn the equivalent of 1.5 airline frequent flyer points per dollar spent on the card at most merchants (uncapped), although payments to government bodies like the Australian Taxation Office and Australia Post earn a lower 0.375 airline frequent flyer points per dollar.
Airport lounge access: 2/5
You're invited to visit the American Express Lounge at Sydney Airport twice each year with further visits available for purchase at $55...
... and when visiting the United States, you can use your AMEX Explorer card to pay for access to the American Express Centurion Lounges in Dallas/Fort Worth, New York (LaGuardia), Las Vegas, Houston, Miami and San Francisco at a cost us US$50 per visit.
Complimentary insurance coverage: 4/5
Cardholders are given a range of travel insurance options spanning medical, trip cancellation, baggage issues, flight delays and more, activated when purchasing a return trip on your card or using Membership Rewards points to directly book the same.
However, you may not be covered when booking trips using actual airline frequent flyer points, so read the PDS and make sure the cover suits your needs before relying on its protection.
Also thrown in is 'smartphone screen insurance' should you accidentally break the same and have paid for the phone or your monthly contract on your AMEX Explorer card.
For good measure, purchase and refund protection covers are also included.
American Express Explorer credit card: the verdict
All things considered, this is a very solid credit card for travellers and higher spenders, but even if you don't get away too often, the card still pays for itself through its $400 travel credit after you've paid a $395 annual fee.
In other words, what you're paying in annual fees, you're getting back in flights and hotel stays, and then some.
We're also happy to see a frequent flyer sign-on bonus and airport lounge options, but for such a travel-centric card, we'd hoped to find a lower international transaction fee than AMEX's standard 3% rate.
There's also no way to earn Qantas Frequent Flyer points on the American Express Explorer card, but with great partners like Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, you're certainly not short of options.