NOTE: As of February 1 2018, all new Westpac Altitude Black credit card accounts will not be issued with a companion American Express card, only a Mastercard. Existing cardholders can use their Westpac-issued American Express cards until April 4 2018.
Credit cards can be a great way to earn frequent flyer points, but keeping track of your purchases, points and outstanding balances across multiple credit card accounts can be time-consuming – and that’s where ‘dual’ credit card accounts come in handy.
With both an American Express and a Visa or Mastercard attached to a single account, you still benefit from earning more points where AMEX is accepted while also collecting some points where it isn’t: all while paying only one annual fee, receiving one monthly statement and making one monthly payment which covers all of your spend, regardless of which card you used.
For new customers, a dual card account also requires only one application to receive both cards – an American Express and a ‘non-AMEX’ card – which then share the same credit limit to keep things straightforward.
Following major changes across almost all Australian banks this year in response to the RBA’s new credit card interchange fee regulations, Westpac’s Altitude Black combo emerges as the best dual credit card account in Australia, pairing an American Express card with a World Mastercard on the one account.
Awarding the highest number of points per dollar spent on everyday purchases of any ‘Big Four Bank’ American Express card, the Westpac Altitude Black AMEX delivers 1.25 Qantas Points or the equivalent of 1.25 Virgin Australia Velocity points per dollar spent, uncapped.
(Cardholders can choose the Altitude Qantas rewards option to earn Qantas Points, or the Altitude Rewards option where points can be converted across to Virgin Australia Velocity and more, although payments to the ATO don’t earn points via either option.)
That’s 25% more points per dollar spent than the comparable NAB Qantas Rewards Premium AMEX and the NAB Velocity Rewards Premium AMEX (which also provide no more points after spending $5,000 per month), and significantly trumps the CBA Diamond Awards AMEX, which now gives only 0.2 Qantas Points or 0.25 Velocity points per dollar spent on most purchases in Australia.
Then there’s the companion Westpac Altitude Black World Mastercard for earning points where American Express isn’t accepted, which provides 0.625 Qantas Points per dollar via Altitude Qantas or the equivalent of 0.625 Velocity points per dollar via Altitude Rewards, again uncapped.
NAB’s Qantas Rewards Premium Visa and Velocity Rewards Premium Visa provide only 0.5 frequent flyer points per dollar spent by comparison, which is again capped at $5,000 per month across NAB’s entire AMEX + Visa dual card account: so if you’ve spent $5,000 on a NAB AMEX, you’ll earn zero points using an attached NAB Visa in the same month.
The Commonwealth Bank’s Diamond Awards World Mastercard also provides fewer Qantas Points than Westpac – 0.5/$1 compared to Westpac’s 0.625/$1 – and levies an extra $30/year charge for doing so, while capping your earn at 400,000 Qantas Points per year across both Diamond cards.
Opt for Velocity points instead (via the Commonwealth Awards program) and you can increase that slightly to 0.625 Velocity points per dollar of Mastercard spend, and while that’s the same as Westpac’s Altitude Black Mastercard, CBA caps that at 500,000 Velocity points per year.
ANZ no longer issues American Express cards at all, leaving Westpac’s Altitude Black combo as the best dual credit card account for earning frequent flyer points in Australia.
Extra features of Westpac Altitude Black
Along with earning a reasonable number of frequent flyer points on your everyday purchases, Westpac is also offering a solid sign-up offer for new customers along with a reduced annual fee of $195 in the first year (normally $395).
Eligible new customers could collect 80,000 bonus Qantas Points or 80,000 bonus Altitude Rewards points (equal to 40,000 Velocity points) when applying via this link by October 26 2017 and spending at least $5,000 on purchases within 90 days of approval, either using the AMEX or Mastercard, or a combination of both.
There’s also a further bonus of 20,000 Qantas Points or 20,000 Altitude Rewards points (10,000 Velocity points) on the table for customers who apply via Australian Business Traveller by October 26 2017, awarded on card approval.
Westpac’s Altitude Black cards provide four airport lounge visits each year as well, being two visits to the AMEX Sydney Airport lounge, plus either two Qantas lounge visits when choosing Altitude Qantas rewards or a complimentary Priority Pass account with two lounge visits included when choosing Altitude Rewards.
There’s also the option of having an additional cardholder on the account (such as your partner or spouse) at no extra cost to maximise the frequent flyer points you can earn, with all points credited to the primary cardholder’s rewards account each month.
A more advanced (and expensive) strategy for earning credit card points
While dual card accounts are great for time-poor spenders who want to keep things simple and straightforward, more advanced points fiends might instead choose to mix and match cards from different banks to earn the absolute highest number of points per dollar spent.
For instance, the $450/year American Express Qantas Ultimate Card provides a higher 1.5 Qantas Points per dollar spent on everyday purchases, while the similar and $375/year American Express Velocity Platinum Card dishes up 1.5 Velocity points per dollar spent on the same, uncapped.
Both of those cards have higher earning rates than enjoyed via the Westpac Altitude Black AMEX, but come without a ‘backup’ card to use where AMEX isn’t accepted: so you’ll be paying a second annual fee to hold a points-earning Visa or Mastercard as well.
Heavy spenders might consider the $425 ANZ Frequent Flyer Black Visa which churns out one Qantas Point per dollar spent up to $7,500 per month and 0.5 Qantas Points per dollar spent thereafter, or the $375/year ANZ Rewards Black Visa which provides the equivalent of one Velocity point per dollar spent up to $5,000 per month, and 0.5 Velocity points per dollar spent thereafter.
ANZ is currently waiving those annual fees in the first year for new customers, but for a lower ongoing annual cost – particularly if you shop where AMEX is accepted most of the time – something like the HSBC Platinum Qantas Visa could be a more affordable pairing for your AMEX.
Awarding one Qantas Point per dollar spent up to $2,500 per month and 0.5 Qantas Points per dollar spent thereafter (up to 7,500 Qantas Points per month), a much lower ongoing annual fee of $199 applies: $649/year in total when paired with the AMEX Qantas Ultimate Card to maximise your frequent flyer points, compared to $395/year ongoing with the Westpac Altitude Black combo.