Building your two-card Westpac, American Express credit card combo

Building your two-card Westpac, American Express credit card combo

While Westpac no longer issues its own American Express cards, a new partnership with AMEX – whereby American Express issues and services cards bearing a Westpac logo – gives spenders a new way to keep earning frequent flyer points at higher rates than through a Visa or Mastercard alone.

The new approach gives you three choices to make during the application process: which loyalty program to take (Altitude Rewards or Altitude Qantas), whether you’d like a Platinum Visa or a Black Mastercard (issued and serviced by Westpac), and whether you’d prefer a Platinum or Black AMEX (issued and serviced by American Express).

You can even mix and match – so if you mostly plan to spend on AMEX to earn the highest number of points, you might pair the American Express Westpac Altitude Black Card with the Westpac Altitude Platinum Visa, to minimise your annual fees while maximising your AMEX points.

Here’s what’s involved at each stage of the application process: which options you select are entirely up to you!

Step one: Choosing your preferred rewards program

Get things started by nominating your preference for either Altitude Qantas – where all the points you earn are automatically transferred to Qantas Frequent Flyer every month – or Altitude Rewards, from which points can be converted to programs like Velocity, KrisFlyer and Asia Miles instead.

Importantly, the option chosen here applies to both your cards, so while you can pair a Platinum Visa with a Black AMEX, you can’t have Altitude Qantas attached to one card and Altitude Rewards to the other, so choose wisely.

Selecting Altitude Qantas gives you 0.75 Qantas Points per $1 spent on the Altitude Black Mastercard or 0.5 Qantas Points per $1 spent on the Altitude Platinum Visa on all eligible purchases, uncapped – while on the AMEX, the earning rate depends on where you shop.

On the AMEX Westpac Altitude Black Card, you’d get 2.25 Qantas Points per $1 spent directly with Qantas, 2 Qantas Points per $1 spent on overseas transactions, 0.5 Qantas Points per $1 spent on government payments (such as to the ATO), and 1.25 Qantas Points per $1 spent everywhere else.

Or, choose the AMEX Westpac Altitude Platinum Card to earn 2 Qantas Points per $1 spent directly with Qantas, 1.5 Qantas Points per $1 spent abroad, 0.5 Qantas Points per $1 spent on government transactions and 1 Qantas Point per $1 spent everywhere else

Note that an additional annual charge of $50 applies when opting for Altitude Qantas, in addition to your cards’ annual fees, and this applies regardless of the card combination you select.

Your other option – and one that doesn’t attract an additional annual fee – is Altitude Rewards, giving you the equivalent of 0.625 Velocity points per $1 spent on the Altitude Black Mastercard or 0.5 Velocity points per $1 spent on the Altitude Platinum Visa, when earning Altitude points and later converting them to Velocity at a 2:1 rate.

In the same way, choosing the American Express Westpac Altitude Black Card offers 2.5 Velocity points per $1 spent in foreign currencies, 0.5 Velocity points per $1 spent on government payments, and 1.5 Velocity points per $1 spent everywhere else.

Meanwhile, the American Express Westpac Altitude Platinum Card provides 1.5 Velocity points per $1 spent abroad, 0.5 Velocity points per $1 spent on government transactions, and 1 Velocity point per $1 spent everywhere else.

Step two: Choosing your Westpac Visa/Mastercard

The hardest choice here is which loyalty program to take – once you’ve got that sorted, the rest is more straightforward – so at this step, it’s a choice between the Altitude Black Mastercard and the Altitude Platinum Visa, both issued and serviced by Westpac.

Westpac Altitude Black Mastercard

  • Annual Card Fee of $250 (plus additional fee of $50 if opting for Altitude Qantas)
  • Minimum credit limit of $15,000
  • ‘Recommended’ income of $75,000 to apply
  • Special offer of 80,000 Qantas Points or 80,000 Altitude points (40,000 Velocity points) when you apply by November 27 2018 and spend $3,000 on the card within 90 days of card approval.
  • Two yearly lounge visits: that’s two Qantas lounge passes if opting for Altitude Qantas, or a Priority Pass membership with two lounge visits included if choosing Altitude Rewards.
  • Complimentary overseas travel insurance on trips of up to six months, plus transit accident insurance, purchase security insurance, extended warranty insurance, interstate flight inconvenience insurance, and rental vehicle excess in Australia (all subject to eligibility criteria and policy documents).

Westpac Altitude Platinum Visa

  • Annual Card Fee of $0 in the first year (when you apply by November 27 2018), $150 annually thereafter. There is an additional annual fee of $50 if opting for Altitude Qantas.
  • Minimum credit limit of $6,000
  • ‘Recommended’ income of $30,000 to apply
  • Special offer of 60,000 Qantas Points or 60,000 Altitude points (30,000 Velocity points) when you apply by November 27 2018 and spend $3,000 on the card within 90 days of card approval.
  • No lounge access.
  • Complimentary overseas travel insurance on trips of up to three months (not six as with Altitude Black), plus transit accident insurance, purchase security insurance and extended warranty insurance only (again, all subject to eligibility criteria and policy documents).

Step three: Choosing your American Express Westpac card

Finally, your choice between the AMEX Westpac Altitude Black Card and the AMEX Westpac Altitude Platinum Card, both issued and serviced by American Express.

Remember, you don’t need to choose the same card ‘colour’ as your Visa or Mastercard – you can pair a Platinum Visa with the Black AMEX, or the Black Mastercard with a Platinum AMEX, if you prefer.

Just note that although the loyalty points you earn will be combined with your other card, the American Express card itself is a separate product, with its own online banking, card statements, annual fee, credit limit and qualification rules.

American Express Westpac Altitude Black Card

  • Annual Card Fee of $0 in the first  year, $199 annually thereafter (in addition to any annual fee on your Visa/Mastercard)
  • Minimum credit limit of $3,000
  • Minimum income requirement of $65,000
  • Special offer of 40,000 Qantas Points or 40,000 Altitude points (20,000 Velocity points) when you apply by November 27 2018 and spend $3,000 on the AMEX card within 90 days of card approval (in addition to the sign-up bonus on your Visa or Mastercard).
  • Two yearly visits to the American Express international airport lounges in Sydney and Melbourne on presentation of your Black AMEX.
  • A range of complimentary insurance covers, comparable to that offered on the Westpac Altitude Black Mastercard: but as always, read the policy documents first.

American Express Westpac Altitude Platinum Card

  • Annual Card Fee of $0 in the first year (when you apply by November 27 2018), $49 annually thereafter
  • Minimum credit limit of $3,000
  • Minimum income requirement of $50,000
  • Special offer of 15,000 Qantas Points or 15,000 Altitude points (7,500 Velocity points) when you apply by November 27 2018 and spend $3,000 on the AMEX card within 90 days of card approval (in addition to the sign-up bonus on your Visa or Mastercard).
  • No airport lounge access
  • A subset of complimentary insurance covers, similar to that offered on the Westpac Altitude Platinum Visa (again, always read the policy documents to ensure you qualify and that the cover meets your needs).

The ‘mix and match’ approach

Let’s say you select Altitude Rewards to earn Velocity points, and choose to pair the Westpac Altitude Platinum Visa with the American Express Westpac Altitude Black Card – here’s what your credit card bundle would look like.

  • Total annual fees (first year): $0 ($0 + $0)
  • Total annual fees (subsequent years): $349 ($150 + $199)
  • Minimum income of $65,000 required. Although the Visa has a ‘recommended’ minimum of $30,000, the Altitude Black AMEX requires $65,000 – but this is still less than the ‘recommended’ minimum of $75,000 if you were to choose the Altitude Black Mastercard.
  • A minimum of $9,000 in total credit limits – $6,000 on the Visa, and $3,000 on the AMEX. Again, each limit applies to each card: they’re not combined across both cards.
  • Earning rate equal to 0.5 Velocity points per $1 spent on eligible purchases using the Altitude Platinum Visa.
  • On the AMEX Westpac Altitude Black Card, an earning rate equal to 2.5 Velocity points per $1 spent in foreign currencies, 0.5 Velocity points per $1 spent on government payments, and 1.5 Velocity points per $1 spent everywhere else.
  • A total sign-up bonus of up to 100,000 Altitude points (50,000 Velocity points), when you satisfy the spending requirements on both cards.
  • Some insurance covers applicable to your Visa spend, and a wider range of insurance protections on your American Express card spend.
  • Two visits to American Express’ Australian airport lounges every year, but no Priority Pass membership or Qantas Club lounge passes.

For Velocity points in particular, that’s a pretty savvy approach, because to earn 1.5 Velocity points per $1 spent on AMEX purchase is otherwise only possible with a $375/year AMEX Velocity Platinum Card or a $395/year AMEX Explorer Card.

Neither of those two cards comes with a ‘backup’ Visa to earn points in places where AMEX isn’t accepted – yet the Westpac Platinum Visa + AMEX Westpac Black approach costs only $199 in the first year and $349 in future years, with the added benefit of the Visa and also a higher earning rate on the AMEX when travelling overseas or shopping on international websites.

However, the AMEX Velocity Platinum Card and the AMEX Explorer Card do include some form of free travel to help offset the annual fees: with the Velocity Platinum Card, it’s a free return flight with Virgin Australia every year, and with the Explorer, it’s a yearly $400 Travel Credit (travel voucher).

Just note that neither the AMEX Velocity Platinum Card nor the AMEX Explorer Card can be ‘paired’ with your Westpac Visa or Mastercard: these are standalone cards which require a separate card application direct with American Express, and are not affiliated with Westpac.

You can apply for a Westpac + American Express card combo here.

Chris Chamberlin
Chris Chamberlin is a senior journalist with Australian Business 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!
 

9 comments

  • Michael Gibbons

    rowwdy

    12 Jul, 2018 06:12 pm

    Interestingly, if you hold an Earth Mastercard and take up the corresponding Westpac AMEX, the Qantas conversion fee doesn't seem to apply...
    No member give thanks

  • elchriss0

    elchriss0

    19 Jul, 2018 12:32 pm

    What if you apply for the mastercard first, spend the $5k to get the bonus then apply for the matching amex later? can you still get both bonuses?
    No member give thanks

  • Blake

    Blake

    19 Jul, 2018 01:04 pm

    Most banks make it very easy to find out what the fees are, but I have gone through Westpacs info carefully and cant find a thing. Its really not very clear what the Overseas transaction fees are - that is really important for comparing against what the rewards earn rate is. especially when they are paying out higher points for that.
    Member who gave thanks

    Flying-Doctor

  • Al F

    mad_atta

    20 Jul, 2018 10:55 am

    I had the combo Westpac Altitude black Amex/Mastercard for many years, and quite liked it. With the changeover to Amex issued cards, I now have the new black Amex and still have my old black Mastercard - and while I like the new Amex, the new black Mastercard is rubbish and is pretty poor value. Plus, my overall annual fee has increased, as I always used to get Black for the price of Platinum.

    I think the idea here of reducing fees by combining Platinum Mastercard with Black Amex is a good one - definitely better value for me, as I get lounge access already via other means. But is there any reason why you can't have just the Amex without the corresponding Wespac Mastercard? What happens if you get both then cancel the Mastercard - does that necessarily cancel the Amex? I have much better alternative Visa/Mastercard options available to me so I really have no interest in the Westpac Mastercard, unless it's pretty much free...
    No member give thanks

  • elchriss0

    elchriss0

    20 Jul, 2018 12:04 pm

    you'd be better off with a different amex and visa and just avoid westpac by the sounds of it. What FF program do you credit to?
    No member give thanks

  • Al F

    mad_atta

    20 Jul, 2018 12:20 pm

    I have a few different FFPs (and credit cards) but what I like about Altitude is its flexibility to credit to multiple different programs. Primarily VA in my case but also SQ, NZ and others.
    I am open to ditching the Westpac offering though if they don't come to the party on fees (I'm currently in 'no annual fee' period for my Amex; no discount on Mastercard, unlike in the past). Probably time for one of those "I'm going to cancel, what will you do to try to keep me?" conversations...
    No member give thanks

  • Al F

    mad_atta

    20 Jul, 2018 12:24 pm

    Continuing that thought, I also may rethink my VA allegiance. A key benefit for me was that it worked on NZ as well, as I travel NZ trans-Tasman and domestic fairly frequently, so that worked fairly well and gets me to VA Gold each year with family pooling. That's going to be a lot harder without crediting NZ travel, and I don't love VA's product across the Tasman... SQ could be an answer but I'm trying to focus most of my Star travel onto Asiana, where I'm also gold and working towards lifetime status. Too many variables to consider...
    No member give thanks

  • Corey Johnston

    cablecartman

    21 Jul, 2018 11:48 am

    As its issued by American Express, can the American Express card use Apple Pay?
    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    21 Jul, 2018 05:36 pm

    Indeed it can, along with Samsung Pay and Google Pay.
    No member give thanks

Guest

22 Sep, 2018 11:52 pm

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