Westpac Altitude Black American Express, Mastercard credit cards

Review: Westpac Altitude Black American Express, Mastercard credit cards

What's Hot

  • Choice to earn points in six frequent flyer programs
  • Four free airport lounge visits each year

What's Not

  • Changes to Westpac American Express cards in 2018

X-Factor

  • 80,000 bonus points for eligible new customers

Introduction

If you want the flexibility to earn points on your credit card spend but to choose where they wind up at a later date, Westpac's Altitude Black American Express + World Mastercard credit card combo could be just what you're looking for.

You'll have the freedom to first earn points in the Altitude Rewards program before transferring them to the likes of Virgin Australia, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and two other carriers, or if you're entwined with the Red Roo, simply opt for 'Altitude Qantas' instead.

New cardholders who apply by January 31 2018, are approved and spend at least $5,000 on eligible purchases within 90 days of card approval could also receive a bonus 80,000 Qantas Points or 80,000 Altitude points (equal to 40,000 Velocity points).

With reasonable earning rates on everyday American Express transactions and elevated income and credit limit requirements, we'd peg these cards as a good fit for working professionals with heavy spending and travel habits: less so for those on lower incomes.

However, we should flag that all Westpac-issued American Express cards will close on April 4 2018, rendering this a Mastercard-only product from that date.

Before then, cardholders can continue using their Westpac-issued AMEX card as normal to earn a higher number of points, and will have the opportunity to transfer to a new Westpac-branded AMEX card direct-issued by American Express, for use throughout 2018 and beyond, on which a high number of points can continue to be earned.

Westpac Altitude Black cards: fast facts

  • Grade/tier: Black
  • Card type: American Express + World Mastercard
  • Loyalty program: Qantas Frequent Flyer direct or Altitude Rewards
  • Altitude Rewards airline partners: Virgin Australia, Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines
  • Qantas Points earned per dollar (Qantas Frequent Flyer option):
         American Express transactions (except ATO payments): 1.25 (until April 4 2018)
         Mastercard transactions (excludes ATO): 0.625 (increasing to 0.75 from April 4 2018)
  • Or, Altitude Rewards points earned per dollar (Altitude Rewards option):
         American Express transactions (except ATO payments): 2.5 (until April 4 2018)
         Mastercard transactions (excludes ATO): 1.25

  • Altitude Rewards airline partners: Virgin Australia, Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines
  • 2.5 Altitude Rewards points ($1 spent on AMEX) = 1.25 Virgin Australia Velocity points, 1.25 Malaysia Airlines Enrich miles, 1 Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, 1 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles, $0.0138 in Air New Zealand Airpoints Dollars
  • 1.25 Altitude Rewards point ($1 spent on Mastercard) = 0.625 Virgin Australia Velocity points, 0.625 Malaysia Airlines Enrich miles, 0.5 Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, 0.5 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles, $0.00694 in Air New Zealand Airpoints Dollars
  • Points capping: Earn uncapped points without tiering via either rewards option. Points will continue to be uncapped after April 4 2018.

Fees, charges and interest: 4/5

  • Annual fee: $250*
  • Qantas Rewards fee: $50/year (when earning points via Altitude Qantas from April 4 2018)
  • Additional cardholder fee: $0
  • Interest rate on purchases: 20.24% p.a.
  • Interest-free days on purchases: Up to 45
  • Interest rate on cash advances: 20.74% p.a.
  • International transaction fee: 3.5% (AMEX), 3.0% (Mastercard)
  • 'Recommended' income requirement to apply: $75,000 p.a.
  • Minimum credit limit: $15,000

* The card's annual fee is currently $250 for new customers (reduced from $395), and from April 4 2018, the ongoing annual fee will also be lowered from $395 to $250. This means new cardholders will only pay the lower fee, both this year and in future years.

Earning points for free flights: 4.5/5

Whether you choose Qantas Frequent Flyer or Altitude Rewards as your loyalty program, there's no limit to the number of points you can earn from your Altitude Black cards.

Choose 'Altitude Qantas' and a near-free Sydney-Melbourne hop in Qantas economy is yours after spending $6,400 on the AMEX (until April 4 2018) or $12,800 on Mastercard purchases within Australia.

Similarly, choose the regular Altitude Rewards option and convert your points to Virgin Australia Velocity for a similar Sydney-Melbourne flight after a spend of $6,240 on the AMEX, or $12,480 on the Mastercard at home.

Customers opting for Altitude Qantas also collect an additional Qantas Point per dollar when booking Qantas flights or paying for their Qantas Club membership, although an extra fee of $50/year will apply from April 2018.

Also don't forget Westpac's generous offer of 80,000 bonus Qantas Points or 80,000 bonus Altitude points (equal to 40,000 Velocity points) for eligible new cardholders, which can get you flying even faster.

Inclusive travel insurance: 4.5/5

International journeys of six months or less are covered by Westpac's complimentary insurance offering – underwritten by QBE – provided you hold a return ticket and charge at least A$500 of eligible travel costs to your Altitude Black cards before departing Australia.

That amount can be your flights, any airport and departure taxes, pre-paid accommodation and any 'overseas itinerary items' such as an arranged tour, so you could even book your flights using points and simply pre-pay a night or two of accommodation to still be covered.

Joining this is a generous array of other cover including transit accident insurance; interstate flight inconvenience insurance; purchase security, extended warranty and 'price guarantee' covers and even rental car excess cover of up to $5,500 when hiring in Australia.

Airport lounge access: 4/5

Altitude Black cardholders are treated to four airport lounge visits each year, which is on the generous side as most cards that offer this perk provide only half as many.

Two of those visits can take place at the American Express Sydney Airport lounge prior to any international flights, utilised either on separate trips or at the same time if travelling with a companion – just present your Altitude Black AMEX card for access.

Relax in the American Express Sydney Airport Lounge, even when flying economy...

(As Westpac-issued AMEX cards will close in early April 2018, you may need to opt-in for the new American Express direct-issued card early next year to continue enjoying AMEX lounge access courtesy of Westpac.)

Your other two passes vary based on your frequent flyer preferences.

Cardholders earning Qantas Points via their card get two free Qantas Club visits each year, while those opting for Altitude Rewards points get a free Priority Pass membership, complete with two visits every year to any of the 1,000+ lounges in its network.

Westpac Altitude Black credit cards: the verdict

With a $250 annual fee (both in the first year, and ongoing when next being billed after April 4 2018), the Westpac Altitude Black card appeals to higher spenders and frequent travellers, and may quickly pay for itself if you're poised to take full advantage of the benefits.

Included on that roster: complimentary airport lounge visits, uncapped frequent flyer points earned at reasonable rates and the long list of insurance covers, which can help you wind up ahead.

Note that while an extra $50/year charge is being introduced in April to earn Qantas Points – taking the total yearly cost to $300 – that's still lower than the card's previous all-inclusive annual fee of $395, with even higher savings enjoyed by those choosing to earn Altitude Rewards points instead.

You can apply for the Westpac Altitude Black credit cards here.

Chris Chamberlin
Australian Business Traveller journalist Chris Chamberlin 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!
 

2 Comments

  • twiningb

    twiningb

    11 Jul, 2016 12:56 pm

    The sample size is small, but I think it's worth noting that in my experience:

    For transactions processed the same day, despite the higher FTF rate, USD purchases came out slightly cheaper in AUD on the AmEx; conversely, GBP purchases came out slightly cheaper in AUD on the MasterCard. This is worth keeping in mind since the overseas points earn is identical. Conveniently, AmEx acceptance is near-ubiquitous in the US but much lower in the UK.

    In general, I'm very happy with this package.

    No member give thanks

  • Guvner

    Guvner

    2 Aug, 2017 03:56 pm

    Little tip if you get the Qantas version, you can still register for priority pass. So you get both teh QC invites and teh PP card.
    No member give thanks

  • Victor Perez

    vperez

    3 Aug, 2017 09:49 pm

    Wait, what. I've had the Qantas version for years and was unaware of this. 
    No member give thanks

  • Joe

    Joe

    3 Aug, 2017 12:06 pm

    ANZ wake up and take note. 1.25 QF points  per dollar spent on your now Visa only offering for Black card holders is in order. Capping it at 7500 is also too low-its a black card it should be uncapped!
    No member give thanks

  • Mr Mink

    Mr Mink

    5 Oct, 2017 12:46 am

    still impatiently waiting on the 80K bonus QF pts (I was approved at beginning of June - they do threaten up to 12 weeks before you get em. Any experience from others on how long it takes in real life?
    No member give thanks

  • joon8483

    joon8483

    16 Oct, 2017 04:12 pm

    Why did you say "fast track to SPG gold status"? This card doesn't earn starpoints
    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    16 Oct, 2017 04:14 pm

    Click the links in the article to learn more. It's a promotion through Mastercard and SPG which boosts you to Gold status after your first stay. We never said that the card could directly earn points with SPG, however.
    No member give thanks

  • frank lanzo

    globalspark

    25 Oct, 2017 08:24 am

    i always read with interest about free access to lounges with black earth cards. I have those cards and i have never been able to find out anything. Yes you can use but where how when? it is a total coon. as i mainly use the cards for travel insurance . If they were serious each year they would send you out the 2 vouchers to use with conditions attached. Living in Cairns which is my choice I can fly Cathay or Silkair so the card is useless to my way of understanding. Once again if they were serious they would let us use then flying Cathay who is a one alliance partner.

    No member give thanks

  • Kerry Green

    kgreenuq

    26 Oct, 2017 01:40 pm

    I'm trying to apply for these cards, but the links in the article simply give me another version of the article. Is there a link on the page somewhere I'm missing?
    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    26 Oct, 2017 04:06 pm

    As Westpac's offer ends today, the sign-up pages are in the process of being changed over to whatever Westpac's next offer will be, so while that's taking place, those links won't point anywhere. As soon as Westpac has loaded in their new offer and hit the green button, they'll start working again. :)
    Member who gave thanks

    Ahall

  • Kerry Green

    kgreenuq

    26 Oct, 2017 04:30 pm

    Thanks, Chris, that explains it. As the deadline was approaching, I've applied via Westpac's website. 80,000 Qantas points is better than no points at all. Cheers.
    No member give thanks

  • Austin Hall

    Ahall

    1 Nov, 2017 12:06 pm

    Hi Chris, I'm about to sign up for these cards, primarily for the points, passes, insurance and one card banking (link the master card to transaction accounts like savings)

    Will there be a new offer in the next few weeks with Aus BT?
    Thanks
    No member give thanks

Guest

19 Dec, 2017 07:30 am

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